Maybe you’ve seen Iceland’s most famous basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach, rising up out of the ocean. Or maybe you’ve never heard of these fascinating rock formations. Found across the country, they make for a beautiful addition to any trip to Iceland!

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Iceland’s basalt columns. How are the basalt columns in Iceland formed?

Iceland’s basalt columns were formed by volcanic activity. Not surprising for the Land of Fire and Ice!

These volcanic rock formations are created when basalt lava, the world’s most common form of lava, solidifies, cools, and contracts. Whether or not these perfect cylinders form into basalt columns depends on a few variables, including if the lava itself is smooth.

As the top layer of lava begins to cool, the still molten area below is pulled into hexagonal shapes. This process is scientifically known as columnar joining.

Many of the world’s basalt columns form near bodies of water and it’s thought that cool water could have cause the lava flow to crack as it hardens, forming the perfect lines that help form Iceland’s hexagonal basalt columns.

Svartifoss waterfall in Iceland

Is all the columnar basalt in Iceland rhyolitic?

Not all of the columnar basalt in Iceland is rhyolitic. There is also tholeiitic, alkaline, and olivine basalt in Iceland.

Where can you see Basalt Columns in Iceland? Best 8 places

As one of the greatest regions in the world to see basalt columns, there are countless locations throughout Iceland to witness these striking rock formations. Here are 8 of the best places in Iceland to see basalt columns.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Known for its midnight black sand and dangerous sneaker waves, Reynisfjara black beaches also hides basalt columns on its eastern end. Head off to the left of the beach if you’re facing the ocean to see these beautiful colonnades, framed by the ocean and sea stacks in the distance.

how to visit Reynisfjara beach in Iceland

Stuðlagil canyon

Located in the interior of Eastern Iceland, Studlagil basalt column canyon offers one of the most staggering examples of basalt columns. Stand at the base of the canyon as the cerulean Jökla River rushes past the basalt column formations, some of which are slightly curved. Studlasfoss Waterfall is also jaw-dropping as the water rushes over a wall of basalt columns.

Svartifoss Waterfall

Inside the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, which is also a part of Vatnajokull National Park, Svartifoss is a basalt column waterfalls draws in most visitors for the waterfall alone. What many might not realize until they arrive is that the waterfall flows over a canyon of black basalt columns, crashing into a pile of boulders below. Keep in mind that the hike to Svartifoss takes at least 45 minutes each way.

svartifoss is located in South Iceland

Kirkjugolf basalt column sites

Another spot in Southern Iceland, the Kirkjugolf Stones are an unusual kind of basalt column. These hexagonal slabs aren’t your typical, tall basalt columns. Their name says it all as Kirkjugolfid translates directly to “church floor” and directly describes what these tile-like rocks appear as. This beautiful site is also just off the Ring Road.

Dverghamrar Cliffs

Tucked away just off Iceland’s famous Ring Road, the Dverghamrar Cliffs make for a great quick pit stop and are one of the easiest basalt columns to visit. These rock formations look like a small hill made of rock colonnades, surrounded by grassy fields.

Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall

Unlike the thin stream of water that flows over the basalt columns of Svartifoss and Studlafoss, Aldeyjarfoss is a torrent. Skjálfandafljót is a glacial river that makes its way through the northern highlands and gushes over Aldeyjarfoss and its basalt rock formations, putting on quite the show for visitors.

Aldeyjarfoss in highland Iceland

Litlanesfoss Waterfall

Litlanesfoss Waterfall takes the cake as one of the most dramatic examples of basalt columns in Iceland. This double-tiered waterfall in Eastern Iceland is best seen from afar so that visitors can take in the start of the first waterfall, perched on a plateau high above the basalt columns below. The canyon formed by this waterfall is narrow and flanked by tall basalt columns on either side.

Gerduberg

Secreted away on the magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Gerduberg’s basalt columns are gargantuan and look as if they’re embedded in the cliffside.

Gerduberg in west Iceland

Best rental car to rent for this trip at all times: 4WD rental cars

Many of Iceland’s basalt columns can only be accessed by F-roads, also known as the interior mountain roads. These roads are only open in the summer months (from June to August) and accessed only with 4WD vehicles.

