A Guide to the Black Sand Beach Iceland: The Must-Visit Spots
Updated: Apr 28
Ranging from quick in-and-out visits to hour-long walks to the main attraction, getting your black sand beach Iceland experience is definitely going to be on one of these beaches. Most are located around Ring Road 1, and all of them offer something a little extra.
If you want the polar opposite of the white sandy beaches in warm climates, you’ve come to the right place. The black sand beach Iceland experience is best paired with the rough weather and climate that surrounds them and an authentic Icelandic wool shirt to keep you warm. Read our best tips on which beaches to go to and see which one suits you the best!
A Black Sand Beach in Iceland is Not Your Typical Summer Holiday
The tropical white beaches with palms swaying in the wind are far from what you’ll find when visiting a black sand beach in Iceland. Here, you will be faced with strong, relentless waters, most likely a strong wind, some rain, and a completely black beach that is framed by the white foam from the Northern Atlantic.
These kinds of beaches can be found in some places around the world, but Iceland offers some unique aspects that make these some of the best beaches to visit no questions asked. Due to the geology and nature of Iceland, there are plenty of experiences like this to have which also qualifies as one of the highlights of Icelandic nature.
Why is the Sand Black?
The color comes from the basalt rock, which comes from volcanic activity in the area. What happens on most of the black beaches in the world is that a volcano had one or several eruptions at some point, which covered the ground in scorching lava that eventually cooled down. This lava creates a very porous and light type of rock that easily breaks until it is in very small chunks. These chunks get weathered down by water, wind, and friction from other rocks, creating the fine black sand beach Iceland areas.
Iceland, with more than 200 named volcanoes, has an abundance of this lava rock. You can see it almost everywhere you go, as you will be traveling along the vast lava fields on your way from one Iceland volcanic beach to the other.
The Best Black Sand Beaches in Iceland
Now that you are out of the dark regarding what these beaches are, you are probably excited to see one in person. Luckily for you, a nice black sand beach Iceland experience can be had in multiple locations on this island, and we know exactly where to go for which experience.
This is by far the most popular black sand beach Iceland has. It is situated on the southern coast close to the town of Vík, which makes it one of Vík’s black sand beaches. Reynisfjara is (on average) the warmest place in Iceland, making it a great place to have a memorable black beach Iceland moment in the summer. This beach has been voted one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and makes for awesome black sand Iceland pictures.
You can easily pop in for a visit at this beach on your way around Ring Road 1. It is basically right next to the road. We suggest making this one of many stops on your way around Iceland. It is a must-see place on your Iceland road trip.
Reynisfjara is a product of one of the few volcanoes that dwell under the mighty Mýrdalsjökull. One of these is Iceland’s most active volcano, Katla, and this could possibly be the reason why these parts are filled with so many black sand beach Iceland areas.
Hands down the best black sand beach Iceland has if you want to swim in the waters and not simply stand in the sand and enjoy the dark view. You see, if you go to a black sand beach Iceland spot, chances are that you are not going to want to get in the water due to safety concerns. In Mývatn, on the other hand, the waters are safe for the entire family. Just remember “safe” does not equal “warm and nice”. It’s still the cold north.
This little black sand beach Iceland paradise can be found in the northern part of Iceland, just a small detour off Ring Road 1. When you get here you are almost obligated to take a tour along the Diamond Route and visit the many Icelandic natural wonders along the way.
In and around Mývatn, you will also be able to pair your north-exotic black sand beach Iceland sighting with the geothermal springs, or “hot pots” (as the locals say). Visiting the hot springs is perfect in the wintertime when you can submerge yourself in the warm water, feel the arctic wind on your face, and get a chance to look up at the Northern lights.
Speaking of black beaches that are not directly on the coast. Framing Jökulsárlón is Diamond Beach, a black sand beach Iceland location that is also full of huge, stranded ice chunks. The contrast between the shining ice and the black sands is stunning and is something you have to experience in person.
