Sparkling icebergs of all sizes on black sand... Blue, white, black...
Diamond Beach (a.k.a Jokulsarlon beach) is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Iceland!
Below is my guide to Iceland's iceberg beach with tips, map and photos.
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Why visit Diamond beach in Iceland?
What is Diamond Beach?
Diamond beach has it all:
- black sand beach
- icebergs of all sizes, shapes and colors
- the mountains and glaciers in the distance
It is definitely one of the Best stops on the Icelandic Ring Road, whatever the weather!
Why is it called Diamond beach?
It is called Diamond beach, because some of the icebergs really shine like diamonds on the black sand. Like in the picture above.
But no, there are no real diamonds on the beach... sorry.
However its real name is Breidamerkursandur or Fellsfjar. And it is also often called Jokulsarlon Beach.
Geology of Jokulsarlon Beach
- About the Icebergs...
When the Breidamerkurjokull glacier releases icebergs; they float on the lagoon and some make their way through the channel. Then some of them can be pushed back towards the coast and end up on the black sand. The ice, opaque white, black or deep blue contrasts with the white waves and the black sand making this location very unique.
- About the black sand...
The black sand beach is formed from a volcanic rock. Sand and pebbles are tiny fragments from the basalt lava that covered the area.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning tips & Map - Diamond Beach, Iceland
Iceland's Diamond Beach - Map and location
- Diamond Beach is just the nickname. It is actually Jokulsarlon beach.
- You can find it along Road 1 on the South Coast of Iceland
- Located between Vik and Höfn (but closer to Höfn).
- Below is a map to help you get oriented and locate the iceberg beach:
Option 1 - How to get to Diamond Beach - self drive
- Very easy access from the Ring Road
- Reykjavik to Diamond beach = 5h drive
- Vik to Diamond Beach = 2h30 drive
- Höfn to Jokulsarlon Beach = 1h10 drive
- It is right by Road 1 across from the Jokulsarlon lagoon (It is not the shore of the lagoon. It is really a beach on the ocean)
- Park on either side of the bridge on the beach end and walk towards the sea
This location is included (with GPS coordinates, map of region and planning info) in both my travel guide eBooks that help you easily plan your Iceland road trip:
Option 2 - Day Trip from Reykjavik
If you don't want to drive, join a day trip from Reykjavik, that will take you to the magnificent waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. At Jokulsarlon, manage your time to walk to the Beach and see the icebergs.
Option 3 - Multiday Trip of the Iceland South Coast
To have more time to spend surrounded by all those landscapes, consider a 2- or 3- day trip. You will see so much, it will be unforgettable! Both examples below stop at Jokulsarlon, so you can share your time between the Lagoon and the beach
Visiting Jökulsárlón beach
- Access is FREE
- Amenities: café, toilets and food trucks at the lagoon only (North of the bridge)
- A few minutes of flat walk on sand to reach the icebergs
- The amount of ice on both sides is not predictable. It can vary dramatically from day to day and at different tide levels
- Sometimes there is no ice at all. Go check out another place and come back later!
- And Check out my complete article on what to wear and pack for Iceland to stay warm and comfortable
West shore vs East shore
There are 2 beaches where you can see icebergs. On each side of the Jouklsa River (on both sides of the bridge).
- There are large parking areas on each side.
- Access requires a little bit of walking on sand on each side
- The East beach is reachable on foot from the lagoon (following the river under the bridge)
- Sometimes there are no icebergs on one side of the channel but there are some on the other side - make sure to check both
The beach is not as dangerous as the other famous black sand beach of Reynisfjara. However:
- Do NOT climb on any of the icebergs. They are slippery with sharp edges and can flip (especially if they are in the water)
- Don't forget to look at your feet. Sometimes you focus on your camera to take your shot and you don't see a bigger wave coming. Wet feet are not fun!
Where to stay near Diamond Beach
Close to Jokulsarlon:
- There are no accommodations at Jokulsarlon itself
- You can find a few hotels or guesthouses in the area, and these will allow you to get there for sunset, sunrise or the northern lights faster - See options
- I stayed at the Hotel Smurlabjorg, 30 min drive East of Jokulsarlon. It was clean and practical - Check out photos and availability
Otherwise, you can choose to stop at the small towns of Vik (if you are driving back to Reykjavik after) or Höfn (if you are continuing towards the East fjords after) on your road trip, where you will have more choices
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and the offerings of local companies are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Best time to visit Diamond Beach
There is no best time of the year. The Icebergs detach from the glacier all year long and the lagoon does not freeze so they escape and land on the black sand beach all the time.
