#reynisfjara

Iceland is truly a geological wonderland.  For geologists, the island is a significant source for research offering more variety of places to study than most places on the planet.  Some of the geological wonders are also one of our most popular attractions, like basalt column stacks and all kinds of basalt column formations. Although this beautiful structure, originating in basalt lava, is found in many places in the world, Iceland is probably the best place to find many beautiful basalt columns. At least where the distance between them is relatively short.

Basalt column places that you will enjoy

Visitors who have traveled to Iceland sometimes send us photos, articles from their tour and videos to share. This is much appreciated and wonderful since we love hearing from people who travel our country and are prepared to share their experience. Almost all of the messages that we get are very positive and even up to a point where it is almost unbelievable. Sometimes when we are on the road, we ask people visiting Iceland about their experience.

Sjoerd van der Verff traveled to Iceland last summer from June 11th to June 24th in 2016

 

Most of the natural wonders attractions in Iceland have easy access and are relatively straightforward to view and visit. Some of the places need caution as they have high cliffs, powerful rivers, boiling water, dangerous waves, landslides and slippery ice.  Some areas require more caution than others and all visitors to such places should read warning signs and take notice of the warnings.  One such place is Kirkjusandur beach east of Dyrhólaey arch in the Southern Region in Iceland.  It is a fascinating and beautiful place that can turn lethal in seconds. The beach is stunning and wonderful to visit and walk when the tide is low and the weather is calm. Preferably not windy. Even on such a day a walk near the cliffs on the beach can be dangerous as the cliffs can burst with a landslide at any time.  Especially after days of rain.

Don't not enter the Kirkjufjara beach when tide is high

There are two parking lots to view Dyrhólaey arch. One at the highest point by the small lighthouse and the other one is a bit east by Kirkjufjara beach.  From the parking lot you have an excellent view to Dyrhólaey arch from the cliffs and you also have a spectacular view of the Reynisdrangar stacks and Reynisfjara black beach to the east.  A toilet is also available by the parking lot, From there is a narrow path down to Kirkjusandur beach with two to three meter small cliffs on both sides.  This is the only entrance to the beach. Since January 2017 the Kirkjufjara beach has been closed due to life-threatening waves and possible landslides.  The beach is located under a much higher cliff with the immensely forceful Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Anyone thinking about entering the beach should understand that waves are not equal in size. Every 15th or 20th wave there is a much larger wave that stretches much farther inland than others, and that is the highly dangerous sneaker wave.  So even if the waves seem calm and innocent on a day with high tides, a much larger one is due at any time floating up the walking path. On such a day, especially when the winds are strong and the tide is high no one should enter the Kirkjusandur beach. If a wave from the Atlantic Ocean grabs you, the fight is extremely tough.  Enjoying the view to the east and the west from the parking lot is great and gives everyone great photographic opportunities.

Access is easy from the Ring Road in the Southern Region

Entering the parking lot to Kirkjusandur beach is the same road as the road leading to Dyrholaey arch.  On the Ring Road Nr. 1 you turn south to Dyrhólavegur road Nr. 218. This Road will lead to both parking lots to view Dyrhólaey and Kirkjufjara.  

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Below is the location of Kirkjufjara beach on the map of Iceland

Some of the places need caution, one such place is Kirkjufjara

 

Reynisfjara Beach has in recent years become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. To Icelanders, it is not a surprise as the beach, and the surrounding area has a lot to offer in terms of natural wonders and spectacular experience. It is not only a display of magnificent and panoramic natural wonders but also a meeting place of immense natural forces.

Reynisfjara black beach and basalt column formation

Reynisfjara black beach and basalt column formation

Many natural wonders wrapped up in one

Reynisfjara is a beautiful black beach stretching on a three-kilometer reef to the west from the small mountain Reynisfjall (340 meters high), where you find the parking lot and a service center with restrooms and a small restaurant.  When you enter the beach, a view to the south towards the Atlantic Ocean opens up.  Here it is quite unique to watch the powerful waves come in and crawl the beach for their destructive intentions. The large black beach, consisting of black sand (originally volcanic ash) and softly shaped small pebbles. Here you can take a short walk to the west along the reef that separates the Atlantic Ocean and the river mouth or small lagoon Dyrhólaós.  Here you can find a peaceful spot and face the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean, even when Reynisfjara is crowded with people. You can also take a walk to the eastern part of Reynisfjara beach, where you have a great view of the spectacular Reynisdrangar basalt stacks right off the shore. When the tide is low, and the wind is calm, you can easily walk the beach and view the 340-meter-high mountain Rynisfjall on one side and the stacks and the ocean on the other side. A spectacular experience as the place is also usually crowded with birds.

Hánefshellir cave is one of the few basalt column caves in the world

Hálsanefshellir cave is one of the few basalt column caves in the world

The basalt column formation

When you enter the beach, you will encounter one of the most spectacular basalt column formations in Iceland right in front of you at the foot of the mountain Reynisfjall. A place that one could almost believe was designed thousands of years ago with selfies on a phone camera in mind. From every angle, it is a beautiful photogenic landscape and a perfect background for a selfie.  One of the most exciting parts of the basalt column is the cave Hálsanefshellir. As the basalt column formation in Iceland is gaining more and more interest, it is worth noticing that Reynisfjara is one of the most impressive basalt column sites in the country. This part of the beach could easily be a stand-alone reason to visit the black beach. Here we must add that it is also a bit of a dangerous place as there have been several small landslides from the south slopes of the mountain in recent decades, small rocks sometimes fall down from the ceiling of the cave, and when the tide is high and the weather severe (most notably in winter) walking this part of the beach can be dangerous.

