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The glittering orbs of ice that wash up against the jet-black sand are why this stretch of beach is known as “the Diamond Beach”. Shimmering like fresh-cut diamonds, the ice travels down from nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon before being pulled out to sea. The unique image of an ice-scattered shore attracts photographers and visitors from far and wide.
Diamond Beach with chunks of ice on the shore as sea waves crash into them, creating dramatic splashes.
Best time to visit
All year round
Coordinates
64.04469, -16.17770
Distance from Reykjavík
377km

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An iceberg peacefully floating on the glacial Lagoon Jökulsárlón in the south coast of Iceland.
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Strolling the Sand of the Diamond Beach

The History of the Diamond Beach

The Diamond Beach is a section of the larger Breiðamerkursandur, which is a glacier outwash plain of volcanic sand and shallow rivers. The jet-black sand of the beach was created over millennia, formed by volcanic activity from the nearby volcanic system. During volcanic eruptions, molten lava flowed down from the mountains and met the cold North Atlantic Ocean where it was cooled and solidified into black rock. Often, this sudden cooling causes the lava to shatter into tiny fragments, so it becomes black volcanic sand.

It is known as the Diamond Beach, not because you can find real diamonds here, but because the crystalline orbs of ice across the sand and floating in the shallows of the sea look like scattered diamonds. These chunks of glacial ice are washed down from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and would have started as large icebergs, broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier – an outlet from Iceland’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull glacier.

Icebergs  ashore on the black sand of Diamond's beach.
The Diamond Beach is scattered with unique ice scalptures carved by nature.

How to Visit Iceland’s Diamond Beach

The Diamond Beach sits on the south shore of Iceland, just off the main Route One ring road that circumnavigates the island. It is just across the road from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and travellers often visit both beautiful sights at the same time. From Jökulsárlón’s carpark, it is just a short walk to the Diamond Beach. If you’ve taken a boat tour on Jökulsárlón, it is worth spending a little extra time here to explore the beach too. On arrival, you’ll be met with a captivating sight of sparkling ice scattered across an ebony stretch of sand.

Take time to stroll along the sand and snap some photographs – it’s particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset when the ice shards seem to glow in the golden light. Keen birders can spot arctic terns and great skua who make their nests here in the protected area. It is a long drive from Reykjavík to the Diamond Beach, taking nearly five hours without stopping. Joining an organised tour to the South Coast and Jökulsárlón takes the hassle out of navigating the way yourself with nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Two explorer inside an ice cave in Iceland.
Winter season is the best time of the year to visit ice caves.

Things to do around the Diamond Beach

In the frosty embrace of winter, Jökulsárlón becomes the starting point for guided ice cave tours, inviting intrepid souls to delve into nature's mesmerizing underground wonders. These caves are nothing short of magical, with shimmering blue walls that catch and refract the light, creating an ethereal subterranean world. It feels as if you've stepped inside a crystal, surrounded by a dance of azure and sapphire hues.

A boat sailing through the glacial lagoon in Iceland.
An amphibian boat tour is a must when visiting the Glacial Lagoon.

Boat Tours

As winter's grasp loosens and spring emerges, from April to October, the glacier lagoon thaws, setting the stage for boat tours. Glide smoothly across the lagoon, where floating icebergs drift lazily by, and the reflections of the surrounding glaciers shimmer on the water's surface. It's a surreal experience, reserved for those few months when the lagoon isn't draped in its icy mantle. Both activities offer a unique way to truly immerse oneself in the raw beauty of Iceland's natural wonders.

An explorer hiking on a glacier in Skaftafell.
Skaftafell is truly an outdoor wonderland.

Skaftafell: an outdoor wonderland

The outdoor activity wonderland of Skaftafell isn’t far away from the Diamond Beach – it is about a 45-minute drive. Keen walkers can hit the miles of hiking trails at Skaftafell, to Svartifoss waterfall or the viewpoint over Skaftafellsjökull glacier. Skaftafell is also a popular spot to embark on a guided glacier hike and you can even explore the natural ice caves of Vatnajökull glacier under the guidance of a professional with all the essential safety equipment included.

Plan your visit at Diamond Beach

Given the distance from Reykjavík, many visitors to Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón opt to stay overnight in the area. While the distance can be covered in one day, it would require a journey of 13-14 hours with minimal stops. If you're keen on a glacier hike, wish to explore Skaftafell, or simply want to spend more time in the region, plan for at least two days for this adventure.

All About Diamond Beach

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