Iceland is home to an abundance of lakes, lagoons and waterfalls. Lakes in Iceland are truly like no other. Whether they were formed by volcanic eruptions or changes to the island’s glaciers, each one has a unique charm that will captivate you.
Whether you like fishing, swimming, taking photos, or just plain relaxing; there are plenty of Iceland lakes to suit everyone.
Lake Thingvallavatn, or Þingvallavatn as it’s known to locals, is the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’s part of the Þingvellir National Park in the South West of the island, and is roughly a 40-minute drive from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík.
The volcanic origin of Thingvallavatn is clearly visible, with cracks and faults surrounding the lake. The Þingvellir National Park is one of the few places on the planet where visitors can see both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates exposed from the earth.
The Silfra Fissure and Davíðsgjá (David’s Crack) are popular scuba diving and snorkeling sites at the Thingvallavatn Iceland lake.
Silfra Fissure is a rift formed between two tectonic plates. That means it is the only place in the world where you can swim and dive between two continents. The rift is filled with crystal-clear glacial water, giving divers a clear view of everything down there.
Diving at Davíðsgjá is considered more dramatic and adventurous compared to the Silfra Fissure. Only a small number of companies offer diving tours of David’s Crack, so make sure to do your research.
Fjallsarlon is technically a lagoon and not a lake, but we couldn't leave it out of this list! The Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon formed several decades ago from the water coming from the Fjallsjökull glacier tongue. This glacier tongue is located in the southern part of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier.
Here, you can enjoy the majestic views of the lagoon against the blueish background of the glacier tongue. You can even approach Icebergs, which can be seen floating around this icy waters. The zodiac boat tours offered here will also take you close to the striking wall of Ice, the exact point where the glacier meets the water.
Thorisvatn is a tranquil highlands' lake in Iceland. Known as Þórisvatn to Icelanders, it is full of milky water fed directly from the nearby Hofsjökull glacier.
The Hofsjokull glacier is one of the hardest glaciers to conquer in Iceland. It’s home to an active and ancient volcano, as well as birthing the longest river in Iceland, Þjórsá. There are several hiking tours that you can opt for if you want to give Hofsjokull a try.
If adrenaline-fuelled glacier hikes aren’t your thing, you’re in luck! The highland lake Thorisvatn is a well-known hotspot for fishing. The natural waters provide a bounty of brown trout and other species of fish.
Thorisvatn lake was the second-largest natural highland lake in Iceland until it was transformed into the main reservoir for a large power station. You can see the dam in its southern corner, but don’t let this deter you from visiting this striking area.
4. Viti in Askja
Viti is a geothermal hot lake in the Askja Volcanic area of Iceland. The lake was formed when a volcano collapsed in on itself and created a creator, known as a caldera. The caldera is filled with water and is heated naturally by the volcanic earth underneath.
The water in Viti is a balmy 25ºC, making it perfect for a spot of wild swimming. The banks of the creator are quite shallow, making access to the lake surprisingly easy.
The Viti lake won’t be around forever; its formation is only temporary. As the Askja caldera is one of the most active volcanic areas in Iceland, it will change dramatically when the area next erupts. Don’t panic, though, the last major volcanic event nearby occurred in 1962.
A short hike from Viti is a second lake called Oskjavatn. Sometimes known as Lake Askja, this lake is not geothermal, so think twice before you dive in!
Kerid is an impressive volcanic lake, known as a caldera, in south Iceland. The lake is almost perfectly round, filled with sparkling turquoise water, and surrounded by lush green terrain.
Kerid lake was created when a volcano erupted around 6000 years ago. That makes Kerid a relatively young volcanic lake compared to others in Iceland. This is the reason for the vibrant red slopes surrounding it; from a geological perspective, the iron deposits are ‘fresh’.
The lake is close to the three major sites that make up the Golden Circle route. Tourists who rent a car in Reykjavik can easily visit all the attractions on the Golden Circle as well as taking a short detour to visit Kerid lake.
Lake Myvatn is a part of a sightseeing itinerary in the north of Iceland called the Diamond Circle route. The route includes attractions such as the town of Husavík, Asbyrgi canyon, and the Dettifoss waterfall.
The area surrounding the hot lake of Myvatn transforms with each season. You can visit during summer or winter and still enjoy the natural beauty. In the summer, the colors are bright and vibrant, with plenty of wildlife and birdlife all around. In the winter, the area is quiet and peaceful, and the lake freezes over in some parts.
