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Iceland Black Beaches: What They’re Made Of And Why They’re So Unique

horses and riders standing on a black sand each with the ocean behind in them in Iceland

Iceland Black Beaches: What They’re Made Of And Why They’re So Unique

Iceland’s famous black sand beaches set its landscape apart. Here’s why they look the way they do, and why they are so cherished!

Why Iceland Black Beaches Are Black

Iceland’s black beaches look the way they do because of our island’s long history of volcanic activity. The black sand is formed from what was once lava. When the lava was hot, it floated across the land, and when it hit the cold waters of the Atlantic, it cooled. These cooled chunks of lava solidified and slowly began eroding and breaking down into small pieces of volcanic rocks. Over the centuries, these small pieces became even smaller, until they’d been weathered into tiny pebbles that make up the black sand we recognize today. Each black beach has its own story, but all are a reflection back to Iceland’s volcanic history.

These beaches have artistic beauty. They’re not the swimmable, sunny beaches of tropical postcards – instead, they offer a quiet majesty and otherworldly energy. They feel mysterious and larger than life, and they invite natural color palettes you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Iceland’s black beaches are the perfect place to get some fresh air and to contemplate our place in this big, beautiful world.

Famous Black Sand Beaches in Iceland

Iceland’s black beaches are world famous, and a handful of them have become especially popular among the crowds. One favorite is Diamond Beach, which dots Iceland’s eastern coast near Hvannadalshnúkur, the nation’s highest mountain. On the west coast, visitors love exploring Djúpalónssandur Beach, which isn’t far from Snæfellsjökull National Park.

On the south coast, Reynisfjara claims its place as the most popular Icelandic black beach. In addition to its beautiful black sand, Reynisfjara is known for its massive basalt columns, which surround Halsanefshellir cave. As if that weren’t stunning enough, the beach also features a series of beautiful sea stacks, which were once part of the Reynisfjall mountain range.

According to Icelandic lore, the basalt columns are said to have once been trolls. They’re believed to have turned to stone during a battle after they failed to drag a ship to shore before sunrise. Many believe that you can still hear the trolls’ cries when driving past the cliffs.

Riding Horse On Beach, Icelandic Style

While every black sand beach in Iceland is majestic, many attract massive crowds of travelers due to their popularity. Because of this, I make a point to take my guests to a more peaceful, quiet black sand beach to enjoy horse riding in Iceland.

When weather permits, we visit my favorite black sand beach, Landeyjarsandur. This secluded stretch of the coast is the largest black sand beach in Iceland, yet very few people visit it. A visit to this beach feels like a private getaway for us and the horses. Trust me, you’ll love it – and you’ll come home with pictures of an Icelandic shoreline that nobody else has seen.

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