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Wonders of Icelandic Coastline: Top Beaches in Iceland

List of the Beaches in Iceland + Map

|April 9, 2024
Loves writing, food, runes, Reykjavík life, traveling in Iceland and being out in nature. Born in England but fell in love with Iceland in 2010 and moved here, been here since.

The Icelandic coastline offers its visitors a whole bouquet of stunning and diverse landscapes. From famous black sand beaches to romantic golden shores, discover your favorite or embark on a journey to explore them all!


Crystal ice caves, stunning glaciers, and majestic volcanoes - Iceland is a true paradise for adventure seekers. The land of fire and ice is also home to many unique and breathtaking beaches catering to the tastes of every visitor. Coal-black shores with basalt columns of Reynisfjara Beach, stunning Diamond Beach, golden sands of Rauðisandur Beach, and the warm geothermal waters of Nautholsvik Beach - In this article, you’ll find detailed information about all of these Icelandic wonders. 

Prepare yourself to dive into the magic waters of Icelandic shores! Maybe it’s the beginning of your next great adventure!

THE DIVERSITY OF BEACHES IN ICELAND

Powerful waves crashing over large rocks. View of man with bears in hat standing on rock and looking into the distance of the sea.

You’ve likely heard about the famous black sand beaches of Iceland. These stunning phenomena owe their coal-black beauty to the island's volcanic activity. The shore is often naturally decorated with magnificent basalt columns - black lava rocks often mentioned in Icelandic folklore. No doubt, those black sand beauties are Iceland's best beach photography spots, drawing numerous visitors every year. But are all beaches in Iceland black?

Most of Iceland’s beaches are, in fact, black due to volcanic activity, but there are exceptions with naturally golden or even red-gold sand that deserve your attention. In contrast with numerous black sand beaches, they shine even brighter! Some of them feel like the edge of the world, with the only footprints on the sand being your own - isn’t that magical?

In addition to the naturally formed beautiful beaches, there are man-made beaches, with geothermally heated lagoons, that make great spots for families and offer a pleasurable experience for swimmers. Who wouldn’t enjoy a swim in a 15° C heated lagoon?

WHERE ARE THE BEST BEACHES IN ICELAND: MAP

Icelandic beaches are scattered across the island. Choosing one area is not so easy. The good thing is that you can discover them individually as you travel the island.

However, If you are looking for the best cluster of beaches you can see in a single day, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula area would probably be the best choice.

 

BEST BEACHES IN ICELAND

THE DIAMOND BEACH

Tourist with red hat standing on iceberg, taking selfie at diamond beach, Iceland.

This stunning black sand beach is the kind of masterpiece that only Michelangelo could have painted! No surprise it is one of the most visited places in Iceland.

Coal-black coarse sand washed by silver-tipped Atlantic waves and stunning blue and white icebergs sitting on the shore like precious giant diamonds. Mesmeric sights will greet your eyes everywhere you look. Shimmering ice shards scattered across black sand when the waves have fractured an iceberg into thousands of pieces and huge opalescent chunks of ice – you want the photo opportunity of a lifetime? You will get it at Diamond Beach! 

If icebergs catch your attention and you want to see these beauties up close, you can always take a boat tour and sail among these massive natural structures as close as possible. You can even take a guided tour and visit other destinations, as it is recommended to spend at least 2-3 days on the South Coast once you get there. 

The Diamond Beach by Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is in Southeast Iceland, 371 km (230.5 mi) from Reykjavik and 80 km (49.7 mi) from Höfn. Driving there from the capital takes approximately six hours, but the views are worth it! By the way, if you want to drive from Höfn, it will take you only one hour!

YTRI-TUNGA BEACH

Ytri-Tunga Beach is on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a region known for its impressive natural beauty, 152 km (94.5 mi) from Reykjavík and about 20 km (12.4 mi) from the little hamlet of Búðir.

This charming golden beach is framed by wild grasses and soft, low dunes. The ocean waves roll over low rocks, which are home to a seal colony. This beach is an unspoiled golden wonder and one of the best places to spot seals in Iceland. Your chances of seal spotting are the most significant when the tide is fairly low. This is when you often see groups of them resting on the rocks. 

Don’t forget your camera to capture these beautiful creatures, but remember to keep a safe distance - approximately 165 feet is recommended

Getting to Ytri-Tunga Beach is relatively easy, especially if you take a car trip from the capital city - Reykjavik. The drive is only 2.3 to 3 hours, depending on the road conditions.

