The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most magical spots in Iceland. That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s on many visitors’ trip itineraries. But with their trip itineraries come many questions.
In this article, we finally take on all of your most frequently asked questions and give you the answers to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Iceland’s glacier lagoon.
What is the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
Despite the name, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is actually a glacier lake in Iceland. In fact, it is the largest and deepest lake in Iceland, reaching almost mind-blowing depths of 285 meters below the surface.
The size of this water mass shouldn’t come as a surprise once you know that it is essentially being fed by the largest glacier in all of Europe, called Vatnajökull Glacier. Breidamerkurjökull is the glacier that can be seen at Jokulsarlon, and it is a glacier tongue of the larger Vatnajökull Glacier.
But the name Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is not that far off on the money, since it still is a type of Glacier Bay in Iceland. Jokulsarlon is connected to the ocean, so it is affected by the tides and has a 2-3 meter tidal range.
Interesting and impressive stats aside, Jokulsarlon is breathtakingly beautiful. The massive expanse of water with the giant glacier, gigantic icebergs bobbing about whilst seals float on sheets of ice… It truly is a sight to see. This is also why this glacier lagoon has graced our big screen numerous times as a filming location for some of your favorite movies, such as Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Can you swim in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
Can and should are two completely different concepts. Although it’s not illegal to swim in Jokulsarlon, and therefore you technically can swim there, you really, really reeeaaallly shouldn’t.
Not only is it uncomfortably freezing, it poses great danger if you don’t know what you’re doing. Except for the freezing temperatures, bobbing icebergs and all sorts of wildlife like seals and whales also poses all sorts of risk of bodily harm.
Can you walk around Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
Yes, you can walk around Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and it’s pretty easy to do so too. You will find a walking trail near the Jokulsarlon parking lot that will take you around the glacier lagoon. Except for a small incline, the trail is considered safe and suitable for all ages and all fitness and skill levels (you don’t need to be a pro hiker to take on this route). The entire trail will take you roughly 2 hours and offers some pretty amazing views.
Where is Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is located in Vatnajökull National Park, named after the Vatnajökull Glacier. Vatnajökull National Park is situated in the southeastern side of Iceland.
How Do I Get to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
There are a few options one can choose from to get to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon:
How to Reach Jokulsarlon by Air
Although you won’t be able to catch a flight directly to Iceland’s glacier lagoon, you can either book a flight to Hornafjordur or Egilsstadir and then rent a car or take a taxi or bus to the lagoon itself (depending on which city you’ve chosen to land in). A flight to Hornafjordur will take you almost 4 hours (but will get you the closest to the lagoon), whilst a flight to Egilsstadir will take you roughly an hour.
How to Reach Jokulsarlon by Road
You essentially have three options when traveling to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon via the road:
Once again, traveling to Jokulsarlon via bus gives you a number of options. You can either catch a bus that takes you directly to the lagoon, stopping at Vik I Myrdal and Hvolsvöllur for pick-ups/drop-offs. This journey will take a total of 11 hours.
The other option is to take the bus from Reykjavik Campsite. But this route will require you to take 3 different buses to Kirkjubæjarklaustur and then rent a car or take a taxi for the rest of the 1.5-hour journey to the lagoon.
Via Guided Tour
There are plenty of guided tours here in Iceland that offer Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon as a guided day trip or as a stop on a multi-day guided holiday tour package. A few that you can consider are:
- From Reykjavik: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Full-day Trip
- Private Jeep Tour from Hofn: Jokulsarlon, Diamond Beach & Secret Glacier
- 2-day Trip to the Glacier Lagoon: Jokulsarlon from Reykjavik
Via Your Own Transport
We are big believers in the fact that the best way of properly exploring the island is by making a road trip out of it. And since Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is located so conveniently close to the Ring Road (a popular road trip route around the island), it’s easy to rent a car and make the glacier lagoon a stop along your 375-kilometer road trip.
When is the Best Time to Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
The best time to visit Jokulsarlong Glacier Lagoon will solely be based on your own personal preferences. The glacier lagoon is open all year round, but the experience you have there differs from season to season.
Those who want to see the Northern Lights at the lagoon won’t be able to do that during the summer season. And those who want to experience a Midnight Sun at the lagoon won’t be able to do that during the winter months. At the same time, the lagoon itself changes.
During the summertime, the water seems to be “alive” with all sorts of marine life and floating icebergs, but during the winter season it almost appears like a magical spell has been cast over the landscape seemingly frozen in time with lots of ice and snow glistening in the sunlight.
