Frequently asked questions about Reynisfjara beach
Why is Reynisfjara beach black?
The clue is in the backdrop to the black sands - the striking basalt columns. The columns were formed when volcanic lava cooled and contracted into long columns. These geometric formations are an incredible sight to behold. Sometimes they’re likened to the great organ pipes found in places of worship; there’s certainly something awe-inspiring and cathedral-like about them. You could say Reynisfjara is nature’s church. The power of the ocean creates the sands below them as it smashes the black basalt rocks into tiny fragments.
How much does it cost to go to the black sand beach in Iceland?
You will have to factor in car rental, fuel, overnight accommodation and food if you are visiting Reynisfjara under your own steam. Alternatively, why not join this affordable tour from our company’s partner Reykjavik Excursions on this South Shore Adventure? Once you’ve booked in, the trip includes free bus travel, WiFi and the invaluable local knowledge of your guide. The trip packs it all in on this ten-hour tour from Reykjavik: Solheimajokull glacier, the charming coastal village of Vik, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls - and of course the black sands of Reynisfjara.
Is Reynisfjara beach free?
Completely free, including parking. There’s a charge to use the toilets, but why not give back to the local economy and have lunch at Black Beach Restaurant, taking advantage of a free toilet stop too?
How much time do you need at Reynisfjara beach?
Anything from half-an-hour to an hour. It depends on your interests and your ability to stand up to the cold Atlantic winds. For the photographer there’s much to capture on camera: the dramatic sea stacks, the cave, the basalt columns, the glitter of black sands and the wild surf off-shore. For the geologist, you’ll enjoy exploring the wonderful basalt rock formations and Hálsanefshellir cave. For the sea and nature lover, you’ll simply enjoy staring out to sea and savouring precious moments of mindfulness.
But you may want to stay longer and walk the black sands over the spit to its end at Arnardrangur, where a single sea stack stands sentry between Reynisfjara and Dyrholaey. Back at Reynisfjara Car Park you can warm up and refuel at Black Beach Restaurant. With the cafe stop and longer walk you could easily spend a whole morning or afternoon at Reynisfjara. Many of Icelandic Mountain Guides’ multi-day hiking tours stop off at Reynisfjara beach.
Can you swim in Reynisfjara?
No, no, and again, no! The water is freezing, the waves unpredictable, the thrust of the ocean treacherous. Even standing close to the shore is dangerous, so swimming is definitely out. Enjoy the power of the sea from a safe distance and keep your dips for one of the safe - and very enjoyable - warm geothermal pools.
How to be safe at Reynisfjara beach?
The thrashing waves of Reynisfjara are a clear indication this is a sea not to be messed with. Any sensible person can see that at a glance and will give the water a wide berth. Most people do! But the main problem is the so-called sneaker waves that surge in unexpectedly and knock you right off your feet before sucking you out to sea - even if you feel you’re well back from the tide line. It’s not surprising it’s so dangerous at Black Sand Beach: there are no land masses of any significance between Antarctica and Reynisfjara, resulting in the build up of waves over thousands of kilometres.
Don't underestimate the sea on your visit. It’s not a place to play chicken. Never turn your back on the water and stay at least twenty metres back from the shoreline, enjoying the wild beauty of this breathtaking ocean (literally and figuratively) from a safe distance. It’s an experience you’ll remember for a long time.
Best time to visit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland
I could mention winter storm-watching but it’s really not necessary: Reynisfjara has enough wave action in summer to compete with the wildest winter seas you’ll find elsewhere in the world. It’s probably best to avoid those freezing Atlantic winds in winter if you don’t like challenging weather conditions. Instead, come in summer to enjoy all that Iceland’s south coast has to offer. With long hours of daylight, you can pack in everything you want to see at Reynisfjara and beyond.
Why not combine the best of south and west Iceland with a seven-day self-drive trip? Icelandic Mountain Guides take all the hassle out of the planning, including sorting out car rental and accommodation. Highlights include the dramatic Westfjords, the surreally colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar and its geothermal pools, the stunning peninsula of Snaefellsnes - an Iceland in miniature - and the wild beauty of Reynisfjara, of course. If you’d like to experience the wilderness in the Shadow of Vatnajökull combined with a three-day south coast extension, Icelandic Mountain Guides has the perfect trip for you. If you’re widening out your travel itinerary and the activities you want to undertake, check out this blog post on the best time of year to visit Iceland.