Why Diamond Beach Iceland Should be on Your Radar
Visiting Diamond Beach Iceland (and neighbouring Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon) was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. This is really saying something when the whole of Iceland is just magical! It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
If you’re putting together your own Iceland itinerary or looking for things to do in Iceland, make sure this is on your list. Don’t just take our word for it. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland and Diamond Beach is an extension of the lagoon. Some might say that Diamond Beach is actually more impressive.
Here are just a few quick tips and things you should know before you go to help you make the most of your visit.
Where is Diamond Beach Iceland?
Diamond Beach is located on the south-east coast of Iceland between Hof and Hofn. It’s about 380km from Reykjavik on the Ring Road 1 (the Golden Circle) and takes about 5 hours by car. It can be done on a day trip but it’s a long way to go especially if you have small kids. We would recommend hiring a car and doing the journey at your own pace and staying either near Vik or Hof if you have time.
Why is it called Diamond Beach?
The Icelandic name is actually Breiðamerkursandur but you can totally see why it’s called Diamond Beach. The Jökulsá á Fjöllum river (which flows over Sellfoss and Dettifoss waterfalls) flows into the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Large chunks of ice break off from the Vatnajökull glacier and flow out from the Jokarsarlon lagoon into the Atlantic Ocean.
Chunks of ice in differing sizes are deposited on the black sand beach at the mouth of the river and sparkle like diamonds. The effect is truly stunning, particularly when sunny. The larger chunks can be shaped whilst out at sea and do really look like sculptures.
The smaller chunks further up on the beach really do look like rough diamonds, especially against the jet black sand.
What is the best time to visit Diamond Beach?
You will find ice on the beach all year round so you don’t need to worry about it melting in the summer months. In our opinion, however, it is best to visit Diamond Beach in the winter months. From a purely practical point of view, the sun rises later so you don’t have to get up as early to catch that light!
The earlier you can get there, the better which is why we recommend staying close by. There is no ‘opening time’, so if you can get there for sunrise, you will be rewarded with much better photo opportunities (if there are clear skies). Sunset is also a good time to be there for the same reason. Having said this, moody skies can make for great photos too.
The other reason for coming early is that is does get busy. Tour buses started to show up as early as 10am so if you can get there before they start to arrive, all the better.
What is there to do at Diamond Beach?
As with other popular tourist destinations in Iceland like Kirkjufell and the Gerduberg Cliffs on the Snaefellsnes Pensinsula, Diamond Beach is about appreciating nature. There isnt a whole lot else to do there. Having said that, we spent a good few hours there.
The kids loved to try their own ice sculpting and found ‘ice caves’ to make a den in. If you’re lucky, you may see seals basking on the shores of the river or swimming close to the shore.
Whilst there are no facilities at Diamond Beach, you can just pop over the road to the visitor centre at Jokulsarlon Lagoon where you’ll find toilets and a café.
You can also take a boat tour of Jökulsárlón lagoon.
Safety at Diamond Beach
Overall, visiting the beach is pretty safe and you do not need a guide. There are just a couple of things you should be aware of.
Watch out for sneaker waves
Most commonly found occurring at Reynisfjara beach (Black Sand Beach), they can also occur at Diamond Beach. You must be cautious if you are by the water’s edge as these waves can come out of nowhere and wash you into the sea. It goes without saying, the water is freezing and you do not want to be swept out even a little bit. And no swimming in case you wondered :)
Don’t climb on the ice
Tempting as it may be, the ice blocks are very slippery and accidents can easily happen.
The beach is very exposed and even if it seems like a nice sunny day, it will be cold so dress appropriately with warm layers.
What is the best way to visit Diamond Beach?
Your main options for visiting the beach are to take a guided tour from Reykjavik or to drive yourself.
Guided tour of Diamond Beach
The guided tour day trips from Reykjavik that we looked at are mostly around 14-16 hours long and are quite expensive. They do take in other sights during the day, but this was just not an option for us with two small children. They also left Reykjavik around 7 am which meant getting to the beach in the early afternoon when it was busy.
Self-guided tour of Diamond Beach
Self-driving in Iceland is easy if you are sticking to the main roads (Ring Road 1), although you will need to be more cautious in winter months. There is much more flexibility to explore Iceland if you are self-driving. One of our tips for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is to
Where to stay near Diamond Beach
If you want to get to Diamond Beach early, you will ideally need to stay nearby. The closest (and best) accommodation to Diamond Beach Iceland is:
Low: Adventure Hotel Hof
We stayed closer at the Hörgsland Cottages as it was a better fit with our itinerary. We had a 90-minute drive from our accommodation to the beach.