Diamonds In The Rough: Iceland’s Jökusárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
I’ll be honest, these were two of the stops I was most excited about on my Iceland itinerary. Because, after all, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
These diamonds are bigger, colder, and the setting is magnificent. I’ve been fascinated by both the Jökusárlón glacier lagoon and the famous Diamond Beach since first seeing them on Pinterest years ago, so even though they didn’t easily fit into our 3-day itinerary, I knew I had to shoehorn them in somehow. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The only downside was I kept getting that annoying Rihanna song stuck in my head while we were there…
We spent the morning hiking on the Sólheimajökull glacier, being awed by the . And then we had a lot more driving ahead of us, heading further along the South Coast toward the famous Diamond Beach and Jökusárlón glacier lagoon.
Here’s everything else from our 3-day Iceland road trip!
Snorkeling Between Continents In Iceland at the Silfra Fissure
How to visit Jökusárlón & Diamond Beach
The glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach are on the Ring Road along the south coast, between Hofn and Skaftafell. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik, so isn’t something you’d want to do just as a day trip from there. We started our day in Kirkjubaejarklauster, spent the morning in Skaftafell National Park on the glacier, drove all the way out to Jökusárlón, and then after seeing the glacier lagoon drove BACK to Hvolsvollur for the night. It was a long day, and without the Midnight Sun I don’t think we’d have been able to do it.
If you’re continuing on east, Hofn is a good place to stay the night. If you’re going back west afterward, you’ll have slim pickings for quite a while during peak season (summer)…Hof would be your best bet if you can find something, and otherwise you’ll need to go back to Kalfafell, Kirkjubaejarklauster, or even Vik or further. There just aren’t a lot of housing options in that area.
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Jökusárlón Glacier Lagoon
We turned left into the glacier lagoon parking lot and were able to squeeze into a spot, though it was pretty hoppin’. I bundled up against the wind, which was STIFF.
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Jökusárlón is a vast glacier-fed lake with dozens and dozens of icebergs floating in it. Since they’ve calved (broken) off the main giant beast of a glacier (Breiðamerkurjökull), the icebergs all different shades of white, blue, gray, and black. We strolled along the kind of hill/cliffs that run along the beach to try and get different angles on the ginormous chunks of ice floating in the water. It’s hard in photos to truly capture how massive each and every one of those floating chunks of ice are…
We unfortunately couldn’t linger too long, as we had a long way to drive back west to our hotel for the night. But we did duck into the cafe for a few minutes to thaw out and grab some coffee and a delicious slice of Skyr cake (like a cheesecake). Vanessa was obsessed with Iceland’s dairy products our entire trip, rhapsodizing about how good the milk was. It was pretty funny, though totally justified because it is DELISH.
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Then we hopped back in the car and drove just across the road to the Diamond Beach parking lot. What’s weird is that there was almost no one parked there, vs. over at the glacier lagoon. There were still some people on the beach, but I wondered if maybe some people didn’t know it was there. I don’t really remember seeing any signs for it specifically—so make sure you don’t miss it!
It’s a little bit of a walk from the car to the famous black beach. There are tons of these dramatic, beautiful black beaches in Iceland, but what makes this one extra special is the chunks of clear ice that have washed up on the black sand…scattered like sparkly diamonds on black velvet.
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Bits of the giant icebergs from the glacier lagoon float through a channel down to the ocean, and small pieces sometimes wash up on the shore. The constant lapping of the water eventually wears them down into perfectly clear chunks, removing the sediment and cloudiness of the original glacier.
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I wished our itinerary had been a bit more relaxed and we could have stayed nearby, because I’ve seen amazing photos taken at sunrise or sunset (which were in the middle of the night when we were in Iceland). If you stayed within a half hour or so of the lagoon, you’d be able to come back without the crowds and capture the light on the water and ice in a truly epic way (seriously…have a look here).
You should be aware that it is typically insanely windy on the beach, so make sure you have some good windproof clothes and a hat and gloves. I did, but was still frozen solid when we were done. Plus, the weather can change very quickly.
Speaking of the weather changing quickly…
We knew we had a long drive ahead of us, so loaded back into the car, put on some tunes, and hit the highway back west. Not too long after we left the glacier lagoon, a rain and fog system moved in and completely encompassed us. I could see the car in front of me, but nothing at all in front of him. It definitely slowed us down a bit, and I was thankful for how nice the Iceland main highways are (and the fact that they’re not crazy hilly and curvy). It was insane how fast it changed from being completely clear to pea soup. So just a warning that you should always be prepared for the weather to change in an instant…particularly if you’re hiking!
Even though it required us to do a lot of extra driving, it was completely worth it to see the massive floating icebergs on the glacier lagoon’s bright blue water, and to be able to touch the clear diamond-like ice chunks on the black sand beach. If you’re spending a few days in Iceland, I highly recommend making this part of your itinerary!
Other glacier-like adventures you’ll like:
- Floating on a Glacier Lake: Lake Tasman Boat Tour, NZ
- Quiet, Cold, Love: Dog Sledding in Tromsø, Norway
- Hiking the Hooker Valley Track on New Zealand’s South Island
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