What is the Best Time of Day to Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
If you’re planning on taking photos, most will recommend that you visit Jokulsarlon at dawn or at dusk to use the natural light and capture its effects on the ice. But if you’re planning on visiting the lagoon during the summertime in Iceland (our peak season here on the island), we highly recommend that you get there as early as possible to try and get a head-start on the peak season crowds.
How Much Time Do You Need at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
You will need to set aside at least 4 hours for an outing to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, especially if you’re planning on taking the hike around the lagoon or going on one of the boat tours. But, if at all possible, it’s always a good idea to sleep over near Jokulsarlon, so you can at least have a full day of properly exploring the lagoon and all the things there are to do and see there.
How was Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Formed?
Turns out that global warming is not a modern concept. In the 1920s, the Breidamerkurjökull Glacial Tongue started to melt and retreat due to uncharacteristic rising temperatures. The lake is essentially the melted glacial water.
This also means that Jokulsarlon will keep growing till the glacier has completely disappeared, at which point the lagoon will basically have turned into a deep fjord. A glacier melting since the 1920s may make this process sound incredibly slow and the glacier completely disappearing a very, veeeery distant problem.
But just to give you an idea of the speed and level of devastation we are dealing with here; Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is already 4 times the size it was in the 1970s!
What is There to Do at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?
You will find plenty of things to do and see at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and its surrounds. That’s why we recommend that you sleep over to add at least a few of the following to your trip itinerary:
Go on a Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Boat Tour
In our opinion, you can’t visit Jokulsarlon without going on one of the boat tours. Whereas the glacier lagoon is an impressive sight, going on a boat tour makes it downright spectacular – getting up close and personal with the wonders of nature. You will have the choice between a Zodiac boat tour and the Amphibian boat tour.
The amphibian boat tour is a bit of a bigger boat, so it promises a fairly smooth ride and a relaxing cruise in between the mountainous icebergs drifting in the lagoon. Whilst the Zodiac is much smaller, much faster, and a bit more bumpy, it can get you within touching distance of the glacier, the icebergs, and the lazy seals.
Go Kayaking on Jokulsarlon
Kayaking on Jokulsarlon is another way to get up close and personal with all the elements of the glacier lagoon if the boat tours don’t take your fancy.
Due to safety concerns, you can’t just pitch up to the lagoon with your kayak and get started, you’ll need to book a spot on one of the guided kayaking tours. But these groups are kept fairly small so you can have a personal and intimate experience. Just keep in mind that age and weight restrictions apply to this activity.
Explore the Ice Caves at Jokulsarlon
Exploring one of the ice caves such as the Crystal Ice Cave at Jokulsarlon feels like entering a magical creation by Princess Elsa from the movie Frozen. Bright blue, glossy walls with icy fangs coming down from the ceiling – it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
This is a seasonal activity that can only be done during the wintertime (ice melts in warmth, remember?) and in order to ensure everyone’s safety, it can also only be done via a guided tour. The tour takes about 3 hours.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Hiking
How many people can say that they’ve walked on the largest glacier in Europe? Well, if you go on a glacier hike at Jokulsarlon, you can. This is yet another activity that can only be done via guided tour due to safety concerns, but the good news is that it makes for a nice family outing since children can join in the fun from age 10 onwards. The tour takes about 4 hours.
Go to the Annual Fireworks Show at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you are planning a trip to Iceland in August, you’re in luck. You can attend one of the most popular events in Iceland that very few visitors even know exists. The Annual Fireworks Show at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is much more than just spectacular bursts of color against the night sky.
Here at Jokulsarlon, the lights and color play on the surface of the water, the sheets of ice, icebergs, and glacier, and ensures an absolutely breathtaking experience.
Just like Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, this is a place that’s not to be missed here in Iceland. Diamond Beach is right “next door” from Jokulsarlon and is one of our famous black sand beaches with some unique features. You see, hundreds of pieces of ice wash ashore there, and glisten in the sunlight like diamonds strewn all across the beach (hence the name).
Where Can I Stay Near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland?
If you are considering sleeping over to experience more of what Jokulsarlon and its surrounding have to offer, the following places come highly recommended:
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon
- Hali Country Hotel
- Skyrhusid Guest House
- Guesthouse Gerdi
- Svinafell Campground
- Skaftafell Campground
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon; a Must-visit Site Irrespective of Season
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of those places in Iceland that is an absolute must-visit site, irrespective of season, since each has its own draw when it comes to the lagoon. If you want to do or see more than one thing on our things to do at Jokulsarlon list, we suggest that you find accommodation nearby and allow at least one full day for every 2 activities you want to tick off on the list.
The most time-efficient and cost-effective way of visiting Jokulsarlon is to rent a car in Reykjavik upon arrival on the island and make the glacier lagoon one of the stops on your Ring Road road trip adventure around the country.