Icebergs. Black sand beaches. Who doesn’t love it!? Welcome to the enchanting and mysterious Black Diamond Beach in Iceland. Sitting on the country’s South Coast, this awe-inspiring destination is renowned for its unique black sand and glistening icebergs that wash ashore from the nearby Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
I’ve visited Diamond Beach twice in my life – in 2019 and 2023 – and find it to be one of the most captivating places on the island. How often do you get to see icebergs sitting on black sand? The answer is not often, if at all!
As one of Iceland’s most exquisite natural wonders, a visit to Black Diamond Beach offers an unforgettable experience like no other.
This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about visiting this mesmerizing location, from navigating its ever-changing terrain to witnessing the dramatic clash between fire and ice.
Your Guide to Diamond Beach in Iceland
What to know about Breidamerkursandur
Diamond Beach, also known locally as Breidamerkursandur, located on the southern coast of Iceland, is a mesmerizing destination that boasts a unique natural wonder. This enchanting beach gets its name from the countless sparkling icebergs that wash ashore, resembling glistening diamonds against the black volcanic sand.
A sight like no other, visiting Diamond Beach is an experience that immerses you in the raw beauty and power of nature.
Whether you are an adventure seeker or simply appreciate breathtaking landscapes, this Icelandic gem offers an unforgettable journey filled with awe-inspiring sights and memories.
Is Diamond Beach in Iceland worth visiting?
With two visits under my belt to Diamond Beach, it is most definitely worth visiting. While it’s not a large place, it’s an incredible area to explore, and seeing the icebergs on or near the beach is a sight to behold.
You’ll love every minute here (unless it’s extra windy) and will want to take all the photos!
Where do the icebergs come from?
The Icebergs come from the giant Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier behind Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Chunks break off the glacier every day and become icebergs in the lagoon. Then, thanks to wind and currents, they slowly drift out to sea and sometimes wash up onto Diamond Beach – giving it the famous name.
Sometimes, the beach has little to no icebergs. But at other points, it is littered with icebergs of all shapes and sizes. If you see it in this condition, it is truly one of the most magical sights on Earth.
How was Diamond Beach formed?
Diamond Beach is a naturally formed beach on Iceland’s southern coast. The black sand is formed from eroded volcanic material such as lava, basalt rocks, and other things.
Can I walk on Diamond Beach?
Yes, you can! Diamond Beach has two sides, and I recommend going to the western parking lot as it offers more potential for walking on the beach and seeing icebergs washed on shore. However, look at both sides, as tides and wind can dictate where the icebergs end up.
Just make sure to wear waterproof shoes so your feet don’t get wet. I also wouldn’t recommend sandals as the small rocks will get under your feet, making walking uncomfortable.
Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon Lagoon Tours
Staying Safe on the South Iceland Coast
Diamond Beach is definitely a safer option for travelers who like to play it safe yet still visit a black sand beach. Compared to Reynisfjara, its South Coast cousin, unpredictable waves and currents have a reputation for catching tourists off-guard. Thankfully, here, it’s much calmer.
But it still has its own risks.
The real concern is the icebergs. They might look tempting as a photo or to touch, but that’s as far as you should go. Visitors to Diamond Beach should never try climbing on them. They’re slippery, have sharp edges, and are just plain unpredictable.
They are even more dangerous when in the water.
If you’re even thinking about climbing on one touching the water, think again. It could easily tip over, trap you underneath, or even drift out to sea with you on it.
Because the danger of getting hurt or even getting hypothermia is so high, there are some pretty steep fines in place. They’re not just to keep the daredevils in check but also to protect everyone else at the lagoon – including the guides and staff, who’d probably feel like they must jump into action if they see someone in trouble.
Planning your trip to Diamond Beach
Where is Diamond Beach Located
Diamond Beach is on the eastern side of Iceland’s south coast. It’s at the mouth of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.
