Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

Djúpalónssandurorthe Black Lava Pearl Beach is a beautiful place to visit, like so many other sites on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is like stepping into a lava wonderland.

It is just a short drive from the main road and you can leave your car at the parking lot just above Djúpalónssandur. There is a short walk down Nautastígur path - the Path of the Bull - where you will walk through a lava field with huge lava formations. To me this is the most beautiful part of Djúpalónssandur. There is a peculiar rock here with a hole in it, called Gatklettur. Through the hole one can  see Snæfellsjökull glacier.  

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

This is a good photo spot, especially on a fine sunny day, like the day I got on one of my many visits to Snæfellsnes peninsula. I have visited Djúpalónssandur beach in almost all types of weather, but my favourite photos are from a sunny day back in 2010, so I include them here in my article.

There are two small freshwater lagoons behind Nautastígur, called Djúpulón or the Deep Lagoons, but this beach got its name from these lagoons - Djúpalónssandur or the Deep Lagoon's Sand. The lower lagoon was said to be abysmal as it was so deep.  Djúpulón lagoon was measured by the noted Eggert Ólafsson (1726-1768) and turned out not to be abysmal but ca 5 meter's deep.

The name of the path, the Path of the Bulls, derives from bull being led down this path and watered by the lagoon. 

The Deep Lagoons on Snæfellsnes peninsula, west Iceland

The other lagoon behind Gatklettur rock is called Svörtulón or the Black Lagoon.  

Bishop Guðmundur góði or Guðmundur the Good (1161-1237) is said to have blessed this lagoon in his time, but he blessed many springs including the Maríulind spring at Hellnar and many others around Iceland.  

Some of the springs, which this good bishop blessed so many centuries ago, are said to have healing properties.  We Icelanders still hold these springs in high regard and it hurt me so much to see one of these springs up north filled with WC paper :(

Only the surface water in these 2 lagoons is freshwater as they rise and fall with the tide.  Svörtulóncontains better water though as a creek runs into it.

Shipwreck of a british trawler east of Dritvík on Snæfellsnes peninsula

On the beach you will notice the iron pieces from the British trawler, The Epine GY7, which was wrecked east of Dritvík cove on the night of 13th March 1948. Fourteen men lost their lives and five were saved by the Icelandic rescue team in the neighbouring villages, which managed, after two long and cold hours, to get a line to the trawler.

There was a blizzard on this cold winter night in March and the fishermen were losing their grip and had started falling into the cold sea. One of them fell aboard and washed up on the beach where the rescue team managed to survive him. Three others were already dead as their bodies washed up on the beach :( Many of the fishermen were never found.

The skipper, Alfred Loftis, clinging to the ship, shouted to the rescue team: "I do not mind what happens to me as long as the boys are all right. Look after the boys!".  Shortly after he was gone, swept away by a big wave.

It is just heartbreaking thinking about the fate of these English fishermen.

The iron remains, which washed up on the beach, are protected and should not be touched. They are kept here in memory of these brave fishermen from England, so let's respect them and leave them in peace. There have been other shipwrecks in this area.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

When you exit the lava field up opens the black Lava pearl beach and the whole beach is made of small black smooth pebbles called Djúpalónsperlur or the Pearls of Djúpalón.

The black lava pearls of Djúpalón are protected, but I have seen them used for jewellery.  My pictures don't even begin to do these pebbles justice.

There is a very distinctive huge lava rock on the beach, Söngklettur or the Singing Rock - it is reddish in colour and so majestic looking - it is said to be the Church of the Elves!  It looks amazing and on one occasion, while I was trying out a guided tour of Snæfellsnes peninsula, we had a picnic by Söngklettur.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

Just keep in mind to show respect around elf locations and don't climb on them or make racket. Always ask the elves for permission to visit their habitation or churches and you will be fine.  Respect is the keyword here. 

Respect for the elves is deep-seated in the soul of the Icelandic nation and we learn about them in our upbringing, so we always show respect for the elves and fear their wrath if their locations are disrespected. There are many stories of misfortune happening if this rule is not followed.  

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

I know that our foreign visitors cannot know where all these different elf locations are to be found, a rock might just seem like a rock, that is why I am writing about the elf-locations in Iceland in my articles.