REYNISFJARA BEACH

Reynisfjara Beach is nestled on the South Coast, 180 km (111.8 mi) from Reykjavík and 10.5 km (6.5 mi) from Vík.

Reynisfjara, Iceland's most famous black beach, has fine-textured soft black sand and a fantastic cave composed of massive basalt columns (craggy rock formations). This is truly one of the most photographed places in Iceland. The powerful sneaker waves and the astonishing sea stacks rising above the ocean add mystery to the atmosphere. 

Did you know that there are many tales and myths about these massive basalt columns? According to Icelandic folklore, these craggy rock formations used to be trolls (dark elves) who were turned to stone at the break of dawn while dragging the ship towards the land.

Black beach covered in rocks with misty sky and crashing waves, in Iceland.

DJÚPALÓNSSANDUR BEACH

Djúpalónssandur on the southern coast of Snæfellsness is situated about 200 km (124.3 mi) from Reykjavík. The beach is easily reachable by car. If you are driving from the capital, choose road number 1. Once you get to Borganes, continue on road number 54 which ends up in Snæfellsness.

The beach is composed of smooth black pebbles, called Djúpalóns Perlan, ‘the Pearls of Djúpalón’ – Djúpalón means ‘Deep Pool’. These stones are now protected in Iceland, but you can take as many pictures as you wish! 

Following the pathway down to the beach, you will encounter some of Iceland's most amazing sea stacks. The remains of a British trawler remind us that navigating these treacherous oceans and coasts requires great skill.

Did you know that ancient lifting stones, that can still be found at the location, were used to test the strength of Iceland’s fishermen? The larger the stone they could lift, the better position they got on the ship.

Orange sunset over the volcanic lava formations of Djupalonssandur beach, Iceland.

SÓLHEIMASANDUR BEACH

Sólheimasandur Black Sand Beach, situated between the majestic Skógafoss Waterfall and the beautiful village of Vík, is just a 2-hour drive from Reykjavík.

If you have seen popular photos from Iceland, you have likely seen the famous Solheimasandur plane - the wrecked plane that belonged to the American Army. This photogenic place is now a true heaven for many photographers and video creators. Surrounded by nothing but coal-black volcanic sand, the plain seems like it belongs to another planet.

Did you know that Justin Bieber filmed parts of his music video for the song “I’ll Show You” at the Solheimasandur plane wreck?

In order to get to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck, you must hike along the beach for approximately 4 km (2.5 mi). Driving on the beach is not allowed. You can also book a South Coast tour to explore the iconic plane and other wonders around it.

RAUÐISANDUR BEACH

Rauðisandur red sand beach ride out, in Iceland.

Rauðisandur Beach stretches a glorious 10 km (6.2 mi) from the famous Látrabjarg bird cliff in the remote West Fjords, 390 km (243.3 mi) from Reykjavík.

If you want endless expanses of the golden sand in a remote and unspoiled place, this is where you need to go! Rauðisandur translates to ‘Red Sands,’ those richly golden sands, indeed,  have plenty of red tones. If you look at this beach in a certain kind of light, you’ll know why some say this Icelandic beach is pink!

Rauðisandur is not the easiest beach to get to, but the lengthy journey on winding roads from Reykjavík is well worth it. 

In summer, you can see puffins at the Látrabjarg bird cliff, where you will find the most prolific puffin population in Europe. May and August are the best months to observe puffins in Iceland.   

BREIÐAVÍK BEACH

Ariel view of clear seawater and coast at Breidavik in Westfjords.

Breidavik Beach is a lovely white sand beach located in the Wesfjords. It takes approximately 5 hours to reach it from Reykjavík by car. This beautiful place nests on the way to Látrabjarg birdwatching cliffs.

This is another great spot for birdwatchers who wish to see many species of Icelandic birds species, including puffins. 

Another great thing about this beach is the red-roofed church, which creates a gorgeous contrast with the turquoise color of the water and lovely golden sand - an irresistible view for photographers.

GRÓTTA BEACH

Grotta beach in Iceland, shore with waves and white lighthouse in the background and cloudy skies.

Grótta Beach is located in Seltjarnarnes, a stunning peninsula on the edge of Reykjavík. Light golden sand creates a beautiful contrast against the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Black shale and, at low tide, a causeway tracing a path to an island topped with a lighthouse - this beach is whimsical, lovely, and romantic.

The beach is also known to be a favored spot for various seabird species, which makes it known for its birdwatching opportunities. 

