Your Complete Guide to Diamond Beach
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.
- Browse all Iceland vacation packages to find your ideal itinerary.
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.
- Blog: Learn more about another of Iceland’s highlights, Reynisfjara black sand beach.
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.
- Check out Iceland Ring Road packages.
- Blog: Find out how long it takes to drive all the way around Iceland.
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 5–6 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.
- See Diamond Beach on a 5-day Iceland itinerary.
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.
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.
- Learn all about the country’s varied landscapes in our Iceland nature guide.
- Blog: Read this guide to Iceland’s volcanoes.
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.
- Discover more swimming spots in our guide to Iceland’s spas & hot springs.
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.
- Blog: Learn more about the best time to visit Iceland.
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.
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.
- Browse Northern Lights packages in Iceland or winter self-drive tours.
- Blog: All about Aurora Borealis.
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.
- Blog: View our winter packing list.
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.
- Drive the entire south coast on one of these self-drive packages.
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.
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.
- Look up what kind of day activities you could get up to in Iceland.
- Related: Best glaciers to visit in Iceland.
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!
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland: Your Guide
Iceland is known for its active geology – it’s sitting right on top of a geothermal hotspot after all. That means hot springs, geysers, and of course, volcanoes (but you probably already knew that)!
Another product of Iceland’s geology you won’t want to miss is the famous black sand beach known as Reynisfjara. But there’s not just one “black sand beach” in Iceland – in fact there are dozens!
So where can you see them? And why are they black anyway?
- See Iceland’s black sand beaches on an affordable self-drive tour.
All about Reynisfjara black sand beach
Probably the best-known black sand beach in Iceland is Reynisfjara. This beach is located on the south coast, a couple of minutes’ drive from the village of Vík.
As with all black sand beaches in Iceland, its sand is made up of volcanic rocks that have been slowly ground down over thousands of years.
Reynisfjara beach stands out from the others thanks to a few unique features. First, there are the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. You can see these 3 sharp pillars of rock from both Vík and the Reynisfjara beach itself.
- Explore Reynisfjara and its surroundings on a 5-day trip to Iceland.
According to Icelandic folklore, the sea stacks were formed when two trolls were dragging a three-mast ship ashore. As the sun came up, the trolls and the ship turned to stone and have been standing there ever since.
Another feature of Reynisfjara beach is the tides and currents. Powerful sneaker waves can reach quite far onto the shore. When visiting the beach, make sure you follow the signs to stay safe.
Something else that draws you in at Reynisfjara are the long cliffs that line the beach. They’re made up of black hexagonal basalt columns – leftovers from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.
And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may well recognize Reynisfjara as the location of Eastwatch-by-the-sea, the Night Watch fortress located at the end of the Wall.
Breiðamerkursandur: The “diamond beach”
In recent years, Breiðamerkursandur beach in southeast Iceland has become a popular stop-off.
Sitting within the Vatnajökull National Park, the beach is easily accessible off the Ring Road (AKA Route 1). More precisely, the beach is located right next to where the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon drains into the sea.
- See the diamond beach on an Iceland Ring Road tour.
Breiðamerkursandur is sometimes called the “diamond beach”, and for good reason. Polished “diamonds” of glacial ice wash up on the shore, glistening against the pitch-black sand.
The sight is truly awesome (in the original sense of the word), and makes for some great pictures! If you’re into photography, pay a visit and experiment with capturing the ice diamonds from different angles.
Imagine going there after dark, with the Northern Lights dancing across the sky and reflecting off the icebergs. Now that’s an experience you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
- See the Northern Lights on an Iceland winter tour.
- Blog: Northern Lights in Iceland – All about Aurora Borealis.
More black sand beaches in Iceland
Being a volcanic island smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland has its fair share of dramatic coastline. This is a country shaped by raw natural forces, and it shows.
And although Reynisfjara and Breiðamerkursandur are some of the most spectacular black sand beaches in Iceland, there are plenty more dotted around the country.
Below we’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you, all of which are easily accessible by car:
- Arnarstapi – This is a must-see stop on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Arnarstapi is famous for its arch-shaped rock, which will at some point collapse into the sea. Check it out before it disappears!
- Djúpalónssandur – Towards the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, this beach was once home to a fleet of fishing boats. On the beach you can still see the four lifting stones that fishermen used to test their strength.
- Lóndrangar – Not far from Djúpalónssandur, this is more of a craggy cliff than a beach. Still well worth a visit though for its 3 impressive sea stacks.
- Sólheimasandur – This beach just off the Ring Road in South Iceland is famous for its plane wreck from the 70s. The American Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash-landed on the beach, where it’s been lying ever since.
- Úlfseyjarsandur – A stone’s throw from Djúpivogur village center in southeast Iceland, this black sand beach has dramatic views out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
You might have figured it out by now, but sandur means “sand” in Icelandic. The word for “beach” is fjara or strönd. On a map, look out for place names ending in these words to find even more cool coastal spots.
Are all beaches in Iceland black?
The short answer is no! Whilst black beaches are certainly common in most parts of the country, there are yellow and red beaches too. These are formed from ground-down seashells, like elsewhere in the world, or different types of rock.
One of the most striking examples is the Rauðisandur beach in the Westfjords. It’s just as well the beach is red, as the name means “Red Sand”.
Perhaps the most unconventional beach in Iceland is Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík. There the seawater is heated so you can swim in it all year round – and it has an amazing hot tub!
But the really odd thing about the Nauthólsvík beach is the sand itself. The sand isn’t local to the area – in fact a few decades ago, it wasn’t there at all.
The beach’s yellow sand is harvested from other parts of the country and topped up every couple of years. This makes sure the beach maintains its tropical feel year after year.
- Visit Nauthólsvík beach on a multi-day tour from Reykjavík.
- Travel Guide: Iceland’s nature and landscape.
When it comes to black sand beaches and other spectacular coastal scenery, Iceland undoubtedly delivers.
The best thing is, you have so many options. Pretty much wherever you are in the country, you’re not far from a stunning beach.
That said, the south coast and Snæfellsnes peninsula pack in the most black sand beaches. On a self-drive tour, you can easily access these parts of the country and complete your Iceland beach bucket list.
Ready to plan a different kind of beach vacation? Take a look at our self-drive tour itineraries!