One of my favourite places in Iceland - and the Jewel in the Crown on the south coast of Iceland is Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. I have so often been asked about guided tours to Jökulsárlón, that I decided on joining the South Coast tour - Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Vík and Waterfall & Boat Tour to check out their tour.
We were picked up bright and early at 7 am as we had a long day ahead of us - 14 hours of checking out the south coast of Iceland.
Our main destination on this tour was Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. But there were also other attractions along the way, we were, after all, driving on the south coast with its myriad of attractions.
Our driver-guide, Börkur, knew that we would be ogling the beauty of the landscape on this long drive, so he let us out of the bus for 3-minute-photo-stops from time to time, which was very much appreciated.
Our first 3-minute-photo-stop was at Þorvaldseyri farm, which has Eyjafjallajökull volcano right in its backyard. The whole world heard of Eyjafjallajökull, the notorious volcano, when it erupted back in 2010, as it stopped air traffic due to the ash cloud it was spewing into the air. Because of this, it has been called the most expensive volcano in the world.
This farm got hit very hard by the volcanic eruption and the farmers eventually gave up and moved away from their farm, which had belonged to the same family for 100 years. Then, to everyone's surprise, their crop grew at a double speed due to the ash, so they returned to their farm after the eruption had stopped. Just imagine having a volcano in your backyard!
The sky was clear so we had a marvellous view of Eyjafjallajökull.
Our next stop on the way to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon was by my beloved Skógafoss waterfall, which was my favourite waterfall when I was younger and which I still hold in high esteem. I always greet it and say goodbye to it when I leave, as I feel like it is an old friend of mine ;)
Skógafoss is so massive, 60 meters tall and 25 meters wide, that I feel like an ant when I stand next to it as it is so overwhelming - and totally mesmerising. Prepare to be wet though if you want to walk straight up to it.
There is a legend connected to Skógafoss waterfall - behind it, you can find a chest filled with gold and treasures. Þrasi Þórólfsson, the Viking Settler at Skógar in around 900, hid his chest and it is said that the first man who goes there will find great treasures. You can read the whole story in my Skógafoss travel-blog.
We passed many glaciers and glacier tongues on our drive through the vast glacial outwash from the volcanoes on the south coast of Iceland. As the sky was so clear and the sun glistened on the glaciers we made a 3-minute-photo-stop by an information sign in the vicinity of the beautiful oasis Skaftafell.
The glacial tongue, which you see on the left in my photo above, is called Svínafellsjökull glacier, which we visited on our way back.
By now it was time for lunch. Fortunately, we were only a couple of km away from the family-run Freysnes restaurant, where we stopped for 45 minutes.
The weather was so nice and the surroundings were so beautiful that I didn't want to be inside, so I spent half of the time outside admiring the glaciers and the beautiful mountains. Half of the time I spent inside with my husband and our driver-guide Börkur - you can see them in my photo above - they love their food :)
After lunch we drove straight to our main destination - Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon - the jewel in the crown on the south-coast - and the Breiðamerkursandur ice diamond beach, which is opposite the glacial lagoon. It is a breathtaking experience visiting the lagoon, like entering a magical world and I say WOW every time I see it appear!
The ancient ice (more than 1,000 years old) in the lagoon breaks off from the glacier and floats into the Atlantic ocean. Thus the lagoon never looks the same and our photos of it are always unique.
The icebergs slowly make their way to the ocean and the Breiðamerkursandur beach, where they break into smaller chunks and pieces of ice. Some of them are washed ashore again on the beach after having been polished by the waves.
Some of the icebergs have a beautiful distinctive blue colour. Can you imagine visiting one of our ice caves and walk inside this blue colour!? I have done it and written two travel-blogs on the ice caves - highly recommended :)
The lagoon appeared in 1935 and has grown a lot due to the melting of the glaciers. The bottom of the lake is the lowest point below sea-level in Iceland - and the lagoon is also the deepest lake in Iceland, some 248 meter's deep.
The river leading from the lagoon used to run 1.5 km to the ocean before 1950, but now it is much closer and seals swim from the Atlantic ocean up to the lagoon via that river.
There were many seals in the lagoon on the day of our visit - I have never before seen as many seals in the lagoon - they are so cute. There were also flocks of seagulls flying above the lagoon and resting on the icebergs.
The water in the lagoon is a mixture of fresh water and sea-water as the tide brings sea-water into the lagoon - and thus some fish from the ocean.
There is a seal in the upper right corner of my photo below, trying to escape out of my photo :)
The ice-chunks take on so many forms and colours, some of them are white, some transparent and some have this most amazing blue colour - some of the ice is black (ash), it is truly like visiting an outside art gallery.
Only 1/10 of the iceberg is visible so just imagine how big they really are!
Now, isn't this lovely - the ice took on the form of a swan with its cygnet :)
Scenes from the James Bond films Die another Day, A View to a Kill, and Laura Craft - Tomb Raider were filmed here on the lagoon.
