The enigmatic black beach that is Reynisfjara is located just a few minutes outside Vik i Myrdal, halfway between Reykjavik and Höfn. It features amazing cliffs of mesmerizing basalt columns, and it is one of the most heavily photographed and documented sites in Iceland, mostly because it is home to the mysterious Reynisdrangar columns that protrude out of the stormy North Atlantic Ocean. Rumor has it that the stacks originated when three trolls, pulling a three-masted ship to shore, were petrified and turned into needles of rock after being caught by surprise by dawn.
But more than just a piece of Icelandic folklore, the cliffs surrounding Reynisfjara Beach also play an important role during breeding season, as they become host to several bird species, including the much sought-after puffin.
Located in the Þjórsádalur Valley with a spectacular backdrop of volcanic Hekla in southern Iceland, Hjálparfoss is unique among Iceland’s scores of dramatic waterfalls as it has a double fall shooting over 10-m (31-ft) basalt cliffs into a bubbling plunge pool below. Divided by a rocky lava outcrop, the waters race from the confluence of the rivers Þjórsá and Fossá amid bizarre rock formations, all surrounded by relatively fertile grasslands where Icelandic ponies still roam in summer. The lava-strewn landscape is the result of long-term activity by Hekla, which the island’s most active volcano. A visit to Hjálparfoss is often combined with tours of the volcanic uplands of the Landmannalauger, where hot springs form natural thermal pools that are perfect for bathing – even in the middle of winter.