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Reynisfjara features on many “best beaches in the world” lists, but it is far from the platinum-white shores of the Caribbean or Bora Bora. Miles of jet-black sand is a dramatic scene, especially with the wild North Atlantic waves crashing against the shore. There are hidden dangers on the beach, so it’s important to read up on Reynisfjara beach safety before your visit.
Reynisfjara black sand beach and its rock formations in the south coast of Iceland.
Best time to visit
All year round
Distance from Reykjavík
190 km (118 mi)
63.402685, -19.04272

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Reynisfjara in the south shore of Iceland
    10.5 hours

    South Shore Adventure

    This South Shore Adventure is the ideal tour for nature lovers looking to explore some of the most unique and scenic sights in the South. Get ready for an action-packed day seeing epic waterfalls, charming towns, vast glaciers, and the most famous black sand beach in Iceland!

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    History of Reynisfjara beach

    Reynisfjara beach's black sand formed over centuries due to volcanic activity. During eruptions from the nearby Katla volcano, lava flowed to the shore, meeting the frigid Atlantic Ocean. When this molten lava encountered the cold seawater, it solidified instantly. The rapid cooling shattered the lava into fragments. Over time, ocean waves, wind, and other erosive forces broke these fragments into finer particles, resulting in the formation of the epic black sand beach.

    The renowned hexagonal basalt pillars formed through a similar process. When a thick lava flow cooled, it contracted and began to solidify from the outside inward and from the bottom up.

    The structure that best accomplishes cooling with the least amount of surface area (and thus, the least energy) is the hexagon. As the lava continued to cool, cracks propagated downward, leading to the creation of the long, vertical hexagonal columns. This distinct pattern is evident in numerous places worldwide with basaltic lava flows.

    Reynisfjara is also imbued with myths and legends. Local folklore suggests that dark elves crafted the Hálsanefshellir cave and that the Reynisdrangar sea stacks visible from the shore are petrified trolls who were attempting to drag a boat ashore. They were turned to stone when caught by the morning sun.

    Aerial perspective of Reynisfjara beach bathed in a soft pink hue from sunset, highlighting the vast black sands, jagged coastline, and distant sea stacks, creating a surreal and dreamy landscape in Iceland.

    What to do at Reynisfjara black sand beach

    With the wild sea crashing against the shore and wind whipping at the cliffs, Reynisfjara is not the kind of beach where you plop down on a towel and take a “beach day”. What draws visitors here is the jet-black sand that sweeps for miles and miles and the striking basalt cliffs that look like they belong on another planet. So much so that Reynisfjara has been used as a filming location for films in the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises.

    At one end of the beach, Hálsanefshellir cave makes for a beautiful photograph as the basalt columns frame the view of the beach nicely and you can admire the towering Reynisdrangar sea stacks stranded out in the water. Most Reynisfjara beach tours stop here for an hour to allow visitors time to stroll on the sand, check out the cave and snap some photos of the wild sea against the black sand from a safe distance. For a longer black-sand adventure, you can embark on an ATV tour, crossing rivers and lava fields to reach the wreck of a DC3 aeroplane on the shore. Keen birdwatchers can spot puffins at the Dyrhólaey peninsula which marks the most westerly point of Reynisfjara beach.

    There’s also a café at Reynisfjara carpark serving hearty Icelandic dishes, making this the ideal spot for lunch along the south shore. Reynisfjara sits on the south coast, almost halfway between Reykjavík and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, so it’s the perfect place to get out and stretch your legs on a multi-day south coast tour to Jökulsárlón and the Diamond Beach.

    Massive waves crashing onto the black sands of Reynisfjara beach, with the iconic Reynisdrangar sea stacks looming in the misty background.

    Why Reynisfjara beach is dangerous

    One thing you definitely cannot do at Reynisfjara is swim in the sea. Powerful waves, freezing-cold water and circumstances too dangerous for the coastguard to rescue people swept out to sea mean you should stay well back from the water’s edge.

    Even paddling in the shallows is not possible as sneaker waves have been known to rush up the beach and sweep people out beyond rescuable distance with no warning. It’s important to pay attention to all the warning signs around Reynisfjara beach, make sure you obey the red, yellow and green system telling you where you can stand on the sand, and don’t climb on the rocks near the shore, no matter how cool you might think it looks for that Instagram shot.

    Unfortunately, there have been deaths at Reynisfjara beach with visitors swept out to sea by sneaker waves and dashed off the rocks by immense and sudden swells.

    There is also the danger of rockfall and rock slides at Reynisfjara. The most easterly section of the beach is permanently closed due to a large rockslide in 2019. For this reason, climbing on the cliffs and rocks is not permitted.

    As long as you stay well away from the water’s edge and stick to the upper sands of the beach, you can safely visit Reynisfjara. All of the warnings, guidelines and signs are for your safety and should not be ignored for the sake of a selfie.

    Dangerous Sneaker Waves in Action at Reynisfjara

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    All About Reynisfjara Beach

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