There are two parking lots on each side of the outflow. I’ve visited both sides and would generally suggest going to the side with the most icebergs on shore. In 2023, we went to the western one, found it much better, and had superb photography opportunities.
Getting to Iceland’s Diamond Beach
Getting to the beach is easy. There are only two ways to get here: Drive from the east or the west. And thankfully, you can’t possibly miss it! You can also walk from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon if you don’t want to drive a short distance.
Distance from Reykjavik?
It is a five-hour drive from the capital city if you make no stops. Remember, the Ring Road (Highway 1) is a single-lane road that goes through many smaller towns along the way.
Life in Iceland is much slower than in the United States. Be prepared for slow driving days.
Distance from Vik?
Expect your drive from Vik to be around 2.5 hours. This is a lovely route, with the middle hour being a volcanic wasteland. But then you’ll reach the glaciers and have a wonderfully beautiful ride.
Distance from Eglisstadir?
Driving to or from the largest city in East Iceland will take you four hours with no stops. This route is slower as you weave through the fjords and fingers. There are a couple of shortcuts that are weather-dependent.
Is Diamond Beach cold?
It’s not warm, even in summer. While visiting Diamond Beach, I’ve had multiple layers, including a down jacket. Because of its location, it is also quite windy, which will also lower the air temperature.
However, if you visit in the winter, it’ll be slightly more temperate because you are on the water, which keeps things from freezing.
Should you swim at Diamond Beach?
You should not swim while you visit the beach. Cold temperatures, floating icebergs, and potential rip currents can make it dangerous. Now, that being said, if you quickly went for a polar plunge without going very far, you should be fine.
Just remember to be very careful and have other people around you who could help in the case of an emergency.
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How safe is Iceland for tourists?
Iceland is very safe for tourists – especially once you go on your road trip. You’ll interact with a few people, and almost everyone there is a tourist and relatively affluent, or else you wouldn’t be able to spend the money to visit.
(This isn’t to say it’s crime-free, but the odds are low you’re going to get mugged or assaulted while road-tripping Iceland.)
Personally, I’ve never felt in danger, threatened, or worried about gear being stolen while out hiking or on a tour.
Be prepared for inclement weather
Check the weather and road conditions before going anywhere on Iceland’s southern coast. This area has crazy wind storms, and you want to protect yourself.
What to Pack to visit Iceland’s Black Sand Beach
Even with blue skies and sun, it will be chilly at Diamond Beach. Expect to wear multiple layers when exploring this beautiful area. I consistently wore my down jacket and pants while walking around the beach, photographing the icebergs.
Best Time to Visit Diamond Beach
It sounds cliche, but summer is the best time to visit. This is for two reasons. First, you want decent weather, and summer in Iceland is the perfect time to be here. You’ll have long and warm days, giving you the most opportunity to explore.
Secondly, the glaciers do not lose ice as much in winter due to colder temperatures, so less ice breaks off and floats onto the beach. That being said, ice still breaks off because the salt water from the ocean comes into the lagoon and melts the ice.
Is there a time of day that is better?
I recommend visiting earlier in the day. This is when fewer visitors are on the beach, and the wind tends to be less in the early parts of the day. However, check local conditions, as this area is notorious for high wind speeds.
Visiting Diamond Beach in Summer
I can only speak to visiting Diamond Beach in the summer months. My first time was in early September and then in mid-June. Both were, for me, perfect. We had some clouds and wind, but overall, it was a great experience.
I estimate the temperatures were in the 50s – so not warm, but also pretty standard for this area of the island.
Where to stay near Diamond Beach
Lodging Options near here
There are plenty of lodging options in the area. Click here to browse them.
Can I camp nearby?
You can camp at the Skatafell campground, about an hour away. There are other campgrounds closer to Hofn if you’re driving the ring road and heading towards the East Fjords.
Remember to Leave No Trace
When you visit Diamond Beach, please remember to leave it better than you found it. These wild places do not have someone cleaning them up daily or weekly and require us to protect them. Please pack out what you pack in, and never leave trash on the black sand beach.
