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I had seen many pictures of Diamond beach before we arrived there, but still, it caught me by surprise. The massive ice blocks, dragged away from the Jokulsarlon glacier lake, finding their way to the black sand beach, where they stand out like bright shining diamonds.
In my opinion, Diamond Beach is an absolute must-visit in Iceland, not just because it is stunning to look at, but also because it always appears on lists of unusual/picturesque/most-beautiful beaches around the globe!
Diamond Beach & Jokulsarlon: All you need to know
- What is Jokulsarlon?
- What is Diamond Beach?
- Where are Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon? + how to get there
- When is the best time to visit Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon?
- Where to stay?
What is Jokulsarlon?
Jokulsarlon is an impressive glacier lake, where melting water is collected from glaciers out of the Vatnajokull Glacier Park. An impressive fact is, that this lake didn’t exist before 1934 and currently, it is the deepest lake in Iceland (248m deep).
Before 1934, the Breidamerkurjokull glacier bordered on the ocean. So, melting water was drifting directly into the sea. But when the glacier melted more and more, it started drifting inland. Melting water kept on flowing away and formed a lake with a mouth to the ocean.
Besides melting water, the glacier also loses large ice blocks. These fall down into the lake, which gives it a magnificent view in front of the highest ice cap in Europe (910m high).
The current from the lake to the ocean is so strong that it takes the ice blocks along. It is a bizarre sight to see these huge ice blocks, that easily weigh over a couple of tons, being dragged into the ocean with such a high speed.
What is Diamond Beach?
Diamond Beach is where the ice blocks hit the shore after being dragged out of the Jokulsarlon glacier lake into the ocean. The black sand on the beach is a remain of ashes from volcanic eruptions. Because of the black sand, the ice blocks stand out even more.
When you walk there on the beach, wandering between massive ice blocks that can be as big as yourself, you feel super powerful and fragile at the same time. The sea makes it a true spectacle, with the waves that hit the blocks and flow around it before they slowly move back.
And behind the ice blocks on the beach, there are several blocks drifting in the ocean. Altogether it forms a view that brings up a feeling which is hard to describe. You have to see it with your own eyes before you believe it!
Where are Diamond Beach and the Jokulsarlon glacier lake + how to get there
So, if you have the chance to visit Diamond Beach and the Jokulsarlon Glacier lake, do it! Go there, enjoy the scenery, make a lot of pictures and draw it into your memory.
Where is it?
You’ll find Diamond Beach at the mouth of the Jokulsarlon glacier lake. Both situated in the south of Iceland down the Vatnajokull Glacier Park.
The distance from Reykjavik is 379 kilometers, like a 5-hour drive. Roads are pretty easy to drive in Iceland and if you only have a few days in Iceland the trip to Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon could be done in 1-2 days. During wintertime, you should count on 2 days, as there is very limited daylight.
TIP: When you plan a day trip from Reykjavik, it will be a lot of driving. So, it would be good to only do this when you are with two or more drivers.
Just before you arrive at Jokulsarlon, there is another glacier lake with drifting ice blocks: Fjallsarlon. The ice blocks in this lake are often a bit smaller, but it is a nice introduction to what’s coming next!
How to get there
It is situated next to the ring road, so you don’t need a 4WD to get there. The road will pass a bridge to cross the river mouth from Jokulsarlon. Before and after this bridge you’ll find parking spots. You can also pass the bridge on foot, as Diamond Beach can only be reached from the East side of the bridge.
The Icelandic name of Diamond Beach is Breidamerkursandur (which means sand near Breidamerkur glacier). A lot of Icelandic people don’t even know the name Diamond Beach as it is an English term used among tourists. It isn’t for a very long time that the ice blocks wash ashore, so it is a new term.
If you rather not drive yourself, a tour will take you there from Reykjavik. There are many tours available, varying from 1 up to 3 days. Besides taking you to Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon, these tours drive you around more highlights, like the Golden Cirkel and waterfalls in the South.
Below you can find some highlighted tours to explore Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon, but there are more tours available!
