The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is the largest and most famous lake in Iceland and one of the top highlights on the Ring Road in Iceland. The main attraction of this glacier lagoon are certainly the up to 30 meters high icebergs that float by the thousands in the turquoise blue water of the glacier lagoon. Directly on the other side of the ring road lies the second highlight of Jokulsarlon, namely the pitch-black Diamond Beach, also one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. The icebergs and chunks of ice that have drifted out to sea are washed up on the beach here, creating a crazy contrast that is impossible to resist.
What to expect on the jökulsárlon glacier lagoon, how to get there and the best travel tips you can read in our travel report to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Iceland
The glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon is a lake fed by the meltwater of the nearby Vatnajokull glacier and is connected to the sea by a short river section. This is also the reason why the lake does not freeze even in winter, because the tides push seawater into the lagoon, which is why the water here is salty.
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The seawater also ensures that the lake water remains clear and clean. The lake has grown enormously over the decades; in the 1970s, for example, it was only 7 km², only one-third as large as it is today.
What to expect on the Jökulsárlon Glacier Lagoon?
Immediately after you park your car at the nearby parking lot, you stand in front of the huge lagoon and see the thousands of ice chunks and icebergs floating around in the glacier lagoon. The variety among the icebergs is really gigantic, there are up to 30 meters high and again some that rise only 50cm out of the water. It should always be remembered that the largest part of icebergs lies below the water surface.
With a bit of luck you will also see some seals searching for food among the icebergs.
You can walk many kilometers in the direction of the glacier, but you will not reach it yourself. But you don’t have to go that far, because already at the beginning of the lagoon the view is extremely spectacular, if you go a few hundred meters backwards at least much less tourists are visible.
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You can also just sit on the shore for hours and watch the hustle and bustle of the icebergs. We have not seen anything as beautiful as this before.
By the way, there seems to be something like an invisible barrier between the lagoon and the sea, because the ice chunks don’t just drift evenly towards the sea, but usually stop just before the bridge. Here the lagoon seems to become much shallower, which keeps the icebergs from disappearing too quickly into the sea.
If you’ve seen your fill here, you should also head over to nearby Diamond Beach, another highlight of Iceland.
History of Formation
The ice that washes onto the beach here comes from the glacier tongue Breiðamerkurjokull. This is a spur of the gigantic Vatnajokull glacier, which is the largest glacier not only in Iceland but also in Europe.
The ice chunks – very large as well as tiny – break off from the large glacier (they are also called calving) and then drift over the glacier lagoon to the sea and are washed by the current to the nearby Diamond Beach. The whole process can take years, depending on the size and shape of the ice chunk.
The connection of the lagoon to the sea is of natural origin and used to be much larger. From 1950, the strait was reduced and later the current bridge was built. If this natural access to the sea would be closed, the lagoon would be frozen very quickly, because only by the influx of warm sea water it remains warm enough not to freeze in winter.
By the way, the glacier lagoon is with its 248 meters the deepest lake of Iceland and meanwhile more than 23 km² large and up to 5 km wide. By the way, just 100 years ago the glacier reached almost to the sea, which means that there was no lagoon yet. Today you can only see the glacier in the distance.
Crystal Clear and Blue Icebergs
At Diamond Beach as well as in the lagoon there are both crystal clear (transparent) and blue colored icebergs.
The difference is that the transparent icebergs are more like the “normal” icebergs, because here snow and ice have been compressed over a long period of time, creating a structure in the ice chunk that reflects all light waves equally.
The blue icebergs were created by displacing all air bubbles in the ice under water. When this ice is illuminated by the sun, the longer wavelengths (red and yellow) are absorbed and blue and green are reflected more strongly. Therefore, these ice chunks look rather bluish.
Excursions at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
Besides walking around and taking pictures, you can of course experience some badass action at the neighboring glacier lagoon. You can take boats or amphibious vehicles across the lagoon and get up close to the icebergs. You can also hike through ice caves here in the winter.
You can find all information about activities near Diamond Beach at our partners of GetYourGuide*.
