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Complete Guide to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland


Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Planning to visit the beautiful Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon during your time in Iceland? Good choice! One of the most popular attractions in Iceland, the natural wonder that is Jokulsarlon is sure to take your breath away.

Let us help you out with our comprehensive guide to all you need to know about visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We'll also provide top travel tips and unmissable highlights.

Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon: What Kind of Lake is Jokulsarlon?

Formed of glacial meltwater, Jokulsarlon is a massive glacier lake at the bottom of Vatnajokull Glacier. It exists due to the melting of the glacier, which caused the lake to form and icebergs to bob along the surface.

To help clear up any confusion, keep in mind that iceberg lagoon, glacier lagoon and glacial lake are all words for the same thing. A glacier lagoon is actually a type of lake; all glacier lagoons are lakes, but not all lakes are glacier lagoons!

10 Fun Facts about Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Want to wow your travel buddies with some fantastic facts about Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon? We’ve got you covered!

  1. Jokulsarlon is fed by meltwater from Europe’s largest glacier: Vatnajokull.
  2. As Iceland's deepest lake, Jokulsarlon reaches a maximum depth of over 280 meters.
  3. You may be surprised to learn that Jokulsarlon is a baby in geological terms, as the lake only started forming in the 1930s. However, some of the icebergs floating in the lake that broke off from the Vatnajokull Glacier are actually 1000 years old.
  4. As Jokulsarlon connects with the ocean, it’s affected by the tides and has a unique color created by the mix of meltwater and ocean water.
  5. Since the 1970s, the size of Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon has increased four times.
  6. You may recognize Jokulsarlon from Hollywood. This spectacular lake has appeared in many movies, such as Interstellar, Tomb Raider, Batman Begins and some James Bond titles.
  7. The current surface area of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon measures 18 square kilometers.
  8. What you can see of the icebergs floating in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is only 10% of the ice. 90% of the mass of the icebergs are actually below the waterline.
  9. Famous music videos have been shot at Jokulsarlon, including Justin Bieber’s ‘I’ll Show You’ and Bon Iver’s ‘Holocene’.
  10. The average annual temperature at Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon is between 2 to 5ºC (35 to 41ºF).

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Where is Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?

The lagoon is located right in the Southeast region of Iceland. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon sits just to the south of the massive Vatnajokull Glacier. This beautiful lake is situated at the southern edge of the expansive Vatnajokull National Park. It is inside this park where you can find the glacier.

How Far is Jokulsarlon from Reykjavík?

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is around five hours by car from Reykjavík. The lagoon is 380 kilometers from Iceland’s capital. That means Jokulsarlon is best visited as part of your road trip around Iceland or as part of a two or three day excursion from Reykjavík.

You can rent a car in Reykjavík, then head to Jokulsarlon for an amazing experience among this breathtaking natural scenery. You can choose to either stay over at a nearby lagoon hotel or head to one of the nearby villages for the night. Check out some top recommendations for places to stay below.

How to Reach Jokulsarlon by Road

Good news! Jokulsarlon is actually really easy to reach by road, as it’s directly on the main Ring Road in Iceland: Route 1. You can simply follow this road around until you reach the car park next to the lagoon – it couldn’t be easier!

The trip to Jokulsarlon from Reykjavík is one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in Iceland. On this part of your Iceland Ring Road tour, you’ll pass several amazing waterfalls, including Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. You'll get to see the striking Reynisfjara black beach and the picturesque village of Vik. Likewise, Skaftafell Nature Reserve and even Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

How to reach Jokulsarlon by road

Where to Stay Near Jokulsarlon, Iceland

If you plan to stay over near this beautiful lake, you can take your pick of Jokulsarlon hotels. From guesthouses to villas and hostels, there’s a wide range of accommodation available in the Jokulsarlon area to suit any budget.

  • Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – This four-star hotel offers amazing mountain views. It is situated between Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Two of Iceland’s most popular geological attractions.
  • Hali Country Hotel – Based on a farm directly on the coast and surrounded by beautiful mountains, this three-star hotel offers comfortable rooms and has a museum and restaurant onsite.
  • Skyrhusid Guest House – Located next to Hali Country Hotel is the two-star Skyrhusid Guest House. This hostel offers simple and affordable, yet cozy rooms to rest after a long day exploring at Jokulsarlon.
  • Gerdi Guesthouse – Also in the same area as Hali and Skyrhusid, the three-star Gerdi Guesthouse is based on a sheep farm and offers free Wi-Fi in the main building.
  • Ekra Glacier Lagoon – This beautiful three-star villa allows you to rent everything from one room to the whole villa, depending on how many people you have in your group.

