I’ll cut to the chase; yes, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is definitely worth a visit, and taking the tour is a must! How many times in your life can you get up close and personal with mammoth icebergs?
You might be surprised to find out that this lagoon (or lake) hasn’t always been a natural wonder in Iceland’s landscape; it’s a more recent addition due to the effects of climate change. Over the last 50 years, it has quadrupled in size and is anticipated to continue to grow. Floating around in the lagoon are massive icy blue, white, and black-streaked icebergs — some visitors have even gotten the opportunity to see chunks of ice crash off of the shrinking glacier during their visit.
This stunning natural wonder is a must-see for any traveler, and a boat tour is the perfect way to experience its beauty up close. Get ready to be amazed by the crystal-clear waters, towering icebergs, and breathtaking scenery. Now that you know that the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is worth visiting, this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of how to get there, what to do, and more.
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What is The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a natural wonder located in southeastern Iceland. It is the deepest glacial lake in Iceland and is fed by the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, part of the larger Vatnajökull glacier, considered the largest glacier in Europe.
Glacier lakes, also known as glacier lagoons, can form when meltwater from the glacier accumulates in basins near the glacier’s base. This often occurs in areas where the melting rate exceeds the ice flow rate, resulting in the formation of a lake. These lakes can be temporary or long-lasting, depending on the conditions.
The formation of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon can be attributed to a combination of glacier retreat, glacial erosion, and natural processes over a long time.
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is popular for its crystal-clear waters and towering icebergs, which break off from the glacier and float in the lake. The lagoon is also home to various birds, fish, and seals — during the winter, the seals like to relax on top of the icebergs (it seems like the last place anyone would want to relax)!
The glacier is also famous! It’s been used as a backdrop for many popular films and TV series like Batman Begins, Interstellar, Game of Thrones, James Bond, and many more.
Where is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & How do I Get There?
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is on Iceland’s south coast, just off the popular Ring Road (Route 1). It is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes north of Vik and about an hour south of Höfn. The only way to get to the lagoon is by car, either self-drive or with a tour company. There isn’t a direct public transit route from Reykjavik to the lagoon.
If you’re driving from Reykjavik, the drive will take you approximately five hours one way — you can pair other stops along the way to make it a complete day trip.
Why Take a Boat Tour of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?
Taking a boat tour of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is the best way to experience the beauty and majesty of this natural wonder. From the water, you can get up close and personal with the towering icebergs and see the intricate details of their shapes and colors. You may even spot seals swimming in the lake. The boat tour guides know the area and can provide interesting facts and history about the glacier and lagoon.
Are Multiple Boat Tours Offered at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?
You can explore the lagoon in a Zodiac, Amphibian Boat, or kayak! Boat tours generally operate from April – October; they don’t operate in the winter due to extreme weather. During the high season (July and August), the Amphibian Boat runs approximately 40 times daily.
How Long are the Boat Tours?
The Zodiac Boat tour is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, and because the boat is smaller, you can get closer to the icebergs (almost all the way up to them) and cover more area of the lake. The Amphibian Boat tour is approximately 30 minutes long.
What Can You Expect to See on The Boat Tour?
During the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon boat tour, you can expect to see towering icebergs of various shapes and colors floating in crystal-clear water. Depending on which tour you choose, you might also get the opportunity to get up close and personal! The guides will highlight interesting features and provide information about the glacier and lagoon. You may also spot some wildlife, such as seals and unique birds.
What Should I Wear on a Boat Tour?
It’s important that when you set off for your tour that you’re dress in layers — the weather can change quickly in Iceland. No matter the time of year, you will want to wear long pants, a heavier jacket (or multiple layers), and possibly a hat when you’re on the lagoon (it might not be chilly when you’re on land, but in the middle of the lake it will be colder).
I visited in May and wore long underwear, leggings, a sweater, winter jacket, and a big scarf (you can see it in an earlier photo in this article). Surprisingly, I was ok without a hat but other people were not.
If it’s raining, make sure you have waterproof gear — this was a huge regret of mine. My jacket was water resistant and there were multiple days that I got soaked. Being wet and cold is no fun, no matter the scenery.
