Your Guide to the Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

Most people are used to golden sand or white sand beaches, but black beaches in Iceland are just the norm here. These are the main beaches to add to your itinerary!

Impressive black sand beach with a mountain ridge towering over the background

blog author By Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    I dare you to find one travel brochure that doesn’t boast images of the black sand beaches in Iceland. That’s because the brochures have good reason to boast; our black sand beaches are pretty impressive and have become synonymous with the island.

    If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Iceland and would like to add a few of these black sand beach babies to your trip itinerary, or you just want to learn more about these interesting natural phenomena – stick around. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the black sand beaches in Iceland.

    Why Does Iceland have Black Sand Beaches?

    The black sand beaches in Iceland are the result of all the volcanic activity here on the island. It may be hard to believe, but the Icelandic black sand we see today, was once red-hot lava flowing across the country.

    This lava then got cooled down by the chilly Icelandic air and the cold ocean, after which it hardened and formed a big black mass of volcanic sedimentary rock. This rocky mass then slowly got eroded by time, the weather elements, and battered by the crashing waves till the huge, black, rocky mass is nothing more than tiny grains of black sand. 

     black sand beach iceland

    Iceland, a land of raw and rugged beauty, is a testament to the brutal forces of nature shaping landscapes of unparalleled uniqueness. Here, stark contrasts collide to craft a visual symphony that leaves all who visit in awe.

    One such marvel is the yellow river in Iceland. In Vatnajokull National Park, this vivid yellow river borders the ocean, divided by black sand, with adjacent vibrant green fields. It's a river unlike any other! Thjórsá, Iceland's longest river, originates near Hofsjökull, flows southwest 143 miles, and empties into the Atlantic near Selfoss. The river is tinted with vibrant shades of yellow due to the sulfur-rich geothermal activity from nearby volcanic areas.

    This vivid anomaly stands out against the otherwise barren landscape, a reminder of the powerful geological forces at play.

    The Most Famous Black Sand Beaches

    There are a few black sand beaches in Iceland that are not to be missed whilst on a trip to the island. These are:


    This is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Iceland. In fact, it has been voted as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the entire world! Reynisfjara is located on the south coast of Iceland, close to the quaint little town of Vik. It was used in Game of Thrones season 7 as the filming location for Eastwatch-by-the-sea.

    Not only does Reynisfjara offer visitors the chance to walk on what seems like endless stretches of black sand in Iceland, but they can also marvel at the incredible black basalt cliffs and the interesting rock formations coming out of the ocean. Since Reynisfjara is conveniently located right next to the Ring Road, it makes for the perfect stop on a Ring Road road trip around the island.



    Djupalonssandur is one of the hidden treasures on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This black sand beach in Iceland can only be reached after a bit of a walk, but you cross a lava field surrounded by breathtaking Icelandic landscapes, so it doesn’t feel like much work.

    And once you reach Djupalonssandur it will be well worth the effort. Once the home of sixty fishing boats, the bay is now completely deserted. But to this day, you’ll still find 4 lifting stones there that the fishermen used to test their strength “back in the good ol’ days”.



    Seltjörn’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s one of the best spots to go and see the Northern Lights. And once there, you’ll understand why. Seltjörn has such a remote feel to it, that it’s hard to believe that it’s just a 10-minute drive from mid-city Reykjavík. Even if you’re not out hunting the Aurora Borealis, it’s a great place to just take a walk and clear one’s head. 

    Seltjorn black beach


    Myvatn Black Sand Beach is one of the few black sand beaches in Iceland where you can actually safely take a dip. The Myvatn Black Sand Beach can be found in the northern, colder, part of the island; hence why many tend to combine their visit to the beach with a visit to the hot springs. The beach is just a short detour off the Ring Road, so, once again, makes a great road trip pit stop.

    Myvatn black beach


    Solheimasandur is a black sand beach in Iceland where you go for the beach and stay for the plane. It is an incredibly impressive sight that attracts photographers from all around the world to take pictures of the dramatic-looking plane wreck resting on the black sand. The scene looks even more eerie on an overcast day.

    But don’t worry, although the scene may look like a disaster movie set, the plane wreck was due to an emergency landing in 1973 and not a crash. No one was seriously injured or killed here. The only reason the plane is still on the beach today is because the US decided it wouldn’t be worth the money and effort to get the plane back home.

