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Top 5 Black sand beaches in Iceland

The Top 5 Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

Being situated on a volcanic hot spot, with numerous volcanos, craters and lava fields and plenty of glaciers, Iceland truly deserves to be called the Land of Fire and Ice. One thing that struck foreigners as a bit odd is the color of the sand beaches. Even though, Iceland is not a typical sunbathing  resort due to the cold climate, every year foreigners flock to the black sand beaches which they seem very intrigued by. This distinct black sand color is formed by the erosion of volcanic materials such as basalts and lava, caused by volcanic activity and its sizzling hot flowing lava which became solidified upon hitting the cold Icelandic water. Walking a long a black beach such as Reynisfjara, one can’t help but be in awe, seeing a number of distinct rocks and black sand which have a bit of a mystical undertone. 

The most famous black sand beaches in Iceland are the stunning Reynisfjara and the otherworldly Diamond Beach located along the South Shore of Iceland, other remarkable black sand beaches are for instance Djúpalónssandur on Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Sólheimasandur and home of the planewreck and Stokknes in the East. Let’s take a closer look at them here below.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach - the most beautiful beach in Iceland

Reynisfjara beach is located on the South Coast and in close proximity to the charming village of Vík. This stunning beach is easily accessible and unarguably one of the most visited black sand beach in Iceland. The distinct cliff formation of basalt rock give Reynisfjara a certain mystical undertone and provide great inspiration for photography. In fact, this stunning beach received international attention as it was chosen as a filming location during the filming of the hit series of Game of Thrones. Please be aware of the sneaker waves which have claimed many lives, so exert caution and stay far away from the sea and don’t risk your life for selfies. Rising from the sea, you will see basalt stacks called ‘Reynisdrangar’. According to legend these giant  stacks where created as two trolls where dragging their ship to land, but turned into basalt sea stacks upon sunrise. This is one of the pit stops on the popular South Coast route along with the falls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.

How to get to Reynisfjara Beach?

This stunning beach is located on the south coast of Iceland and takes up to 2,5 hours drive from Reykjavik, but making several pit stops on the way, makes it truly worth it. As mentioned earlier, Reynisfjara beach is located in close proximity to Vík, or about 10 minutes drive. On the way to Reynisfjara, you could also stop at Dyrhólaey cliff, located on the same coastline, which is known for rich birdlife.

Copyright Peter Everett

Diamond Beach - a true gem of Iceland

The Diamond Beach or ‘Breiðamerkursandur’ as it is called in Icelandic, is a black sand beach along the south coast, which is covered with chunks of washed-up glaciers that look like stunning diamonds shining against the black colored sand, truly an unbelievable sight. It is located by the exquisite Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon on the south coast. It is also one of the pit stops on the popular South Coast and Glacier Lagoon route along with falls of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the village of Vík and the stunning Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

How to get to the Diamond Beach?

The Diamond Beach is located next to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, another attraction you cannot miss (only 5 minutes drive in car), just on the opposite way of the Ring Road.  It takes about 2,5 hours to drive from Vík to the Diamond Beach. But, if you plan to drive from Reykjavik, make sure to stop on several attraction sites, along the south coast, as this is a pretty long drive from Reykjavik, about 5 hours, one way.  

Copyright Petr Podroužek

 

Djúpalónssandur - the Black Lava Pearl Beach

Djúpalónssandur or the Black Lava Pearl Beach as it is often referred to, is in close proximity to Snæfellsnesjökull volcano. It is located on Snæfellsnes Peninsula which is a less travelled location but truly a must see visit, and often referred to as the ‘Minature Iceland’ as it contains everything Iceland is known for (e.g. glacier, volcano, cliffs, lava, black sand beach, etc.) wrapped up in one area. The beach is covered with black pebble stones, which are constantly washed up on shore, but are forbidden to pick as they are protected. On the beach you will also find remains of a shipwrecked British trawler, the Epine GY7 and four ancient heavy lifting stones in different sizes that local fishermen used as a testament for their strength. These lifting stones are ‘Amlóði’ which is smallest and weighs 23 kilos, ‘Hálfdrættingur’ which weighs 54 kilos, then there is ‘Hálfsterkur’ which is second largest and weighs 100 kilos and then finally ‘Fullsterkur’ the biggest one which weighs 154 kilos. Further up the beach you will also find different cliff formations including ‘Gatklettur’ which is a rock with a hole, through which you can see Snæfellnesjökull Glacier, further up the beach you’ll find ‘Söngklettur’ or singing rock which is said to be the Church of the Elves, and according to folklore you can hear them singing on special occasion, then further up the beach you will find ‘Kerling’ or troll woman, which legend has was turned into stone upon sunrise. That’s not all this stunning beach has to offer, as it also contains two lagoons, the exquisite ‘Djúpalón’ or Deep Lagoon and ‘Svarta Lón’ or Black Lagoon, both located by ‘Gatklettur’ rock. Please note, there are dangerous sneaker waves, so exert caution.

