Have you ever heard of the Diamond Beach Iceland? It's one of the major attractions in Iceland and a popular stop along the Ring Road.
I know what you're thinking. Any beach filled with jewels is going to be a popular destination, regardless of where it is, right? Is it true that there's really diamond sand? Well, not quite.
The diamonds that people refer to when they talk about black diamond sand are actually blocks of ice. For that reason, it's also called the ice beach Iceland.
But just because you won't find treasure along Iceland's shores does that mean you should skip this magnificent site. This area warrants a visit, even if you won’t get rich.
Basic information about Iceland Diamond Beach
This location is definitely one of a kind. There's nowhere else in the world where you can see huge pieces of ice scattered across black volcanic sand. So how did Iceland’s Diamond Beach come to be? It all starts back at Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, a glacier tongue and outlet glacier which is part of the larger Vatnajökull glacier.
The runoff from Breiðamerkurjökull fills Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with frigid waters and with chunks of ice that have broken off of the glacier. You can take a boat tour around the lagoon and watch an iceberg float up close. These ghostly ice mountains fill the lagoon and give it a haunting appearance.
Eventually, they make their way out to the Atlantic ocean where they either melt or live out the rest of their days. But not every iceberg makes it this far. Some are taken back by the tide and get washed ashore. The final result is icebergs of all sizes resting on black sand.
Chunks of ice as big as an SUV
One of the most striking features of the Diamond Beach Iceland is just how big the blocks of ice on the sand can get. It's something that surprises visitors when they come for the first time. Of course, there are tiny pieces of ice strewn across the sand, but that's not quite as remarkable. What you'll love to see are the chunks that are as big as a Range Rover. You'll be dwarfed in size as you stand next to this gigantic piece of ice. It's one of the photos that you absolutely have to post on social media and put in your photo album from the trip. Seeing really is believing, so come check it out.
The Diamond Beach Iceland in winter
If you can come during winter, you're in for an extra special treat. There's nothing quite so beautiful as watching Iceland's dazzling Northern Lights dance in the heavens. Your vantage point from the Diamond Beach will provide an especially scenic, once-in-a-lifetime experience. You'll not only have a colorful light show in the sky, but the reflection of the Aurora Borealis will shimmer on the surface of the diamond lake beach.
A summertime visit
Conversely, it's also pretty amazing to be on the beach in full sunlight when it's close to midnight. That's exactly what will happen if you travel to Iceland during the summer months. Our position close to the North Pole means that we have nearly 24-hour sunlight close to the summer solstice in June.
Whether you come during the winter months or during summer’s neverending light of the Midnight Sun, you're sure to enjoy it. And because the Diamond Beach is so close to Jökulsárlón, there's no reason to leave it off of your Iceland itinerary, regardless of the time of year you come.
How to get there
So where is the Diamond Beach Iceland exactly? You'll find its dark shores along Iceland’s South Coast on the eastern side of the country. Driving along the Ring Road you’ll pass Skaftafell and eventually arrive at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The glacier lake is a part of the larger national park. There's a parking lot where you can leave your Iceland car rental and then go for a boat cruise around the lagoon.
Once you finished looking at the floating icebergs, it's time to cross the road. On the other side of the highway is the outlet for Jökulsárlón and that's where you'll discover the Diamond Beach. It's pretty easy to find as you'll see other travelers heading that way as well.
Can you visit the Diamond Beach Iceland from Reykjavik?
Many people ask if it's possible to visit the Diamond Beach Iceland from Reykjavik as a day trip. I really don't recommend doing that. While it's technically doable as a very long day, there's a couple of reasons that I would avoid it.
The first reason is the time that it takes to drive the distance between Iceland's capital and the beach. Without stopping, it's a nearly five-hour drive; this is assuming that both road conditions and weather conditions cooperate. This is a very big “if”, given that Iceland is known for being unpredictable.
The second reason is that you would miss so much along the way. People who travel along Iceland's South Coast take a few days to do so for a reason. There are unexpected detours and short stops at highlights that you do not want to miss out on.
Places like Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skógafoss waterfall, Sólheimasandur plane wreck site, the quaint fishing village of Vik and Reynisfjara black sand beach, and Svartifoss waterfall are all must-sees.
Plus there's Vatnajökull National Park itself, home to a massive icy glacier that you can hike. There are also glacier caves and an ice cave waiting to be explored.
The whole point of visiting Iceland is to experience the country's abundant natural wonders and things to do. You can't really do that if you're rushing to get from point A to point B along the South Coast of Iceland.
Hotels near Diamond Beach Iceland
Because this is such a popular location with numerous sights nearby, it's no wonder that you'd want to stay overnight. Let's look at some accommodation options in the area. The closest hotels near Diamond Beach Iceland are between 24 to 48 km (15-30 miles) away. You'll find hotel, guest house, and Airbnb options both close to Vatnajökull National Park and in the nearby towns of Hornafjordur, Höfn, and Hof. Prices start at around 150 to $200 (135-180€) per night.
These are the most frequented lodging options in the area in order of distance from the Diamond Beach.
Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon
Hof 1 Hotel
Arnanes Country Hotel
Vagnstaðir HI Hostel
B&B’s and Guesthouses
Kálfafellsstadur Bed & Breakfast
You can easily make a day out of exploring nearby Vatnajökull and Skaftafell, spend the night, and then visit the Diamond Beach before heading on your way.
Campsites close to Jökulsárlón and the Diamond Beach
And of course, not everyone can afford a hotel. Some travelers in Iceland choose to camp. Because you can no longer camp anywhere in Iceland, Diamond Beach Iceland camping close to the roadside or nearby is illegal. I would suggest setting up shop at either Skaftafell Camping or Svinafell Campground.
There's one last thing that I want to touch on. It's extremely important for anyone visiting one of Iceland's black sand beaches. While the midnight-hued sands of Iceland's shores can be extremely beautiful, they can also be deadly. One of the unseen dangers lurking just beneath the surface of the water might catch you unaware if you're not careful.
When you go to the diamond location, you might see signs warning you about sneaker waves. These powerful waves sneak up out of nowhere and can quickly carry you out to sea.
In fact, this recently happened to a grandmother posing for a photo on an ice throne on the beach. Before she knew what was happening, the waves carried her dozens of feet away from the shoreline. Thankfully, members of the Icelandic Coast Guard were stationed close by and they were able to rescue her.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been so lucky and some have even lost their lives here. Don't become a cautionary tale; stay far away from the shoreline, no matter how innocuous it looks. These waves move quickly, hence their name.
Diamond Beach Iceland: Icebergs on black sand
Make sure you include time on your road trip agenda for a stop at the black Diamond Beach Iceland. Seeing broken off icebergs washed up on the shore is quite the sight to behold and you won't want to miss it. See if you can find the biggest chunk of ice on the Diamond Beach for the perfect photo op. Just beware of those sneaker waves.