You don´t need a car to visit Grótta, just fasten your boots and off you go. Head along the coast from Granda, which is behind the main harbor. In less than half an hour you will be at this marvelous beach. Continue your walk around the incredible peninsula of Seltjarnarnes. You will discover more glorious black beaches, and stupendous coast and mountain views will accompany you every step of the way. Just follow the coast, then loop back into the city when ready.  

If you are short on time take the number 11 Strætó bus headed to Seltjarnarnes and ask to get off at the nearest stop to Grótta. You only have to walk back along the coast for 10 to 15 minutes.

BÚÐIR BEACH

Budir beach in Iceland, in pink sunset, view of the sea and the rocky cliffs.

Today, Búðir is an abandoned fishing village consisting of nothing more than the black little church and a hotel. The traditional black wooden church standing on the adjacent headland makes this place crazily idyllic. Many travelers say that there is some special energy around that place.

Búðir is situated 177 km (119 mi) from Reykjavík. To get to the beach, you must walk past a lovely church and through the Budahraun lava field.

NAUTHÓLSVÍK GEOTHERMAL BEACH

Photo by Elisabet Blondal

The Geothermal Beach is situated around 2.5 km (1.56 mi) from downtown Reykjavík. There are quite a few beaches around the Reykjavík coastline. If you stay in the western part of the city, you can walk to a few lovely beaches within 30 minutes, including Reykjavík’s famous geothermal beach.

Nauthólsvík is a man-made beach with lovely golden sand and a man-made geothermally heated lagoon, which in summer is heated to around 15° C, making this the perfect spot for sea-swimming in Iceland. There are outdoor hot pots, changing rooms, showers, and a steam room. Other facilities include a kiosk selling drinks, snacks, and hot dogs to cook at the barbecue. 

Between 15th May and 15th August, admission is free – at other times of year, bathing and using the facilities costs 600 ISK. You can check out the details and opening times here

Interesting fact: this beach has been such a success story that two more geothermal beaches are planned!

SWIMMING IN ICELAND’S BEACHES

Iceland’s coastline offers an extraordinary experience for those exploring its waters. While you might see some courageous locals venturing into the wild Icelandic sea, it’s recommended for travelers to seek out the more controlled environments like geothermal lagoons (for example, Nauthólsvík) or hot springs. There are also many other places where you can swim in Iceland.

There are some Icelandic beaches that are considered safe to swim. However, it is worth mentioning that the North Atlantic Ocean can be quite cold, so be prepared. 

In some places, swimming is not only unwise but rather prohibited due to safety measures. You absolutely should not swim in Reynisfjara Beach due to its strong and unpredictable sneaker waves. You should be careful even walking around there.

WHEN TO VISIT ICELAND’S BEACHES?

In summer, the best time to explore the magnificent Icelandic coastline is from June to August. The summer season in Iceland is characterized by the glorious midnight sun, which splashes the country in near-constant daylight. These long day hours offer plenty of time to explore Iceland’s captivating landscapes, from cascading waterfalls to the best black sand beaches and dreamy golden shores.

By the way, the summer season is also perfect for outdoor activities such as horseback riding or hiking. However, it’s the peak season for the number of visitors to the most popular attractions, so keep in mind that it can be a bit more crowded.

In the wintertime, beaches in Iceland turn into perfect spots for Northern Lights hunting. The best months to see aurora borealis are between September and March. The long nights provide the ideal canvas for Northern Lights to shine through!

Some beaches might be more challenging to reach in winter as the roads are icy, and you can often encounter road closures. However, good thing for those who value privacy - there are fewer people during wintertime than in summer. 

In conclusion, Icelandic beaches, like Iceland Itself, are stunning in every season! It is definitely worth experiencing each of them and discovering the magic each of the seasons offers.

Ariel view of waves cashing at shore of beach in Iceland.

ICELAND BEACHES FAQ

ARE BEACHES IN ICELAND SUITABLE FOR SWIMMING?

Some beaches, for example, Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach, are perfect for swimming. However, you should absolutely not swim in dangerous places where the waves are strong and unpredictable.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF VISITING BEACHES IN ICELAND?

The main dangers when visiting some beaches are sneaker waves that appear suddenly and can rise very fast just before hitting the shore. Remember never to turn your back on the sea.

Other dangers include rockfall and rockslides, so you must always be careful and make judgments of the risks you may be in. 

In case of emergency, you can call 112.

CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FROM BEACHES IN ICELAND?

Yes! The highest chances to see aurora borealis are farther away from artificial lights, which are the sources of light pollution. Beaches are perfect spots for Northern Lights hunting!

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