Ultimate Guide to Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara in Iceland :: Fshoq!

Ultimate Guide to Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara in Iceland

Black sand beach Reynisfjara

The black sand beach Reynisfjara is a world-renowned beach on the southern coast of Iceland, right next to a small fishing village called Vík í Mýrdal. It owes its color to the old lava that was turned by wind and water to sand over many centuries. Interesting? Read on!

Iceland is a country of extraordinary wonders of nature. One of them is the famous black sand beach Reynisfjara, which we can be found about 2.5 hours drive by the coast (190 kilometers) east of Reykjavik. Thanks to the huge basalt rocks scattered all over the coast, the roaring waves of the Atlantic and the beautiful views, Reynisfjara is considered the most beautiful black sand beach all over Iceland.

In 1991, National Geographic distinguished the black sand beach Reynisfjara as one of the ten most unusual and the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

The meaning of the Reynisfjara name

The name Reynisfjara comes from a nearby turf and a 350 meters high mountain called Reynisfjall, where in Icelandic fjall is a mountain, and fjara is a beach. Thanks to this we can easily guess that most of the names in Iceland ended with a fjara will lead us to the water, and fjall - to the hill or mountain. In addition, it is worth noting that the mountain Reynisfjall itself was created after the volcanic eruption in the ice age.

However, both the meaning of the name Reynisfjara, Reynisfjall, Reynisdrangar and other nearby places has even deeper meaning. They all come from a rich man from Norway named Reynira, who first arrived and settled in this area. So Reynisfjall means literally "Reynira's beach".

Black sand beach, Iceland

Reynis... names in the area.

Honestly, the Icelandic words that describe the black sand beach and the surrounding places are quite confusing. It happens often, that tourists or travelers call the same places using many different words: Reynisdrangar, Reynisfjara, Reynisfjöru, Reynisfjell and several others. For people who do not speak Icelandic, it is black magic. That's why I decided to dig and lighten it a little bit:

  • Reynisfjara - it is a black beach (global naming).
  • Reynisfjöru - it is also a black beach, however, only locals use this word.
  • Reynishverfi - this is what a small village and neighborhood near Reynisfjara is called.
  • Reynisdrangar - these are 66-meter stone pillars protruding from the sea by the beach.
  • Reynisfjell - it is a 340-meter high mountain with hexagonal basalt columns at its foot and the Hálsanefshellir cave.

I hope that the above will clarify the complexities of the Icelandic nomenclature of the black sand beach Reynisfjara.

Halsanefshellir cave, Iceland

Hálsanefshellir cave on the black sand beach

Inside the Reynisfjall mountain, whose peaks rise high above the black sand beach, you will find a beautiful basalt wall with fantastic columns, crumpled by water and rain. When you look at it more closely you will notice that there is a naturally shaped cave on this wall, called Hálsanefshellir. If the level of water allows it, be sure to check inside when you visit Reynisfjara!

The cave at the Reynisfjara can also be a great refuge if the weather turns dramatically worse (which happens very often in Iceland). The cave on the black beach can boast a long history in this regard: for hundreds of years, it has provided shelter from the elements for tired travelers and even sheep herds.

Inside the cave on the black sand beach, you can find rocks that have been overturned, creating an artistic atmosphere straight from the travel movie. Thanks to this, it is very easy to imagine the first people who had been looking for shelter in the cave for hundreds of years and slept on these rocks to wait for the storm or the night ends.

Unfortunately, the cave at Reynisfjara may be dangerous. If the water level gets too high, it may flood. In addition, on November 16, 2013, about 100 tons of basalt columns fell in the Hálsanefshellir cave. Fortunately, no one was inside.

Cliffs Reynisdrangar, Iceland

Basalt cliffs of Reynisdrangar

Reynisdrangar is the name given to the impressive and unique marine basalt columns that stand on the shores of Reynisfjara. They constitute a significant element of the charm of the whole area of the black sand beach, spectacularly emerging from the Atlantic. There are several of these cliffs, but the largest and most famous (the one with three peaks) is called Langsamer and looks like a ship with three masts if you look at it from a distance.

