Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal.
With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
Driving to the beach is particularly easy, taking an approximate two and a half hours from the capital, so can easily be done within half a day, or a full one combined with other features.
Upon visiting the beach, travelers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar.
According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore. However, these trolls were dim and went out too late in the night; dawn broke on the horizon, turning the trolls into solid stone.
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
So mesmerizing are these features that they featured in Season 7 of the HBO Series Game of Thrones; you can spot them in a few scenes shot ‘North of the Wall’.
The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include puffins, fulmars and guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.
Reynisfjara beach is located conveniently in the middle of the South Coast, adjacent to the village of Vík. This means that those taking the Ring Road around the country, or else those heading to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, will pass it, and are encouraged to make a stop.
The closest major landmark is the Dyrhólaey rock arch and cliffs. While many seabirds are found at Reynisfjara, it is nothing compared to the numbers here. From May to August, it is one of the best places to see puffins from land.
En route to Reynisfjara from Reykjavík, you will discover waterfalls, such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and glaciers, such as Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. Further along the South Coast, you will reach the Vatnajökull National Park, with its many glacier tongues, glacier lagoons, black sand deserts, and the incredible Skaftafell Nature Reserve.
Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.
These are called sneaker-waves, and they can appear when least expected, even on incredibly still days. There are no significant landmasses in between Antarctica and the shores of Reynisfjara, meaning waves have thousands of kilometers to build.
Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, and keep a safe distance of at least 30 meters (98 feet).
Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in the tide, the rip currents offshore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.