When most people think of beaches, one covered with volcanic black sand is not something that comes to mind. In Iceland, going to the beach not only means this, but it also means a barren and strikingly beautiful landscape that has taken thousands of years to shape. For centuries, the notion of a beach filled with dark black sand and surrounded by crashing waves is one that has attracted people to its shores from all over the world.

Those visiting Iceland's most popular black sand beach shouldn't go there expecting sunny weather and warm temps. There are no palm trees to buffer the wind or lounge chairs from which to enjoy the gentle ebb and flow of the ocean. On Reynisfjara, the only thing standing in between visitors and the waves is themselves and, with their backs to massive basalt columns, they quickly realize the experience is an intense one. Here's what to know before visiting this black sand beach.

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*Visitors to Reynisfjara must heed the warning signs posted around the beach regarding the strength of the ocean current - particularly, sneaker waves - which have been known to easily drag people out to sea. Take caution and stay a safe distance away from breaking waves. 

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How To Get To Reynisfjara

The accessibility of Reynisfjara is probably part of the reason why it's so popular for locals and tourists. With that being said, it's not a short drive nor is it one that's particularly close to Reykjavik, Iceland's capital (and largest) city. Those wishing to visit this beach are better off starting out from the capital, though, because the drive is fairly straightforward. The beach itself is located at the southernmost point of the country, and the drive from Reykjavik takes travelers along the southern coast of the country, past some of its most iconic features. So, while the drive isn't short, it's still one that's filled with incredible sights that travelers will be happy to see along the way.

  • Total Driving Time: 2.5 hours from Reykjavik

Just like any location in Europe, particularly in the Nordic regions, there's plenty of ancient lore surrounding unusual geological formations. While Reynisfjara might be known for its iconic black sands, it's also known for its huge basalt columns. These columns are unique and appear to be interlocking, hexagonal-shaped columns, fitting together as blocks would. So while it's easy enough to think they're man-made, they're actually completely natural in origin (similar to Giant's Causeway in Ireland). These basalt stacks can be seen extending out into the ocean, as well, which, of course, is the root of an Icelandic legend.

The legend tells of how these tall columns were never rocks at all and, instead, were giant trolls that dwelled on the shoreline. The trolls were known for pulling ships in from the ocean to the shore, and one night, they stayed out too late. When dawn broke, the giant trolls were said to have turned into stone; thus, the giant basalt columns that remain. This is one of two legends, however. The other is more tragic and speaks of a man who turned the trolls into stone in order to avenge his bride, whom the trolls kidnapped. While the legends are interesting and fun to think about, the landscape of Reynisfjara was actually shaped by the volcanic activity that's so prevalent in Iceland.

In Pop Culture

Anyone who's a fan of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones will probably recognize this beach. It was featured in the show during season seven, and its iconic shoreline and rock formations were perfect for scenes that were shot 'North of the Wall.'

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What To Do And See At Reynisfjara

Just seeing this beach is an activity in itself, and it's one that many people are both mesmerized and taken aback by. Despite the fact that the beach looks as though it wouldn't support any type of wildlife, this is far from true.

Bird watchers who come to Reynisfjara will likely get more than they bargained for, as it's a popular place for local puffins, fulmars, and guillemots to nest during the warmer seasons. Visitors may also opt to go on a guided tour that includes a stop at the beach, such as those listed below.

10-Hour South Coast Tour With Waterfalls & Reynisfjara

  • $110USD/person
  • Icelandic snacks included
  • Pickup from Reykjavik

Guided 12-Hour Glacier Hike & South Coast Minibus Tour

  • $161USD/person
  • Glacier-hiking equipment is included in the price
  • WiFi available on the minibus
  • Pickup from Reykjavik

2-Day South Coast Sightseeing Tour of Waterfalls, Blue Ice Cave & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

  • $476USD/person
  • Accommodations include a double or twin room with a shared bathroom
  • Breakfast is included
  • Safety equipment is included for the ice cave tour
  • Free WiFi is available on the minibus
  • Pickup from Reykjavik

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