If you could only visit one black sand beach which one would you choose?

djúpalónssandur black sand beach

The classic answer is certainly Reynisfjara, a black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. Its location off of Route 1 makes it ideal to visit on a drive along the coast, where you can also see some of Iceland’s other major attractions, such as the waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

The beach is also notable for the striking basalt formations that can be found there, in addition to its view of Dyrhólaey, an arched rock formation in the sea. Note that Reynisfjara can also be a very dangerous place to visit. In the past years, numerous visitors have been swept out to sea by so-called “sneaker” waves, which can reach much farther up the beach than expected. Visitors to Reynisfjara are advised to always keep an eye on the waves and to stay 30 m, or about 100 ft, from the waves.

Reynisfjara tourists
Golli. Tourists at Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara has become incredibly popular in recent years, but another option for the traveller looking to beat the crowds is Djúpalónssandur, a black sand beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Like Reynisfjara, Djúpalónssandur beach is a day trip away from the capital region and it is also located near other iconic sites. In addition to the dramatic, natural beauty there, Djúpalónssandur is also home to a wrecked fishing trawler. For the history buff and aspiring strongman, four lifting stones can also be found near the beach. The area was once a bustling fishing hub, and sailors would lift the stones to test their strength. In order to qualify for work on a fishing boat, a sailor would have to be able to lift a certain stone to prove his strength and ability to “pull his own weight.”

djúpalónssandur black sand beach iceland
Djúpalónssandur – Golli




Safety Signs, Cameras Installed at Reynisfjara Beach

Safety signs

Informatory signage has been installed at Reynisfjara beach to better ensure the safety of tourists. Cameras, mounted on masts on the beach ridge, will relay a live stream from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.

Creeping waves and a strong undertow

As noted in an article in Iceland Review from 2019, the tides that lap the beautiful black sand beaches of Reynisfjara beach – a popular travel destination near the town of Vík in South Iceland – possess “an immensely strong undertow,” with waves that “creep quickly upon travellers.” As of last summer, five travellers had died on Reynisfjara beach since 2013.

In response to these tragedies, a consultation team was established last summer in order to better ensure the safety of visitors. The consultation team recommended the installation of informatory signage on the beach, which has now been installed. In addition to the signs, a 300-metre-long chain has been strung along the parking lot, guiding visitors along a path and past the signs. Cameras, which have been installed on a mast on the beach ridge, will also stream live video from the beach to the police authorities in Selfoss.

“The signs emphasise information,” a press release from the Icelandic Tourist Board reads, “aiming to make the information accessible and interesting, explaining what can be done in the area – as opposed to simply highlighting what is prohibited. One illuminated sign, which relays information from the Icelandic Road Administration’s wave-prediction system; three big informatory signs, one of which highlights the dangers of the undertow; and six guiding signs have been installed.”

Beach divided into zones according to conditions

The press release also notes that the Reynisfjara beach will never be closed to the public. Instead, the beach will be divided into zones, which will serve to guide visitors based on conditions: a flashing yellow light indicates that visitors should not enter the yellow zone, and a flashing red light indicates that visitors should not enter the red zone (i.e. not past the illuminated sign). Visitors are encouraged to stay on the beach ridge, which affords a safe view of the beautiful scenery.

“The safety measures at Reynisfjara beach will only extend as far as signage, and no lifeguards will be employed at this time. Such a thing could, however, prove a logical next step – if only during those days when conditions are labelled ‘red.’ In order to finance such measures, landowners would need to collect fees from visitors.”

Lastly, the parties affiliated with the consultation team hope that the new safety measures will mean that visitors to the beach will become “more mindful of hazards” and comport themselves accordingly. “Signs, no matter how well designed, will not stop anyone from venturing near the tide; they are, however, useful in keeping most visitors within a safe zone, so as to enjoy the beach in all its majesty.”

The consultation team comprised representatives of landowners, the South Icelandic police, the Icelandic Tourist Board, ICE-SAR, the Icelandic Road Administration, and the Katla Geopark.