For those who wish to relax, a visit to Myvatn Nature Baths is a must. This mineral-rich hot spring hovers around 36°C and is open all year round. There are quite a few hot lakes in Iceland, but this one is high on the list.
Roughly 300 miles from Reykjavík, Lake Myvatn is a popular destination for travelers who want to experience Iceland away from the city and regular tourist hot spots.
The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in South East Iceland is one of the country’s most popular attractions due to its unrivalled beauty. Thousands of people are drawn to Jokulsarlon each year to marvel at the free-flowing icebergs, enjoy a lagoon boat tour, or catch a glimpse of a snow-bathing seal.
Jokulsarlon’s nearby beach is affectionately known as ‘Diamond Beach’. Icebergs that have broken away from the Vatnajokull glacier fall into the lagoon and slowly melt. Next they drift out to sea where the North Atlantic waves polish, after which they get washed back to shore. The result are translucent, compact ice sculptures that glisten like diamonds.
Many filmmakers have been attracted to Jokulsarlon's beguiling landscape when choosing locations for movies. The James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’ was filmed at the lagoon. Also ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Interstellar' were shot nearby at the Svinafellsjokull glacier.
Lagarfjlot is a picturesque lake in East Iceland with a magical history. It’s allegedly home to a mythical serpent known as Lagarfljótsormurinn or The Lagarfljót Wyrm.
Sightings of the Lagarfjlót Wyrm date all the way back to 1345. That’s 500 years before the first sighting of Scotland’s famous Loch Ness Monster!
Even today, tourists come forward with videos and photos showing something unusual going on under the surface of Lake Lagarfljot. While most of this can be debunked as floating logs, chunks of ice, or wind making ripples in the water; there are a few pieces of evidence that have puzzled even the most skeptical expert.
We’re not saying whether Lagarfljótsormurinn is real or not, but we are saying be careful if you decide to go fishing here. You may catch more than just trout!
Lake Hraunsvatn in the scenic Öxnadalur Valley of Iceland is home to a well-known fishing lake. Fishing here is free of charge and has a healthy stock of large Ice Age Arctic char which can be caught all year round.
The surrounding area of Lake Hraunsvatn is dotted with numerous hiking trails. Peak Hraundrangi is one of the most magnificent and mysterious peaks in Iceland. It was first climbed in 1956 and legend says that a treasure chest is hidden somewhere on the peak.
Other local legends suggest Lake Hraunsvatn is home to numerous mythical creatures. One of which is the Hrökkáll, an eel-like creature with scales as hard as iron and razor sharp saw-toothed fins.
Langisjor lake in Iceland is a mysterious place; because of its placement between the Tungnárfjöll and Fögrufjöll mountains, it wasn’t discovered until the end of the 19th century.
A hidden treasure, Langisjor lake in Iceland is popular among hikers and mountaineers who remain awestruck by its beauty. It’s best viewed from the peak of Sveinstindur.
The Langisjór area is a part of the Vatnajokull National Park.
Bonus Track: Sorvagsvatn
Maybe its name doesn't ring a bell, but you've probably had seen pictures of this lake all over the internet. The lake has been nicknamed “the lake above the ocean” because of the optical illusion created from certain viewpoints. Depending on where you stand; the lake appears to hover above the ocean! And that's precisely where its fame comes from.
Many people mistakenly believe Sorvagsvatn Lake is in Iceland, but that's not correct. Sorvagsvatn Lake is the largest freshwater lake on the Faroe Islands. So, this is a Faeroese lake and not an Iceland lake. Sorvagsvatn is surrounded by a cliff on one side, and a waterfall on the other. The waterfall, known as Bøsdalafossur, empties straight into the Atlantic Ocean.
Situated on the island of Vágar, Sorvagsvatn Lake can be reached by a 3 km hiking trail and enjoy the beautiful, lush landscape.
Tourists might hear Sorvagsvatn being called different names. Residents from the town of Sørvágur usually call the lake Sørvágsvatn, which means ‘the lake of Sørvágur’. However, residents of the town of Miðvágur prefer the name Leitisvatn.
Planning Your Trip to Iceland’s Lakes
Visiting these breathtaking Iceland lakes, lagoons and glaciers is pretty easy when taking some of the popular driving road trip routes in Iceland. Just keep in mind that certain areas require a 4x4 vehicle. So, please inquire at your car rental before driving across Iceland's rugged terrain.