close

My Favorite Place in Iceland: The Ice Diamonds of Breiðamerkursandur

Steaming geysers, thunderous waterfalls, breathtaking canyons and vast lava fields – I saw more stunningly beautiful places in my week in Iceland than in any other country in such a short time. But my favorite place? None of those. My favorite destination was the place that puts the ‘ice’ in Iceland: Jökulsárlón, Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon, and even more so Diamond Beach, just across the street from the glacier.glacier lagoon ice icelandWhen I parked our car in the little car park right on the black sand beach, I understood immediately why it was called Diamond Beach. Like bright diamonds in different shapes and sizes, dozens of chunks of ice litter the beach, giant waves crashing against them, moving the smaller ones around, forcefully repelled by the bigger ones.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachWalking towards the water, I started seeing more icebergs floating around in the ocean, being tossed around by the waves as if they were merely paper boats and not bulky chunks of ice.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachIt was a spectacular sight, and I don’t think there’s anything like Diamond Beach anywhere else in the world (correct me if I’m wrong!).jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachThe icebergs in the water are chunks of ice that have broken off the glacier and then slowly floated down towards the ocean, through the lagoon and the short river that connects the glacier lagoon with the open sea.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachThe lagoon was formed by the receding Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, of which massive chunks of ice break off regularly. There are dozens of them floating in the lagoon before they slowly glide out into the ocean.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon icelandEven though the sea is cold, the water here is warmer than in the icy lagoon, so the ice chunks are thrown around and smoothed by the waves, and eventually they are thrown back at the beach.jokulsarlon iceland diamond beachYou can’t help but wonder how old the ice is that has been washed ashore – these pieces had been part of the glacier for centuries!jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beach - CopyThere aren’t two days when this beach looks the same. Every day, new chunks of ice arrive and others melt, and all of them are changing their shapes all the time during the melting process and the constant washing of the waves.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachBack in the lagoon, in between the ice chunks, you can spot seals that make their way into the lagoon from the ocean, curiously inspecting the massive blocks of blue tinted ice.glacier lagoon ice iceland sealThe light blue color of the ice was one of the most fascinating things about Jökulsárlón – the only other place I’ve seen ice like this was at Puerto Moreno Glacier in Argentina.jokulsarlon icelandYou often only see a tiny fraction of the entire iceberg – the bigger part is usually underwater. Some of them are as big as small houses!jokulsarlon glacier lagoon icelandJökulsárlón translates to ‘glacial river lagoon’ and only appeared in 1935, due to the melting of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Over the years, it has become Iceland’s deepest lake, currently 814 feet (248 meters) deep. The lagoon has grown fourfold since the 1970s, to give you an idea of the current rate at which Iceland’s glaciers are melting.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon icelandJökulsárlón and the Diamond Beach are the one place in Iceland that I really want to return to – with more time to photograph this spectacle, ideally during the winter months, when the sun rises late and sets early. Because apparently, seeing this place during sunrise (the sun rises over the ocean) is even more magical.jokulsarlon iceland diamond beach

Practical information

How to get to Jökulsárlón from Reykjavik: There are organized tours from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón, but renting a car would be preferable, especially if you want to take your time to take photos. The drive from Reykjavik takes just under five hours (231 miles/372km), and from Vik, just over two hours (119 miles/192km).

If you’re driving Icleand’s Ring Road (Highway 1), you’ll pass Jökulsárlón anyway – the lagoon and the beach are literally a stone’s throw from the road.jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beachIf you’re driving all the way from Reykjavik, plan some extra time for the drive because you’ll want to stop several times along the way to photograph waterfalls, black sand beaches and the breathtaking Icelandic scenery – trust me. It’s a lot of time in the car for a day trip, but it can be done, if you are pressed for time.jokulsarlon icelandTake into consideration though that in the winter time daylight is limited to six hours, so you’d be driving in the dark for most of the time, and roads can be icy. In the summer months you’ll be driving back to Reykjavik in daylight even if its 9 or 10pm! Also remember that in Iceland the weather is extremely unpredictable and can change rather quickly.jokulsarlon iceland diamond beachOther things to consider: Be careful when you photograph the icebergs right by the water – the waves can be quite high and unexpected, and several people got their cameras wet (I almost lost my phone when a wave caught me unexpectedly, and both of us got wet feet!)jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice beach and iceDuring the summer months, you can take a boat ride across the lagoon. That’s something I’d definitely want to do when I return to Iceland. There are two kinds of boat rides – an amphibian boat (35-40 mins, ISK5,000/US$40), and a zodiac boat (45 mins, ISK8,500/US$69), that goes almost all the way to the glacier.jokulsarlon icelandThere is a small café in the car park of the glacier lagoon – after a couple of hours of photographing or simply marvelling at the lagoon and the ice bergs on the beach, it’s nice to be able to warm up with a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate.jokulsarlon iceland diamond beachAllow about two hours to visit both Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. If you’re a photographer, you’ll probably want to plan even longer than that. Make sure to dress accordingly, there’s an arctic breeze here, especially on the beach, that’s quite chilly.

dani jokulsarlon glacier lagoon ice iceland beach1
This would be an example for what NOT appropriately (i.e. warm) dressed looks like!

All images were taken on the Highlights Of Iceland self-driving tour by Icelandic Farm Holidays. Icelandic Farm Holidays provides you with a rental car and an itinerary for every day, but you can decide individually how much time to spend in each suggested stop, or add additional ones. Accommodation is provided in a mix of Icelandic farm houses, B&Bs and hotels.

Opt In Image
Beyond the Blog: Get updates straight to your inbox!

Keep up with me! Get updates, additional stories that don't make it on the blog, future travel plans, and travel tips. I also answer reader questions and have some pretty sweet travel giveaways exclusive to newsletter subscribers!

Tags : iceland

15 Comments

  1. Super useful post. I’m hoping to travel to Iceland this year but I haven’t heard about this place. Such a unique travel spot. It’s amazing they really do look like diamonds!

  2. As always, I have to say, great photos. I’ve said it before, but now for sure I have to plan a trip to Iceland this summer to enjoy to area. I am curious if I can rent a car to get around Iceland.

    1. Thanks so much, Linda 🙂 I rented a car in Iceland and it was super easy! Highly recommend it as it’s the easiest way to get around.

  3. very useful post. I’m hoping to travel to Iceland this year. Incredible destination and your photos are spectacular!! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Beautiful photos truly showcasing the stunning scenery 🙂 i never thought id want to go to Iceland but i think you have made me change my mind, it looks absolutely gorgeous 🙂

  5. Wifey and I are looking forward to visiting Iceland for the first time when our cruise makes three stops there. Now I’m researching everything about Iceland so we can make the most of our time. Will be in September 2017. Great photos of the diamonds, a girls best friend 🙂

    1. September is a great time, by the way – good chance to spot Northern Lights, and it’s after the main tourist season, so it won’t be all that busy anymore 🙂

Leave a Response

css.php