If you want to see one of the most exclusive and coldest experiences (for the play on words), then you need to get to Iceland to see the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
There are not many places in this world where not only can you see a glacier up close, but you can also see parts of it floating in a lagoon. You will never be able to overcome the colors of the ice: from aquamarine blue to carbon black. Nor would you think that seeing pieces of ice float would be fun, but it is totally!
You get to see a piece stuck in the rapids of the river and you can hear cracks / strong blows when it breaks. Definitely an experience of a lifetime!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The lagoon and the icebergs come from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier that is part of the largest glacier, Vatnajökull. In fact, Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe by volume and covers 8% of Iceland.
The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit in your life. You will see blue water and hundreds of unique icebergs. The icebergs form perfect reflexes in the blue water, which add to its beauty. You will have many photo opportunities from posing with the ice to the reflection photography using the lagoon and the icebergs. The sunset is impressive over the glacier lagoon.
Best time to visit the Jokulsarlon lagoon
While you can access the Jokulsarlon lagoon year-round, as with anything in Iceland, it is important to be careful with the weather if you visit during the winter. Driving can be dangerous and access can be limited during inclement weather, such as a snowstorm. When deciding which is the best time to visit Jokulsarlon, it is important to consider what you most want to see or do.
If you want to truly experience the impressive icebergs in all their splendor, it is recommended you visit them during the summer and early autumn when the ice flows through the channel of the lagoon towards the sea. In the winter, the icebergs will freeze instead. As such, boat trips only operate during the summer months, usually between April and October.
However, if you are looking for the full Icelandic experience (and ready to face the cold) then, a winter visit means you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on your visit to Jokulsarlon. A winter visit also means that you can explore the ice caves, allowing you to see the Vatnajökull glacier from the inside.
Excursions to ice caves in Iceland usually operate between November and March, but they depend on the climate, since the caves can melt or fill with water during the warmer winters. You can expect the biggest crowds during July and August. Many activities (especially boat trips) are booked in advance during these months, so be sure to plan ahead. If you are looking for a warmer climate but want to avoid tourist rush, opt for June or September.
Where to stay in Jökulsárlon
It is beautiful and one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. Most people jump out of their cars, take some photos and move on, but it’s worth being around and having the opportunity to see it more than once. The light changes throughout the day and the crowds decrease at different times. It’s very different every time you go.
You can stay at a nice Hali Country hotel, which is the closest accommodation to the lagoon. It will allow you the opportunity to explore the area and see something more than the lagoon full of ice. Most people have heard about the icebergs on the beach, but they did not realize they are across the road.
Fun facts about Jokulsarlon lagoon
- Jokulsarlon icebergs are around 1000 years old.
- Jokulsarlon is the deepest lake in Iceland at a depth of 250 meters.
- Around 100 meters of ice are detached from the glacier every year.
- Jokulsarlon has appeared in films, especially Die Another Day and Tomb Raider.
- The lagoon only began to form in 1934 when the glacier began to retreat but is rapidly gaining size.
- The lagoon opens towards the ocean and so is a mixture of fresh and salt water. That is the reason why it is a blue-green color.
- The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon has grown four times more in the last four decades.
- Because the lagoon is at sea level, sea water flows to it from the Atlantic Ocean during high tide.
- The icebergs of the lagoon appear in a range of colors, from turquoise blue to almost transparent white, with black fragments mixed in the volcanic landscape of the area.
- It is an access point for wildlife. It is full of fish, and often you will see hungry seals and seabirds trying to catch them.
- Jökulsárlón is translated as “glacier river lagoon” in Icelandic.
- The glacial tongue that forms the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is called Breiðamerkurjökull, which extends from the Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland’s largest glacier. Breiðamerkurjökull sat once 20 km north of its present location when it was discovered around the year AD870.
Things to do in and around the Jokulsarlon lagoon
- Climb aboard an amphibious boat on land before crossing the surface of the lagoon
- See the icebergs up close and in person from a zodiac (a rigid inflatable boat)
- Experience the bright blue ice caves on the Vatnajökull glacier from the inside
- Visit the nearby diamond beach with its black sand covered in sparkling “ice diamonds”
- Try the refreshing ice of the glacier that is more than 1,000 years old. Yeap! For some tours, you can also eat ice as well.
- Participate in the magnificent annual fireworks show in which the whole sky is lit with fireworks. The event usually takes place in August and the fireworks start at 11 pm.
How to get to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is located in the Vatnajökull National Park, just off the Iceland Highway One. At about 370 km from Reykjavik, it takes approximately six hours to arrive from the capital city. The trip can be long, but it is incredibly picturesque, offering views of the Skógafoss waterfall (one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland), the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the black sand Reynisfjara beach.
If you do not plan to rent a car in Iceland, you can take a two or three day trip with a stop in Jokulsarlon. Look out for several day trips to Iceland, especially to the south coast. These tours operate throughout the year; however, many books in advance (especially during the main tourist season, see below), so be sure to be organized.