Flashing Red Light to Warn of Dangerous Waves at Reynisfjara

A flashing red light will be installed at Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland to warn visitors of dangerous waves. RÚV reports that the light will be installed within three weeks. Powerful sneaker waves at the beach have been the cause of several fatal accidents, despite signs that warn visitors to keep their distance from the water.

The light will flash yellow or red based on the conditions at the beach. The colour code is based on a wave forecasting system that the Road and Coastal Administration began developing five years ago thanks to a grant from the Tourism Site Protection Fund.

“With [the forecasting system] we can predict with some degree of certainty how the waves will be,” explained Fannar Gíslason, who manages the Road and Coastal Administration’s harbour division. “The risk has been colour-coded green, yellow, and red depending on how much danger is posed by the waves at Reynisfjara.”

The light will be installed by the parking lot and walking path by Reynisfjara and will never be lit green. “There will be a flashing yellow warning light and it will be red when conditions are poor. We’ll have it like that at first, in any case. We’ll see how that goes, whether people notice it.”

In order to determine which wave heights are dangerous to the beach’s visitors, wave data was cross-referenced with police diaries and incident records. According to Fannar, the current forecasting system is in sync with that data.

A camera system will also be set up by the beach to allow authorities to observe the waves visually and calibrate those observations into the forecast.

Reynisfjara Safety Measures Stalled Due to Bureaucracy, Landowners Claim

Landowners and local authorities have differing viewpoints on what has hindered increased safety measures at Reynisfjara beach, following repeated fatal accidents over the past few years. The spokesperson for a group of landowners by Reynisfjara states that the authorities have hindered improvements, not them, Vísir reports, while the Icelandic Tourist Board’s Director General states that landowners’ opposition has stopped further Reynisfjara safety measures. The popular tourist destination is not owned by the state but by various landowners, but a committee is now considering closing the beach to travellers.

The debate over Reynisfjara safety measures has resurged after a tourist in their seventies died there last Friday, swept away by the powerful sneaker waves characteristic of the tourist attraction beach.

According to Morgunblaðið’s report, a committee established by the Minister of Tourism found that the government had the authority to close places considered dangerous, even against the will of the local landowners. Morgunblaðið also reported the Director-General of the Icelandic Tourist Board statement that while security measures such as warning flags and blinking lights had been suggested, some of the landowners had objected, and their instalment had stalled. The Tourism Minister’s committee is still working on their suggestions for closure, and the result can be expected before the summer break.

Íris Guðnadóttir is a spokesperson for one of the group of landowners that own part of Reynisfjara. She told Vísir: “hearing this in the media, that landowners, that we are against security measures, hurts. These are difficult times. We are very willing to cooperate and talk.” She added that the locals, such as her family, are the ones who face the aftermath of the fatal accidents, so they are well aware of the severity of the matter.

According to Íris, the South Iceland police and landowners had agreed to put up new signs with lights on the beach in 2017. The sign was ready, but the matter stalled because the Ministry of Tourism established a committee. “A risk assessment was to be made, and actions were to be coordinated nationwide. Now, it’s been over three years.”

Since then, there has been no direct action to discourage travellers from getting too close to the water except for a sign put up by the landowners. The government has funded a wave forecast system that is accessible on The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA)’ website but Íris criticises its lack of use elsewhere, calling for action instead of new committees.

When asked about ideas to close Reynisfjara to travellers, at least when the conditions are at their most dangerous, Íris remains unconvinced. Conditions on the beach vary greatly and can change very quickly. “When the conditions are like that, we need to keep people away from the basalt columns. When the sea goes up to the rocks, people shouldn’t be climbing or running across the rocks to get to the cave. We need to keep people safe. But Reynisfjara isn’t dangerous if you sit up on the beach at a safe distance from the water,” stated Íris.

Tourist Dies at Reynisfjara, Group Caught by Waves in the Same Spot the Next Day

Reynisfjara black sand beach

A tourist died on Friday after being swept out to sea by a wave at Reynisfjara beach, just outside Vík í Mýrdal in South Iceland. RÚV reports that the man, who was in his eighties, was in the ocean for about an hour before he could be rescued and was dead by the time the Coast Guard helicopter was able to reach him.