I would love to hear the folklore about the Church of the Elves on Djúpalónssandurbeach, but I haven't found anything about it in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, which I often refer to in my articles.  There are other collections on Icelandic folklore and I will add this folklore here when I find out more about it.  But seeing that it is called the Singing Rock then people must have heard the elves singing in the rock.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

There are more strangely formed lava rocks on Djúpalónssandur, like this one in my photo both above and below.  It is called Kerling or the Troll woman, and where there is a Kerling there is always a Karl or the male Troll. 

These trolls were turned into stone when they saw daylight, as this is what happens to trolls in Iceland, they get petrified when they see daylight, as everybody knows!  Kerling is carrying a bundle of fish on her back, but I read that Karl is located a bit further east and cannot be seen from Djúpalónssandur. I walked up on Höfði cape towards Einarslón further east by the shoreline, but there are so many rock formations there that I didn't know which one of them was Karl. But I have "heard" that Lóndrangur had a thing for Kerling at Djúpalónssandur.

You will find Karl and Kerling troll formations all over Iceland. They are not always together though as at Lóndrangar cliffs the male troll, Lóndrangur, is by the ocean, while his fiancée troll, Kerling, is stuck in Kerlingarskarð pass carrying a bundle of trouts on her back.  You can read their story in my travel-blog on Kerlingarskarð pass.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

I found this dreadful account in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason. This is a continuation of the account on the hardy fishermen in my next chapter on the lifting stones:

"The hardy fishermen on Djúpalónssandur beach grabbed an old woman and killed her (others say that they took her body from the barrow and others say that they dug her from her fresh grave). The fishermen used the body of this old woman for bait one spring and they fished so much that their boat was laden every day, even though the other fishermen would hardly catch any fish.  All of them used this human flesh for bait, apart from Hálfdrættingur (a man who could lift 54 kilos, see my chapter on the lifting stones below - RHR), who was fishing with them a man called Sigurður. One night he dreamt that the old woman approached him and uttered these words: "Verður á morgun skip skarða, Skeður furðu tilburður; Farðu ei á morgun forvarða, furða ber til, Sigurður".  Others have told this story and added to it that the woman also uttered: "Ei skaltu í dag róa; nú ætla ég rugla undir beinum mínum".  The next morning Sigurður pretended to be ill, but the other fishermen went fishing and all of them drowned on this day, but it is not mentioned how it came about".

(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason).

I am not going to translate what the old woman said, but it is in the form of a rime where she warns Sigurður of sailing with the other fishermen the following day, as she was going to get her revenge on the fishermen for using her body as bait.

Gatklettur on Snæfellsnes peninsula

The suction of the sea in Djúpalónssanduris very powerful so please don't go too close to the sea. There is a warning sign by the parking lot, but I have seen that many people tend to ignore the warning signs.  Do not wade into the sea - it is better to be safe than sorry.  

In the photo above, which I took from the start of the hike to Dritvík cove, people are playing on the shore very close to the sea, but the sea is not always this calm and often there are big waves crashing onto the shore, which can grab people and carry them out to sea.  Or the dangerous sneaker waves which sneak in, get everybody wet and can carry people out to sea.  So let's be extra careful here!  

I found this video on You Tube, which shows exactly what can happen! The people being swept off their feet were lucky that they were not carried out to sea.

In February 2017 a Slovakian tourist decided on throwing himself in the waves completely naked :(  

Not the best location to practise sea-swimming in Iceland, so he quickly returned/was washed ashore and hopefully he realised that he was actually playing with death here. He was lucky to come out of the sea alive. Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

In March 2017 tourists put themselves in danger when they were "playing" and running after the waves.  A big wave caught them and fortunately they were carried towards a sand-reef and not out to sea.

Three or four big waves usually come in a row and the last waves come much further onto the shore than the first ones. They surprise people and can carry them out to sea, so never run after waves in this location, as bigger ones will usually follow.

The photo below is from one of my winter trips to Djúpalónssandur. In the dead of winter daylight is scarce, that is why my photo is so dark, even though it was taken in the middle of the day. The people on the photo are two of my co-workers at Guide to Iceland, so they made sure not to get too close to the sea while they were taking photos of the waves crashing on the shore.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

There is another equally dangerous beach in South-Iceland, the ever so popular Reynisfjara beach. If you visit it bear in mind that there have been several fatalities there when big, unexpected waves have carried people out to sea, where they have drowned :(

The lifting stones at Djúpalónssandur

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland
At Djúpalónssandur beach you will find 4 differently sized stones. They are well known Aflraunasteinar - Steinatök or  lifting-stones. They were used to measure the strength of fishermen in Iceland and you can try your strength on these stones yourself.