A word of warning, even though most of you might think that this is common sense - don't jump onto the ice floating in the lagoon, some tourists have recently started doing this, much to our surprise. It is a dangerous play and the ice can capsize leaving you stuck beneath the ice in freezing water.
Two days before we visited the glacial lagoon an iceberg turned and capsized on the lagoon! This is after all nature even though I like to think of it as an open-air art gallery.
We took a boat tour on the lagoon in one of the glacial lagoon boats (with wheels) and put on life-vests. We were then driven by a gravel road down to the lagoon and then had an amazing boat ride on the still lagoon. I had never before sailed on the lagoon so this was quite a new experience for me.
There was a guide aboard the boat, which explained to us all about icebergs and the surroundings. She gave us a chunk of ice to hold on the boat and later on it was crushed into little pieces for us to taste - just imagine eating ice which might be 1,000 years old ice! It was refreshing and tasted like any other ice.
Following us on the lagoon was an employee on a dinghy making sure everybody was safe and that the waters in front of us were clear of ice. He also picked up the chunk of ice for us to taste and hold.
Security is of utmost importance here and I felt safe on the lagoon with these experienced guides.
The name of our boat was Klaki or Ice cube, but we passed another boat on the lagoon with the name Dreki or Dragon :)
Before you enter the boat and afterward be careful as accidents have happened here, even a very tragic fatal accident :( Just make sure to be at a safe distance from the driving boat and you will be fine.
This beautiful woman, Amethyst, approached me and asked if I wrote a travel-blog - she said that she and her friends had read all my travel-blogs on Snæfellsnes peninsula and that my travel-blogs had helped them a lot in planning their trip. And that it was so lovely to see a familiar face in Iceland :)
I love it when people approach me like this - it for sure lifts my spirit :)
A large bridge (Iceland scale) divides Jökulsárlón and Breiðamerkursandur where the icebergs meet the Atlantic ocean. The name of the beach is Eystri-Fellsfjara on the east side of the glacial river Jökulsá and Vestri-Fellsfjara on the west side of the river and the bridge.
Our guide drove us down to Breiðamerkursandur where on the seashore were some of the ice-chunks which have been polished by the ocean and have washed ashore on the black beach. They look like ice diamonds sparkling on the black velvety volcanic sand.
I wrote the first travel-blog with the name Diamond beach in the title and this name caught on very quickly - I love this name, as I had often thought to myself as I was strolling down this beach that the ice sculptures looked like sparkling diamonds.
It was one of my co-bloggers, Jórunn, who came up with this name. And the staff at the office of Guide to Iceland wanted to see if it would catch on if I wrote a travel-blog here on the website of Guide to Iceland with Diamond beach in the title. And now every tourist is calling it the Diamond beach.
But the real Icelandic name for this beautiful beach is Breiðamerkursandur or Fellsfjara and it should be marked with that Icelandic name on Google maps. The Diamond beach is just a nickname for foreign travellers.
One never knows what to expect on this beautiful beach, sometimes there are big chunks of ice there, big enough to lean against, at other times there are many polished ice diamonds on the beach. On this tour, there were no big ice chunks, but so many smaller ones.
Isn't this lovely - glittering pieces of transparent, sculpted ice formations; and check out the blue colour, so pretty! The velvety black volcanic sand complements the ice diamonds, creating perfect colour coordination.
I try to visit Breiðamerkursandur every year and cannot wait to see what the chunks of ice look like each time I visit as this beach changes constantly, making our photos unique.
The waves are tricky though and I have more than once been seen running away from an unexpected wave. Never turn your back on the waves and never crawl up on the icebergs unless you want to have the following happening to you:
The beach is at its most beautiful in the sunshine and I always pray for sun when I visit. But it is breathtaking in any kind of weather. Fortunately, we had a splendid day on this tour and the ice diamonds glistened in the sunshine.
I feel like a kid when I visit this place, and I saw that other visitors felt like kids as well, playing with the chunks of ice, stacking them and lifting them; this beach brings out the 5-year-old in us :) One of our co-travellers put a piece of glittering ice on her ring-finger and showed it to her boyfriend and winked, so cute :) I read in the newspaper that a foreign guest proposed to his girlfriend on this beach.
We spent some 30 minutes on this beautiful beach and I took tons of photos of the ice chunks like always.
On our way back from Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon we turned off ring road 1 and drove the short distance on a very bumpy gravel road to Svínafellsjökull glacier. There is a short walk up to the glacier and I can tell you that being so close to the glacier on a sunny day is sublime.
There is something so special about visiting glaciers in the sunshine. There is also a small lagoon in front of the Svínafellsjökull glacier, but the water in it has a brownish colour as opposed to the beautiful blue colour of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. It is very pretty all the same.
Here the beginning scene from the film Batman Begins was shot. If you look closely you will see some metal fixtures in some of the rocks which were used for the shooting of the film. And here Ygritte and Jon Snow from Game of Thrones met for the first time.