Many visitors to Iceland don’t think they’ll need a 4WD car, realizing only too late that their standard car rental is barred from driving on F-roads. Instead of taking a chance, book a 4WD car to ensure that you’ll be able to see all of Iceland’s best sights—including the basalt columns!

Rent a cheap 4WD in Iceland and enjoy a budget trip in Iceland

Choosing the Right Rental Car for Your Iceland Adventure

At Firefly Iceland Car Rentals, we understand that the type of car you need depends on various factors including the size of your travel group, the season during which you are visiting, and the specific locations you plan to explore.

Travel Group Size: Your choice of car should comfortably accommodate everyone in your group along with their luggage. For solo travelers or couples, a smaller 4WD might be perfect, offering both agility and efficiency. Families or larger groups might find our spacious SUVs more suitable, as they offer ample space for passengers and all your gear.

Travel Season: The season in which you visit Iceland can greatly influence the type of vehicle you should rent. During the summer months, when the F-roads to more remote areas like the basalt columns are open, a robust 4WD is essential to safely navigate these rugged terrains, if you decide only sticking with the paved roads, a standard 2WD car is also good enough.

In winter, choosing a car with good winter tires and 4WD capabilities is crucial for handling icy roads and snowy conditions.

Travel Itinerary: Consider your travel itinerary; if you plan to stick to the well-paved Ring Road, a standard 4WD should suffice. However, for those adventurers wanting to explore off the beaten path, a more durable 4WD with higher clearance is advisable to handle rough terrains and river crossings.

At Firefly Iceland Car Rentals, we offer a wide range of cheap rental vehicles in Iceland to suit all your travel needs. Booking with us ensures that you receive a vehicle well-suited for Iceland’s unique environment, backed by comprehensive customer support.

Firefly car rental iceland offers the rental car at extreme low rate

Conclusion

Iceland’s basalt columns are well worth a dedicated trip, from gargantuan waterfalls tumbling over mountainsides to canyons that look as if they were carved from hexagonal rock formations.

The best way to see them though? By renting a car of course!

Book your rental car with Firefly Iceland Car Rentals and you’ll be well on your way to witnessing some of Iceland’s most dramatic rock formations in no time.  

Cheapest rental car option in our Fleet

DUSTER

Dacia Duster or similar | Manual | 4×4 | 2020-2021 (CFMX)

Group E2 Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 3 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

Suitable for the highland F-roads. Please read Terms & Conditions.
You must be 23 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 4 Wheel Drive
  • 116 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • ABS
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
VW-GOLF

VW Golf or similar | Automatic | 2020-2021 Model (CDAX)

Group: B2 Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large Bags
  • 5 Doors
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 1 Small Bag
  • 2 Large, 1 Small
  • 138 cc
  • Adjustable Steering
  • Cruise Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
VW-GOLF

VW Golf or similar | Manual | 2020-2021 Model (CDMX)

Group: B Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large Bags
  • 4 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 1 Small Bag
  • 2 Large, 1 Small
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 125 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
VW-POLO

VW Polo or similar| Manual | 2020-2021 Model (EDMX)

Group A Reservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 2 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 99 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
  • Satelite Navigation
TIGUAN

VW Tiguan or similar | Automatic | 4×4 | 2020-2021 Model (IFAX)

Group: OReservations are made by car category only. We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 5 Passengers
  • 3 Large
  • 5 Doors
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning

Suitable for the highland F-roads. Please read Terms & Conditions.
You must be 23 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • 4 Wheel Drive
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Power Windows
  • Remote Locking
  • Airbags
  • Fog Lamps
VW_UP

VW Up or similar | Manual | 2020-2021 Model (MBMX)

Group: Z Reservations are made by car category only. ,We cannot guarantee a specific car model. or similar

  • 4 Passengers
  • 1 Large
  • 4 Doors
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning

This vehicle is NOT allowed in the highland F-roads.

You must be 20 years of age to drive this vehicle.

Additional Features
  • Petrol or Diesel
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • 95 C02 g/km
  • Adjustable Steering
  • ABS
  • USB
  • Power Steering
  • Remote Locking
  • Fog Lamps