This is what Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnasonhas to say about these lifting stones:

"It has been written that some crew members were fishing from Djúpalónssandur beach, but these men were such strong and energetic fishermen that nothing seemed to be impossible to them. They tried their strength on these lifting stones.  The lifting stones still lie on Djúpalónssandur beach on the way south to Einarslón lagoon, a little above the road. The names of the lifting stones are Fullsterkur, Hálfsterkur and Hálfdrættingur and only those who could lift Fullsterkur up on a plith reaching a man's waist, was allowed to fish from Djúpalónssandur beach. Still there exist some men (a long time ago RHR) fishing from Dritvík, who can lift Fullsterkur, many men can lift Hálfsterkur, but almost all of them can lift Hálfdrættingur".

(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason).

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

The biggest stone is called Fullsterkur - Strong and weights 154 kg and only the very strong can lift that one. The second one is called Hálfsterkur - Half-Strong and weighs 100 kg.

The third one is called Hálfdrættingur - Half as good and weighs 54 kg, and the forth one is called Amlóði or Lightweight and weighs 23 kg.  

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

All these Icelandic names refer to how strong/weak the person is lifting them up on a plinth. If the fishermen could not lift Hálfdrættingur (54 kg) they were not accepted as oarsmen on the fishing boats rowing from Dritvík.

Nowadays stones like these are used in the strong-men contests, which are very popular here in Iceland.

Dritvík cove

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

You can hike from Djúpalónssandurbeach to Dritvíkcove, which was the largest seasonal fishing station here in Iceland from the 16th century until the mid 19th century, with 40-60 boats and 200-600 seasonal fishermen. The season was only in spring from the beginning of April until mid May. 

Now both these former vibrant spots are deserted - nowadays they are only visited by tourists and locals alike. 

Dritvík has got a natural harbour encircled by high lava walls. The black lava beach in this cove is called Maríusandur or the Beach of Mary.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

The hike to Dritvíkis only 1 km west of Djúpalónssandur, the path is rocky at the very start of the hike though, so wear good hiking shoes if you plan on popping over to see Dritvík.

On the west part of the beach and in the lava along the hike you will see some ruins from that time. The seasonal fisherman stayed in fisherman's huts built out of rock and sand and covered with tents. There are also ruins of old fish drying sheds. 

The trail on Suðurbarðicape is called Vatnsstígur or the Water trail as there was no fresh water to be had in Dritvíkand water had to be fetched to Djúpalónssandurbeach.  The Dritvíkurlón lagoon is mixed with seawater so it is undrinkable. 

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

Here I was alone in the cove with my husband thinking about the vibrant past of this now empty cove - it was almost too quiet and I felt very alone all of a sudden thinking about all these men now gone from this earth and how much my country has changed through the centuries.

When you visit Dritvík you will notice the pitch black lava formations which take on all kinds of forms;  there is a Tröllakirkja - Troll church, Bárðarskip - the Ship of Bárður and Bárðartrúss - the Baggage of Bárður - remember Bárður Snæfellsás, the half troll - half man, who is the Protector of Snæfellsnes peninsula?  You can read his story in one of our Sagas - the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás.

Bárður, who was Dumbsson, sailed from Norway with his men in the 9th century, and came ashore in Djúpalónand Dritvíkcove. He then built his farm at Laugarbrekka further east on Snæfellsnes.  Bárður was the one who gave name to the Snæfellsnes peninsula when he saw the snow and ice on Snæfellsjökull glacier, which hovers over this part of the peninsula. He called it Snjófellsnes peninsula.Both words "snær" and "snjór" mean snow in Icelandic. It was later changed to Snæfellsnes.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

In this part of the Snæfellsnes you will find several locations bearing Bárður's name.  Close to Laugarbrekka, where Bárður lived, you will find Bárðarlaug or the Pool of Bárður, where Bárður used to bathe. I have written about these locations in other blogs on Snæfellsnes.

