Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
Visit Jokulsarlon in South Iceland
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is the N°1 choice for those seeking Icelandic pure nature. You will feel there an air of tranquility, amazing big icebergs floating on the surface, with an awesome view of the famous Vatnajokull (largest glacier in Iceland).
With no further notice, let us take you to a place that you won’t forget!
What is Jokulsarlon in Iceland?
Located in South Iceland, Jokulsarlon is a “glacier lagoon”, it is a lake standing at the foot of the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. It means “glacial river lagoon” in Icelandic, and is connected to the sea by the Jökulsá River.
Photo: A glacier lagoon is a lake at the foot of the glacier
It takes its water from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which is a tongue of Vatnajökull (the largest ice cap in Iceland). It is also a very famous place where you can go glacier hiking and visit ice caves.
A lot of icebergs are floating on the surface, this is one of the reasons why this lagoon became so famous. During sunrise or sunset, the sun reflects on the ice, creating incredible scenery.
Photo: dconvertini - Jökulsárlón, Iceland - Flickr - No changes were made
It is the deepest lake in Iceland with a maximum depth of 932 ft (284 meters). You don’t really realize that when you are there, but the depth of the lakes is more than three times the tallest building in Iceland.
The lake is 7 square miles (18 square kilometers), but is always growing because of climatic changes, unfortunately.
What to do at the lagoon?
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon tour
Only one company offers boat tours on the lake. They will take you on an excursion of about 1 hour to go observe icebergs, glaciers, and seals.
There are two types of tours available, the cheapest is the amphibian boat tour, which will cost you ISK 5900 (around $43 and €36), and the tour is free for children 0-5 years old.
Photo: Take a tour in an amphibian boat to get close to the glacier!
The other is a zodiac ride, it allows you to go even closer to the glacier and icebergs, and is also fast (even faster than our KuKu campervan)!
Flotation suits and life jackets will be provided to you. This one is a bit more expensive since it costs 10,500 ISK (around $76 and €64).
Are you looking for something a little more sporty? Go for a kayak tour on the lake for about 1 hour and a half.
Kayaking is the quietest and most peaceful way to discover the Jokulsarlon lagoon. Finding yourself in the middle of the lake without any engine noise is really pleasant.
Ice cave tours
Ice caving is really famous among travelers in Iceland. And this Icelandic glacier lagoon is awesome for this. You can find companies taking you from the parking lot (to park your campervan) to the ice caves of the glacier.
Photo: Visit the magnificent blue ice caves in South Iceland
You will visit amazing blue ice caves, and find yourself in the core of a glacier. Ice caves are always changing and new ones always appear. So be sure that your experience will be unique
They provide all the gear for hiking and safety, you just need to dress warmly!
Visit the Diamond Beach
Photo: The Diamond Beach is just on the other of the road
You can’t miss the beach when visiting the lagoon, and you’ll be amazed about what you’ll see there.
The best time to go to Jokulsarlon
The advantage of Jokulsarlon is that it is possible to enjoy it all year round.
However, you might prefer one season to another depending on what you want to see or do there!
If you absolutely want to see seals, you will have a better chance in winter. It is during this period that they hunt more frequently at the mouth of the lake.
Birds are more numerous in summer, as some migrate to warmer regions in winter.
One thing is certain, the weather is milder in summer. Days are warmer, and the wind, if there is any, is much more bearable. The days are also extremely long, which allows you to do more things in one day.
Photo: You can come to visit the lagoon all around the year
In the winter it is not terribly cold, but believe me, you will need to dress warmly. The wind can freeze you in place, but the snowy landscapes are just beautiful.
Also, if you are a bit lucky, you will maybe enjoy the Northern Lights at the glacier. This place is perfect to see them, as the nights are really dark there.
Also, if you had planned to do activities, here is what you can do, or not, depending on the season:
|Ice cave tours
|Diamond Beach visit
|Enjoy northern lights
What you shouldn't do at the lagoon
- Don't swim in the lagoon
Some have tried it, they immediately regretted it. The water in the lake is so cold that it can cause hypothermia within minutes.
So do not try to swim in the lake!
- Don't step on the ice
Also, icebergs are sometimes on the edges of the lakes, and it can be tempting to climb on them. But don't do that, they can turn around at any time. You can also slide on it and fall into the water.
How was it formed?
The glacial lake is not that old, as scientists say that it formed around 1935. The thing is that temperatures rose rapidly during the early XXth century, making the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier melt more and more rapidly. As a consequence of that, water accumulated at the foot of the glacier.
Photo: The lagoon can be a mirror lake sometimes!
In other words, it is the increased melting of the glacier that created the lagoon. Since that time, the lagoon has grown more and more, and it is still growing!
It is now four times the size it was in the seventies. Scientists say that in the near future, the place will become a big fjord, instead of just a lake.
The icebergs at Jokulsarlon
One of the best things to see at Jokulsarlon is its icebergs. They break off from the glacier and drift across the lake.
In fact, the glacier is always in motion and is sliding over the terrain constantly. The icebergs break off at the end of the glacier and then drift across the lake.
They can be of any size and can be up to several tens of meters in diameter.
Photo: Huge icebergs at Jokulsarlon
Their colors are incredible, and we most often meet three kinds, white, blue, and black.
The white ones trap a lot of air, and they are not very compact. The light, therefore, does not pass through them, but they can still have a bluish tint.
On the other hand, those of blue color was compressed by the immense weight of the glacier. The weight has forced all the air out of the ice and the light passes through freely. These are the most beautiful ones for sure!
Photo: Blue iceberg is made of compact ice
But the most impressive are probably the black ones. The reason for this color is the volcanic ash that is on it.
During a volcanic eruption, the ashes settle on the ice. Then ice forms again on it and the ash is trapped. It comes out only when the ice breaks away from the glacier.
Photo: Look how incredible black icebergs are
Wildlife at Jokulsarlon
This place can seem a bit extreme for humans, but a lot of species actually live in the area.
The most known are seals. You can find dozens of them in the lagoon. They like to fish here and you can see them swimming or just chilling on an iceberg.
Photo: Stephen_AU - Seals at Jökulsárlón - Flickr - No changes were made
They gather at the mouth of the lake to hunt. This is where most fish are found, which drift in the lake at high tide. They are very fast and dive in apnea for about ten seconds, before rising to the surface.
The fish most commonly found in the lake are herring, trout, and salmon, and the seals make it a feast!
The lake is a real haven of peace for them, it feeds them and protects them from the numerous orcas on the south coast of Iceland.
Photo: Arctic sterns hunting fish at the glacier lagoon
Birds also live around the lakes, such as the great skua or arctic terns. They also hunt fish in this Icelandic glacial lagoon.
Beware of terns, they are aggressive and won't hesitate to dive down on you if you get too close to their nests!
How to go to Jokulsarlon + Map
The lagoon is a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik and is probably the easiest spot to find in Iceland.
Just drive on Route 1 to the south until you get there, that’s as simple as that.
Here is a map to give you a better idea of where it is:
Happy travels in Iceland!
Another interesting post in our blog
- Campervan Trip to Iceland checklist for your Kuku Campers Adventure
- Game of thrones locations Iceland
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: the gem of South Iceland
- Ultimate guide to take pictures in Iceland