They do melt faster in Summer, but we are not talking 40°C here... In September, I saw some huge ones!
Best moment of the day
Of course, the light at sunrise and sunset make them sparkle in a special way but even in the fog it is a magical place.
Whatever the weather or the time, I recommend you stop to see if there are any on the beach
You never know how many icebergs you will find and how big they will be... This is a surprise!
Sometimes they are small and sparse, sometimes they are everywhere and huge. It depends how much has separated from the glacier and how the tides were when the icebergs made it to sea.
So take your chance!
Actually, the best time to see it is after a storm as the beach can be covered in icebergs!
Visit under any weather
Even with the fog and the rain, it is worth visiting.
The weather should not stop you from going. Plus, you never know, 10 minutes later the sun might be shining!
- Under the sun, the icebergs sparkle more
- Under the clouds, their colors are more intense
Northern lights at Diamond Beach
In winter, when nights are dark and long, the Diamond Beach is a good place to see the northern lights.
There is very little light pollution in the area. But be careful when you try to get there, as there is no light...
Check out the aurora forecast at Vedur.is
Colors of the icebergs on Iceland Iceberg Beach
On the Icelandic Diamond Beach, you can find icebergs of all colors.
Where do those colors come from? Below are some short answers:
The white transparent icebergs
The icebergs look white because the snow is compressed creating bubbles and crystal edges that equally reflect all wavelengths (learn more)
The blue icebergs (my favorites)
When the iceberg is under water, the air bubbles are washed away. When this ice is seen under the sun, the longer wavelength (red and yellow) are absorbed and blues and greens are reflected.
The icebergs with black
I did not see one with a lot of black. The one being photographed below has a little. It is due to volcanic dust being trapped in the ice.
How to photograph the icebergs at Jokulsarlon Black Sand beach
At Jokulsarlon beach you can get really close to the icebergs and even touch them!
Sometimes there are so many on the beach, that you can be alone photographing one.
- Take the time to pick your icebergs
- Be really careful with those close to the water - the waves are unpredictable and can suddenly come up - wear waterproof shoes and think about having someone next to you while you focus on your camera and subject - you can check my guide to what to wear in Iceland to help your pack
- Play with the movement of the waves with long exposure
- Don't forget to zoom in to get the texture of the iceberg
- Wait for the weather to change - you know the saying in Iceland: "if you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes"
And below is a selection of my favorite icebergs and photos of icebergs at Diamond Beach in Iceland:
Wildlife at Diamond beach
What you may spot around Jokulsarlon are mostly
If you are very lucky, you could see a pod of whales in the distance. The best vantage point is from the carpark on the West shore of the river.
Other activities near the Ice Beach
Once you are done admiring those icebergs (although it is hard to get bored and to force yourself to leave...), there are other activities you can do around Jokulsarlon:
Admire the Jokulsarlon lagoon
On the other side of the bridge, the main attraction is the Lagoon. If the weather is clear you can see the glacier tongue of Breiðamerkursandur and you can see the icebergs floating by you. See photos on my article about the Jokulsarlon Lagoon.
Jokulsarlon Boat Tour (May to Mid Oct)
During Summer and the shoulder seasons, you can go on a boat to approach the icebergs and the glacier tongue closer. And maybe you will see one detach and splash in the water!
Jokulsarlon Ice Cave (in Winter only)
In Winter you can combine your diamonds with some crystals LOL
The Crystal Ice Cave is one of the most magnificent sights in Iceland. A really unique experience! Access requires a 4WD - Small group tours depart from Jokulsarlon but spots are limited.
SEE MY ARTICLE to choose your tour
Diamond Beach in Winter
The beach remains accessible in Winter.
Actually, the experience is quite similar. It is just that the mountains in the distance are whiter.
Learn more on my article about Jokulsarlon and Diamond beach in Winter
Want to see other highlights nearby?
- The famous Jokulsarlon lagoon and its iceberg - read article
- Fjallsarlon Glacial Lagoon, lesser know but as impressive - read article
- The Svartifoss waterfall and its basalt columns - read article
- The impressive waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss (read article) and Skogafoss (read article)
- The "feather canyon" of Fjadrargljufur - read article
- Or read my complete article about South Iceland
Planning a trip to Iceland?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
And keep track of your own trip!
Want to see more of Iceland's beauty?
Note: If you don't want to book everything yourself, consider booking a Self-Drive Tour Package (see my article to help you choose)
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