The victim was from Canada and part of a larger tour group with his wife, who was also caught by the same wave. The tour guide was able to grab the woman and drag her to safety, but her husband was not so lucky. Rescue teams from South Iceland and the Westman Islands were called to the scene, as well as the Coast Guard. Conditions at sea were quite dangerous, however, with very high winds that prevented the Coast Guard helicopter from reaching the man for an hour.

The Red Cross’ trauma team was called in to provide services for the woman and her travel companions.

Believed they could swim ashore

Only a day later, a group of foreign tourists, including a family from Germany, were swept up in a wave in the same spot where the Canadian couple was caught on Friday. No one was seriously injured, but apparently, the group believed they could swim back to land if they were caught by the waves.

The upsetting incident was witnessed by tour guide Hrafnhildur Faulk.

Hrafnhildur saw six people get swept off their feet. Five managed to pull themselves to safety quickly; the last man lingered. “I was waiting for him to get up and run,” recounted Hrafnhildur, but the man stayed in the surf, looking for his glasses in the sand.

“He seemed pretty unphased, considering,” she continued. “I think I would have been more alarmed.”

Hrafnhildur said that she frequently sees people putting themselves in harm’s way on the shore at Reynisfjara, even running into the waves with small children. “Naturally, you run over and intervene,” she said. “But unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

An all-too common occurrence

There have been many drownings at Reynisfjara over the years when visitors, generally foreign tourists, are swept into the ocean by powerful “sneaker waves.” In May, a Spanish tourist nearly drowned after intentionally wading into the surf to have photos taken, but thankfully, he was able to pull himself to shore. Last November, a young Chinese woman was not so lucky. Between 2007 and 2019, three people drowned at the popular beach.

That year, the government began to conduct a risk assessment and closed part of the beach, although many visitors ignored the closure. Much of the beach remains open, although with prominent warnings and explanations of the very real danger posed by the sneaker waves are posted in several languages.

Tourist Nearly Drowns at Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara tourists

An ambulance was called out to Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland this week when a Spanish tourist nearly drowned, mbl.is reports. The man had waded into the water intentionally and was then dragged out by the powerful waves at the site. He eventually managed to get himself back onto the shore, chilled and agitated but otherwise fine.

Photographer Sandra Pawłowska, who witnessed the incident, says the man nearly drowned. He had gotten undressed and waded into the water intentionally while his friend took photographs of him. Sandra says families at the site led their children away so they would not see what was happening.

Reynisfjara is a black sand beach with basalt column formations that is a popular tourist site. The powerful “sneaker” waves at the site have previously claimed several lives, most recently last November, when a Chinese tourist died after being swept out to sea. The path to the beach has a plethora of signs warning visitors to stay well away from the water due to the dangerous waves.

A Death at Reynisfjara

A young Chinese woman was swept out to sea by waves at Reynisfjara beach yesterday and was found dead later that afternoon. Three other women were also swept off their feet by the waves but managed to reach land.

At 2.30 pm yesterday, National Emergency Operators were notified that a person in Reynisfjara had been carried out to sea by a sneaker wave. Emergency responders were dispatched immediately. Local search-and-rescue squads began searching for the young woman as soon as they arrived at the site, as well as on boats from Vestmannaeyjar and Árnessýsla, and the Icelandic Coast Guard’s helicopter. Later that afternoon, the helicopter discovered the woman’s body in the sea off the Reynisfjara coast. The South Iceland Police Commissioner’s investigative department is now investigating the events leading up to the accident.

A guide in Reynisfjara who witnessed the accident told RÚV that around 150-200 people were at the black sand beach, which is a popular tourist attraction, and that several people were standing close to the water.

This is not the first fatal accident at Reynisfjara, and authorities have taken steps to try to prevent such incidents.


Risk Assessment to Be Conducted at Reynisfjara

The dangerous Reynisfjara beach will see a risk assessment conducted by the government. Reynisfjara is a popular travel destination nearby Vík in South Iceland. It has an immensely strong undertow, and waves that creep quickly upon travellers, threatening to snatch travellers out to sea. The risk evaluation will focus on both the strong tide as well as rockfall in the area. If the changes go through, the police will have the option to close the beach on dangerous days. A warning mast is also to be placed at the beach.