What Other Activities are Offered at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon or in the Area?
Aside from the boat tours, you could also explore the Vatnajökull Glacier on a unique ice cave tour. During the three-hour tour, you take a 4×4 Superjeep to the glacier to explore the icy blue caves. The caves are not manufactured, they are created by water that runs through or below the glacier, and because Iceland’s weather isn’t consistent, new ice caves are constantly popping up. Annually local guides scout for new ice caves that are safe to explore.
You can only visit the ice caves in winter and should always go with a certified guide — never try to enter them alone.
Aside from the ice caves, you’ll also want to take some time to wander the volcanic black sand beach, Diamond Beach. The stark contrast of the black volcanic sand and chunks of almost translucent glaciers that wash up on shore make it a unique spot for visitors and photographers to explore. The beach is also a popular spot to catch a glimpse of Orcas swimming in the ocean and lounging seals. Visiting the beach and lagoon are a popular day trip option from Reykjavik.
Can You Swim in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?
No, swimming is not allowed or encouraged in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Jökulsárlón is best enjoyed from the shore or on a boat tour. The tours provide a safe way to experience the lagoon’s beauty while maintaining a safe distance from icebergs and other hazards.
The tour operators at the lagoon said, “It’s not illegal to swim in the lagoon. It’s just stupid.” Their comments came after Justin Bieber decided to take a plunge for a music video.
As you can imagine, the water is freezing, approximately 3°C to -3°C (37 F – 26 F), and if you don’t freeze to death, an iceberg could kill you.
If you’re interested in swimming in Iceland, there are many geothermal pools and hot springs throughout the country that provide enjoyable and safe opportunities for swimming and relaxation. These include popular destinations like the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and various natural hot springs scattered across Iceland.
What Time of Year is The Best to Visit The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?
The best time of the year to visit is in May before the summer tourism season really gets underway. The weather temperature averages 4° – 10°C (40° – 50°F), and crowds will be smaller than in July or August. Remember that boat tours aren’t offered in the winter, so it’s not even an option if that’s when you’re visiting.
Where to Stay Near The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
The town closest to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is Höfn and offers a few small B & B style accommodations and also a handful of restaurants and a Nettó Supermarket. The next larger town is Vik, over 2 hours south of the lagoon. Both hotels are under an hour away from the lagoon and include breakfast.
Þjóðvegur 781, Iceland (34 km from Jökulsárlón)
Nesjum, 781 Höfn, Iceland (72 km from Jökulsárlón)
Are There Other Glacier Lagoons in Iceland?
Yes, there are nearly 300 named glacier lagoons throughout Iceland (the number is increasing due to glacier melt) — Jökulsárlón is the most popular.
If you want more to explore, add these four to your list!
- Fjallsárlón: This lagoon is close to Jökulsárlón and not as well known, which means fewer people. If you don’t like crowds, check out the boat tours offered here.
- Breiðamerkurlón: This glacier lagoon is also close to Jökulsárlón and is often considered an extension of it because it shares the same glacial source. Getting to Breiðárlón isn’t simple; you need to hike the dirt road that leads to the lagoon or have a vehicle with four-wheel drive.
- Grænalón: Located in the western part of Vatnajökull National Park, Grænalón is a smaller glacier lagoon that also offers beautiful scenery.
- Hoffellslón: Located in southeastern Iceland near the town of Höfn, Hoffellslón is another lesser-known glacier lagoon that’s worth exploring.
Recommended Glacial Lagoon & Cave Tours
If you’re looking for recommendations for tours to explore Jökulsárlón or other stunning lagoons, check out these guided tours.Book Now!
Wrap it Up: More Iceland Travel Help
Don’t miss these two top-notch guides and articles.
The Best Vegan Guide to Iceland: Restaurants, Hotels, & More
Ultimate Reykjavik Vegan Guide: Where to Eat, Shop, & Explore
The Best Day Trip from Reykjavík to Explore Beautiful Iceland
G Adventures Review: Best of Iceland Tour
The Ultimate Guide to Iceland Ring Road Hotels & Activities
Is the Golden Circle Worth Visiting?