    Once again, Solheimasandur can be found conveniently situated right next to the Ring Road, and since it’s only a 2-hour drive from the capital city, many opt to make it a day outing.


    Diamond Beach

    Diamond Beach is by far one of the most spectacular black sand beaches here in Iceland. This black sand beach boasts hundreds of pieces of ice that wash ashore. These pieces of ice glisten like diamonds in the sun (hence the name). When visiting Diamond Beach, you can also work in a visit to the magical Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon right “next door”.

    Here you will also get the opportunity to go on a boat tour on the lagoon and get another view of Diamond Beach. Diamond Beach is yet another attraction that can be found next to the Ring Road.

    Diamond beach, Iceland


    Stokksnes Black Sand Beach is probably the island’s best-kept secret. When visiting Stokksnes it feels like you’ve been transported to a fantasy realm.

    The black sand beach lies outstretched ahead of you, and depending on the angle, the strange steep cliffs of Vestrahorn Mountain seem as if it’s rising out of the ocean. Add the tufts of whimsical clouds hovering around it into the mix, and you’ve got a location straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.


    How to Get to the Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

    There are essentially two ways to get to the black sand beaches in Iceland:

    Via a Self-drive

    This is the way that we propose you do it – rent a car and make the black sand beaches stops along a road trip. This way you remain in full control of your time and trip itinerary and can manage your budget accordingly.

    Via a Guided Tour

    You will find black sand beach guided tour options all across the island. These tours can vary from day tours to multi-day holiday tours that include multiple attractions, such as the combination tours of waterfalls and black sand beaches in Iceland.

    Whilst these guided tours can be incredibly convenient since all the responsibility is squarely placed on the tour guide’s shoulders, they can also become incredibly expensive, and you have little to no say about how you wish to spend your time or the tour schedule itself. 

    icelandic black sand

    Helpful Tips and Advice for Visiting the Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

    If this is your first trip to the island or just the first time you want to explore the black sand beaches in Iceland, the following tips will help make your visit a safe and memorable one:

    • Although some black sand beaches don’t necessarily prohibit swimming, it’s also not highly recommended for those who don’t know this part of the ocean well. This is because most of the time, even if the water looks pretty calm and inviting, the cold is intense and there are incredibly strong currents underneath the calm ocean façade.
    • You should never turn your back on the sea here, especially not Reynisfjara. We have what is called a sneaker wave here on the island, and, as many visitors have learned, these sudden, big waves can sneak up on you, and literally pull your feet out front under you, and drag you into the ocean.
    • The Icelandic winds are quite legendary and have been known to rip car doors straight off their hinges. Now, although the winds get harsher during the colder months of the year, it generally tends to be windy on the beaches. So, you’ll need to be prepared for this, and ask your rental agent about rental car insurance in Iceland such as Sand and Ash Protection, since the wind tends to pick up the beach sand and can really batter a car with it.

    black sand iceland


    Below you will find the answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the black sand beaches in Iceland:

    Does Iceland have Black Sand Beaches?

    Yes, there are numerous black sand beaches in Iceland, with the ones listed above being some of the most famous black sand beaches in Iceland.

    Where are the Black Sand Beaches in Iceland?

    Black sand beaches can be found all along the coast of Iceland, with some of the most notorious ones located on the southern coast such as Reynisfjara and Diamond Beach.

    Why is the Sand Black in Iceland?

    This is merely because the hardened, solid, lava rock is black in color. Therefore, the tiny grains of black sand it erodes into over time are also black in color. 

    How Many Black Sand Beaches are in Iceland?

    There are more than 10 black sand beaches in Iceland today.

    The Black Sand Beaches in Iceland; taking a Beautiful Stroll on the Past

    The black sand beaches in Iceland are not just breathtakingly beautiful places to visit with all sorts of unique attractions and features, but it’s also like time traveling. It’s incredible to think that the sand you’re walking on is thousands of years old and was once red-hot lava that resulted from all the volcanic activity here on the island.

    This is why renting a car in Reykjavik and visiting the black sand beaches on our list, is an absolute must during your trip to the island - it gives you a new appreciation for time and a new-found respect for the incredible power of nature.

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