Three traveller deaths

Reynisfjara has claimed three lives since 2007, with many more close calls. The area is clearly marked with warning signs, and tour guides place great emphasis on safety in the area. This week, a number of travellers were swept into the water. The tide has also pinned travellers down in a small cave in the area.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir leads the project, which will be performed by the police in South Iceland. The police intend to work alongside the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, The Icelandic Met Office and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

“It’s unacceptable that there’s a risk of a massive accident in one of the most popular tourist locations in the country, without the necessary arrangements in place. Certain improvements have been made, but the responsibility for the case is complicated as well as the fact that travellers often ignore warnings, putting themselves at great risk. This is why we recommend that a risk evaluation be performed and, based on that, the police can close the area when needed, which should in all likelihood not be more than five to seven days per year,” said Minister Þórdís Kolbrún.

Possible closures

The closures on the beach would prevent further accidents. It is expected that they would take place in extreme weather, with a strong tide, between November to March. A wave prediction system, as well as an alert system, will be placed in Reynisfjara, which has been in the works since 2017. The Icelandic Tourist Board sanctioned the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration to install the systems. The system is already available at the Icelandic Met Office’s website, and the information can be found on the Safe Travel websites. The project will be completed with the construction of a mast on the beach which will flash a warning light at times of danger. A permit from all of the landowners in the area, which number around 250 in total, is needed for the mast.

The beach is considered one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, with clear black sand, basalt columns, and the view of the Reynisdrangar rock formation. The beach is a two and half hour drive away from Reykjavík. The sneaker waves in the area pose a danger to travellers, who are advised to stand at least 30 metres away from the waves.

Visit www.safetravel.is for further information regarding travel safety, as well as www.road.is for the newest updates on road conditions.

Tourist Injured at Reynisfjara Beach

Powerful waves injured a foreign tourist early yesterday afternoon at South Iceland’s popular Reynisfjara black sand beach, Vísir reports. The man was toppled by a wave, but managed to grope his way back to shore, according to Sigurður Sigurbjörnsson, an officer on duty at Vík í Mýrdal, located by the beach.

Response teams were called out around 3.00pm yesterday to attend to the man, who obtained a shoulder injury and was transported to hospital for examination. Sigurður took a video of the waves on the beach shortly after the man’s departure, which shows other tourists being trapped against cliffs by the waves.

The screenshot above is from a video taken by guide Þórólfur Sævar Sæmundsson shortly before the incident took place.

Reynisfjara has been the site of numerous accidents and a few fatalities over the years. No amount of signage on the popular beach seems to convince tourists to stay a safe distance away from its dangerous and powerful waves.

Tourists Caught by Waves in Reynisfjara

Tourist guide Pascale Elísabet Skúladóttir caught a video early Saturday of fierce waves in Reynisfjara that threatened to wash unsuspecting tourists to sea, RÚV reports. Pascale says that all too often, tourists ignore warning signs on the beach, putting themselves in danger.

Reynisfjara beach is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, routinely appearing on lists of must-see non-tropical beaches. Its black sands and opportune view of the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall are a consistent draw for tourists. 

Reynisfjara beach, however, can be a dangerous spot in bad weather. Pascale’s video, shown below, depicts tourists who venture too close to the water and are suddenly swept off their feet by a powerful wave. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt, but the sudden chaos shown in the video is a powerful reminder of how quickly the tides can turn in Reynisfjara.

Pascale says that on bad weather days like last Saturday, she doesn’t take her clients far beyond the beach’s designated walking path. The tourists in the video, however, were about ten meters closer to the sea than is recommended.

“There are prominent warning signs in a few languages along the beach, but they are ignored by at least half of the tourists visiting. When I warn people, they often tell me to mind my own business” Pascale says. She further recommends that people avoid areas of the beach where the sand is smooth, which tends to indicate areas where the waves have reached.