Everything you need to know about the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

In the southeast of Iceland lies Jökulsárlón, the largest, most famous and breathtaking glacier lagoon in the country. It's located on the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park near the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier (and I write this down as if I can pronounce even one letter from these tongue twisters...) and it's one of the things that I really recommend visitors to Iceland to do. It truly is fantastic!

 

ICELAND JOKULSARLON GLACIER LAKE

A recent natural wonder

The name actually means ‘icy river lagoon’ but the Jökulsárlón glacier lake is so much more than just a lagoon. Shining blue icebergs, wondrous ice sculptures and a beautiful beach with black sand are just some of the many assets of the most beautiful glacial lake in Iceland.

Although it looks like it has been here since the ice age, the lagoon was formed only 80 years ago. Until 1934 the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier was a lot more voluminous, but now her size is decreasing very fast, up to 500 meters (1640 ft) per year. As a result, the lagoon continues to grow year after year…

glacier lagoon jokulsarlon

This Icelandic glacier lagoon isn’t really close to Reykjavik, but the landscapes along the way are also really beautiful!

Formation of the glacial lake Jökulsárlón

The icebergs in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon are coming from the Breiðamerkurjökull. They float in this lagoon for up to five years, within an area of 25 square kilometers (15,5 square miles) and a depth of 260 meters or 853 feet. During this period they can melt and freeze again, sometimes with parts breaking off, causing an impressive splash. Eventually they end up in the Jökulsá, the shortest river in the country, which theb takes them into the Atlantic Ocean.

The lagoon is naturally formed, from melted ice water that comes from the glaciers. As a result, the black sand of the volcanic beach is covered in a translucent and compact ice layer of more than 1000 years old. As a result, the beach sparkles in the sun in a magnificent way. That’s also the reason why it is called diamond beach by the local population.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lake is therefore undergoing a lot of geological changes, so that each visit presents a different sight of this natural beauty.

glacier lagoon iceland

The big ice floes are being sent to the sea, but some of them end up on the black lava beach first! It’s a spectacular sight!

Local fauna

Most of the fauna of this majestic ice lagoon in Iceland consists of playful seals. These come together in large numbers during the winter, where they try to catch fish. In addition, there are also a lot of seabirds, especially the Arctic tern. They hunt for herring, trout, salmon and other fish and krill. The hunters also have their natural habitat here and they are sometimes called the pirates of the sea. This is due to their violent behavior towards other birds. Unfortunately, smaller birds such as the funny puffins are also on their menu. They can be very aggressive towards people, so stay away from them!

seal jokulsarlon glacier lagoon iceland

You can see the heads appear for only a brief moment before they disappear again!

The best way to experience the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

There are several ways to visit the largest glacial lake in Iceland. Renting a car or organising a boat tour on the glacier lagoon are the best methods. This natural wonder can be visited all year round, although the unpredictable weather during the winter months can be quite challenging.

By car to Jökulsárlón

The drive along the south coast to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is breathtakingly beautiful and it’s more than worth the effort and time to come here. From the capital Reykjavik, the car journey to Jökulsárlón takes about five to six hours and on the way you can stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse or perhaps do the golden circle tour if you have two days to spare.

On the adjacent and wonderful Reynisfjara beach (with black sand) you can spot puffins. On your way you’ll encounter the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The roads are usually in good condition and easily manageable in the winter months. Should you still have car trouble, you’ll always be helped out by a helpful passer-by.
A bonus for visiting during the winter months is the opportunity to see the northern lights dancing over the lagoon!

northern lights jokulsarlon

The aurora borealis above the Jökulsárlón glacial lake. How can someone not fall in love with Iceland ?!

Jökulsárlón boat trip

If you want to arrange a Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon boat tour, you have two options: either you choose an amphibious vehicle or a Zodiac boat.

A boat toar with an amphibious vehicle takes 30 to 40 minutes. During the trip, you sail between the huge icebergs and with some luck you can even see some seals. There is also an English speaking guide who gives more information about everything that you see along the way. This tour is only possible in July and August and only 40 boats depart per day. Adults pay $55 / £35 / €45 for a ticket, children up to 12 years pay $20 / £14 / €16.5 and children up to six years old can join in for free.

With a Zodiac boat tour on the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, more parts of the immense lake are explored and people are also getting closer to the icebergs. Whenever possible, you can even sail right next to the glacier. These boat trips are organized from June to the end of September and depart at the following times: 9: 30 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 2:30 PM, 4 PM and 5:40 PM.
Tickets for adults cost $95 / £65 / €78 euros, for children up to twelve years $50 / £35 / €41 and children younger than six are allowed on board for free. Although it’s advised not to take children younger than ten.

To make sure that you can arrange a boat tour (tickets can be sold out quickly, especially for the Zodiac tour) you should buy your tickets online.

jokulsarlon glacier lagoon boat tour

Watch the gigantic ice bergs from up close (or the seals) and enjoy a unique view from the safety of the boat!

The ice caves of Jökulsárlón

During the winter (from November to March) you can visit the ice caves of Jökulsárlón as well. These wonderful blue caverns are located in the Vatnajökull glacier. They are formed when rivers, created by the melting glacier, find a way under the ice and make different tunnels along their way. Each cave differs from the other and varies in shape and size. Never go in a cave without a guide because they can always be flooded or even collapse.

ice caves jokulsarlon

The glacier lagoon is beautiful, but the ice caves of Jökulsárlón are even more beautiful!

Six fun facts about Jökulsárlón

  • It’s the deepest lake in Iceland.
  • You only see the tops of the massive icebergs in the lagoon because 90% of these giants are underwater.
  • The Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe and occupies 8% of the area of ​​Iceland.
    Because the lagoon flows into the Atlantic Ocean, it consists of a mix of salt and fresh water. Because of this it has a blue-green color.
  • In addition to two James Bond films (Die Another Day and A View to a Kill), there were also recordings of Tomb Raider. In the nearby Svínafellsjökull glacier, parts of Batman Begins and Interstellar were also filmed (for that reason new roads were even built of which tourists now can take advantage!).
  • But not only films were recorded here, also music videos by Bon Iver (Holocene) and Justin Bieber (I’ll show you) were filmed at this impressive location.

Iceland has a lot of unique and phenomenal nature to offer and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is the absolute crown jewel of this diverse country. You should certainly not miss this miracle. And to be honest, once you’ve seen it, you’ll probably come back to see it again!

icebergs jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

And these are only the smaller ice floes! You can’t even imagine how gigantic those icebergs are in the lake!

Excursions to the most beautiful glacier lagoon in Iceland

From Reykjavik you can organize one-day or multi-day excursions to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. I myself traveled around for three days, and I still haven’t seen the biggest part of what this island has to offer. Curious about what it costs to plan a day tour or short round trip? I recommend these tours:

 

» All tours and excursions to Jökulsárlón

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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