Crazy waves, Basalt, and Vik: Discovering Iceland’s famous Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach of Iceland, basalt cliffs

“Don’t turn your back on the ocean. Don’t EVER turn your back to the ocean in Iceland. Okay? Enjoy!”

Those were our GeoIceland guide’s last words to us as we disembarked from our bus in Vík to experience Reynisfjara, Iceland’s famed Black Sand Beach.

The Boyfriend Perspective: Because, you know, that’s what you like to hear as a tourist! Sure.

You know the beach. Pictures of Dragon Age-looking basalt columns everywhere, black stones and sand, incredibly gorgeous, yadda yadda.However, like any famous natural sight, there are plenty of pros and cons to your potential visit.


The restaurant

Pray for patience before you enter this crazy, uber-modern looking restaurant. Apparently, just about every South Coast tour uses this as its lunch stop. So, it will be packed to the absolute gills with tourists.

When we arrived, the line was to the front door and every table taken. After about 20 minutes of waiting, we grabbed trays and bowls, helped ourselves to soup, and finished our orders at the register. Understandably, none of the staff felt terribly chatty – stupidly busy days will do that. Luke and I split up at the register, and I went in search of a table.

Note that if you don’t eat lamb or other meats, you may have a hard time finding a warm meal. And you will 100% want a warm meal, because the “sea breeze” in winter is paralyzingly cold. Luckily, they served turnip soup while we were there. I was incredibly skeptical, but pleasantly surprised to find it – and their skyr cheesecake – very, very tasty.

The Boyfriend Perspective: My meal was pretty typical – fries, fried fish, and a “marriage happiness” bar for dessert – and not half bad, either. It’s pricey because of tourism, but it’s also not the kind of tourist food you immediately regret.

Finally, we finished our meal and decided it was time to explore the beach.

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The beach

If you visit in winter, bring a balaclava. Bring a wool hat. And bring a windproof layer!

While the wind wasn’t as brutal here as it was in other parts of the South Coast, the combo of Icelandic wind plus “sea breeze” will make your face hurt pretty badly. Also, you’ll be exploring the beach at the same time as every tourist you just ate with.

As with any tourist attraction, if you’d like undisturbed photos, I highly recommend arriving as early as possible, or late in the afternoon. If, however, you’re just here for the lovely views and amazing experience, any time is a good time!

The Boyfriend Perspective: Also, wear dark shoes. Neither of us got that memo, but beach sand is wet. And what does wet sand do? It sticks to shoes and makes a mess. And what color is the sand here? Yeah. Dark shoes, guys.

Note that there’s not a ton to do here, other than looking at the ocean, looking at the cliffs, and looking at the sand. But damn, if that’s not enough 🙂


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24 Replies to “Crazy waves, Basalt, and Vik: Discovering Iceland’s famous Black Sand Beach”

  1. I love black sand beaches. I went to one in Shelter Cove, CA and it was amazing!

    1. I’ve gotta tell you, once you start doing research on black sand beaches, so many beaches you didn’t even know existed start popping into your awareness! Just looked up Shelter Cove – it looks stunning 🙂

  2. Stunning. Iceland is becoming more and more appealing

    1. Man, just keep looking at pictures. You’ll be hardcore dreaming of Iceland in no time 😉

  3. I loved walking around the black beach and hearing the gigantic crashing waves. Those basalt pillars are so awesome and it’s easy to see why they modeled the church in Reykjavik after them

    1. Heck yeah! Not a lot of people mention that 🙂 They also include columns like that in a lot of video games, to add majesty to the settings. The wave bit was a little unnerving for me, since our guide was SO serious about staying away from the water – but they sure were breathtaking to watch 🙂

  4. The beach looks beautiful! I love seeing beaches in the winter – they are that much more special. Your Iceland posts are serious inspo. I’ve been wanting to go for years… Hopefully soon!

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 It’s a much easier flight and much easier trip all-around than you expect. I hope you can make it soon!

  5. Apparently you can also see puffins there at the right time of year and as we found out at the right time of day…which wasn’t late morning.

    1. We missed ’em too :\ but we would’ve loved to catch a glimpse of them! Perhaps on our next trip – and yours, too 🙂

  6. Iceland is high on our bucket list, but OMG it looks cold there! We’d probably have to wear a balaclava even in summer! haha… That said, the black sand beach looks peaceful. But we’d probably head straight to the “black box” for a hot soup and some tasty cheesecake! haha…

    1. Hahahah it’s really very temperate in summer, from what I’ve heard… we’re just the crazy people who decided to visit in the dead of winter! And hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying nature… through a window… with heat and hot food… 😉

  7. I love basaltic columns and we have them in Eastern Washington. They are just cool. Thanks for the tips about visiting this beach!

    1. You know, we haven’t spent enough time on the west coast to realize that we had basalt columns here – looks like a problem we’ll need to remedy 😉

  8. I thought I was going to get blown away on this beach! Seriously. I’ve never felt wind like that before. But, the basalt columns were so cool, as was the cave!

    1. So, not just me, then! It was such an incredible experience – I felt kind of like a storm chaser 😀

  9. One of my favorite places in Iceland!!! I’ve been twice and it is so magical every time! What a great post!

    1. Thank you!! Luke and I are both dying to go back, but trying to figure out how to do anything in Iceland affordably (other than fly in and get accommodations) takes a bit of strategizing for sure. Glad to know the magic endures over multiple visits! 🙂

  10. Iceland is already high on our list and every time I find a post on it my urge to visit the place increases. Black sand beach will be really something new for us. That restaurant looks quite modern and I can understand it will be really expensive. Thanks for the tips you mentioned here in the post.

    1. Of course! I hope you make it there soon – it’s such an otherworldly place and an awesome experience 🙂

  11. This post throws a different perspective of Iceland. So found it interesting to read your thoughts. The beach sounds unique and interesting. The restaurant looks so contemporary and in fact the design looks futuristic, was fascinated by its appearance.

    1. I’m so glad you found the post interesting! We were surprised by the design, too. But as modern as it was, it somehow still seemed to fit in with the landscape. That’s some architectural skill I can’t even fathom 🙂

  12. I always enjoy visiting a black sand beach. This one is very pretty and that food looks amazing. Yum, the cheesecake looks heavenly!

    1. It was!! Biggest Iceland tip: anything with real skyr in it is worth trying. Those folks don’t joke with their amazing yogurt 😉 this was our first time at a black sand beach, but I think we’ll be seeking them out more often now!

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