While you won't often be swimming in the sea in Iceland given the water temperature, the island is very famous for its magnificent beaches.
In fact, some of them are regularly in the top rankings for the most beautiful beaches in the world! (National Geographic ranking for example.)
There are three types of beaches in Iceland:
Better known in continental Europe, pale beach sand is quite rare in Iceland. The most beautiful beaches in the country have black volcanic sand with dramatic effect. This occurs in particular when lava flows hit the sea, cooling very quickly and turning into black sand.
Of the many beautiful beaches along Iceland's shores, we have selected 6:
Probably the best known and most beautiful beach in Iceland, Reynisfjara is regularly listed in National Geographic's top beaches in the world.
Located in the South, very close to the magnificent village of Vik i Myrdal, its black sand was created during the terrifying Katla volcano eruptions, standing in stark contrast with the white-caps of an often raging sea.
These beaches have huge swells, quick tides, and sudden winds, so never get too close to the sea as you walk along the black sands.
Widely renowned for its sunsets, the beach offers breathtaking views of the Dyrholaey Arch and the Reynisdrangar Stacks.
A few kilometers from Reynisfjara, the village of Vik i Myrdal also has its own black sand beach. As you can see, the Katla volcano really rained fire on the entire coastline.
It is an absolutely magnificent beach, made even more photogenic thanks to the famous rocky islets rising from the water just off the shore.
Many tourists enjoy horseback riding on this endless stretch of black sand, with spectacular sunsets silhouetting the rocky peaks and mountains.
In the northwestern fjords you can see one of the few white sand beaches in Iceland, and what a sight it is! Rauðisandur, sometimes called Rauðasandur, literally means “red sand.” Its unique orange color makes this one of the most visited beaches in Iceland, shifting from yellow to ocher depending on the sunlight, the weather, and the shells in the sand. It extends for nearly 10 kilometers.
One really doesn't expect to find an almost tropical sunset coloured beach at this latitude, since Rauðisandur is in the western fjords, and it's truly worth the detour.
In the south of Iceland lies the famous Jökulsárlón lagoon, a spectacle in itself, in fact one of the most beautiful shows you'll see in Iceland with thousands of icebergs calving and floating sedately into the sea.
Most visitors stay near the lagoon, missing out on another phenomenon just on the other side of the road, Jökulsárlón beach AKA “Diamond Beach”.
This is where the river sends the icebergs sailing into the sea. Over time, the waves bring them back to the beach, leaving them polished like gemstones, hence the name Diamond Beach. The thousands of blocks of ice on the black sand beach shining like a night sky really make for some pretty pictures.
Very close to the town of Höfn in south-east Iceland lies one of the most beautiful beaches in the country: Stokksnes. This is another black sand beach, this one framed with rolling dunes dotted with windswept grasses, all set against the background of one of the most beautiful mountains in the country: Vestrahorn.
The Vestrahorn panorama and Stokksnes beach have become some of the most photographed places in Iceland in recent years.
It must be said that the place is magical, the vertiginous cliffs reflected in the sea, the black sand beach in the foreground clashing with the bright vegetation in the dunes. Stokksnes is a landscape painting come to life.
Last but not least, the Snaefellsnes peninsula boasts one of Iceland's most mythical beaches. In addition to being steeped in history, Djupalonssandur beach is picture-perfect, a superb black pebble beach in the beautiful Dritvik Cove.
Djupalon beach is also known as the black lava beach. The Dritvik creek is bordered by a lava field on its 3 sides. To the north are Dritvíkurmöl and the Dritvíkurpollur pond, very close to the Vikurklettur Rock. To the south extend the sands of Mariusandur.
The beach is home the rusty remains of the famous Epine trawler, a shipwreck that gives this beach a bit of dramatic flair in addition to its remote wilderness.
Like Reynisfjara, this beach is among the most dangerous in the country, so keep an eye on those waves.