You might not think of Iceland as a beach destination. Because of its northerly latitude and wild weather, its coastline is never going to be a good fit for a fly and flop vacation. But if you prefer to experience your beaches on foot rather than from a sun lounger, and a stroll along a pristine, windswept stretch of shore is your idea of holiday heaven, then let us introduce you to these ten stunning beaches in Iceland.
1. Djúpalónssandur (West Iceland)
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has one of the most attractive coastlines in Iceland, and that’s especially the case at Djúpalónssandur. The beach is home to four lifting stones; known as Fullsterkur (full strength), Hálfsterkur (half strength), Hálfdrættingur (weakling) and Amlóði (useless), in the past, fishermen would have used them to test their strength. Those guys were strong: even the smallest weighed 23kg. Settle instead for skimming pebbles, known here as Djúpalón’s pearls.
2. Ytri Tunga (West Iceland)
This Snæfellsnes beach stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, its sand is golden, rather than the usual black. Secondly, it’s home to a colony of seals who can sometimes be seen in the water and hauled up on the rocks. If you don’t plan to drive up to Vatnsnes in the north of Iceland or over to Jökulsárlón, in summer it’s one of the best chances you’ll have to see these characterful creatures from land.
3. Skarðsvík (West Iceland)
If it weren’t for the chill in the air, you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the Mediterranean as you gaze out from this sandy beach at the turquoise water flanked by basalt headlands. But, though you might not quite believe it, your feet are instead firmly plonked on the north western tip of the Snæfellsnes coastline. The remains of a man, dating to the 10th century, were discovered in a burial mound at one end of the beach and are now on display at the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik.
4. Rauðisandur (Westfjords)
It’s worth driving all the way up to the Westfjords just to say you’ve visited this splendid beach. Unusually for Iceland, the sand is a reddish colour, which makes it particularly photogenic when the sun’s out. To reach it, you’ll need to navigate the steep and winding gravel road that drops down to the beach, but when your eye takes in the vast, unspoilt beach, any reservations you may have had about the challenging drive will be forgotten.
5. Breiðavík (Westfjords)
The unspoilt beach at Breiðavík in the Westfjords rivals its neighbour in everything but colour: instead of the reds and oranges you’ll see at Rauðasandur, this one’s a blonde. A vast swath of golden sand stretches for miles, punctuated by a landmark weatherboard church. It’s a stone’s throw from the Látrabjarg bird cliffs, making it an almost irresistible pit stop if you’re in this part of Iceland. Breathe in the sea air and enjoy the solitude. Except in summer, Breiðavík’s remote location means it’s unlikely that you’ll have to share it.
6. Sólheimasandur (South Iceland)
The black sand beach of Sólheimasandur is technically a glacial outwash plain. It’s best known for being the site of a wrecked DC-3 plane that crashed in 1973 a few hundred metres from the sea. The stripped-out fuselage has been exposed to the elements ever since. You’ll have to hike a couple of miles if you want to reach it, since vehicle access was prohibited a few years ago, and it’s best to use a guide. Nevertheless, the sight of the abandoned plane draws many visitors every year.
7. Reynisfjara (South Iceland)
The black sand beach just outside the town of Vik is one of Iceland’s showstoppers. Backed by towering basalt cliffs and a huge wave-cut cave, it’s one of the most glorious spots on the south coast and often draws attention because of its beauty. A word of warning though: occasionally Reynisfjara hits the headlines for the wrong reasons – it’s notorious for dangerous sneaker waves which creep up the beach unannounced and sweep people off their feet.
8. Breiðamerkursandur Diamond Beach (South Iceland)
This beach, which lies just across the road from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, is also made of black volcanic sand. The reason for its popularity isn’t the beach itself, however. Instead, people flock here in their droves to see the many icebergs that the Atlantic breakers wash up on the shore. They’ve floated down from the Jökulsárlón lagoon. There, slowly but surely, the sea sets about its job of sculpting them into curious shapes until the ice melts away for good.
9. Stokksnes (East Iceland)
The view from the sandy beach on the Stokksnes peninsula is simply stunning, as Vestrahorn’s craggy outline rises majestically in the background. Clumps of grass rise out of the fine black sand, their green stalks standing out against the dark background. When the tide’s in and the air is still, a mirror image of Vestrahorn reflects in the water. It’s no surprise, therefore, that this scenic location is a favourite with many Iceland photographers as well as passing visitors.
10. Stóra-Sandvík (Reykjanes)
Imace source from Visit Reykjanes
Clint Eastwood shot two movies here: this beach doubled for southern Japan in both Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers. Seeing as location scouts usually know a thing about landscapes, it’s well worth taking a drive out to this part of the Reykjanes Peninsula to see it for yourself. When you clap eyes on this pristine strip of black sand backed by green grassy dunes, you won’t be disappointed.
9 Canyons That Will Make You Want to Visit Iceland
Top 10 Best Hidden Gems in Iceland
Top 30 Hot Springs and Swimming Pools in Iceland
Top 10 Mountains That Will Make You Fall in Love With Iceland