Iceland is known for spectacular beaches. Many rave about the black sands on the south coast, but head west and you’ll discover Rauðasandur, or Red Beach, a lesser-known coastline that changes colour. Here’s everything you need to know about this natural wonder.
Rauðasandur, on Breiðafjörður bay, is located on the south coast of the West Fjords (Vestfirðir) – on a clear day, you can see Snæfellsjökull glacier across the bay.
It’s around five hours from Reykjavik by car, which means it’s relatively easy to get there. But it’s not somewhere you’d want to get stuck during an intense windstorm; the sand has been known to scratch the paint on cars.
If you do make the journey, you’ll be rewarded with red-coloured sands that are surreal in their lucidity, contrasting with the surrounding black cliffs and blue ocean. The colour derives from scallop shells that have been pounded, grinded and pressed over the centuries.
On sunny days, the sand glimmers as if full of diamonds, but can shift instantly at the passing of a cloud; the sands turning a flat yellow. On a rainy day, the colours can shift from red to white and even black – the hues in between are as varied as the weather that affects them.
The road down to the beach is steep, narrow and made of gravel; be cautious – there are hairpin turns winding down from the main road.
When you arrive, there’s a café on the beach – grab a warm drink before you venture onto the sands. You can access the beach from the right or left – on the left side there is a camping area with a parking lot. At the parking lot is a map explaining how to get to the beach, which includes wading across a shallow river.