Exploring the Dark Beauty of Iceland’s Black Sand Beaches

Big waves on a black sand beach in Iceland with gigantic rocks in the ocean
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Iceland is known across the world for its countless unique natural wonders, many of which cannot be found anywhere else. Although its glowing Northern Lights and glowing thermal baths mark some of the most loved attractions, it is also the country’s stretching black sand beaches which pull in tourists with their intense mysticism and raw beauty. Arguably the best thing about them is that there is more than one to choose from on your visit. Knowing where to start can be a tricky task, but you should make the time to visit each one. With icy sea views and irrevocably breath-taking sunsets, each has its own splendour which can’t quite be captured by any camera. In fact, stepping onto their shores and breathing in the sharp, crisp air is an experience which can never be replaced.

Black Sand Beaches on the South Coast

When you start your search for “black sand beaches Iceland”, the first to pop up will be Reynisfjara. Television lovers may recognise this beach from the cult show Game of Thrones, but a visit here will afford you far more enchantment than any show does. Only a smooth two and a half hour drive away from Reykjavik, you will find Reynisfjara black sand beach standing boldly on the south coast of Iceland. Here, you can catch views that look out onto the steel-grey Atlantic Ocean while you are surrounded by natural scenery that goes far beyond its black sand. 

Reynisfjara black sand beach with huge stones in the water at dusk along the south coast of Iceland
Björgvin Hilmarson
Reynisfjara in Iceland

Dotted across this sand, you will find impressive rock formations, which sit proudly in the crashing waves when the tide draws in, which you can see best on The South Iceland Getaway, or The Northern Lights and Ice Cave Adventure in winter. A quick look behind you, and you will be met by a strange but wondrous wall of rocks, which form part of the climbing cliffside. There are also small caves to explore, which will give a truly atmospheric element to your trip. If you are lucky, you may catch sight of the Northern Lights on one of your visits.

If you would like to experience a more intimate black sand beach, you can find Vík nearby. With green cliffs to contrast the stark black sand, there are more caves and sea views here to complete your visit. You could even make the journey along the coast to the Reykjanes Peninsula. With coastal hiking routes galore and the same stretching sea views, it is recommended you visit in the winter months. During this time, the opaque black sand stands out beautifully next to the ice and snow, and glacial rock pools will add a special twist to this area. 

Western Iceland’s Black Sand Beaches

Luckily, it is not just the south coast which is famed for its black sand. On the western Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there are a myriad of natural attractions that are perfect for any explorer. Among these is its very own black sand beach. Here, the grey seas of the south become a frosty blue, and you will see jagged rocks decorating the shoreline. Snæfellsnes is perfect to visit if you are looking for a place with fewer tourists and an easy drive from Reykjavik. The roundtrip journey time to Snæfellsnes is a handy half an hour less than to the black sand beaches in the south.

Four women walking along a black sand beach on a sunny day in Iceland
Björgvin Hilmarsson

One of the best ways to get the most out of your surroundings is to fully immerse yourself on a tour, such as The Wonders of Snæfellsnes. Although the black sand will feature as a defining moment on your trip, the glacial Snæfellsjökull Volcano will act as a welcoming addition. From the beach, you can clearly see this picturesque volcano. Thanks to Snæfellsnes lying on the western coast, incredible sunsets here are not uncommon; if you visit during the snowy winter, the colourful combination of blooming red sun, jet black sand, and shining white snow is enough to melt even the most cynical of hearts.

About the Author

Jewells Chambers

Jewells Chambers

Jewells is a Brooklyn, NY native but love, work and a taste for adventure have brought her to Iceland. As the Content Marketing Manager, she has the exciting task of bringing Icelandic Mountain Guide’s voice and its customer’s stories to life across the digital universe. When she is not working on content strategy, you can find her frolicking in Icelandic nature, trying new vegan recipes, instagramming and pretending to understand when someone speaks in Icelandic. “Traveling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” - Ibn Battuta

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