Fjallsárlón Glacier – The Untouristy Alternative
Right next door – only a few minutes away by car – there is something like a glacier secret tip. Well, it is not a real insider tip, because there is a lot going on here, too, but very little compared to the Jokulsarlon lagoon. We are talking about the Fjallsárlón glacier, which is also a branch of the Vatnajokull glacier.
This is probably because there are hardly any icebergs floating in the glacier lake and the lake – here it is not a lagoon, because there is no access to the sea – just does not look so spectacular.
The special feature and therefore also the reason why you should definitely visit this sight is the much closer glacier. Here you can really see the glacier with your own eyes, which is not possible at the neighboring glacier lagoon. There you can only imagine the glacier.
But at Fjallsárlón you have a great view of the glacier break-off edge and with a little luck you can also see how the glacier calves, i.e. how ice chunks break off from the glacier. Since you will pass by here on your road trip anyway, you should definitely stop here. The experience is just very different here and definitely worth seeing.
Travel Tips for Jokulsarlon Lagoon
Best Time to Travel
Jokulsarlon Lagoon is actually beautiful and different at any time of the year. Some say that there are more icebergs in winter. But in summer there should be much more icebergs calving, because the temperatures are higher.
Therefore, in our opinion, there is actually no perfect time of the year to travel. Also with the time of day it behaves similarly. Whether the lagoon looks better in the morning or in the evening is more a question of the weather. It doesn’t always play along in Iceland and that should rather influence your trip. When the sky is blue, the icebergs shine a bit more. And at sunrise or sunset there are again very special color games in the ice.
How much time can you spend here?
Since the glacier lagoon is located directly on the ring road, a long journey is out of the question and you can spend the entire time on site. Even if many think that you only have to take a few photos there and then go straight on again, if you do not plan to book a tour activity* on site, we see it differently.
This place is so spectacular and so unique in the world that you have to spend at least several hours here. Even if you don’t do a tour, then 2 hours is the minimum in our opinion. But you can also spend half a day or more here if you take Diamond Beach and the Glacier Lagoon together. It is also worth to stay overnight here to see these highlights of Iceland e.g. in the evening and in the morning.
Even if the weather plays along, it can be that on one day there are hardly any ice chunks floating in the lagoon and on the next day there are hundreds again.
Drone Flying at the Jökulsárlon Glacier Lagoon
Since the glacier lagoon as well as the neighboring Diamond Beach is located in the Vatnajokull National Park since 2017, flying a drone is unfortunately completely prohibited. You will also be informed by the friendly rangers on site if you try it anyway. But since there are many corners where you do not disturb anyone and you are relatively undisturbed, you can let your drone rise here.
Parking at the glacier lagoon
There are a total of 3 well-developed and free parking lots here. Two of them are directly at Diamond Beach, each on one side of the strait to the lagoon. The eastern parking lot is the most frequented. On the western side you usually have less other tourists, but not less ice chunks on the beach.
Another parking lot is directly on the other side of the road at the glacier lagoon, this one is usually also very crowded. So if you visit both sights (Diamond Beach & Jokulsarlon Lagoon) – which you definitely should – then it doesn’t really matter where you park.
How to get to Jokulsarlon Lagoon
The glacier lagoon is located on the ring road and directly across from the famous Diamond Beach. If you take a road trip along the Ring Road of Iceland, you will inevitably pass by here. From Reykjavik in the west you need about 5 hours for the 370 km.
The tranquil Vik with its wild Reynisfjara beach is only 2.5 hours and 190 km away. In the east, the small town of Höfn is only 1 hour away. As a place for your overnight stay, we would recommend you a hotel, which is close to the lagoon.
Accommodation near Jokulsarlon Lagoon
There are not many hotels in the immediate vicinity of the glacier lagoon, and many are quite expensive. But we would definitely recommend you to stay overnight here, because the area is just too beautiful and everything can look completely different every day. So you should take the opportunity and visit the lagoon on 2 consecutive days.
On both of our visits to the glacier lagoon, we stayed at Skyrhúsid Guesthouse, which is only 10 minutes away. You are super fast at Diamond Beach and still sleep a little away from the ring road.
- Large common kitchen
- Lovingly furnished rooms
- located off the ring road
- 10 minutes to Diamond Beach and the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
- Double room from 90 $
Have you been to the glacier lagoon? Let us know how you liked it.