Reynisfjara black beach

Reynisfjara black beach

The glacier and the mighty volcano

On a good clear day, even the view from the beach to the north is impressive. From the beach, you have a great view of the mountains south of Mýrdalsjökull glacier and also towards the famous glacier Eyjafjallajökull. The ice cap Mýrdalsjökull is most famous for its dangerous volcano Katla sleeping under the nine-hundred-meter-thick ice. Katla is one of the most notorious volcanos in Iceland and has the habit of waking up at an interval of one hundred years. The last eruption was in 1918. The whole surrounding of Reynisfjara also has an abundant birdlife, and from May to late July, you will most likely see some puffins.

Everyone must remember that although the waves might look innocent, they are mighty, strong, and powerful

Everyone must remember that although the waves might look innocent, they are mighty, strong, and powerful

A place where forces of nature have fought their battles for thousands of years

Although a beautiful area of natural wonders, it is also a meeting place, or shall we say a battlefield, of natural forces. Throughout the centuries and even thousands of years, and day by day, the Atlantic Ocean attacks the land, the coastline, and bit by bit breaks part from and reshapes the beach, cliffs, and stacks. Everyone must remember that although the waves might look innocent, they are mighty, strong, and powerful, and sometimes highly dangerous. Caution is needed, especially when the tide is high, and the winds are strong. We also must remember that the waves are not equal in size. Every 14th to 20th wave from the Atlantic Ocean is considerably larger than the other waves and floods farther up on the beach. The waves are very deceiving, and everyone needs to take care, and risk-taking is not recommended.  When you look to the west to Dyrhólaey and then to the east to the Reynisdrangar stacks, you see the cliffs made of solid rocks and in between the reef consisting of volcanic ash. The geological material that the ocean so desires to demolish, but the volcanic island continues to add and fight the power of the sea.

When you enter the beach, you will encounter one of the most spectacular basalt column formations in Iceland

When you enter the beach, you will encounter one of the most spectacular basalt column formations in Iceland

Access is quite straight forward and easy

Like many natural wonders in Iceland, access is simple, and admission is free. If you are traveling the Ring Road Nr. 1. It is located on the south shore west of the small village of Vík. When traveling from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, you take a turn south on the road Reynishverfisvegur Nr. 215 and drive approximately 6 kilometers. This is the only road to Reynisfjara beach, and you cannot access this place from the village Vík. You should take notice of the farm Reynir as it has been part of Icelandic history form more than eleven hundred years and is mentioned in our book of settlement. It is also an area with many fascinating folklore stories, including an interesting story about the church and how it was built.

When is the best time to visit Reynisfjara?

Iceland is placed on planet earth up north near the arctic and has four clear and distinctive seasons. There is a clear difference between spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This also means that every place in Icelandic nature is different depending on the season. This affects everything you see and experience in an area like Reynisfjara. The beach is accessible all year round, and every season has its charm, but often in winter, the weather makes it challenging to visit as the roads are difficult, slippery, and even closed. If you want to enjoy this magnificent place in its full blossom and color, the best time is from late April until late September. If, on the other hand, you want to experience the full and mighty force of nature and see big waves and harsh environments, it is a good idea to visit Reynisfjara from October and March.

I hope you enjoy our website and information when planning a tour to Iceland, and below, you find more information about nearby places.

Article and photos by Einar Páll Svavarsson tour and photo guide

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Below is the location of Reynisfjara on the map of Iceland

When you enter the beach, you will encounter one of the most spectacular basalt column formations in Iceland right in front of you

 

The Atlantic Ocean is quite the sculptor, much apparent in various locations around Iceland. Reynisdrangar, just south of the dramatic black beaches of Vík village are three spiky basalt sea stacks rising from the ocean 66 m into the air.  Legend has it that the three stacks were formerly two trolls dragging a three-mast ship towards land throughout a night. Alas, it was a slow maneuver and the night wasn't long at that time of year. At the break of dawn up rose the Sun and cast its rays on the trolls, instantly turning them into stone. The stack next to land, Landdrangur, is the fogy, Langsamur the ship is in the middle with the old hag, Háidrangur, at the rear end.

Photogenic stone trolls

This disaster was, by no means the end of the trolls. Even today you can hear their wails and laments when you drive from Vík village to observe them up close. They never have and never will accept their destiny. So close to their warm and cozy home in Mount Katla, the most ferocious volcano in Iceland and all their labor lost.  But fortunately for us, the two trolls and their looted ship are incredibly photogenic and always worth visiting. 

Be on alert and aware of the DANGEROUS waves on the beach

Although both folklore story and landscape are fascinating for the camera and anyone's imagination, you must remember if you visit Reynisdrangar, either from the east side from Vík or from Reynisfjara on the west side, that the ocean and the waves are often extremely DANGEROUS. Much more dangerous than trolls.  Especially when the tide is high and winds are strong. The waves might look innocent and calm as they softly crawl in and cover the beach, but they are often quite strong and demanding on the way out; almost unpredictable. Everyone visiting should read the signs and understand that the waves are not only dangerous in high tide and strong winds.  Everyone visiting Reynisfjara should BE CAREFUL.

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
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Below is the location of Reynisdrangar on the map of Iceland

Reynisdrangar, just south of the dramatic black beaches of Vík village