The next hill of Reynisdrangar and the second largest column, which is attached to Langsamer, is called Landdrangur. This is the one that is closest to the waterfront. The third cliff is the smallest and locally called Hajidrangur or Skessudrangur. It is quite ironic, considering that both names are used in Iceland to call high and big mountains.

The Reynisdrangar formations in Reynisfjara are the remains of the great basaltic sea cliffs. Their view is amazing and it is worth taking a camera with you to take here some awesome photos.

Puffin birds in Reynisfjara, Iceland

Birds in Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara is a paradise for people who love to watch various species of coastal birds in Iceland. Reynisdrangar basalt columns alone are home to thousands of seabirds nesting here, which makes that the birds in Reynisfjara are almost everywhere.

In Reynisfjara you can meet such bird species as puffins (they are great!), Arctic terns, fulmaras or guillemots. It was fantastic to watch them live!

Warning: If you want to see coastal birds in Reynisfjara, it is best to come to the black sand beach in the early morning or evening. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars with you to make it easier to spot birds perched on cliffs or flying above your head.

Legends about the black sand beach of Reynisfjara

There is a local Icelandic legend that says the large basalt columns on black sand beach Reynisfjara were once big trolls that tried to pull ships ashore near the island. These trolls could leave their caverns only at night. One day they came to hunt too late and the dawn began, turning them into stone.

Reynisfjara: Legend about trolls. Author: Theodor Kittelsen (1857 - 1914).

The second legend says that Reynisdrangar (basalt sea pillars located under Mount Reynisfjall) is a remnant of the battle between two local trolls and a three-masted ship. When the sun rose, the trolls turned to stone, and the ship was turned into Reynisdrangar pillars, which are perhaps the most characteristic element of black beach Reynisfjara. It is worth noting that many legends about Iceland refer to the sun and its lack, probably due to the location of the island, where are White Nights, and in December the sunrise is after 11:00, and the day lasts just over 4 hours.

Another Icelandic legend about Reynisfjara speaks of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls up to the black sand beach, where he froze them so that they would not harm anyone ever again.

A bit of geography

Probably you are interested in what the black sand beach Reynisfjara is made of and how the basalt cliffs Reynisdrangar were created. If so, this chapter is just for you. Let's make a short reminder of geography.

Black beach in Vík í Mýrdal

What is the black sand beach of Reynisfjara made of?

The black beach Reynisfjara, which is located on the southern coast of Iceland, is one of the most unique beaches in the world. And no, it's not sunburned, as there is not much sun in Iceland at all :-) It was created by the lava spilling out after the eruption of the volcano during the last ice age. The lava cooled immediately after contact with water and turned into stone. After some time, water and wind did the rest.

I must admit that I was expecting black sand when I traveled to the black sand beach Reynisfjara. Nothing more wrong. On closer inspection and under the touch it turned out, in fact, the beach is filled with shiny black stones of various sizes. In this respect, Reynisfjara beach is definitely different from other sandy beaches.

How were the Reynisdrangar cliffs formed?

We have already discussed on the basis of Icelandic legends how the cliffs of Reynisdrangar were created. But what do science and geography say about it?

In fact, during the last ice age, the basalt cliffs were joined with the Reynisfjall mountain range. However, after a very long period, when the wind blew in it, the cliffs eroded, so that a small part of them separated and now looks like it spontaneously emerged from the water. That's how the Reynisdrangar cliffs were formed.

Wind erosion affects the shape of the Reynisdrangar cliffs to this day, slowly changing their appearance. That's why every trip to the black sand beach Reynisfjara can result in a slightly changed landscape :-)

Black sand beach Reynisfjara in films and series

Iceland is a very popular place where there are many scenes from movies and series. We are not only talking about the Hollywood, but also various large-format television programs.

The black sand beach Reynisfjara is no exception. With its appearance, it won the hearts of many people, not only tourists and travelers who came here, but also others who saw it on the screens.

