The black lava beach of Reynisfjara
On Iceland’s beautiful, but dangerous Reynisfjara black lava beach signs warn of the risks of getting too close to the water’s edge where ‘sneaker waves’ have been known to catch out unwary tourists and drag them out to sea.
This has to be one of the classic Icelandic landscapes; a sweeping black beach backed by the imposing black basalt cliffs, the latter dotted with patches of green and the white specks that on closer inspection proved to be kittiwakes.
I visited the beach in 2018, with my Virtual Tourist friends. These photos of the beach and striking basalt column cliffs were taken then. They should fit the criteria for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge this week, although the black lava is juxtaposed with green rather than orange!
Beyond the black sands and lava, huge grey/white waves crash against the shore. To the left are the Reynisdrangar, looming through the mist and spray, and on the right the arch of Dyrhólaey, the southernmost part of the Icelandic mainland. This is so large that one intrepid pilot successfully flew through it, in 1993.
The Reynisdrangar or Troll Rocks are tall stacks of basalt lying just offshore at the foot of the mountain Reynisfjall. The geological explanation is that Reynisfjall was eroded by the forces of nature to form these stacks. But the legends attached to them are much more colourful and more fun.
According to one story, two trolls tried to drag a three-masted ship to land here. But trolls cannot go out in daylight, and these two made the mistake of staying out too long. When the first rays of the sun struck them they were turned instantly to stone. Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
Whatever their origin, the stacks are certainly very striking. The tallest stands 66 metres above sea level and with the waves crashing against them and throwing up spray they are indeed an impressive sight. Interestingly, although there are four stacks, from land you can never see more than three.
On my previous visit to Iceland in 2012 Chris and I drove out on to the Dyrhólaey promontory via the causeway, and it was here that we found some of the most stunning and beautifully lit scenery of that trip. Still pools of water reflected the icy mountain landscapes all around us, and to our other side rocky outcrops were equally perfectly reflected, creating an effect that reminded me a little of the karst scenery near Guilin in China, or of ink blots.
From the end of the promontory we had sweeping views down to the black sands and rock stacks of Reynisfjara. This remains one of my favourite memories in this country of stunning landscapes!
I visited Reynisfjara in 2018 and Dyrhólaey in 2012; the photos here are a mix of those taken on both visits
Gift N. T.
Beautiful images aside, I didn’t know about the sneaky waves at the black lava beach. Warning signs, legends, and fog, sounds like a mystical visit, but we always have to keep our guard up.
Yes, it’s a beautiful scene but too easy to ignore the dangers
Beautiful photos and I enjoyed the stories
Thank you Kirstin 🙂 Iceland is full of such stories and my friends there often share them with me!
Absolutely stunning.my friend visited Iceland and loved it
I definitely recommend it – one of my favourite countries, especially for photography!
Albatz Travel Adventures
Breath-taking photos – it’s hard to figure out which one I like best. On Vancouver Island they use the term ‘rogue waves’ rather than ‘sneaker waves’ but they are both great terms for those sneaky rogues that wash people away…
Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked these 😊 Yes, ‘rogue waves’ is a great description too. I just wish people would respect those signs and recognise the danger.
Such wonderful scenes – those reflections! And the waves coming in around the stacks – beautiful. I like the details very much, too. It’s nice to see the Kittiwakes, basalt, and seaweeds.
Thank you so much 😊 Iceland is a photographer’s dream!
That’s not a happy looking sea! It reminds me a bit of Piha beach in New Zealand – I remember how fascinated I was with the black sand. You have amazing photos here Sarah … and what a contrast there is between the photos of 2012 of the still pools and reflections and then the angry sea on your next visit!
Yes, a real contrast in the weather on those two days. The 2012 shots were taken in winter, February, and it was cold but bright and crisp. The 2019 ones are from May of that year and we had very mixed weather than weekend, with this day being dull and quite windy but dry (after a lot of rain the previous day).
Beautiful photos. Iceland is on my top 5 list of places I want to see.
Thank you 😊 I don’t think it will disappoint!
I really enjoyed your Iceland photos Sarah, we have many the same!! Those sneaker waves were scary to hear about!
Thanks Debbie 🙂 Those waves are genuinely scary, there are plenty of examples of news stories online about tourists ignoring the signs and being pulled out to sea and drowned as a result 🙁
Wow those are very unusual and dramatic stacks – no wonder legends grew up around their creation. As you say, such legends are always far more enthralling than scientific fact.
Yes, and Iceland is full of wonderful stories and legends – every place you go seems to have at least a couple!
the eternal traveller
Iceland is on our list of places to visit. Your photos of the scenery are stunning.
Highly recommended, I’m sure you’d love it! Thanks for much for the kind comments about the photos – it’s hard to take a bad photo there!
Wonderful photos Sarah 🙂
Thank you Brian 😊
Yet another place I’d love to visit!!! The list never shortens does it!!!
No, quite the opposite! For every place I tick off I reckon I add two 😆
Terri Webster Schrandt
I just love everyone’s visits to where they’ve experienced lava, Sarah, and this post is amazing. I enjoy your descriptions of the areas especially the stacks called the trolls. Who cares if there isn’t much orange, Iceland’s lava and volcanic history is stunning! Those reflections taken at Dyrhólaey are amazing. Thanks for sharing for Sunday Stills this week!
Glad you enjoyed this Terri 🙂 You can’t beat Iceland for dramatic scenery!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
I love the contrast between the angry, raging sea images and the calm, reflective waters of the promontory. Lovely shots, as always, Sarah.
Thanks so much 😊 Yes, Iceland is full of contrasts!
Goodness, this is dramatic – and beautiful too.
Dramatic even by Iceland’s standards, yes! Famously dangerous too, despite its beauty.
Glad you survived!
I was with my local friend and knew to heed her warnings and stay very well back from the water’s edge!