Iceland is famous for its beautiful black sand beaches that create a mystical feel to the coastline. Located on the Southern Coast, Reynisfjara – the Famous Vik Black Sand Beach is one of the most commonly visited beaches in Iceland. Not only will you find a long expanse of black sand, but Reynisfjara is also famous for an outcropping of basalt columns at one end of the beach. Reynisfjara is not the only black sand beach near Vik, but it is the most popular and easiest to visit.
We visited the Vik Black Sand Beach – Reynisfjara, during the summer of 2022, and below you can find a complete guide with the information needed to help you plan a perfect visit. Note that there is also a Black Sand Beach right in Vik that you can also visit, with views out to the point where Reynisfjall is located.
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Quick Look: Reynisfjara – the Famous Vik Black Sand Beach
If you are looking to visit an Iceland black beach, chances are you will be heading to Reynisfjara. It’s easy to get to, beautiful with the black beach and rocky features, and located within an easy drive of several other sites on the Southern Coast of Iceland.
The parking lot is located just a short 12-minute drive from Route 1 on the South Coast. From the parking lot, the beach is directly in front of you. You can walk down the beach to the right, but the most interesting sites are to the left. This is where you will find the famous basaltic columns. This amazing rock formation has columns stacked alongside each other and a small cave.
While this beach is beautiful, it can also be dangerous and caution should be taken when close to the water due to rogue waves. These sneaker waves come much further up onto the shore and have been known to wash people out to sea. Use extreme caution and avoid getting close to the edge of the water.
7 Things to Know about Reynisfjara – the Famous Vik Black Sand Beach
Is visiting the Iceland Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara, Worth It?
Visiting any Black Beach in Iceland is worth it, but Reynisfjara has much more to offer than just black sand! We loved letting our feet sink into the amazing texture and color of the sand, but we also loved exploring the rock formation and looking at the rock stacks offshore. We recommend visiting the Reynisfjara black beach and also making a stop at the nearby Dyhrolaey Lighthouse for views down onto the Black Sand Beach.
Why is the Sand Black?
Iceland is a very young landform and is continuously growing and changing as new lava erupts. As lava comes in contact with the cold air and water it cools, forming black rocks. Over time, this rock is broken up mostly due to the churning ocean water, and the particles become small enough to form sand. Due to this, most of the beaches in Iceland are black.
What Formed the Reynisfjara Basalt Columns?
Along the edge of the black sand beach, the base of the Gardar Cliffs is comprised of a large area of basaltic columns. These octagonal columns were formed when lava cooled suddenly forming geometrically shaped rock formations. In addition to the cliff-face, you can also visit Hálsanefshellir sea cave and view the amazing rock stacks offshore known as Reynisdrangur.
How Long do You Need?
You should plan to spend about 45-60 minutes in Reynisfjara. This gives you time to explore the basalt columns, walk on the beach and snap some photos of the sea stacks offshore. You can also see puffins nesting in the cliffs above the beach.
Is Reynisfjara – the Famous Vik Black Sand Beach Dangerous?
At least 3 people have drowned at Reynisfjara due to sneaker waves. It is not safe to swim at this beach and you should use extreme caution, especially near the water’s edge. Sneaker waves occur unpredictably along the coast. You may have many similar waves in a row followed by one wave with significantly more power that pounds far up the beach and can drag people out to sea. You will see signs describing these waves and you should not underestimate them.
That said, there is plenty of space on the beach and there is no reason you need to go close to the shoreline. You can easily and safely visit the beach and the basalt columns up on the shore away from the ocean waves.
How Much Does It Cost to visit Reynisfjara?
There is no cost to visit Reynisfjara and parking is free
What Else is There to do Nearby?
There are several other interesting sites nearby. We enjoyed visiting Dyrholaey Lighthouse and seeing the view of the sea arch and puffins. Vik is also the biggest town nearby and worth a stop.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Reynisfjara?
Renisjfara is an amazing place to visit all year long. While the summer months are more comfortable, visiting the beach in the winter is said to be breathtaking when the snow sits on the columns and contrasts with the Black Sand.
How to Visit the Vik Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara
Luckily there is not too much planning involved when visiting Reynisfjara. The beach is a shore walk from the parking lot. We spent about 50 minutes walking on the black sand and snapping some photos of the balsalt columns. The beach was crowded when we visited mid-afternoon in late June and we needed to wait as people moved around to snap some photos. We do recommend walking down the beach to the left (east) to see all the rock formations.
This assumes you will be self-driving along the Southern Coast. If you aren’t planning to rent a car or van to explore, you can also visit Reynisfjara on a tour from Reykjavik. Many of these tours offer multiple stops and activities.
Getting to the Famous Vik Black Sand Beach
No matter where you are staying on the Southern Coast, Reynisfjara is the best black beach Iceland has to offer. Reynisfjara is also easy to reach and is on a well-maintained road with its own parking lot just a 12-minute drive from Vik and Route 1. Below you can see a map of Reynisfjara and some common driving distances.
- Vik to Reynisfjara: 12 minutes
- Reykjavik to Reynisfjara: 2.5 hours
- Dyrhólaey and viewpoint to Reynisfjara: 22 minutes
- Skogafoss to Reynisfjara: 30 minutes
Where to Stay near Reynisfjara, the Best Black Sand Beach in Iceland
You can find several great places to stay right in Vik near Reynisfjara. We found the few accommodations we visited in Iceland pricey and difficult to book for 5 people and ultimately decided to rent a campervan. Here are several lodging options we heard good things about:
Hotel Vík í Mýrdal – beautiful spot with room options for up to 5 people
Vik Apartments – Great location with several different sized rooms
Looking for more Iceland content to help you plan your visit? Check out:
- Iceland’s Golden Circle Map, Itinerary, and Guide: How to Plan the Perfect Visit
- Visiting the Incredible Seljalandsfoss and the Amazing, Hidden Gljufrafoss
- Complete Guide to Dyrholaey Lighthouse: Puffins, Lava Arch, and a Black Sand Beach