Iceland: Black Sand Beaches


Tuesday, we woke up a little later than originally planned because of campervan drunkenness. One of the challenges of Iceland in winter is limited daytime hours, so we had planned to be up and driving to the D3 plane crash while it was still dark, so that way we could arrive at the actual site right when the sun was coming up.

Well, instead we woke up when the sun came out at almost 11am. What was previously us and maybe one other party at our campsite at Skógafoss had turned into another tourist site along Route 1. We quickly changed, got everything packed up, and headed out.

People used to be able to drive right up to the plane crash once upon a time, but the surrounding land was too damaged from cars, so now you must park and “hike” to the plane. I say “hike” because it was a completely flat, one-hour trail to get out there. It was not difficult at all, and actually really refreshing. You have mountains to one side of you and the ocean in front, and the combo of the fresh mountain air and salty sea air just is so damn invigorating.

Seeing the plane crash over rolling hills of black sand beaches is unreal. So many of these photos with the plane I just can’t even believe are real. As we said numerous times on our trip, it was like we were on another planet. Alex, Jonny, and Angie stayed at the plane crash site and took lots of photos, but I heard the ocean and just couldn’t resist it, so Stephanie and I wandered down to the actual beach. I don’t think I’ve ever been completely alone on a beach before — let alone a black sand beach, in Iceland, at 2pm but with the sun just peeking over the horizon so you’d think it was 6 or 7 in the evening. I almost (almost!) cried from the beauty of it. It was definitely one of those moments where I was like, holy shit, I’m in freaking ICLEAND!

Click through for photos!


Next, we got back into our campervan and headed out towards a town called Vík, the most southern town in Iceland. We grabbed some lunch from a gas station/cafeteria on the side of the road and were off to Reynisfjara, another black sand beach. Reynisfjara is notable for the basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar. The story is these sea stacks — and the cliffs surrounding them — were two trolls who had been attempting to pull a ship onto land, but were caught by daylight and turned to stone.

Another, even scarier, story we heard along the beach was that a tourist family had just been swept away and drowned there the day before. The waves were ridiculously high, I can’t even imagine how powerful the tide had been. Our time out on this beach was dark, cold, and gray, but I think it set the mood immensely.


Afterwards, we drove to our next campsite, the Skaftafell area in Vatnajokul National Park… I think. Alex and Jonny were in charge of navigating and driving during our time in Iceland, and all they really mentioned was our campsite was by a glacier. Obviously, we were ok with this.

We cooked up more food we had purchased at Bonus, the Icelandic grocery store, and enjoyed our night while scoping out for signs of the Northern Lights. Luckily at this campsite, there were really nice bathrooms. We had parked our van farther away from them though, so it was a bit of a trek to get there.

I mention this because when I went to the bathroom, it was so dark outside, but with a HUGE mountain looming right next to me. There was just so much openness around me, I felt like someone could just come out and grab me/bite me/carry me off at any moment — luckily, Iceland is pretty limited in their wildlife, and I’m pretty sure nothing that would have actually come at me. I again got overwhelmed with this almost existential feeling — I couldn’t believe I was in ICELAND. I was walking from my campsite in ICELAND, surrounded by glaciers and MOUNTAINS, IN ICELAND, and I’m out here doing it with my friends, like adults, and we planned this all, and we’re actually all here, IN ICELAND. Did I mention I went to Iceland? It was almost an unsettling feeling for me, and I almost went back to the van like a chicken to get someone to walk with me. But instead, I just kept walking and reveling in the fact that I was, indeed, in Iceland.

Other Iceland posts:

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