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Guide to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland

There are miles of black sand coastlines in Iceland, but the most popular and most beautiful black sand beach in the country is Reynisfjara. With its large size, towering basalt columns and overwhelming dramatic views, it’s easy to understand why. If this black sand gem is on your Iceland itinerary, keep reading for tips to help you plan the perfect visit.

In this Guide

Here’s what we’re covering in this guide. We invite you to read the full post or jump ahead to the section you’re most interested in.

What is Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara is a black sand beach on the southern tip of Iceland near the village of Vik. The beach covers close to two miles of coastline and is partially lined by towering basalt columns and caves.

Black sand beaches form over time as a result of volcanic sediment in the water. When nearby volcanos erupt, the lava flows into the ocean and hardens into solid black rock. The turbulence of the ocean breaks up the rocks over time, eventually becoming as small as a grain of sand and washing to shore.

There are over 100 volcanos in Iceland, which is why many of the country’s beaches have black sand. But let’s talk about what makes Reynisfjara black sand beach so special.

First is its size. Reynisfjara comprises about two miles of silky black sand and smooth black pebbles. The beach starts quite wide on the western end and narrows as it approaches the basalt columns.

Then there’s the basalt columns and caves, which loom large alongside the beach. They formed naturally by cooling lava and create a uniquely textured cliff and caves along the land side of the beach. The columns are a popular spot for a photographers, influencers and gutsy, unsupervised kids.

Lastly is the beach’s attitude. Reynisfjara is famously considered “moody,” due to the intensity of the weather and ocean. The black sand, otherworldly cliffs and often cloudy sky set a back drop against the often relentless water.

Reynisfjara is often considered one of the best black sand beaches in the world, but it is not your typical tropical beach. Swimming is not allowed at Reynisfjara black sand beach. The weather at the beach is often cool (or downright cold) and very windy, so this isn’t a beach sunbathing at or lounging under an umbrella.

Safety at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

While Reynisfjara is Iceland’s most famous black sand beach, it’s also one of the most dangerous.

The waters off Iceland’s southern coast are notoriously dangerous due to strong and unpredictable currents and undertows. The dangers are exacerbated by the cold water temperatures and large sharp volcanic rocks in the water.

At Reynisfjara black sand beach specifically, the biggest danger is “sneaker waves.” These waves are unexpected, extremely powerful and reach much further into shore than the other waves at that time. They are random and can strike even during an otherwise calm day.

Powerful sneaker waves can sweep up unassuming tourists and pull them out to sea. The cold water and strong currents make it extremely difficult to swim back to shore. Sadly, multiple tourists have been killed by sneaker waves at Reynisfjara (4 deaths reported between 2007 and 2022).

I don’t want to discourage or scare anyone away from Reynisfjara. These waves can be extremely dangerous, but they’re also relatively rare. I simply want to stress the importance of respecting the power of the ocean.

We chose to visit, to bring our toddler and to let them walk a bit on the beach. We felt safe doing so because we were aware of the risks and knew to be extremely alert and aware of our surroundings.

Here are a few tips to help keep you and your travel party safe.

Safety Tips for Visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

  • Do not turn your back on the ocean. Sneaker waves are dangerous because they’re unexpected. Stay alert and stay facing the ocean as much as possible so you can react as quickly as possible if needed.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from the water. Putting space between yourself and the shoreline is the easiest way to reduce your risk of injury from a sneaker wave. The distance gives you space and time to notice a sneaker wave faster and get to higher ground quicker if needed.
  • Obey posted signs. Follow any safety instructions posted at the entrance. If the beach or portions of the beach are closed for dangerous conditions, do not attempt to visit the beach.
  • Do not enter the water. Do not try to swim in the water. The currents and waves are too strong and it’s extremely unsafe.

How to get to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Another reason Reynisfjara is so popular is because of how easy it is to get to. Unlike many portions of Iceland’s coast which are lined by rocky cliffs or steep mountains, one can simply drive right up to this black sand beach parking lot and walk right to it.

Reynisfjara is easily accessible by car. It is located about 115 miles southeast of Reykjavik near the village of Vik. From Reykjavik, follow Route 1 south east. After passing Dyrhólaey, turn right on to Reynishverfisvegur. This road will lead all the way to the parking lot for the black sand beach.

There is free parking available in a lot near the beach. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the beach.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to get to Reynisfjara black sand beach using public transit. The closest bus stop is in the nearby village of Vik, and then you’d have to find someone to drive you to the black sand beach.

The bus stop in Vik is only a mile from the black sand beach as the crow flies, but it’s not possible to walk from Vik to the black sand beach. There’s a hiking trail that puts you close and you can see the beach from above, but the cliffs are too steep to get down to the sand.

Amenities at Reynisfjara

The area around Reynisfjara has been built up to accommodate the many tourists that visit. You’ll find many essential amenities available in the area.

  • Parking: Free parking is available a short walk from the beach.
  • Bathrooms: Yes, but they cost 200 ISK ($1.50 USD). There are free bathrooms inside the cafe for patrons only.
  • Wifi: Not to my recollection, but I’m sorry, I can’t 100% confirm this one.
  • Food & Drink: Yes. There is a cafe restaurant located near the parking lot.
  • Souvenirs: Yes, there is a small gift shop by the cafe.

Tips for visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

  • Please be safe. Follow the safety tips above and observe any additional posted safety signs. Never turn your back on the ocean and stay a safe distance away from the water.
  • Plan for 1 hour. We suggest spending about 1 hour at Reynisfjara black sand beach. This includes taking a walk up and down the beach and taking photos. It’s often cold and windy, so this isn’t a beach where you’ll want to lay down a towel and hang out for too long.
  • Walk west. The walk east from the main entrance takes you past the basalt columns and to a narrower, rockier portion of the beach. This is the most dramatic and most dangerous section of the beach. Walk west for a wider swath of fine black sand and views of Dyrhólaey. This is where we felt safest with our toddler and let them walk a bit on the sand.
  • Wear your baby. If you have a baby (or in our case a fast toddler), we suggest wearing them in a baby carrier. You could not push a stroller on the beach and some areas aren’t the safest for kids to run around. We use the Nuna CUDL carrier.  We have a separate post dedicated to baby wearing for travel which has some great tips and reviews of our favorite baby carriers.

Where to Stay Near Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

If you’re visiting Reynisfjara, or really anywhere on Iceland’s southern coast, we recommend staying in Vik. It’s a small town, but it’s the largest one for 40-ish miles in either direction. It’s an oasis of sorts for travelers and regional locals alike.

Vik has several restaurants and bars, a grocery store and a few gas stations, among other amenities. It’s also home to my favorite coffee shop in all of Iceland and one of the most creative coffee shops I’ve ever been to, Skool Beans.

Vik also has a variety of overnight accommodations, from campsites to nice hotels. We recommend staying at Puffin Hotel. It’s an average price hotel, with nice rooms and breakfast included. We stayed here for two nights as we explored the southern coast and it was lovely.

If you’re considering staying in Vik, we have a complete guide to Vik, Iceland that’s packed with more tips and recommendations.


I’ve been to black sand beaches in Hawaii, but the size and setting of Reynisfjara really blew me away. It was so beautiful and the setting of my absolute favorite photo from our trip (the first photo in this post).

I’m also just so glad we added the southern coast to our itinerary. Between the black sand beach, the views from Dyrhólaey and beauty of the glacier lagoon, the southern coast of Iceland made up the most epic portion of our trip.

I hope you found this guide helpful! Whether you’re in Iceland now or planning your dream trip, we hope you have an amazing adventure.