The sandar are soul-destroyingly flat and empty regions sprawling along Iceland’s southeastern coast. High in the mountains, glaciers scrape up silt, sand and gravel that is then carried by glacial rivers or (more dramatically) by glacial bursts down to the coast and dumped in huge, desert-like plains. The sandar here are so impressively huge and awful that the Icelandic word (singular: sandur) is used internationally to describe the topographic phenomenon of a glacial outwash plain.
Skeiðarársandur is the most visible and dramatic, stretching some 40km between ice cap and coast from Núpsstaður to Öræfi. Here you’ll encounter a flat expanse of grey-black sands, fierce scouring winds (a cyclist’s nightmare) and fast-flowing grey-brown glacial rivers.
Note: do not drive off-road in these expanses. It is illegal, and hugely destructive to the fragile environment.