The Glacier Lagoon in Jokulsarlon is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Iceland. Jokulsarlon sits south of Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier. If you are wondering where you have seen this place before, it could be in some famous movies such as James Bond, A View to a Kill, James Bond, Die another day, or also Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon started forming only in 1934 and is fed by shrinking Breidamerkurjokull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull. The glacial lake is getting bigger every year and now has a size of 18 km². Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is Iceland’s deepest lake, almost 250 meters deep. Depending on what kind of icebergs are floating in the lagoon, Jokulsarlon can look like a completely different place from one month to another. Some icebergs are incredibly bright blue; others have grey streaks from the ash residue of former volcanic eruptions. That is why no one would ever get bored of the Glacier Lagoon. Seals and fish live in the water, and Nordic birds fly above.
The Jokulsa River, the shortest river in Iceland, just about 500 metres long, runs from the lagoon to the North Atlantic Ocean. Just keep in mind that there are several more rivers in Iceland called Jokulsa. The icebergs that break away from the glacier and fall into the lagoon slowly melt and drift into the ocean, where they are polished by the North Atlantic waves, before being washed on the black beach called Breidamerkursandur. Therefore, it is always covered with translucent ice sculptures glittering in the sun, like diamonds. That is why Breidamerkursandur is nicknamed Diamond Beach. The black volcanic sand of the beach contrasts with the white or blue icebergs and makes this place one of the most photogenic in all Iceland.
How to organise your sightseeing of the Glacier Lagoon
I recommend seeing the place from four different viewpoints shown on my map: Car park view to Jokulsarlon on the left-hand side, car park on the right-hand side before the bridge if coming from Reykjavik; the Diamond Beach car park on the right-hand side after the bridge; and car park at the Glacier Lagoon itself. From the first car park, you have to walk a little bit and get up on the top of the hill to get a panoramic view of the Glacier Lagoon. The stop at the right-hand side before the bridge will give you the first impression of Diamond Beach with shining pieces of crystal clear ice on the black sand. The stop after the bridge on the right-hand side will allow you to visit the photo exhibition and see the stunning ice masterpieces made by Mother Nature. At the last stop next to the Glacier Lagoon, you will be able to watch the icebergs float in the lagoon and take a walk near the water. Also, you will have the opportunity to book a boat trip and use public toilets. Make sure you have enough time for a walk and many awesome photo ops. Do you need to take a boat trip on the lagoon? Good question! I did not take one, and I feel I saw enough just by walking on the shore of Glacier Lake. If you want to be very close to the icebergs, book a boat tour!
If you are in this area, do not miss the nearby Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Fjallsjokull Glacier are located in the south part of the Vatnajokull Glacier, about 10 kilometres before Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon if coming from Reykjavik. The scenery at Fjallsárlón is extremely captivating. Fjallsarlon sits in the shadow of Fjallsjokull Glacier, another outlet of the Vatnajokull Glacier. Icebergs break away from the glacier and float on the surface of the 4 square kilometres glacial lagoon below. Unlike Jokulsarlon, Fjallsarlon is not connected to the sea. This means the icebergs stay there until they melt. The glacier is steep and has a lot of cracks in it. The landscape is very beautiful with the Glacier Lagoon, floating icebergs and the steep glacier wall.
Where to stay?
There are several options for accommodation around the Glacier Lagoon, but not exactly next to it. Early booking of accommodation is typical for hotels and hostels close to the Glacier Lagoon. When travelling from Reykjavik, one of the closest establishments is the Hali Country Hotel located about 15 kilometres further from the Glacier Lagoon. Immersed in the countryside, all of the rooms come with private bathrooms. Actually, this place is a kind of accommodation hub where also Skyrhusid Guesthouse and Gerdi Guesthouse are located. So you may choose one fitting your budget.If you’re travelling on a big budget, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a four-star, stylish hotel in the area. The hotel has all the amenities you could need and even has a waterfall right outside. Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is located about 30 kilometres before the Glacier Lagoon if you are travelling from Reykjavik.
If you aren't fortunate to get a room close to the lagoon, the second most convenient option is to stay at the Hofn, located 1 hour away from Jokulsarlon. It is home to the best lobster in Iceland and close to the stunning mountain Vestrahorn making it a great place to spend an overnight and from where you can start to explore.
Jokulsarlon is accessible all year round, although it may be more weather dependent in winter. To reach Jokulsarlon, you can either drive yourself or join a tour that takes you to the lagoon. If you are going from Reykjavík, note that it's about a 5-6 hour journey to get there. The drive itself is incredibly scenic, so it will take you longer to get there with all the great stops you'll want to make on the way, especially seeing amazing waterfalls on your way. I recommend spending at least 2 days travelling to Jokulsarlon and back to Reykjavík. It may also be part of your ring road or South Iceland itineraries. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable, so always check the weather forecast before hitting the road. Here is my map of four essential stops for visiting Glacier Lagoon!
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Author: Anita Sāne
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