Reynisdrangar are impressive rock formations situated near the shore of Reynisfjara beach by the coastal village Vík on the South Coast of Iceland.
The formations are the remains of large and imposing sea cliffs, made up of basalt, that serve as a vital part of the area’s allure; they shoot dramatically out of the ocean under the looming cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall, making for a beautiful site, and have a folklore that is equally impressive.
More modern visitors will be excited to know that these pillars also feature in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, at Eastwatch by the Sea.
Before getting into the wonders of Reynisdrangar, it is important for potential visitors to be aware of the dangers at the site.
These majestic rock pillars rise from the sea just off of Reynisfjara, a famous black sand beach on the South Coast, by the village of Vík. Though incredible due to its diverse and dramatic geology, Reynisfjara is gaining a notorious reputation for its sneaker waves.
There are no significant landmasses between Antarctica and Reynisfjara, giving waves the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean to build strength. This means that even on still, summer days, they can rise from seemingly nowhere and chase far further up the sand than would ever be expected.
It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that guests stay at least 30 metres (98 feet) from the water’s edge. Those who flout these rules put their lives and the lives of others at risk; people have died here before.
As with almost all bizarre features in this country, there is an Icelandic folk tale that explains the origin of the Reynisdrangar pillars and their eerie appearance.
According to legend, a couple of trolls saw a ship out to sea by night, and waded out to reach it. They got hold of it, and began to drag it to shore, but as so often happens in troll stories, they got their timing wrong.
Before they were even close to getting to the shade, dawn broke. The trolls and ship were instantly frozen into stone, and they have remained immortalised since, as a warning to their kin.
This is not the only folk tale in this area. According to local legend, two other trolls murdered a woman, whose husband hunted them down, tricked them into coming out at night, and ensured they too were turned to stone. Their remains can be found inland.
Most visitors will only see the Reynisfjara sea-stacks from the shore of Reynisfjara, although there is an incredibly rewarding alternative view of them from above. Those with a reasonable level of fitness can venture up the bewitching cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall, by a road to the west of Vík.
The mountain furthermore holds thousands of puffins every summer, from May to August. These adorable creatures have very little fear of people, and can be approached within metres (although you should never try to touch them). Other birds can be seen gliding around the cliffs such as Arctic terns, fulmars and seagulls.
The oceans of Iceland are pregnant with life, so lucky visitors may also see seals in the water, or even one of Iceland’s twenty species of whale and dolphin.