What else should I do in the area?
This area of Iceland’s south coast is magical and offers a lot to do. Here are some of the must-see’s in the area.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Hands down, it’s one of my favorite places. With good weather conditions, you can go kayaking here. I’ve done it twice, and it’s always the highlight of the trip. I mean, where else can you kayak amongst icebergs? Hardly anywhere else!
This is a smaller glacier lagoon near Jokulsarlon that I actually really like. The glaciers in the back are closer, giving you a better view of their jagged edges. There are also boat tours here, and it’s usually less crowded.
Plus, you can hike to the back if you want.
Vestrahorn and Stokksnes
This famous mountain range and black sand beach will make your jaw drop. It’s 90 minutes from the glacial lagoon, so it’s not a short trip. But for those with extra time, I would recommend it. For the photographers, it’s a must-see!
An hour to the west, Skatafell Glacier has epic views, awesome hiking, and a great camping area under the tallest mountain in Iceland.
Katla Ice Cave
This was one of the highlights of our trip. Exploring the Katla Ice Cave is something I cannot do at home, and it allowed me to get up close and person to a glacier. I highly recommend this to those exploring the Southern Coast.
It is a stunning waterfall-filled canyon requiring a moderately strenuous hike. But once you reach the viewpoints, it will take your breath away! It’s a must-see just to the west of Diamond Beach.
Photography Tips for Diamond Beach
If you plan to land some gorgeous photos of Diamond Beach, here are some tips for your visit.
Getting here before sunrise or sunset will allow you the best light to take photos of the icebergs and beach. It will mean fewer people are out and potentially risk getting in your shots.
Plus, you’ll get gorgeous sunrise and sunset colors, which is what everyone longs for!
Use Long Exposure
Slowing down your shutter speed will make some truly gorgeous pictures. My best success was when a smaller iceberg washed up, and I timed the incoming tide just right.
Your tripod might get wet
Expect your tripod to get wet as the waves come in, but ensure waves and splashes are kept away from your camera. The saltwater on your camera body and lens can be disastrous as the salt breaks down and can harm things.
Gear To Use
Lastly, as you’re editing, put a few of them into black and white and see how it looks!
FAQ: Diamond Beach Adventures
Is Diamond Beach free?
Correct. There is no cost to visit Diamond Beach. Fortunately, most locations in Iceland are free to the public.
Does Diamond Beach Iceland have real diamonds?
Ha! No real diamonds exist here unless they are brought by someone (i.e., A proposal).
How many outlets does the Vatnajokull glacier have?
Some 30 outlets (or fingers, as I like to call them) are coming down from the main glacier.
Are drones allowed at Diamond Beach?
To protect tourists, drones are not supposed to be flown here.
Is Diamond Beach accessible to people with disabilities?
Unfortunately, the beach has not been developed to allow those with wheelchairs to move effortlessly on the beach. The parking lot touches the black sand beach and allows you to look out onto the beach and see the icebergs.
However, it’ll be tough to access the beach with how soft the sand is.
How is climate change affecting this area?
Climate change significantly affects this area and contributes to the drastic reduction of glaciers. My tour guide said the glaciers are retreating about 300 feet a year.
Final Thoughts on Diamond Beach
Visiting Diamond Beach in Iceland is an absolutely breathtaking experience. It’s like stepping into a postcard where every view is more stunning than the last.
Imagine strolling on this unique black sand beach, spotting icebergs that sparkle like diamonds under the sun’s gentle caress. It’s not just about the sights; it’s about the feeling of awe and tranquility that washes over you as you listen to the gentle lapping of the waves and gaze at the natural masterpieces sculpted by the elements.
This isn’t just another stop on a trip; it’s a magical moment that stays with you, a cherished memory of Iceland’s wild beauty and a reminder of our planet’s wonders.