Consider staying in Hofn, a fishing town located about an hour drive up the Ring Road from popular attractions. Among those, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell Nature Reserve. There, you'll find a variety of accommodation options such as hotels, cottages, cabins and hostels.

If you're driving back to Reykjavík, you can take a 2.5-hour drive along the Ring Road to the west. Stay in the coastal town of Vik, which offers a range of accommodations.

Alternatively, there are other towns along the way, such as Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It is 1.5 hours from Jokulsarlon, these towns offer guest accommodations as well.

Hofn, East Iceland

What to Do in Jokulsarlon

Discover the best things to see and do at Jokulsarlon, one of Iceland's most incredible iceberg lagoons, with our unmissable guide!!

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Boat Tour

One of the most amazing things you can do at this beautiful glacier pond in Iceland is take a boat tour to soak in the beauty of the lake up close. Glide along the water, past icebergs and bobbing seals, while you marvel at your incredible surroundings.

There are different options for Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tours, depending on how long you’d like to spend on the water.

  • Zodiac Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour – The Zodiac Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour lasts for around 1 hour and 15 minutes. It takes you all around this amazing glacial pond in Iceland, including right up to the glacier when conditions allow. You’ll sail among the majestic icebergs and may even be lucky enough to witness part of the glacier breaking off to form a new iceberg. This boat tour costs 13,900 ISK, or just over $100 USD, and is available from May to October.
  • Amphibian Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour – The Amphibian Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour allows you to experience the icebergs in this glacial lake up close. You won’t be able to get as close to the glacier as on the Zodiac tour, but you’ll still experience an awe-inspiring view of Jokulsarlon. This 30 to 40 minute excursion runs from May to mid-November and costs 6,300 ISK, or just over $45 USD.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon boat tour

Ice Caving at Jokulsarlon

Take your pick of amazing Jokulsarlon ice cave tours to walk inside one or several of Vatnajokull’s ice caves for yourself. These tours are generally available throughout the winter season from September to April. Striking blue canyons and expansive ice caves await!

You can choose from a range of tours, some of which include Jokulsarlon glacier hikes or Jeep tours to explore the glacier surface. Many of these tours will take you inside the awesome ice caves. Ice caving tours at Jokulsarlon usually last two to three hours as a minimum. Still, you can even spend all day exploring these enchanting cave structures if you desire.

ice caving jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Hike

Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking on a glacier by booking a guided Jokulsarlon glacier hike. Walking on the mighty Vatnajokull Glacier will make for an unforgettable day on your Iceland vacation.

Most guided Vatnajokull Glacier walks take you from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to the glacier itself. There you begin your tour of this stunning ice formation. Learn all about the ancient glacier as you soak in the stunning views and take some unbelievable photos.

Glacier hike tour

Jokulsarlon Kayaking Adventures

Want to traverse the waters of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon yourself? A Jokulsarlon kayaking adventure could be the perfect thing for you! Enjoy amazing views as you paddle among the icebergs on this beautiful, freezing lake on an hour-long Jokulsarlon kayaking tour.

Jokulsarlon kayaking tours are a great way to experience the lagoon during the summer months. They are generally available from May through to September.

jokulsarlon kayaking

Spot the Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon

When you’re visiting Iceland in winter, you have an amazing chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights dancing in the sky. And, if you’re lucky, this might coincide with your trip to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Watching these dazzling lights above the majestic iceberg lagoon is a memory you won’t soon forget!

You can check the Iceland Northern Lights forecast from the Icelandic Met Office to see what the likelihood is of spotting the aurorae each day – exciting!

Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon

Explore Diamond Beach

If you’re questioning what to see at Jokulsarlon, the awe-inspiring Diamond Beach has to go on your must-see list. This amazing black sand beach is just over the road from Jokulsarlon and is so-called due to the many icebergs lying on its shore.

Glistening in the sunlight like diamonds, the icebergs at Diamond Beach stand out in stark contrast to the black sand. Certainly, an amazing location for keen photographers and nature lovers alike. Your trip to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon isn’t complete until you’ve visited the amazing Diamond Beach.

Diamond Beach, Iceland

Watch Seals and Birds at Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is home to wildlife, including seals and many species of bird. You’re likely to be able to spot Arctic terns and skuas at Jokulsarlon, with many puffin nesting areas nearby, too.