Our next stop was at Foss at Síða, a distinct waterfall only 10 kilometres east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. This waterfall falls from a lake called Þórutjörn. We made a 3-minute-photo-stop by Foss at Síða and it was ever so beautiful in the sunshine with the rainbow.
Seeing that this waterfall is on private farmland, then it is not possible to walk straight up to it, but we could get very close to it and admire it from the driveway of the farmer.
We passed by Kirkjubæjarklaustur village and drove through the vast Eldhraun lava field - Fire lava - for some time, but this lava field was formed in the massive Laki eruptions back in 1783. This eruption caused havoc in Europe and is believed to have contributed to the French revolution. This massive eruption is also believed to have caused crop failure in China, Japan and India, the guide told us.
The lava flow covered 565 square kilometres in this area and a 25 km long eruptive fissure opened, called Lakagígar row of craters. It is believed that this lava flow is the largest lava flow in the world of its kind, so you can see that this site is unique.
My fellow passengers on the bus wanted to stop and touch the moss on the lava. So Börkur, our guide, let us out of the bus for 15 minutes to touch the thick old moss which covered the lava. I am born and raised in Iceland and moss and lava was so common to me until I saw many of our foreign guests stopping their car on the road and getting out to touch the moss.
The excitement, people, who are not used to lava and moss, show when they touch the thick moss for the first time made me rethink and appreciate more the nature around me which I am so used to taking for granted.
The moss on Eldhraun lava field is thick like a mattress and it is wonderful to sit on it. Moss, even though it is so thick, is delicate and takes a long time to grow. So let's step lightly as to not damage the moss - and also beware of the hidden holes in lava fields, this we Icelanders know so we don't generally walk far on lava fields with moss.
We found a lot of northern crowberries in the ling on the moss and took a bagful with us to eat on the bus. I chuckled when our fellow travellers didn't believe my husband when he told them that these berries were edible. They must have thought that he was playing a trick on them and didn't believe him until he had eaten some of the berries himself ;)
We Icelanders pick a lot of crowberries and blueberries in autumn time and go on what we call "týna ber" or berry picking.
Our next stop was at the beautiful village Vík where we stopped for early dinner and a walk down to the black lava beach. From the beach, you will see the sea stacks Reynisdrangar, which are petrified trolls dragging a three-masted ship ashore. They were too late and the first rays of the sun made them turn into stone.
This is our explanation and we stick to it! See also my travel-blog on Reynisfjara, the most dangerous beach in Iceland:
Now we had only one more stop to make; at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland. It is 65 meters high and it is possible to walk behind it.
I love walking behind it and even though I have done this so many times it always blows my mind; one can take such beautiful photos behind the waterfall. Just remember to use the flash or else you will come out as a silhouette of yourself :)
I am glad that we stopped this late at Seljalandsfoss as the beautiful pink and golden light from the sunset made our visit unforgettable. See also my travel-blog about the waterfalls on the south coast:
Our guide, Börkur, has been a driver and a guide in Iceland for 33 years now, so he has got a lot of experience and knowledge on Iceland. He is a superb guide and I hope you get to drive with him one day. He is laid back and fun and there was never a dull moment on the bus. Börkur told us troll-stories and pointed the trolls out to us, he told us stories from the Icelandic Sagas and pointed the relevant places out to us, and he told us stories of Sæmundur the Wise etc.
I especially liked the story on Sæmundur the Wise (Sæmundur fróði) and the devil, as Börkur told us the story in a theatrical manner, changing his voice appropriately :) Respect, Börkur, and I hope to go on another tour under your guidance. I learnt a lot!
Börkur is sometimes called the Northern Lights Emperor as he seems to have a knack for attracting awesome Northern lights.
On this tour we:
stood in front of the notorious Eyjafjallajökull volcano
had lunch in beautiful surroundings
visited the crown jewel Jökulsárlón
and sailed between the ice sculptures
played along the ice diamonds on the beach
drove through the vast lava sand plains of the south-coast
sat down in age-old moss and touched old lava from eruptions ages ago
saw extraordinary mountains and glaciers
visited two beautiful waterfalls and even walked behind one of them
What a treat in only one day!
By now it was getting late and the sun had almost set. We had a 120 km drive to Reykjavík which we reached exactly 14 hours after we were picked up at 7 am. What perfect timing - we had visited so many places and never did I feel rushed in any way - it was just the perfect tour and being told stories on the way back in the dark was the icing on the cake :)
Here you can see the location of Jökulsárlón and Breiðamerkursandur on the map.
I can highly recommend the South Coast Tour | Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Vik & Waterfalls by Bustravel and had a fantastic time on their tour.
I have written another travel-blog about Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and the Breiðamerkursandur beach. And a special travel-blog about the Breiðamerkursandur ice diamond beach.
Also check out the myriad of different guided tours to this area, f.ex:
Have a lovely time visiting Jökulsárslón; the Crown Jewel of Iceland :)