Reynisfjara's black beach is the scenery for several great scenes from the Game of Thrones series.

Below you will find a list of some of the more well-known series and movies that were shot in Reynisfjara:

  • The series "Game of Thrones" - a series that I probably do not need to present to anyone. A location called Eastwatch, where the people of the Night Watch were stationed was filmed on the black beach.
  • The movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016) - the prequel to the famous Star Wars series.
  • The movie "Noah" (2014) - a biblical epos with the participation of Russell Crowe, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
  • The Movie "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013) - the second part of the series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine, directed by Jeffrey Jacob Abrams.

How to get to Reynisfjara

The black sand beach Reynisfjara is located on the southern coast of Iceland, about 180 kilometers from the city of Reykjavik. To get here, we have to just drive on the main national road number 1 (called Ring Road), then 9 kilometers after the village Skeiðflötur (just before the town of Vík í Mýrdal) turn right into the road number 215. A few more kilometers straight and we are already on the black beach.

If, on the other hand, we are going to the black sand beach Reynisfjara from the east, the situation is very similar. We follow the national road number 1 (Ring Road), then about 5 kilometers after the town of Vík í Mýrdal, we just have to turn left into the road number 215. There is no possibility to reach Reynisfjara by another route.

Going to Iceland in the winter, we can see the Northern Lights.

When to go to Reynisfjara

In theory, as well as in the whole of Iceland, there are four seasons in Reynisfjara. However, in practice, this is very different, because the summer may look like autumn, and during the worst winter in a few hours, we can experience summer, spring, autumn, and winter. For this reason, it is really hard to choose the best time to travel to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara.

For me personally (unless we're going specifically to see the Northern Lights), definitely the best time to visit Iceland is the time from June to August. It is then relatively warm, and the sun almost does not go down. Statistically, August is the least rainy month of the year. Unfortunately, in Iceland, summer does not guarantee good weather, which must be taken into account.

Reynisfjara

About safety on the black beach

Safety on a black beach in Iceland should be a priority for every traveler. The waves at Reynisfjara are very well known for their strength, unpredictability and the fact that they are catching someone from time to time and do not want to let him go.

That is why it is very important to be aware that the closer we approach the water, the more danger we are exposed. The famous waves of the black sand beach are extremely strong and very often they go deeper into the land than you would expect. Coming back, the waves in Reynisfjara kidnap everything that they can capture, often also people, and drag them to the cold ocean.

This is because there are no lands between the shores of Reynisfjara and Antarctica, which makes the waves have thousands of kilometers to accelerate. The black sand beach Reynisfjara has witnessed many fatal accidents, so it should not be underestimated. To safely walk the beach, see some useful tips below:

  • Do not try to swim in water.
  • Do not let children walk on the beach unattended.
  • Never turn your back on the waves.
  • Waves can come very fast, so watch them all the time.
  • Keep a safe distance from the waves (a minimum of 30 meters is recommended).

The above advice should be enough to enjoy a visit to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara and to ensure safety.

Vik i Myrdal, Iceland

The town of Vík í Mýrdal

The fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal (from the Icelandic: Bay of the Swamp Valley) is located about 10 kilometers from the black sand beach Reynisfjara by car or 5 kilometers on foot - in the case of walking on foot, remember that you will have to climb on the nearby mountain. Vik itself is not a big city, only about 300 inhabitants live here, but it is the largest agglomeration in the area and if you plan to stay somewhere near the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, it is here that you should look for accommodation.

We will find here a beautifully situated white church, several hotels (Icelandair Hotel Vik, Puffin Hotel Vík, Hótel Kría and many more), restaurants, museum (Skaftfellingur Museum) or even the oldest building in the city (built in 1831) named Brydebúð, home for tourist information and a cafe.

Despite its small size, the town of Vík í Mýrdal is set towards tourists, which means that many interesting places can be found here. However, it is mainly a starting point for travelers to visit other tourist attractions in the area.

