The Black Sand Beaches of Vik
Updated: Apr 28
Some of the most breathtaking things that come as a result of being the Land of Fire and Ice are the black sand beaches. These unique-looking beaches can be found all across the island. Yet, some of the most notorious black sand beaches are the black sand beaches of Vik.
In this article, we will dive into the details of the black sand beaches of Vik. So, if you’ve been fascinated by these beautiful black natural wonders and are planning a visit soon, stick around.
How Were the Black Sand Beaches of Vik Formed?
Before we properly dive into the black sand beaches of Vik, we need to take a moment to talk about how these beaches were formed. The black sand beaches in Iceland are all the result of the volcanic activity on the island. Volcanos erupt and red, hot lava starts flowing across the land.
But as soon as these boiling hot rivers meet the ice-cold ocean, they quickly cool down to form a solid black mass of volcanic sediment. Throughout hundreds and hundreds of years, this big mass is slowly being broken down by the wind, waves, and other weather elements. All of this ‘till it is nothing more than tiny kernels of sand, aka a black sand beach.
The Black Sand Beaches of Vik
Essentially, there are two black sand beaches that can be found in and near the town of Vik I Myrdal; Reynisfjara and Vikurfjara. Here’s what you need to know about these two beaches:
The Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Near Vik
Reynisfjara is by far the most famous black sand beach near Vik, if not the world. And it is a popular stop on road trips and guided tours. It is especially on the bucket list of every Game of Thrones fan, as it was a shooting location for the series (check Eastwatch by the Sea in Season 7).
The beach is incredibly impressive. Not just because of its dramatic basalt rock cliffs surrounding the black sand beaches, but also with it seemingly stretching out forever. Even though we know it’s just a few kilometers, that will allow for about an hour’s stroll.
At the top of Reynisfjara, rising from the ocean, one can also find the supposed remnants of trolls. They apparently tried their luck and got turned to stone by the morning sunlight. These “trolls” are equally impressive to view in the form of gigantic basalt rock formations called Reynisdrangar in the sea.
These three rock mounds individually are called Langsamur, Landdrangur, and Skessudrangar. It is Langsamur that symbolizes the ship in the folklore of the trolls and their major faux pas. It is Skessudrangar that showcases the Icelandic sense of humor. Even though it is by far the smallest of the three rock stacks, it was given a name that stems from the Icelandic words for large or enormous.
When reality hits because of what Reynisdrangar really means, one can’t help but marvel at the incredible power of time and nature. These basalt rock formations once marked the coastline of Reynisfjara. And as the waves crashed and the weather elements hit, it was slowly being eroded to what we see today.
Reynisfjara or the Black Sand Beach of Vik?
Many don’t know that Reynisfjara is often referred to as the black sand beach of Vik because it is so closely located to the town. This can sometimes lead to confusion as people add both Reynisfjara and the black sand beach of Vik to their Iceland itineraries. Later on, they find out later that they are one and the same.
This can be particularly awkward when you’ve already been to one and have the GPS send you to the same place when visiting “the second”. If you’ve grown tired of walking on the beach, we recommend that you head over to the cliff face. There, you can take a closer look at its beautiful hexagonal basalt columns. This is an Instagrammable photo opp that you don’t want to miss.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Reynisfjara between May and August, the cliffs will have cuteness overload in store for you in the form of Puffins. The Puffins make the cliffs their home during their breeding season. And if you think the adult Puffins with their odd penguin-like bodies and brightly colored beaks are cute, you still have to see their Pufflings!(And, yes, that’s what their babies are actually called).
The Vikurfjara Black Sand Beach in Vik
This is the far lesser black sand beach of Vik, but is nothing to scoff at. In fact, located opposite Reynisfjara, it offers the exact same basalt rock cliffs and views of Reynisdrangar at the end.
Not many know about this beach in comparison to the crowds flocking to Reynisfjara. So, visitors who go to Vikurfjara will often find that they have the entire beach to themselves. As an added perk, Vikurfjara has several parking spots right on the beachfront.
Getting to the Black Sand Beaches of Vik
Essentially, there are two ways of visiting the black sand beaches of Vik; via a self-drive with your motorhome rental or a guided tour. Here’s how:
Getting to the Black Sand Beaches of Vik Via Car (a +/- 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavík)
Drive the Ring Road (Route 1) to Vik I Myrdal from the capital city of Reykjavík.
You then get to the various beaches by doing the following:
From the Ring Road, turn off onto Road 215 leading to the Reynisfjara parking lot.
Continue with the Ring Road into town. Head to the coast, where you will find a parking lot and a wooden sign that reads ‘Vikurfjara’.
Getting to the Black Sand Beaches of Vik Via Tour
You can either find a Reynisfjara day tour or has it as one of the stops of a multi-day south coast tour. The following tours come highly recommended:
The Best Time to Visit the Black Sand Beaches of Vik
The black sand beaches of Vik are open all year round, although it may get a bit uncomfortable visiting during the mid-winter months. Also, keep an eye on the Iceland weather forecast, as you don’t want to take a relaxing stroll on a black sand beach during a blizzard or torrential downpour.
As the lesser-known black sand beach of Vik, Vikurfjara is fairly safe to visit any time throughout the day. On the contrary, Reynisfjara can become pretty busy from 10am onwards – especially during the peak summer months. So, ensure that you make Reynisfjara your first stop early morning.
Helpful Tips When Visiting the Black Sand Beaches of Vik
If this is your first visit to a black sand beach in Iceland or the first time you visit the black sand beaches of Vik in particular, the following helpful tips will ensure that you have a safe and memorable trip:
Don’t Take a Dip
It might be an Iceland beach with inviting ocean waters, but it’s not there for your swimming enjoyment. In fact, Reynisfjara is especially known for having taken the lives of quite a few tourists who dared enter its waters. This is because the sea at Vik has incredibly strong undercurrents that cannot be seen from outside the water.
Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean
The black sand beaches of Vik are known for what is called a sneaker wave. These are random waves that sneak up on you and that are much larger than the average waves on the beach.
They are larger and more powerful and take visitors completely by surprise. They are known to knock tourists off their feet and start dragging them into the ocean. There is plenty of video evidence of the sneaker waves on the black sand beaches of Vik that can be found on the internet.
Do Not Touch the Wildlife
You may come across wildlife such as Puffins and seals when visiting the black sand beaches of Vik. Do not approach or touch. Not only may you interfere with delicate breeding or other natural processes, but you may also end up on the news as the latest animal attack.
Safety First, Photo Opp Second
As we already mentioned, the cliffs make for pretty impressive photos. Many opt to climb up the basalt column cliffs as the columns form a sort of ladder. But this is not always the safest option. Don’t climb up too high and be aware of the surfaces. Rather, avoid climbing if the surfaces are too wet, as you can slip and seriously injure yourself.
Be Sure to Visit the Black Sand Beaches of Vik
The black sand beaches of Vik are incredible natural phenomena and not to be missed. It gives you a new appreciation for the power of both time and nature, and allows you to marvel at the beauty of this world.
As it’s practically on the Ring Road route, we recommend that you rent a campervan in Reykjavík. Then, make these beaches stops for an unforgettable Ring Road road trip. Happy traveling!