Right in front of us on the photo above you will see Bárðarskipor the Ship of Bárður in the sea, and to the right of it on the beach is Bárðartrússor the Baggage of Bárður, referring to the time when Bárður came ashore on Dritvíkcove.

Then you will you see Víkurklettur rock farthest to the left, inside it is the aquamarine Pollurinn in Maríuhöfn. 

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

In my photo above you will see Tröllakirkja- the Troll Church in Dritvík.  It is the one stretching into the sea.

In the Saga of Bárður it is written that the settler Bárður and his men worshipped their heathen gods for luck when they came ashore in Djúpalón, but the Troll Church is in Dritvík, so I hope this is the Troll Church in question.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

There is yet another folklore in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, which I am going to tell you about.  It explains to us why a certain cave west of Dritvík got the name Draugahellir or the Ghost Cave:

"There is a cave west of Dritvík in a location called Suðurbarði and Vesturbarði.  The story goes that some men were in the vicinity of the cave (aboard a ship - RHR) and heard some noise coming from the cave, which sounded like verbosity, but the story goes that one or two of these men on the ship were from Helgafell (the same strong and hardy fishermen as in the folklore above - RHR); one of them was on good terms with the daughter of the farmer at Hólahólar called Narfi (others call him Jón).  When they were in the vicinity of the cave they heard a strong man's voice saying a rime:

"Leiðist mér að liggja hér í ljótum helli;

betra er heima á Helgafelli

að hafa þar dans og glímuskelli"

Another man answered with a rime and they heard him very clearly:

"Fer ég djúpt í fiskageim

fjarri hringasólum;

þó ég sé dofinn dreg ég mig heim

til dóttur Narfa í Hólum".

The entrance to the cave is from above and it is said that some of the corpses drift into the cave when the surf is high, and it has since been called Draugahellir or Ghost Cave".

(Roughly translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason).

Now this was a bit difficult to translate, but I hope you get the meaning of it.  The rime is in Icelandic, but it roughly says that the ghost in the cave is tired of being inside an ugly cave and that it would be better to be at home at Helgafell, dancing and wrestling. The other ghost is talking about him being deep in the realm of the fish and even though he was numb he drags himself home to the daughter of Narfi at Hólar.  This is the story on why this place is said to be hunted.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

On the beach I found a monster like lava formation, which looked like one of the sea-monsters, which have been seen around Iceland, mostly in the Westfjords of Iceland though.

"Somewhere" between Dritvík and Djúpalónssandur there is an ancient labyrinth, we don't know old really, it might even be as old as from the Settlement of Iceland. Or the seasonal fishermen might have built it for fun, while they were on shore. 

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

It is not easy to find though.  I have visited it and found my way through it, but as it is old and fragile, as it were, then I will just add a video of me trying it out here and not give directions to where to find it as too much traffic might ruin it.  Don't you agree with me on this?

Now, in April 2017 a passer by, Karola Bruckner, noticed that a new sign of some sort had been made out of rocks next to the labyrinth!  She took a photo of it and shared it in a group I belong to on Facebook, where it caused quite an uproar.   It seems that some tourists made the effort of creating the sign for China out of rocks next to Iceland's ancient labyrinth! 

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

This kind of behaviour, even though these tourists might think this is innocent, is not acceptable. Leave no trace behind but your footsteps has to become a rule rather than a suggestion.  This is why I do not want to write about delicate places in Iceland, as I do not want them to be vandalised - so I am both sad and angry to see this kind of behaviour in my country.

Please, if you have any advice for us how to stop this kind of vandalism, please share it with us.

To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and explore the whole peninsula in a day our two.

I always visit Snæfellsneson my own car, but there are several guided tours to Snæfellsnes and a guided super jeep tour to Snæfellsnes peninsula plus a 2-day tour to the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Northern Lights just to give you a selection of the many guided tours which are available. You can even get a private tour to the Snæfellsnes peninsula or go there in an ECO friendly jeep. I have tried two of the tours to introduce them to you - one is called Snæfellsnes National Park Day tour by Nicetravel and the other one is the Snæfellsnes Minibus expedition with Tröll Expeditions.

Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík - the Black Lava Pearl Beach on Snæfellsnes in West-Iceland

I have written many more travel-blogs on Snæfellsnesas there is just so much history and places of interest every where you look.

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part I

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part II

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part III

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part IV

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part V

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