Updated: Sep 19
Iceland is one of the countries with the most dramatic landscapes in the world. From intimidating volcanoes to cascading waterfalls, breathtaking ice caves, and mystical mountains. This small island provides surprises that you won't soon forget! And speaking of surprises, Iceland has a very special one waiting for you. Approximately two and a half hours from the capital Reykjavik, you will find Vik. It’s a small southern seaside village with a very distinctive feature: a black sand beach! So, do you want to know what causes the dark sand?
Volcanic Activity in Iceland
Let me start by giving a brief, easy, and not too scientific explanation about volcanic activity here. Iceland is basically all about volcanoes. There are about 200 volcanos throughout the island, and on average, there is at least one eruption every four to five years.
The very last eruption was in 2014, of Bárðarbunga. It’s located beneath the Vatnajökull glacier (the largest one in Europe). The eruption lasted six months and ended in February 2015.
Back in 2010, there also was a significant eruption when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano exploded. The result? The column of smoke and ash from the eruption made a huge impact not only in Iceland but throughout a large part of Europe. The debris choked the skies, forcing airlines to cancel their flights throughout the affected countries. This left millions of customers stranded for almost a week.
The Black Sand Beach in Vik
So now I guess you know where I am going with this volcano introduction. The black sand beach in Vik and some other beaches in Iceland have their color due to the volcanic explosions. Once the lava is cooled and dry, it forms solid rock. Then when the rock starts to get worn, it transforms into tiny pebbles that are not quite refined into fine grains. But they are small enough to look like sand.
Vik's Beach - What To Do
The biggest attraction here is the beach itself, so sightseeing is pretty much the main activity. Of course, taking a walk is nice as well, since it is a very long beach. I am sure you will enjoy that walk and taking pictures along the way, which leads to the next topic.
Safety Comes First
You might have heard that Iceland has some of the craziest weather you’ll find anywhere. Well, that is actually a pretty accurate assessment. The wind, the cold, and the rain here is very wild. Vik is actually one of the wettest places in Iceland, so it’s extremely important to follow safety instructions. And of course, always use common sense.
Beware of the Sneaker Waves
Sometimes, the sea might seem calm, quiet, and harmless, which can give you a false sense of security. Trust me, it gets wild in a heartbeat. Many tourists take advantage of the calming waves for a nice stroll. But then, when they look back, the wave has already snuck up on them. So please, never get close to the water. Always stay several meters back from the shoreline, or it could prove deadly.
Wear the Right Shoes
This might sound obvious, but it is worth mentioning. It's important to pack the right clothes for Iceland, especially shoes. Because it is always wet, I assure you that you don’t want that moisture touching your feet. They will freeze, and it’s a really bad feeling. Another reason why it is important to use the right shoes with the right grip is that you could slip.
I know most of us want that perfect picture standing among those marvelous basalt columns. If you try to step on the rocks (which I would avoid), just make sure to do it only if they are not wet. You need to have a good balance and the correct footwear.
The Black Hexagonal Basalt Columns at Reynisfjara
While we're speaking of basalt columns, let's learn a little more. I'll start by explaining what a basalt column is and why they are hexagonal. I’m no geologist, but I will attempt to explain what they are by using simple terminology. Basically, when the lava flows and pours down the side of a volcano as a liquid, it starts to cool down. When it solidifies, it cracks, which forms uneven geometric hexagonal columns.
The most stunning ones can be found in Iceland, some of them very tall and wide. What I love the most about the ones in Reynisfjara are the puffins! Yes, you can see these adorable birds nesting higher up the columns. This beach is about two and a half hours away from Reykjavik. It is certainly a must-visit place in Iceland, you definitely don’t want to miss it!
How do I get to the black sand beach in Vik?
If you are coming from Reykjavik, it is quite simple. Just take the Ring Road or Road N1east bound. It will take approximately 2h-2h30 minutes to get to Vík. The village is 187 km or 116 miles away from the capital. Close to Vik, you will see a turn on your right to Reynishverfisvegur, the road that will take you directly to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara. Leave your car in the parking area and just enjoy the majestic views!
Vik's Volcanic Black Sand Beaches
Being able to witness a black sand beach in Iceland is one of a kind experience. It’s certainly it is not the only place on the planet where you can see it, but it is one of the very few. It is indeed the most jaw-dropping one. You get to see the black sand, plus a whole different landscape with wonderful waves, the hexagonal basalt columns, and the puffins. Plus it’s covered by a beautiful and dramatic cloudy sky. If you visit Iceland, this beach is a must!