#dyrholaey

 

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.  

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

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

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

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

 

Dyrhólaey is a naturally formed arch on the shoreline west of the tiny village of Vík on the south coast in Iceland. It is one of the main attractions on the South Shore Tours and one of the most impressive stops when driving the Ring Road in Iceland. The 120 m high basalt rock is a former volcanic island, formed in an eruption some one hundred thousand years ago. The raging Atlantic Ocean has shaped the cliffs since the Ice Age. The hole in the middle was carved out by the ocean digging out the weaker remaining rocks over a long period.  In addition to the arch, interesting stacks are standing tall just south of the Dyrhólaey cliffs.  All have names like Kvistdrangur, Mávadrangur, Kambur, and Háidrangur (56 meters high).  When you look at Háidrangur, you can picture when it was first climed in 1893 by a famous daredevil named Eldeyjar-Hjalti. His task was to put nails into the cliff to make it easier for others to climb and collect eggs.

Dyrhólaey island and arch

Observe the huge and aggressive ocean waves of the Atlantic Ocean

A rare natural wonder it is

The whole formation, the island, the black beach and rocky shoreline around the island, the stacks and the arch is a spectacular natural phenomenon.  Officially there are two ways to view Dyrhólaey: From the top by the parking area by the old lighthouse that was built in 1910 and renovated in 1927, and on the east side of the arch by the new service center and parking lot. Both offer great views, and if you have taken the time to visit Dyrhólaey you should stop by both of them.  From the lower level, you also have an excellent view to the famous Reynisfjara black beach east of Dyrhólaey.

Dyrhólaey is a nature reserve

Consequently, in addition to being a great natural wonder, Dyrhólaey is a beautiful location for birdwatching. Needless to say, there are of course infinitive photo opportunities by Dyrhólaey.  Not only from the top but also from both viewing panels.   In 1978 Dyrhólaey became a nature reserve as nature and birdlife during spring, and early summer is quite sensitive and requires monitoring. Keep in mind that the Dyrhólaey area is sometimes closed in May and early June. During late summer, autumn and winter the site is a spectacular place to observe the huge and aggressive ocean waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  The waves that are continually molding the south coast of Iceland.  But during storms and high tides, extreme caution is needed.

A view to the Reynisfjara beach

A view to the Reynisfjara beach

Caution is needed if you choose to walk the black beach

Some years ago, the black beach surrounding Dyrhólaey was accessible by walking down to Kirkjufjara beach by the lower parking lot.  Although a marvelous place when the tide is low, and winds are still it is a hazardous place in different situations, and even life-threatening.  After some horrifying accidents, the beach was closed, and access is not allowed. We can only emphasize that you should stay on marked trails and keep in mind that the waves are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

Dyrhólaey is easily accessible from the Ring Road.

When you are driving on Suðurlandsvegur or the southern part of the Ring Road, you take a turn to the south on the road Dyrhólavegur nr. 218.  The drive to the top of the Dyrhólaey island by the Lighthouse is approximately six kilometers.  And between the parking lots, you only drive about 500 meters. 

WHAT KIND OF CAR FITS FOR AN ICELAND ROAD TRIP?
Read this important article before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Dyrhólaey on the map of Iceland

Dyrholaey is one of the southern most part of Iceland