Jokulsarlon Tours

Best Jokulsarlon Tours in Iceland

Choose from Iceland's largest section of Jokulsarlon tours. Visit the icy glacier lagoon known as the "Crown Jewel of Iceland".
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George Bradley

George Bradley

19/02/2024, 22:22
Review of Unforgettable 8-Day Northern Lights Winter Package of Iceland with Ice Caving & National Parks

This was a long-overdue bonding trip I took with my eldest son (in his 50s). He had on his bucket list seeing the Northern Lights, and I signed us up for this package. On our return, my son told me as we parted at Logan Airport in Boston that the trip had been so much more than he expected, and he was very glad that we had done it. So was I. We had three guides who led various portions of the trip, and they were all excellent. Franklin, a very large, musical, happy man in his twenties had us first, taking us up into some of the national parks and scenic areas inland east of Reykjavik, where we saw various waterfalls and geysers. After that, we went off on a two-day excursion along the south coast led by Maria, a very personable woman in her forties, who knew the area very, very well, and who coached everyone in the group to stay up long enough to catch a great Northern Lights show during our overnight in Hofr i Hornafiror, which she accurately referred to as "the middle of nowhere." Our final excursion went up the east coast and out around the peninsula with another of those Icelandic names too long to spell or remember, except for the spectacular scenery. Our tour leader for this outing was Eythor, a wonderful man in his early sixties, who has lived a fascinating and successful life dealing in music and real estate, who now leads groups like ours not out of any need for the money, but out of a genuine love of his country and all it has to offer. We were blessed throughout the week with unusually sunny weather and clear air, which allowed us to see much more than our guides thought was usual for this time of year (February), and with more opportunities to catch the Northern Lights. But the real highlights of the trip were not the lights, but were rather the people we got to know and the landmarks we got to see. It was a great time. My only caveat is about "Guide to Iceland." What it does is package tours for visitors, which are actually provided by other companies. Both Maria and Eythor work for Nice Tours, and I assume based on our experience, that their other guides and trip leaders are just about as good as they are, which was A+. My problem with "Guide to Iceland" was that the itinerary they provided us with was lacking numerous key details- name of company that would be picking us up for our excursions, time of pickup, exactly where to be. And it was mistaken about where we were to be staying on two of the nights. Regular phone calls to their office, manned 24-7, allowed those details to be quickly straightened out- but I would have much preferred to start with a detailed and accurate itinerary. The hotels were excellent, the food was great. It was time and money well spent.

Visiting Jokulsarlon

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon is a stunning attraction that is always a favourite of visitors and locals. The lagoon is made up of a mixture of fresh water and sea water and iconic for the giant icebergs that dominate the landscape. Standing at up to 30-metres tall, the icebergs are cast in contrasting milky whites and fantastic electric icy blues.

Breiðamerkurjökull glacier crawls forward with intimidating force and weight, collecting in its margins glacial deposits of black sand and gravel which make striking patterns on the ice and subsequent icebergs. As the glacier retreats, it continuously creates icebergs of over 1000-years old ice that are often patterned by ash from historical eruptions. No two iceberg are the same, and you could spend hours finding fascinating shapes with no end to photographic opportunities. However silly this sounds, please do not try to stand on the icebergs as it is extremely dangerous.

The lake started taking form around 1935 when the glacier began to recede due to warming temperatures and is now the deepest in Iceland at 248 m (814 ft). Over the last 15-years, the lake is said to have doubled in size, and it is predicted that as the glacier continues to recede, it will leave a dramatic fjord behind. Sadly, warming global temperatures and the shrinking of glaciers are especially visible and Iceland, providing only further impetus to catch these icy wonders while we can.

Jökulsárlón is conveniently located on the Highway 1 road between Skaftafell nature reserve and the picturesque town of Höfn. If you are driving the ring-road around Iceland, this is a stop you do not want to miss and a destination you will want to include if you are planning a visit to the South Coast. Many tour operators offer guided trips to the lagoon if you are not driving yourself, most often combined with other exciting attractions such as the waterfalls of South Iceland. If departing from Reykjavík in the winter, do consider how much you time you have, because although a fantastic destination for the northern lights, you may not want to drive all the way back to the capital in icy conditions in the dark.

You can enjoy this wonder of Iceland from the shore or if you would like to get up close and personal with these ancient icy giants you can take a zodiac boat or amphibious boat tour guided by an expert. Around the corner is the legendary Diamond Beach where the icebergs sometimes wash up, glistening in the light in stark contrast to the black sandy beach they upon which they rest.

The golden hours of sunset and sunrise are exceptional times to witness this ethereal lake, especially if you are passionate about photography. Whatever time you visit, you can spend hours mesmerised by the luminous ice, and you could return several times and always be guaranteed a unique scene.