Church in Vik i Myrdal

Nearby tourist attractions

The surroundings, as well as the black beach Reynisfjara, are one of the most visited by tourists areas in Iceland. And although the beach is a major tourist attraction, there are also a few other equally charming.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland

Mýrdalsjökull glacier

The Mýrdalsjökull glacier (from Icelandic: the glacier of the swampy valley) is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland - its area is about 600 square kilometers. It is located north of the town of Vík í Mýrdal and the black sand beach Reynisfjara.

A river with a poetic name Jökulsá (the stinking stream), flows out from under the glacier. The name comes from the amount of hydrogen sulphide contained in it, which really smells quite intensely.

At the south-eastern part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, we can also find the active volcano Katla, which once in a while causes an Icelandic phenomenon called Jökulhlaup, the so-called glacial flood.

Dyrhólaey, Iceland. Source: Andrés Nieto Porras / Flickr.

Dyrhólaey arch and lighthouse

As Dyrhólaey (a mixture of three Icelandic words: door, hole, and island), we define a small promontory located west of the black sand beach and the town of Vik, about 20 kilometers far by car. 

The Dyrhólaey's volcanic rocks form large cliffs, measuring up to 120 meters. A very characteristic and beautiful element of these rocks is the great arch through which the ship can calmly pass. Interestingly, you can fly through it by plane - the pilot Tomme Tailor did it.

In addition to the arch and cliffs, you will also find here the Dyrhólaey lighthouse (in Icelandic: Dyrhólaeyjarviti). It is a three-level stone lantern, built in 1927, 13 meters high, gracefully looking into the sea waves of the Atlantic. Interestingly, the lighthouse was built of stones pulled with an iron rope from the beach 100 meters below.

Waterfall Skógafoss, Iceland

Waterfall Skógafoss

The Skógafoss Waterfall is located by the Skógá River and is about 34 kilometers away from the black sand beach Reynisfjara and the fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal. To get here, just follow the road number 1 to the west. Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland - it is approximately 60 meters high and is 25 meters wide. And it makes an amazing impression.

The place, like Reynisfjara, was a photo project for many films and series. Skógafoss waterfall was the background for scenes, for example in the movie "Thor: The Dark World" or in the 5th season of the "Vikings" series.

Summary

The black sand beach Reynisfjara in Iceland is one of the most interesting places on the island. Adding to this charming town of Vík í Mýrdal and nearby tourist attractions, this area should be added to the list of things to see and visit for all travelers going to Iceland. In this travel guide I explained to you what is the meaning of the name Reynisfjara, I described to you how it was created and what the black beach was made of, I also warned you about the dangers.

If you like my travel blog and black sand beach Reynisfjara or have any questions, feel free to write me a comment in the section below. I will definitely reply!

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!


4.92 | 12 votes
Comments: 2
  •   8th October 2018, 10:07

    The black beach of Reynisfjara in Iceland is indeed one of the wonders of nature. Both the beach itself and the beautiful and majestic rocks protruding from the sea. This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Czarna plaża Reynisfjara na Islandii to rzeczywiście jeden z cudów natury. Zarówno sama plaża, jak i te piękne i majestatyczne skały wystające z morza.

  •   12th October 2018, 10:19

    I could not believe what I was seeing when I first came to Reynisfjar. Iceland surprised me a million times, but it was only the black beach that brought down its majesty and beauty. All those who read this, I heartily encourage you to travel there :-) By the way, a great blog, I will fall in here more often! This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Sama nie mogłam uwieżyć w to co widzę, jak pierwszy raz dotarłam na Reynisfjara. Islandia zaskakiwała mnie milion razy, ale dopiero czarna plaża powaliła swoim majestatem i pięknem. Wszystkich, którzy to czytają, serdecznie zachęcam do podróży tam :-) Swoją drogą świetny blog, będę wpadać tu częściej!

Add comment Cancel reply
Name:
E-mail: (Won't be published)
Website:
Comment:

Table of contents

    Categories in this section