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
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.
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
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
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
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
Below is the location of Reynisfjara on the map of Iceland