Top 5 facts you need to know about… Reynisfjara, black sand beach

Posted by Editor on June 12, 2018

Why is the sand black? How were the basalt columns made? Are the trolls in the sea real? All you need to know for your journey down the South Coast to the famous black sand beach.


Reynisfjara, also known as Iceland’s popular black sand beach, has been named one of the 30 most gorgeous beaches on the planet by Architectural Digest. Travellers from around the globe flock to this unique place to see the legendary rocky salt stacks, geometric basalt columns, and supernatural black sand. Perhaps not ideal for a swim or a beach volleyball match, but extraordinary to behold nonetheless. 

What does “Reynisfjara” mean?

Reynisfjara—as well as the surrounding landmarks Reynisfjall and Reynisdrangar—are named after a wealthy Norwegian man named Reynir who was the first settler in this area. Reynisfjara meaning “Reynir’s beach”, Reynisfjall meaning “Reynir’s mountain” and Reynisdrangar meaning “Reynir’s pillars”. 

Why is the sand black?

Reynisfjara is located near a large volcano that is currently under ice and has been dormant for nearly one hundred years. The black sand of the beach was formed when the volcano was still active—the lava floated across the beach, cooled down when it came into contact with the icy seawater and broke apart. 


Are there really trolls in the sea? 

It’s hard to miss the towering basalt sea stacks—known as Reynisdrangar—sticking out of the ocean in front of Reynisfjara beach. According to Icelandic folklore, these rocks were once sea trolls who tried to drag a passing ship to the shore. They didn’t realize that the sun was rising and like many tales of trolls, they quickly turned to spiky stone when the morning rays touched them. 

Why are the waves so big and the current so strong?

The only land south of Reynisfjara is Antarctica, thus providing a lot of space for powerful currents to travel before meeting the beaches of Iceland. The mighty waves of the ocean are best observed at a safe distance on Reynisfjara, as rogue waves are common and can be fatal. Best to heed the warnings and follow the safety instructions of the signs on-site as well as your guide. 


What are basalt columns?

The basalt columns found at Reynisfjara might look like they’ve been hand-carved but rest assured that this is the work of mother nature. The perfectly angular shapes are the result of basaltic lava that cooled at just the right temperature to form a phenomenon known as columnar joints. Resembling towering organ pipes, they offer quite the supernatural backdrop for selfies.


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