In the winter, seals can be spotted around the mouth of this lake, where they go to catch fish. Seals are often spotted lounging around on the icebergs – cute! You may also see whales, specifically humpback whales, as they are often found in this area of Southwestern Iceland.

Bring along your binoculars for some prime-location bird watching. Stand back in awe as the birds circle in the sky, attracted to Jokulsarlon’s mega fish stocks.

Seals in a glacier lagoon

Experience the Annual Fireworks Show at Jokulsarlon

Held during August each year, the annual fireworks show at Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon is truly a magical spectacle to behold. The gorgeous lights dance and reflect on the water, creating a beautiful spectrum of colors to enjoy.

fireworks at Jokulsarlon

How Long Does it Take to See All of Jokulsarlon?

You can probably see all of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in a couple of hours. However, you’ll need to schedule more than two to three hours if you want to fully enjoy some of the amazing activities you can do at Jokulsarlon.

Some ice cave and boat tours take a couple of hours by themselves. Or you can go for a more extensive all-day guided exploration of Jokulsarlon, meaning you’ll need to allow more time for your trip.

We’d say a day is enough time to visit Jokulsarlon (including Diamond Beach) and the nearby Skaftafell Nature Reserve. You’ll just have to make sure the timings work out well with any guided tours you’d like to take at Jokulsarlon.

what to do in Jokulsarlon

Top Travel Tips For Jokulsarlon

Excited about your trip to Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon? We bet you are! Make sure you’re prepared with our list of top travel tips for your time at Jokulsarlon to help you make the most of this unique adventure.

  • Wear warm layered clothing – Layers are the key to dressing appropriately at Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon. When you’re walking here in summer, you may wish to take off one of your top layers, but you’ll definitely need warm clothing to keep you toasty in the chilly temperatures at the lake, no matter what time of year you’re visiting. Layers help to keep the heat in, so you can be cozy and comfy during your Jokulsarlon adventure.
  • Bring a waterproof jacket and shoes – These two items are a must for your trip to Jokulsarlon. It’s important to keep your feet warm and dry when exploring the Vatnajokull Glacier. You also never know when it can start raining in Iceland, so a waterproof jacket is always essential. Extra points if it’s windproof, too!
  • Pack extra clothes – Especially if you plan to take a boat tour, glacier hike or get close to the water at Jokulsarlon in any way, we recommend bringing some spare clothes to allow you to change if needed. This will make sure you’re comfortable throughout your whole day at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
  • Book any tours ahead of time – Jokulsarlon is one of Iceland's most famous attractions, so it’s vital to book any boat, ice cave, kayaking or glacier walk tours you wish to take part in beforehand. Reservation is often required in advance and tours can sell out quickly, particularly in the high season of the summer months. You don’t want to miss out!
  • Reserve your hotel room in advance – As Jokulsarlon is in a fairly isolated location, it’s best to reserve your hotel stay in advance if you plan to stay overnight near the lagoon. You can check out the list of Jokulsarlon hotels above for some recommendations, or find your own accommodation, but just make sure to do this with plenty of time to spare.
  • Print out a map and have a spare phone if possible – Did you know that phone batteries die quicker in cold weather? It goes without saying that Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon is a pretty cold location, so it’s wise to have a backup. This can be printing out a map, having a spare phone that you turn off until needed, or bringing a portable charger. This way, you’ll be sure to know where you’re going, even if your phone runs out of battery.
  • Pack enough water and food for the day – With the exception of the nearby hotel restaurants, you won’t find any eateries around the remote, natural area of Jokulsarlon. Therefore, it’s a great idea to bring enough water and food along with you for your day trip. You can even enjoy a beautiful picnic at the lagoon!

How long to see all of Jokulsarlon

Get Ready For the Adventure of a Lifetime at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon!

When it comes to Jokulsarlon, there’s no time to waste. Due to rising global temperatures, the glacier is melting and the lagoon as we know it is expected to transform into a large fjord in the near future.

Right now, the lake is ever-changing and rapidly expanding. If you’d really love to see Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, we recommend planning your trip sooner rather than later.

The icebergs are calling! Prepare yourself for an amazing adventure at this incredible iceberg lagoon in Iceland by finding your flights and ideal Iceland accommodation, ready for your dream vacation.

Make things simple for yourself by reserving your rental car at Keflavik Airport: Iceland’s main international airport in Reykjavík. From there, you can head onto the Ring Road and enjoy the drive of a lifetime among Iceland’s incredible natural scenery. Adventure awaits!