One of the country’s greatest natural wonders, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, or Jökulsárlón is said to be Iceland’s crown jewel. It was formed in the 1930s as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacial tongue began to melt. In fact, the lagoon is constantly growing in size as the glacier melts due to global warming.
Though not very wide, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is 250 meters deep, making it Iceland’s deepest lake. The lagoon’s crystal-clear surface is scattered with icebergs that are formed as more and more of the glacier breaks away, an unmissable sight!
With so much to take in, we want to make sure you don’t miss a thing. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, so you can learn everything you need to know before visiting Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
- Jökulsárlón translates to ‘glacier’s river lagoon’ in Icelandic.
- The glacial tongue that forms Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is called Breiðamerkurjökull, which extends from the Vatnajökull glacier, the biggest glacier in Iceland. Breiðamerkurjökull once sat 20 km north of its current location when it was discovered around AD 870.
- Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon has grown fourfold in size over the last four decades.
- Since the lagoon is at sea level, seawater flows into it from the Atlantic Ocean during high tide.
- The lagoon’s icebergs appear in a range of colours, from turquoise blue to near-transparent white, with bits of black mixed in from the area’s volcanic landscape.
- It is a hotspot for wildlife. It is full of fish, and you’ll often see hungry seals and seabirds trying to snatch them up.
- It has been featured in four popular movies: James Bond’s A View to a Kill and Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins — and was also featured on the TV show the Amazing Race.
- Hop aboard an amphibious boat on land before cruising across the lagoon’s surface
- See the icebergs up close and personal from a Zodiac (a rigid inflatable boat)
- Experience the bright blue ice caves in Vatnajökull glacier from the inside
- Visit the nearby diamond beach with its black sand covered in glistening “ice diamonds”
- Taste refreshing glacier ice that is over 1,000 years old. Yeap! Some tours allow you to eat the ice as well.
- Take part in the magnificent annual fireworks show where the entire sky is illuminated with fireworks. The event is usually held in August and the fireworks start from 11 pm.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is located in Vatnajökull National Park, just off Iceland’s Highway One. About 370 km from Reykjavik, it takes approximately six hours to drive there from the capital city. The trip may be long, but it is incredibly scenic, offering up views of Skógafoss waterfall (one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland), the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and Reynisfjara black sand beach.
If you’re not planning to rent a car in Iceland, you can do a two or three-day tour with a stopover at Jokulsarlon. Keep an eye out for multi-day tours to Iceland — particularly to the South Coast. These tours operate year round; however, many book up in advance (particularly during prime tourist season – see below) so make sure you are organized.
While Jokulsarlon lagoon is accessible year-round, as with anything in Iceland, it is important to be wary of the weather if visiting during the winter. Driving can be dangerous and access might be limited during inclement weather, such as a snowstorm.
When deciding on the best time to visit Jokulsarlon, it’s important to consider what you most want to see or do. If you want to truly experience the stunning icebergs in their full glory, we recommend visiting during the summer and early autumn, when the ice floats down the lagoon’s channel and into the sea. In the winter, the icebergs will be frozen in place. As such, boat tours only operate during the summer months, usually between April and October.
However, if you’re looking for the full Icelandic experience (and are willing to brave the cold), a visit during the winter months means you might just catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on your visit to Jokulsarlon. A winter visit also means you can explore the ice caves, letting you see the Vatnajökull glacier from the inside. Ice cave tours in Iceland normally operate between November and March but are dependent on the weather as the caves can melt or fill with water during warmer winters.
You can expect the largest crowds during July and August. Many activities (particularly boat tours) book up in advance during these months, so be sure to plan ahead. If you’re looking for some warmer weather but want to avoid the tourist rush, opt for June or September.
No matter when you visit, make sure safety is your number one priority. Do not attempt to swim in the lagoon, and do not jump on top of icebergs as they can capsize and drag you under the icy water.
Be sure to take your time at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon to enjoy all the stunning natural wonders it offers. When you’re finished with your visit, make some time to check out the rest of Vatnajökull National Park for plenty more ice, glacier tongues, and an incredible lava landscape.
The best part about Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon? As the glacier continues to melt, the lagoon is constantly changing — meaning you simply have to visit again and again.
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