Diamond Beach is a must-visit if you are in Vatnajökull National Park to check out huge floating icebergs in a glacier lagoon. Even though this is one of the best beaches in Iceland, you can’t swim here due to the freezing temperatures and strong currents. However, you can get on the water with one of the many boat tours, which is highly recommended!
If you are going along Ring Road 1, this is an easy stop that is worth the time and effort. The tours are up to an hour long too, so you don’t have to spend the entire day there if you don’t want to.
A little-known gem at the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a black sand beach Iceland that is hard to forget. Here you will come face to face with a tragic event that claimed several British fishermen’s souls, as well as ancient lifting stones that determined the strength of the fishermen hundreds of years ago.
First and foremost, to reach this beach, you will have to park your car pretty far away and walk through the lava field landscape. The walk will take some time, but it will be well worth it when you reach your destination.
Djúpalónssandur is a beautiful, tucked-away beach that holds some remnants from the fishing ship Epine GY7 that fell victim to the Northern Atlantic in 1948. The remains are considered an honorary monument in memory of the ones who lost their lives, so you may not remove any of them.
At the beach, you will come across Amlóði (useless), Hálfdrættingur (weakling), Hálfsterkur (half-strong) and Fullsterkur (full-strong) – the lifting stones that were used to determine the strength of Icelandic fishermen. As a reference, Fullsterkur weighs in on roughly 155kg, while Amlóði comes in on an easy 23kg.
If you ever wanted to have an apocalyptic feeling on a black beach, Sólheimasandur is on top of the best beaches to visit in the Land of Fire & Ice. Even though it may take some time to get there from the parking lot, it’s going to be worth the hour-long walk to the brought-down transport plane that hit the sand in 1973. If you plan your trip, you might be able to get there and time your arrival with the plane crash shuttle that drives you out so you won’t have to walk.
Even though it may sound dramatic, no lives were lost, and the brunt of the damage was done to the supplies that were on their way to an American military base in Iceland. This plane has been featured in some music videos, advertisements, and even movies, so we know for a fact that it’s not camera-shy.
The black sand beach Iceland Sólheimasandur lies right next to Ring Road 1 and is roughly 2 hours east of Reykjavik. This is a perfect stop if you have a proper amount of time and are not in a hurry.
Last on the list and another hidden gem in Iceland is Stokksnes. It lies in the eastern part of the island and sports the unique components needed to create a black sand beach Iceland fantasy feeling. You will be able to see the stunning Vestrahorn mountain seemingly emerge from the sea with razor-sharp edges cutting down into the sea.
You will quickly discover the almost mystical allure of this unique black sand beach Iceland boasts. The remote location, coupled with the delicate cloud cover atop the mountain, transports you to a fantastical realm. With your RV rental in Iceland, you can also explore the nearby Viking village (it’s a movie prop, but still pretty cool), allowing your mind to wander further and summon your inner adventurer.
Stokksnes is a great black sand Iceland beach that will nurture your call to adventure before you continue north on Ring Road 1.
Beach Safety in Iceland
The North Atlantic is usually not very inviting for tourists, but there are still some that will brave the waters. Doing so is fine, but it must be done with great caution and, most of the time, not at all.
The currents around the Iceland beaches are all strong enough to sweep you away, even if you’re only knee-deep in the waters. Some beaches also have sneaker waves that come in strong and reach far up on the beach but are hard to spot if you don’t pay attention.
This is why you should always keep an eye on the waters, and the general rule of thumb is: “don’t turn your back against the sea”. Listening to locals is also extremely important, even if the waters look calm.
Plan Your Trip
If you wish to learn a bit more about the geology of Iceland and these beaches, you can join an Iceland's black sand beaches tour and then continue your adventure with a campervan rental. This way, you can combine the freedom of the camper with insights of these geology marvels. Don't miss out on experiencing these unique and stunning landscapes!