Diamond Beach Travel Guide
The Diamond Beach is a strip of black sand belonging to the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, located by Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the South Coast of Iceland.
To reach the Diamond beach, check out Iceland's largest selection of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon tours. Those who join certain guided trips, such as this 6-Day Summer Ring Road Tour, will have an opportunity to explore it, as will those on self-drive excursions such as this 7-Day Winter Road Trip. It can also be accessed from the Ring Road by those who rent a car.
At the Diamond Beach, the icebergs which fill the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon wash up on shore, creating a stark contrast with the volcanic black sand. This beautiful display makes it a favourite location for photographers and nature lovers. Wildlife enthusiasts also frequent the site as many seals call the beach home, and it is one of the best places in the country to see orcas from the shore.
Breiðamerkursandur is a glacial outwash plain located in the municipality of Hornafjörður. The sand stretches approximately 18 kilometers along Iceland’s South Coast, more specifically from the foot of Kvíárjökull Glacier to the famed glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. This lagoon sits by the foot of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier.
Both glaciers are among the 30 outlets of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap and the central feature of the Vatnajökull National Park. Many of these are seen en route to the Diamond Beach as you travel along the South Coast.
The outwash plain was formed when three of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, Hrútárjökull and Fjallsjökull, flowed forward due to volcanic activity. This ground the rocks of the underlying surface, creating and pushing forward the glacial sediments.
Such sand plains are a common part of the Icelandic landscape, due to the island being volcanically active as well as boasting numerous ice caps.
The glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach are fantastical sites; however, the rate of their expansion is, unfortunately, a consequence of climate change as the glaciers retreat. With the rate that the caps are melting, there may be no ice left at either site within decades.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of the most famed and visited attractions in Iceland. Floating on the lagoon are countless icebergs that have broken off the resident glacier, creating an ever-changing scenery of incredible beauty.
The river Jökulsá connects the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean, meaning that these icebergs eventually drift out to sea where they are polished by the waves before floating back to the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur. The name ‘Diamond Beach’ thus comes from the white ice on the black sand appearing like gemstones or diamonds, as they often glisten in the sun.
Safety at the Diamond Beach
The Diamond Beach is a safe place for any responsible traveler; unlike Reynisfjara, another South Coast black sand beach, sneaker waves and rip currents are not notorious for whisking unwitting tourists out to sea. However, there are still dangers to consider.
The main one of these is the icebergs themselves. Under no circumstance should you climb upon an iceberg, due to their slippery surfaces and sharp edges.
This is especially the case if the iceberg is at all in the water, as it could flip and trap you underneath, or else be pulled out to sea by a current with you on it.
The risk of injury and illness in the form of hypothermia is so great that extortionate fines exist to deter any ‘rebels’ looking for a thrill-seek. These have only come about due to serious incidents, to protect not only tourists at the lagoon but also guides and staff who may feel obligated to embark on a dangerous rescue if they see someone at risk.
FAQs about the Diamond Beach
What is the Diamond Beach?
The Diamond Beach, also known as Breiðamerkursandur, is a beach located on the south coast of Iceland, near Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The beach is famous for its black sand and icebergs that wash up on the shore, resembling sparkling diamonds.
How was the Diamond Beach formed?
The icebergs on the Diamond Beach come from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where chunks of ice break off from the glacier and float out to sea. The icebergs eventually wash up on the shore, where they are sculpted by the waves and tides.
Is the Diamond Beach a natural or man-made attraction?
The Diamond Beach is a natural attraction, formed by the erosion and sculpting of icebergs as they wash up on the shore. However, the beach has become a popular tourist destination and has some man-made infrastructure, including a parking lot and viewing platform.
Is it safe to walk on the Diamond Beach?
Visitors are allowed to walk on the Diamond Beach, but should be cautious and stay away from the water's edge, as the waves and tides can be dangerous. Visitors should also avoid climbing on the icebergs, as they can be unstable and may flip over unexpectedly.
Can you swim at the Diamond Beach?
Swimming is not allowed at the Diamond Beach, as the water is very cold and the waves and tides can be dangerous.
When is the best time to visit the Diamond Beach?
The Diamond Beach is accessible year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences. During the summer months (June-August), the weather is milder and the days are longer, but the beach can be busy with tourists. During the winter months (December-February), the beach is quieter and offers the chance to see the Northern Lights.
What is the best time of day to visit the Diamond Beach?
The Diamond Beach can be visited at any time of day, but the best time for photography is during sunrise or sunset, when the light is soft and colorful. Visitors should be aware that the beach can be very crowded during peak tourist season, so arriving early in the morning or late in the evening can provide a more peaceful experience.
How far is the Diamond Beach from Reykjavik?
The Diamond Beach is located about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southeast of Reykjavik, or about a 4-5 hour drive. Visitors can also take a bus or guided tour from Reykjavik to the beach.
Do I need a guide or tour to visit the Diamond Beach?
Visitors do not need a guide or tour to visit the Diamond Beach, but it is recommended to have a rental car or take a bus or guided tour to get there. The beach is located along the Ring Road, about a 4-hour drive from Reykjavik.
What is the best way to see the icebergs at the Diamond Beach?
Visitors can walk along the shore to see the icebergs up close, or take a boat tour of the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to see the icebergs floating on the water. Visitors should be cautious around the icebergs, as they can be unstable and may shift or flip over unexpectedly.
What should I wear to the Diamond Beach?
Visitors should dress warmly and wear waterproof or water-resistant clothing, as the beach can be windy and wet. It is also recommended to wear sturdy shoes or boots, as the sand can be slippery and the terrain uneven. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat may also be useful, depending on the weather.
What are some other nearby attractions to the Diamond Beach?
The Diamond Beach is located near several other popular attractions, including the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Vatnajökull National Park, and the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Visitors can also explore the nearby fishing villages of Höfn and Vik.
Are there any accommodations near the Diamond Beach?
There are several accommodations available near the Diamond Beach, including hotels, guesthouses, and camping sites. The nearby town of Höfn offers the closest lodging options, but visitors can also stay in the nearby villages of Vik or Kirkjubaejarklaustur.
Is the Diamond Beach accessible for people with disabilities?
The terrain at the Diamond Beach can be uneven and sandy, so it may be difficult for people with mobility issues to navigate. However, visitors can still enjoy the views of the icebergs from the nearby parking lot or viewing platform.
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