2019 Discovery: Glacier Lagoons and Diamond Beach, Iceland

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

Iceland’s rugged, stunning South Coast can be seen on a long day trip from Reykjavík. But, as with many things in Iceland, those willing to venture farther are rewarded with even more spectacular sights. Beyond the casual tourists’ South Coast, about four hours from Reykjavík, sit two dramatic glacier lagoons: Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón. Formed where tongues of great glaciers lap at serene pools, the lagoons bob with giant chunks of centuries-old ice.

Visitors bundle up, pack into RIBs (rigid inflatable boats), and zip across the frigid, glassy water, weaving between icebergs and listening for the shotgun-like crack of new ones calving off the glacier.

Arguably even more stunning — just downriver from Jökulsárlón — is “Diamond Beach,” where those icebergs wash up on a black-sand beach in the last stage of their slow-motion journey to the open Atlantic. I was on the beach around sunset (in June, that means midnight) to watch hazy sunbeams filter through these glittering chunks of ice — gigantic diamonds scattered across an endless expanse of black velvet.

While there are plenty of reasons to invest an entire week in doing the full “Ring Road” drive around the perimeter of Iceland, these glacier lagoons may just be reason enough to extend your Icelandic layover.

Heading to Iceland? Here’s how to get ready:

1) Pick up a copy of our new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook.
2) Check out the blog series I wrote while working on the book.
3) Watch my 75-minute Iceland travel talk.

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