How to get to Djúpalónssandur Beach?
To reach Djúpalónssandur from Reykjavik, takes about 2 hours and 45 mintues in a car, but no sweat as travelling through the wonders of Snæfellsnes Peninsula there are plenty of great pit stops on the way, including Ytri Tunga, a seal watching spot which contrary to most beaches, contains yellow sand beach, then there is the village of Arnarstapi, Snæfellsjökull Glacier and if you continue passed Djúpalónssandur you will find the charming villages of Ólafsvík and Stykkishólmur and the most photographed mountain in Iceland called Mt. Kirkjufell. In order to access Djúpalónssandur, a great start would be entering through Gatklettur rock, which is just a short drive from the main road to Djúpalónssandur then follow the hiking path ‘Nautastígur’ or the path of bull.

 

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Sólheimasandur - the home to the plane wreck

Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach is located along the south shore, in close proximity to Skógafoss waterfall and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. What makes the site unique is an abandoned aircraft wreckage, whose crew luckily all survived after its crash in 1990s. If you plan to visit this location it is recommended to rent a car or order a customized tour to take you to this location, as most south shore tours don’t include this amazing site.

How to get Sólheimasandur?

As mentioned earlier, Sólheimasandur is located in close proximity from Reynisfjara (about 20 minutes drive) and Skógafoss Waterfall (about 10 minutes drive) on the south coastline of Iceland. Years ago it was possible to drive all the way up to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck, however, today you must hike from the Ring Road about 3.25 km each way or about 6.5 km in total. Or if you want to safe time and are looking for more adventure you could go on a ATV tour to the plane wreck.

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Dyrhólaey - an impressive arch-shaped cliff known for rich birdlife

This impressive cliff formation is not only renowned for its black sand beach but this 120 metre promenade offers some stunning panoramic views, of the south coast including Reynisfjara and Sólheimasandur. Dyrhólaey, was formed by volcanic activity and literally means Door Hill Island. Originally, Dyrhólaey was an island, before becoming part of the mainland. It is also home to many species of birds, including the adorable Atlantic Puffins which can be spotted from May to September and  Eider duck which can be found year round. Please note, during nesting time this location is closed off for public to protect the wildlife. If you want you could also go on a Puffin tour from the old harbor in Reykjavik. Dyrhólaey is part of the popular south shore route with many pit stops along the way, including the falls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, Reynisfjara Beach and Vík.

How to get to Dyrhólaey?

Dyrhólaey is located on the South Coastline in close proximity from Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and easily accessible from the ring road. However, make sure to drive safely during winter, as the road that leads to Dyrhólaey is in bad shape.

Copyright The Icelandic Grapevine

Stokksnes - black sand beach east of Iceland

Stokksnes beach is located East of Iceland, close to Höfn, and is somewhat of a hidden gem as it doesn’t get as many tourist attention compared to other locations. You could even at times have the entire beach for yourself to explore. The uniqueness about this black sand beach is the fact it stands at a root of a giant mountain, which sometimes is half-covered with snow, which offers some otherworldly views and is something you have to see for yourself, in order to believe it. To get to Stokksnes we recommend you rent a car or join a private tour.

How to get to Stokksnes?

It takes up to 6 hours to drive from Reykjavík to Stokksnes. It is easily accessible and you can drive all the way down to Stokksnes Peninsula to park and walk straight onto the beach.

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Recommendations for visiting Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

Took get most out of the tour we recommend a private tour or that you book your own rental car, that way you save time and are able to explore more places.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Northern Lights by Mt Kirkjufell
Self-drive tour
sample car from EuropCar
South Coast
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
For scheduled coaches or other attractions, click here
For customized private tours click here