The drifting icebergs and the beautiful surroundings of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon have made it one of the biggest attractions to visitors for many, many years. But, do you really know everything there is to know about this impressive natural wonder?
The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is open to the public all year round. Now, if you intend to visit during the summer months, you should expect crowds. It is recommended that you get an early morning head-start on peak-season tourist traffic.
What Kind of Lake is Jokulsarlon?
Well, firstly, you need to understand that a glacier lagoon and a lake are one and the same. A glacier lagoon is a lake that forms at the base of glaciers and is fed by glacial meltwater. One of the characteristics of such a lagoon is the bobbing icebergs in the body of water.
Located in the southern part of the famous Vatnajökull National Park, in Southeastern Iceland, the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is definitely the most famous iceberg lagoon in Iceland. It is also Iceland’s deepest lake at a depth of 248 meters. The lagoon is also affected by the tides since it is connected to the ocean. That’s why Jokulsarlon has a tidal range of between 2-3 meters.
You also might’ve already seen Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon without even knowing it, as it is a very popular movie location. The lagoon appeared in movies such as Tomb Raider, Interstellar, Batman Begins, James Bond’s Die Another Day and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
How Far is Jokulsarlon From Reykjavík?
This is another question we often receive, as many opt to use the capital as a base and then take on daily excursions to explore the island. Although it’s technically possible to make a day trip out of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, we would not recommend it.
Jokulsarlon is 384.2 km from Reykjavík. That will take you more than five hours, one-way!. And that’s if road conditions are perfect, you won’t make any stops along the way. You can either make Jokulsarlon a stop on your road trip around Iceland, or make it a 2-3 day trip from the capital.
If you are wondering how to reach Jokulsarlon by road, the answer would be via Route 1. You can either rent a car in Reykjavík and go on a self-driving tour to not miss all the attractions along the way, or take a couple of buses and a taxi via Selfoss. Alternatively, you can fly to Hornafjordur and then get to Jokulsarlon via bus and taxi or fly to Egilsstadir and rent a vehicle to Jokulsarlon.
How Long Does it Take to See All of Jokulsarlon?
Visiting Jokulsarlon takes about 2-3 hours and that includes a walk on the infamous Diamond beach. But as mentioned earlier, we recommend a longer stay in order to take part in all the other activities this area has to offer.
Where to Stay Near Jokulsarlon in Iceland
If you are sleeping over to properly explore the area, you will find that there are plenty of Jokulsarlon hotels to choose from. Prices vary, but average about $70 per person per night. One of the most popular hotels to stay at is the 4-star Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.
The reason why it’s so popular is that it’s conveniently situated between the two places in Iceland that draw nature lovers like bees to honey. Those places are: Skaftafell National Park and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. It offers a wide variety of rooms to choose from and reception is open 24 hours. Prices start at $260 per person per night.
If that’s a little too steep for your budget, you can always look into some of the quaint guesthouses in the surrounds. Unfortunately, the nearest camping grounds are at Skaftafell and Haukafell. But it’s still an option if you can arrange for transport to the lagoon!
What to See at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
As we’ve already touched on, there are plenty more to see in the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon surrounds. Some of these include the following:
It’s not just icebergs bobbing about in the water. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot a couple of seals. If you are coming to visit during the winter months, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled on the lagoon’s mouth, where they go to catch fish.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a birder’s paradise. You can spot the Whooper Swan, Barnacle Goose, a variety of gulls, the Northern Fulmar and many, many more. In fact, Jokulsarlon is a well-known nesting spot for the Arctic Terns and the Skuas, and several puffin-watching tours in Iceland pass nearby.
The reason why the area is filled with so many bird species is that Jokulsarlon has a wealth of herring and capelin. These are fish, for those who may not know, that are brought in by the tides we mentioned earlier. So, these birds can nest and feed to their heart’s content.
Diamond beach is one of the most popular black sand beaches you can find in Iceland. It got its name because of the glistening iceberg fragments strewn across the beach that looks like diamonds lining the shore.
The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis is a phenomenon that many flock to Iceland to see. This magnificent light display is only visible in pitch-black nights. It is particularly spectacular in the more remote areas, away from the big-city lights. That makes the Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon and its surroundings ideal.
Just keep in mind that because this phenomenon needs darkness to be visible. Those who visit this glacier pond in Iceland during the summer months will be privy to a midnight sun, but not the Northern Lights. That's because during the summer, daylight can be up to 24 hours long.
Things to do at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you are looking to take part in some activities in and around the lagoon, these might take your fancy:
Attend the Annual Fireworks Show at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you are visiting the lagoon in August, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who get to attend the annual fireworks show. It’s not just your normal “pretty colors against the sky”. The way the light bounces off the ice on the water is truly a sight to behold.
Hike in Vatnajökull National Park
As one of the largest national parks in Europe, Vatnajökull has much more to offer than just the lagoon. One way of exploring this beautiful landscape is via the myriad of hiking trails across the park. These trails range in length and difficulty, so you are bound to find one that suits your experience and fitness levels.
Tours to Take at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Surrounds
Not in the mood to go at it alone? If you prefer to explore in a group setting or with the help of a guide, some of these exciting tours might be a good option for you:
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours
You have two options when it comes to taking a Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour: the Zodiac boat tour or the Amphibian boat tour. With the Zodiac tour, you will be able to explore more of the lagoon. You’ll be able to get so close to the icebergs and the glacier that you could reach out and touch it (we said could, not that you should!)
With the Amphibian tour, you get to sail on one of the four amphibians. These boats will provide a smooth cruise around the lagoon and its spectacular icebergs and surroundings.
Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon Kayaking Tours
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to paddle among the Icelandic wildlife whilst winding your way through icebergs on glacial waters, now’s your chance! A Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon kayaking tour is a special and intimate affair, since the groups can’t be too big due to safety reasons.
Kayaks should not be confused with canoes. Kayaks are much more stable and do not require any previous experience. Jokulsarlon kayaking does, however, have age and weight restrictions (once again, due to safety concerns).
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Ice Cave Tours
Ice caving in Jokulsarlon is quite the experience. You can now experience, first-hand, what it feels like inside icy walls with its interesting icy formations such as stalactites and stalagmites.
The Jokulsarlon Crystal Ice Cave tour takes about 3 hours and tour groups are limited to 14 people. It is important to remember, though, that this is an ice cave. That means safety can become a bit dicey during the summer months, the cave is only open to the public during the colder months of October to March.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Walk
This is one of the most popular glacier hikes in Iceland. It is a family-friendly activity and children from the age of 10 are allowed to participate. Experience what it feels like to step out onto the otherworldly icy realm of the largest glacier in Europe – the Vatnajökull Glacier.
A certified guide will lead you across the icy plains and share his in-depth knowledge of this strange landscape. That ranges from small caves to sinkholes referred to as “moulins” and “dirt cones” consisting of the ashes of past volcanic eruptions. The walk is 6-7 kilometers long and will take you 3.5-4 hours in total, 1.5 of which will be on the ice. Bookings need to be a minimum of 2 people and cannot be more than 14.
Time is Ticking…
When visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, it’s hard to believe that this gigantic natural wonder only started forming in 1935. As with most natural wonders, they tend to change over time. With the current acceleration of the ever-expanding lagoon, it is expected to grow into a large, deep fjord sometime in the near future. That means that time is rapidly running out for you to experience this icy lake.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether via boat, on the shore or crunching over the glacial ice, book your adventure at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon!