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Why is the Sand at Iceland's Diamond Beach Black?

The beach has volcanic origins and geological processes that we’re going to dive into

|July 7, 2023
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Iceland’s South Coast is home to a natural phenomenon that has captivated visitors from across the globe. Many of the beaches in this region catch visitors by surprise, thanks to the shade of the sand found there.

Diamond Beach is one such magical stretch of shoreline that is characterized not only by its black sands but also by glistening chunks of ice that wash ashore. 

The unique color of the beach’s sand raises many questions. What lends this beach its distinct hue? The beach has volcanic origins and geological processes that we’re going to dive into. Prepare to be mesmerized by the allure of Iceland’s Diamond Beach.

Why Is It Called Diamond Beach?

Diamond Beach earned its name from the sparkling ice diamonds that sit on the black sands of the beach. The ‘diamonds’ are iceberg chunks that have calved from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, that slowly float and form in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, before making their way to the shore. The contrast between the clear ice diamonds and the dark backdrop of the sands creates an ethereal sight, resembling diamonds scattered across the shoreline. The name “Diamond Beach” perfectly captures the beach’s enchanting beauty of this unique and natural phenomenon.

Crystal Clear and Blue Ice Floes on a Black Sand In Iceland

Close-up view of ice on the black sands of Diamond Beach

Is Diamond Beach the same as Black Sand Beach?

Whilst they share similar characteristics, Black Sand Beach and Diamond Beach in Iceland are not the same. Black Sand Beach, also known as Reynisfjara Beach, is situated on the South Coast of Iceland near the village of Vík. Recognised by its black volcanic sand and towering basalt columns, this beach has been featured in several films and music videos thanks to its unique beauty. Diamond Beach, whilst also on the South Coast, is in the larger Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon area and features glistening iceberg diamonds. 

It is known for its stunning black volcanic sand, towering basalt columns, and dramatic sea stacks. The beach is renowned for its unique beauty and has been featured in several films and music videos.

Both beaches offer distinct and picturesque landscapes, but they are separate locations with their own unique features.

Why Is The Sand Black?

The sands of Diamond Beach are black due to their composition. Iceland is a geologically active country with a significant volcanic heritage, which results in some awe-inspiring sights. Here is the process that explains why Diamond Beach and various other Icelandic beaches have black sands. 

  1. A volcano erupts, releasing hot molten lava. 
  2. When the lava cools, it solidifies into basalt, a dark-coloured volcanic rock rich in iron and magnesium minerals. 
  3. Over time, erosion processes cause the basalt to break down into fine particles. 
  4. The rock particles are carried by glacial rivers, which are then deposited onto the coastline.
  5. The interplay of volcanic processes, glacial activity and ocean currents result in the unique black sands of Diamond Beach.

The mixture of volcanic ash, basalt sediment, and melted glacial water deposited on the beach creates a layer of distinctive black sand. The beach's formation is an ongoing and continuous process, shaped by the dynamic interactions between the glacier, lagoon, and shoreline.

Ice Lagoon Diamond Beach in Iceland

Arial view of Diamond Beach in Iceland

Other Black Sand Beaches

With all this volcanic activity on the island, finding a black sand beach is not hard. Other infamous black sand beaches include:

  • Sólheimasandur - This black sand beach features the iconic American transport plane wreck, which crashed in 1973. The plane has been featured in a number of movies, advertisements and music videos, and makes for brilliant photographs. 
  • Djúpalónssandur - If you’re heading west, Djúpalónssandur offers an idyllic black sand beach that has a rich history. Here you can glimpse the ancient lifting stones that fishermen once used to test their strength.
Beautiful Sunset Over Famous Diamond Beach

Large ice shard at Diamond Beach during sunset

Diamond Beach Tours

If you’d like to witness the beauty of the black-sanded Diamond Beach for yourself, take a look at our selection of Diamond Beach tours, or take a look at some of our options below.

Alternatively, explore black sand beaches like this one on ATVs on our buggy tours across the country or whilst taking your own adventure across the island on a self-drive tour.

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