Jökulsárlón is appropriate for any age and budget and is a guaranteed unforgettable experience leaving you in no doubt of why it is called the Crown Jewel of Iceland.

Jökulsárlón has been used as a Hollywood location for such movies as James Bond films A View to Kill and Die Another Day as well as Lara Croft Tomb Raider and has featured in popular US television show, The Amazing Race. It is easy to understand why as the serene procession of ice is hypnotising and the plentiful wildlife of seals and birds only adds to the wonder.

Frequently asked questions

When is the best time to visit Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland?

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is one of Iceland's prime attractions throughout the year, offering a unique experience no matter the season. During the summers, you can go on boat tours on the glacier lagoon while the floating ice glistens in the sun. During the winters, the lagoon gets a sheet of rugged ice on top of it, which means boat tours are unavailable, but it offers a dramatic sight to behold (or photograph!). Make sure to dress appropriately; it gets especially cold there in the winter, but summers are chilly too.

What activities can I partake in around Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland?

During the winter, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is the meeting point for ice cave tours. In summer, you can join a boat tour at Jokulsarlon, like this 1-hour zodiac glacier lagoon boat tour which has a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars.

How long does it take to drive to Jokulsarlon from Reykjavik?

Driving to the lagoon from Reykjavik takes approximately five hours. A return journey will thus take approximately ten hours. Though it is possible to spend a full day doing this drive, it is advised to take a multi-day guided tour, or split the journey with an overnight stop along the route.

What is the Diamond Beach in Iceland?

The Diamond Beach is the stretch of coastline south of Jokulsarlon. Its official name is Breidamerkursandur, however, it gained its nickname from the glistening diamond-like icebergs that wash up on the shore. You can walk to the Diamond Beach from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in just five minutes, though most people will drive across as there is a road between the two sites.

What accommodation is available near Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland?

There are many accommodations near Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. This includes hotels, guesthouses, and cottages. You can also find a variety of comfortable places to stay in the town of Hofn nearby.

Can I take a boat tour on the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon?

Both amphibian boat tours and zodiac boat tours run on the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon from May to October every year.

What should I wear for a visit to Jokulsarlon?

Since the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is essentially a large lake scattered with pieces of glacial ice, the area can become very cold, even in the summer. We recommend wearing warm clothes, headwear, a scarf, and gloves.

Is Jokulsarlon crowded?

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is one of Iceland's most pristine and beautiful natural attractions, so you can expect to see some other travelers there during your visit. The summers are quite busy, but the area around the lake is quite large and there's plenty of space to spread out, so it's unlikely to feel crowded.

Is the glacier lagoon in Iceland worth it?

Yes, it is such a unique natural wonder to explore and one that you won't soon forget. It's best to go there if you're already traveling on the South Coast, as it's a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik.

How long do you need at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland?

We recommend staying about 2–3 hours, including a walk to the beautiful Diamond Beach nearby. If you're going on an amphibian boat tour, that will add another hour to your visit.

Can I reach Jokulsarlon in a normal car or do I need a 4WD?

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is on the famed Route 1 (Iceland's Ring Road) and can thus be reached in a normal, two-wheel drive car. However, in winter, you may feel more comfortable renting a 4x4 in Iceland for greater comfort, wind resistance, and the ability to travel in snowy and icy conditions.

How was Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon formed?

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland began forming in 1935, at the end of the Little Ice Age. With the changing climate, the glacier Breidamerkurjokull retreated, and meltwater filled the space it left behind. The lagoon has grown in size every year as the glacier continues to retreat.

Do any animals live in Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon?

Many playful seals live in the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and in the waters close to the Diamond Beach. Arctic terns and skuas also nest in the area. These birds are known to be very protective of their eggs, often dive-bombing visitors who come too close. As the area is part of the protected Vatnajokull National Park, visitors are expected to not disturb the wildlife in the area.

Can I swim in the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon?

No, do not swim in the lagoon. Floating icebergs are dangerous and unpredictable. Moreover, the temperature of the water is around 33°F (1°C) and there are no facilities nearby to warm up or change clothes.

Is there a café or any food options close to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon?

Yes, close to the lagoon, you can find the Glacier Lagoon Café which serves refreshments such as sandwiches and seafood soup. You can also sit down for a coffee, hot chocolate, or soft drinks while enjoying the picturesque view of the floating icebergs or the nearby Vatnajokull glacier.

Is it possible to visit Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon as a day trip from Reykjavik?

Yes, it is possible to visit Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon as a day trip from Reykjavik. However, it is a long drive and it may be more comfortable and convenient to stay overnight in the nearby town of Hofn.
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