Iceland is so full of surreal environments — lava fields, volcanic craters, ice caves — it's easy to forget about the invisible oceanic world surrounding the country. Glaciers and icebergs are a (not-so) small reminder of the activity happening underneath the water. There are two places in particular that offer fantastic views of Iceland's icy passersby: Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
The Diamond Beach is located right across the street from the equally famous Glacier Lagoon, but it can be easy to miss if you aren't looking for it. And unless you're staying nearby, you're in for a bit of a road trip before you get there. That said, Diamond Beach is the perfect spot to stop and take in some sea air before continuing on your way north or south.
Diamond Beach is one of those places everyone should see at least once. But the most beautiful part about it is that every visit will be a little bit different, depending on the weather and the number of icebergs and ice chunks that make their way to shore.
How to Get There
This beach is relatively easy to miss — in fact, I did the first time I traveled to see the Glacier Lagoon. It’s located directly across the street from the lagoon; if you’re heading to the attraction from the west, you’ll take a right into the Diamond Beach parking lot instead of turning left toward the lagoon.
Diamond Beach is located about 235 miles from Reykjavik, which comes out to nearly five hours in the car… if you make the mistake of driving straight through with no stops. The beach is located right off of the main stretch of road, Route 1. With the signs and a view of the glacier from the road, you truly can’t miss it.
What to Expect at the Diamond Beach
It’s exactly what it sounds like, but you won’t find any sunbathers at this stretch of black sand. Bits and pieces of the passing glaciers and icebergs break off, some eventually landing on the Diamond Beach. The sand is covered in glittering shards of ice in various stages of melt.
There is a small parking lot, but the spots are not clearly marked, so be careful. Chances are, you’ll find a lot of other curious travelers walking among the ice with cameras in tow. At sunset, depending on the weather, the beach can become hazy adding a surreal filter across the entire beach scene.
The ice that washes up varies in size, from small chunks of ice you can hold in your palm to car-sized behemoths.
What to Wear
Being near the water naturally makes the area a bit windier, so bring an extra (waterproof) jacket to keep warm and comfortable. In fact, incorporating a waterproof layer into your outfit is a safe bet, given that Iceland’s weather is known to turn without notice. The sand is often quite wet, so waterproof hiking boots are also a must.
Just like with any other coastal region in the country, do not head into the water. The tide comes in quickly, so beware of unpredictable water patterns. For this reason, it's best to steer clear of the waterline and make sure young children don't wander too far.
It may seem obvious, but also take care to notice where you're walking. The ice that washes up on shore can range in size and it's easy to trip over a half-hidden piece of ice.
The Best Time to Visit
Like any other major attraction in Iceland, there are going to be crowds all throughout the day. For the best photo opportunities and a truly magical experience, head to the beach during sunset. Going early in the morning or late at night will also cut down on the crowds.
Keep in mind that there's more sunlight during the summer months, meaning more time available in the day to pack full of activities. The winter months are dark, so you'll want to hit the beach earlier in the day if natural lighting is something you're after.
In Iceland, you're always close to a hiking trail. Jökulsárlón and the Diamond Beach area provide a unique opportunity to go on a glacier hike at the nearby Vatnajökull. Going on a guided tour takes out the hassle of having to buy and pack specialty hiking gear (like cleats or crampons) and is also a safety precaution. Glacial ice is constantly on the move and trained guides have the tools and knowledge to identify safe paths over the glacier. Guide to Iceland is a good hub for finding the guides and tour companies that can take you on these adventures.