When is the best time to visit Diamond Beach and the Jokulsarlon Glacier
Both places can be visited all year round. No matter what kind of weather it is, daylight or darkness, the views will amaze you!
An interesting fact is that the Jokulsarlon glacier lake doesn’t freeze during wintertime. Researchers say a unique ecological phenomenon is formed by ice water and the surrounding soil.
During the winter the ice blocks appear to be bigger and more massive. Ice blocks bigger than yourself stand up straight on the beach. They are surrounded by smaller ice blocks which give the views an extra dimension.
You are more likely to see seals during this time of the year, as they gather on the surrounding beaches to catch fishes that are sucked into the river mouth during high tide.
The only thing you miss in winter is the possibility of a boat tour on the glacier lake. These tours only run from May until the beginning or half of October. The change to see the northern lights is way bigger in winter, how amazing to see the reflection in the lagoon!
In summer you have more daylight time, which means more time to see the ice blocks glittering in the sun like diamonds. Sunsets and sunrises also take longer and give you more time to shoot photos during the most beautiful time of the day.
Mid-summer, during the midnight-sun (June-July), you have to stay awake longer to catch this light, as sunrise and sunset follow each other up without a break in between. This takes place after midnight.
This time of the year, the ice blocks seem to be a bit smaller, but it is still possible to see huge ones as well. There are more tours available, which includes tours to sail on a boat between the ice blocks on the glacier lake. These tours run from May until the beginning or half of October.
Be careful with the Skuas! This is a gull-like bird that isn’t afraid for you. They nest on the glacier edges, are very protective and do not tolerate you coming close. Keep your distance and you’ll be fine.
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A lot of movie scenes are filmed in these spectacular surroundings. Think of James Bond, Tomb Raider and Badman begins. Arriving on the beach, standing in that same scenery of your favorite movie, you might feel like you are in the film, totally ready to do a cool stunt. Please don’t.
Diamond Beach and the Jokulsarlon Glacier lake are perfectly safe to visit as long as you keep your distance from the water.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lake
The lake is fed by the glacier, so you can imagine how cold the water temperature is! During wintertime the water temperature is 0ºC and in summer it is only slightly warmer at the surface.
You won’t survive it for a very long time if you fall into the lake! The water temperature will bring you to a state of hypothermia within a couple of minutes, but probably in less than one. Besides the water temperature, the ice blocks also form a danger. They are huge and the strong current can easily let them fall over.
And then we didn’t even discuss all the lives you bring in danger from the volunteering rescue team.
The water temperature of the ocean is only slightly warmer, which means it is still ice cold and you won’t survive long in it. The waves on the beach are unpredictable and can come up very quickly. If you want to take pictures, always make sure someone stands beside you to warn you if a big wave is coming up.
The current is strong and will drag you further into the ocean easily. Don’t forget it is capable of dragging massive ice blocks, which weigh 10 times as much as you, in there as well!
So, please people, stay away from the watersides. Because, no matter how big of a hero you are, nature will be stronger than you.
Me telling you all this is not to scare you off. I just want to warn you, because the risks aren’t worth it. Falling into the water most probably means you can’t tell your story ever after. As long as you stay away from the water edges (when it is very windy a bit further), nothing will happen to you and you can enjoy the beauty of the Icelandic nature with peace of mind.
Where to stay
Between 40 kilometers East (Skalafell) and 40 kilometers West (Hof) of Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon are different accommodations to stay.
There are 7 different accommodations available if you want to book a room. These accommodations vary from hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, and hostels. They cost between US$100 and US$180 per room per night. Prices might be higher in June and August.
TIP: Book your accommodation with 10% discount via this link on booking.com
If you have a tent with you or if you have a camper van, you can also stay at one of the campsites. There are 4 campsites available in the area, one of them is open all year round. A camping site will cost you between US$10 and US$25 per person per night.
We like to hear from you!
We hope this information will help you to make your visit to Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon a unique experience. Did you already visit this amazing place, or do you have any questions? We love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!
And don’t forget to check out what you can explore in Iceland!