Your Complete Guide to Diamond Beach

February 14th, 2022

Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois

5 min read

Visiting Iceland’s stunning south coast isn’t complete without a short stop to admire Breiðamerkursandur, aka Diamond Beach. Iceland is renowned for its black sand beaches, but this one has some extra perks. In fact, we bet this is a sight unlike any you’ve seen before.

Interested in learning more about this beach? Or keen to see it IRL? Read on to find out where the black Diamond Beach in Iceland got its name and how to visit it. 

The Breiðamerkursandur diamond beach at sunset

Why is it called Diamond Beach?

The real name of Diamond Beach is Breiðamerkursandur, which translates to “Broad Plain Sand”. But its jewel-like nickname comes from the chunks of ice that decorate the beach all year long.

Icebergs from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier break away and bob through the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon before setting out to sea. Some blocks of ice get stranded on the beach, creating the illusion of large diamonds.

The phenomenon is striking because of the ice’s bright color and the beach’s dark sand. 

What’s the best way to visit Diamond Beach?

A self-drive itinerary is the best way to see this unique black sand beach. Rent a car and drive along Route 1, stopping to take in the sights you want to see at your own pace.

You could explore the highlights of South Iceland only, going as far as Diamond Beach. But, as it’s located quite far east along the south coast, you could also drive around the entire Ring Road while you’re at it. Tour the country for the road trip of a lifetime.

FAQs about Diamond Beach

To help you prepare for your visit, we’ve answered top questions about Diamond Beach:

1. Where is it located?

Diamond Beach is located in southeast Iceland, right by the iconic Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Once you reach the lagoon, you’ll cross a single-track bridge. Take the first right for the Diamond Beach parking lot.

2. How far away from Reykjavík is it?

The beach is located around 390 kilometers (242 miles) from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík. That’s around 56 hours of non-stop driving. With the extra daylight of summer, it’s feasible to make it in one day. That said, we recommend breaking up the journey.

Make this a multi-day adventure for a more leisurely pace and to fit in more attraction breaks. A popular place to sleep along the way is the Vík area.

3. Is there parking at Diamond Beach?

Yes, there is a parking lot right by the Ring Road. It’s only a short walk to the beach from there.

4. Why is the ice blue?

You might find that the visually mesmerizing chunks of ice scattered around Diamond Beach are a bit blue. In fact, the ice comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Some will be dark or light blue and some even black.

There are different reasons for the variation in color. Blue is often a sign of an older block of ice. Lack of air pockets in the ice may influence the blue shade too. 

If you see bits of ice with black in it, they might simply be reflecting the color of the sand. Or they may have volcanic dust inside of them.

These differences are what make Breiðamerkursandur such a cool sight. You’ll walk along the beach and admire the wide variety of icebergs on display.

Icebergs Washed onto a Black Sand Beach in Iceland

5. Why is the sand black?

Diamond Beach isn’t the only black beach in Iceland. The country is renowned for its dark sands. You’ll find that it’s the red and golden sand beaches that are unusual here.

There is a simple reason that black sand beaches are so common in Iceland. It’s all thanks to the volcanic landscape of the island. 

The black sand is mostly made up of basalt, which is lava that cooled rapidly after contact with the sea. The shattered basalt gets smaller and smaller over time becoming sand. 

6. Can I swim at Diamond Beach?

Sadly, no. You shouldn’t try to swim when you visit Diamond Beach and many other beaches in Iceland. In fact, it’s best if you stay clear of the waterline as much as possible. The tides and currents by the south coast can change quickly and be very strong.

Another reason is that you might find it very cold. For example, in summer water temperatures average around 10°C (50°F). Definitely chilly!

If you’d like to take a dip while in Iceland, why not visit the Fontana spa in Laugarvatn? Or another great option is the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach in Reykjavík. You can even safely swim outside of the heated area.

7. When is the best time to visit Diamond Beach?

As with most of the natural attractions of Iceland, you can see it at any time of the year. That said, if you’d like to drive there, the summer months are preferable. At this time the weather and driving conditions are more stable and predictable. You’ll also have more daylight to take advantage of.

8. Can I see the Northern Lights at Diamond Beach?

Diamond Beach is a great spot to go chasing after the Northern Lights in winter. This is thanks to its location far from light pollution. The countryside is always better to catch sight of these dancing lights.

Find out more of the best places to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights in Iceland

You might find the darkness a bit of a challenge during winter nights. You don’t want to trip on the blocks of ice or wander too close to the water, so make sure you bring a flashlight. That way you can enjoy Diamond Beach nice and safely. 

Here is your friendly remember that Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon. They can only be seen on dark nights and there are no guaranteed sightings. If you’d like to hunt for the Aurora Borealis, travel to Iceland between October and March.

If you travel to Diamond Beach in the summer months, you can enjoy the midnight sun instead.

9. What should I pack and wear for Diamond Beach?

When visiting Iceland, you want to come prepared for all weather conditions.

To be safe and comfortable on your trip to Diamond Beach, you’ll want:

  • Sturdy walking shoes or boots, as the ground can be uneven
  • A waterproof jacket (and maybe trousers too) in case of rainy weather
  • Warm layers, including gloves, hat, and scarf

This way you’ll still be able to enjoy a walk on the beach, whatever the Icelandic weather has in store for you. And don’t forget your camera and tripod to capture the scenery and maybe even the Northern Lights in winter.

Safety at Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach isn’t a particularly unsafe place to visit, but as on any other Icelandic beach, you should be sensible. Follow these safety tips:

  • Avoid the waterline not to get surprised by a wave
  • Watch your footing, so you don’t trip, as some icebergs can be concealed in the sand
  • Do not climb on an iceberg, they can be slippery or have sharp edges
  • And most importantly, never climb on floating ice, as this could be dangerous. This is true on the beach and at the glacier lagoon.

Other attractions to visit nearby

If you’re on a self-guided tour you could spend some time at nearby attractions at your leisure. The south coast of Iceland is studded with striking highlights, so you can take your pick.

You won’t want to miss the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Here you’ll witness the icebergs coming straight off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Watch them float across the lagoon and slowly make their way to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at the foot of Europe's largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland

To get a different perspective, book a boat tour onto the lagoon. You might even spot some seals lounging about on the ice.

You can’t be in the area and not spend some time in the Vatnajökull National Park. This is the largest national park in Iceland and is made up of one of the largest ice caps in all of Europe.

When you visit this area, you could go ice caving under the glacier. Or try snowmobiling or glacier walking atop Vatnajökull. 

Planning your vacation to Iceland

Are you inspired and want to plan your trip to the Land of Fire and Ice? Get started by picking which season you’d like to visit and what kind of travel you want to experience.

Drive around the country with a self-drive itinerary. Visit in summer on a camping adventure. Or how about having your very own driver-guide with a private package or guided group tour?

Iceland Tours can organize it all for you, so it’s easy planning and easy booking. Secure your package with only a 5% deposit and have extra peace of mind with our Book with Confidence promise.

And if you visit Iceland, adding Diamond Beach to your itinerary will make for a unique photo op and memorable stopover. Come see it for yourself!

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Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois