Black sand beaches may not be the best for sunbathing but they certainly provide some jaw-dropping and mysterious views which attract thousands of travelers from all over the world.
During our one week trip in Iceland we got to visit quite a few black sand beaches which was incredibly interesting because we had never seen anything like this before. If youre coming to this beautiful country, make sure you put at least some of the major ones on your itinerary - you wont regret it!
Whether youre planning your trip to Iceland or youre just curious about those magical black sand beaches, this guide will help you to get to know them better.
Why are the beaches in Iceland black?
The black color of the beaches in Iceland is due to the volcanic nature of the island. When boiling hot lava reaches the water, it solidifies immediately, turning into black volcanic rock formations. With time, these formations are being smashed into tiny fragments of sand by the strong waves. Almost all volcanic rocks are basalt, meaning they have high iron content, which absorbs light and contributes to the sand appearing black.
The most popular black sand beaches in Iceland
1. Reynisfjara Black Beach
Famous for its dramatic basalt cliffs, roaring waves, and gorgeous views, Reynisfjara is known for being one of the most beautiful examples of Icelands black sand beaches. This is the beach that you can find in pretty much every Iceland itinerary, and it was one of the must-see places we had set for ourselves during our 1 week trip around Iceland.
An interesting fact is that in 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara among the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit in the world.
How to get to Reynisfjara Black Beach
Reynisfjara is located around 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Icelands capital city, Reykjavík, and is a popular stop among tourists who are taking a road trip along the popular South Coast. The beach is conveniently located in the middle of the South Coast, very close to the village of Vik (another worthy stop). This means that if youre taking the Ring Road around the island, you will inevitably pass it.
Reaching the beach by car is quite easy and takes approximately 2h30m from Reykjavik. There is a parking lot right at the beach so coming by car is your best and easiest bet.
2. Diamond Beach in Jökulsárlón
The Diamond Beach is a black-sand beach, which is part of the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, located by Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the South Coast of Iceland.
This turned out to be our favorite beach that we saw during our trip in Iceland - we had never seen anything like this before and it felt like pure magic.
Whats unique about the Diamond Beach is that its not just another black sand beach in Iceland - its covered in ice blocks, which shine like diamonds! The beach is located right next to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is slowly melting and blocks of ice are constantly flowing in the water. The glacier lagoon flows into the ocean, and then all the ice blocks are being brought to the beach by the strong waves, sprinkling them across the black sand. When the sun shines, the ice blocks truly look like diamonds, which gives the name to this black beach.
3. Sólheimasandur Beach (Plane Wreck)
One of the most popular black-sand beaches in Iceland must be Sólheimasandur, also known as the Plane Wreck beach.
More often than not, Sólheimasandur Beach is part of peoples travel itineraries if theyre going to the South Coast of Iceland, and you should consider adding it to yours too.
The famous feature of this beach is the 1973 Plane wreck - a United States Navy DC plane that ran out of fuel and crashed into the black beach of Sólheimasandur. Thankfully, everyone on that plane survived, which makes it a story with a happy ending after all. The plane has remained on that same spot and it still stands today, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
How to get to Sólheimasandur Black Beach
Reaching the Sólheimasandur black beach and the plane wreck requires some planning in advance, as its not so straightforward. Its now forbidden to drive all the way there, so you have two options - you can either walk there (takes about 45 minutes each way) or take the shuttle bus, which costs 2900 ISK and takes about 10 minutes to reach the plane wreck.
4. Djupalonssandur – the Black Lava Pearl Beach
Located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Djupalonssandur is a gorgeous black sand beach to visit in Iceland.
Djúpalónssandur Beach is just a short drive off the main road, and theres a convenient parking lot just above it where you can leave your car. You reach the beach by walking down Nautastígur path (the Path of the Bull), but be careful in winter! The path gets icy (just like everything else in Iceland) and its not recommended if you dont have crampons.
While walking down to the Djúpalónssandur Black Beach, you will pass through a lava field with huge lava formations. Stop for a moment to admire the view and take it all in, as this is one of the most beautiful parts of this beach!
While were on the topic of wrecks, on Djupalonssandur you will also notice some remains scattered around the whole beach. These are iron pieces from the British trawler, The Epine GY7, which was wrecked east of Dritvík cove on the night of the 13th March 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives and five were saved by an Icelandic rescue team.
The iron remains are still there because they are protected and should not be touched. They serve as a memory of the English fishermen who lost their lives that night.
Djúpalónssandur is also known as the Black Lava Pearl Beach because of the black smooth pebbles all around it, called Djúpalónsperlur - Pearls of Djúpalón.
Another beautiful black sand beach in the South of Iceland is Dyrhólaey, which is also famous for its beautiful viewpoint, overlooking an impressive arch-shaped cliff. The viewpoint is easily accessible by car (though the drive up is quite steep) and you can park right at the top. Here you can take stunning photos with the arch and the picturesque lighthouse.
Dyrhólaey has an abundance of birdlife and in the warmer months (from May to September) you might be able to spot some puffins here, so be on the lookout!
6. Stokksnes beach
Stokksnes is a less known black sand beach, which makes it perfect for those who want to run away from the tourist spots and enjoy the beautiful nature of Iceland on their own. With its small dunes and the beautiful mountain Vestrahorn in the background, Stokksnes can impress anyone on the hunt for black sand beaches.
How to stay safe at Black Sand Beaches in Iceland
The black sand beaches in Iceland are gorgeous, but they can also be very dangerous. For this reason its important to stick to a few rules to make sure you stay on the safe side. This includes not getting too close to the water (ideally stay at around 30 metres/100 feet distance), and definitely not going for a swim. If youre travelling with children, always keep an eye on them and dont let them wander around unsupervised. If the weather is bad, avoid going to the beaches overall.
Have you ever been to any black sand beaches in Iceland? Are you planning on visiting any soon? Share with me in the comments or just message me on social media - I love talking to you!
I hope this post was useful and gave you some ideas for black beaches to visit in Iceland.