In the southeast of Iceland, you'll find a glacier lagoon filled with large chunks of ice. This ice lagoon has become one of Iceland's most popular attractions due to its immense beauty.

In Southeast Iceland, you'll find a glacier lagoon filled with icebergs. This ice lagoon has become one of Iceland's most popular attractions due to its stunning beauty. The lagoon is called Jökulsárlón, or 'Glacier's-River-Lagoon'.



Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland's natural crown jewels, and we've even started calling the nearby black beach our Diamond Beach, as the ice chunks lying on it resemble diamonds glistening in the sun. 

Thousands of people are drawn to Jökulsárlón all year round. An incredible amount of photographs capture the lagoon's stunning beauty, and it has even become one of Iceland's most popular filming location! So what is it exactly that makes this location so unique? 

 

Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Facts

 With a maximum depth of 248 metres, Jökulsárlón is Iceland's deepest   lake.

 Jökulsárlón's surface area measures at 18 km².

 It takes approximately 5 hours to drive to Jökulsárlón from Iceland's     capital, Reykjavík. 

 The icebergs in Jökulsárlón are composed of ice that is over 1,000   years old. 

 Jökulsárlón first started forming in 1934, when Breiðamerkurjökull     glacier started retreating, leaving the lagoon in its path.  

 The lagoon has increased fourfold in size since the early 1970s.

 The lagoon connects with the ocean and is therefore composed of a   sea and fresh water mixture which causes its unique colour. 

 Seals can be seen in Jökulsárlón year round, but they flock to the mouth of the lagoon to catch fish in the winter.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon's Location

Stunning sunset over Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón sits south of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier. Vatnajökull and its surrounding area, including Jökulsárlón, compose Iceland's largest national park, and the second largest national park in Europe, after Yugid Va in Russia. 



Impressive glacier in Iceland

The lagoon is formed naturally from melted glacial water and is perpetually growing while big blocks of ice crumble from the ever-shrinking glacier; as Jökulsárlón increases in size, the retreating glacier visibly demonstrates the effects of global warming.

This, perhaps, makes the lagoon and the nearby glacier tongue even more special, as they will look different each time you pay them a visit.

Diamond Beach by Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland

The icebergs that break away from the glacier and fall into the lagoon, slowly melt and drift out to sea, where they are polished by the North Atlantic waves before being washed ashore on the jet-black beach called Breiðamerkursandur.

This black stretch of sand is, therefore, always covered in translucent, compact ice sculptures that glisten in the sun, much like diamonds. This is why Breiðamerkursandur is nicknamed the Diamond Beach.

Wildlife at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Cute little seal in the ice lagoon

Seals can be seen swimming in the lagoon and by the coastline, or relaxing on top of a floating iceberg. The lagoon is also teeming with birdlife, especially during summer, when you are likely to see the arctic tern and a number of other species. 

This is not a popular area for puffins though, but if you are driving from Reykjavík you can stop by Dyrhólaey lighthouse and Reynisfjara beach on the way to see some puffins.

Remember that the drive along the South Coast to Jökulsárlón is breathtakingly beautiful. So be sure to take your time and enjoy the sights. 

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon as a Film Location

A scene from Interstellar, shot on Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue

A great number of films have been shot in Iceland, and Jökulsárlón's icy landscapes have attracted many filmmakers. 



The James Bond films Die Another Day and A View to a Kill, and Tomb Raider were filmed at the icy lagoon, but Batman Begins and Interstellar were shot nearby at Svínafellsjökull glacier, inside Vatnajökull national park. 

A number of commercials and music videos have also been shot at Jökulsárlón, such as Bon Iver's Holocene, Justin Bieber's I'll Show You and the music video to Gerua from the Bollywood film Dilwali starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.

How to Get to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon?

Northern Lights over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

To reach Jökulsárlón you can either drive yourself or join a tour that takes you to the lagoon. If you are driving from Reykjavík, note that it's about a 5-6 hour very scenic drive to get there (so it will take you longer with all the stops you'll want to make on the way!). We, therefore, recommend spending at least 2 days travelling there and back to Reykjavík.

This 2-day tour includes transportation and accommodation, taking you to Jökulsárlón along with the South Coast, Ice Caving and Northern Lights hunting

The drive is not a boring one, as you will pass by some stunning South Coast scenery, including the gorgeous waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the black beach of Reynisfjara, Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Eyjafjallajökull volcano—just to name a few natural attractions along the way. 

Diamond Beach by Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

As there are so many places to explore on the way, we have a number of self-drive suggested itineraries, such as this 6 Day Self Drive Tour of the South Coast and the Golden Circle in summertime, and a similar 6 Day Winter Drive, that also includes a visit to an ice cave.

If you are looking for a shorter trip, then there's also this 3 Day Winter Drive, that includes a visit to the ice cave—but we can customise a self-drive plan for you. If you want to make your plan yourself, then we can help you to find a cheap but good rental car.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon during summer

Jökulsárlón is accessible all year round, although in winter it may be a little weather depending. If there's a snowstorm raging then you'd be advised not to drive in wintertime.

Most days you will be fine, however. The roads along the south coast generally stay clear all year round and there is a bit of traffic so if you run into trouble then someone will stop by quickly and help you out!

An icy view of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

The added bonus of travelling during wintertime is that you may catch the Northern Lights, so don't let winter weather stop you from exploring this gem of Iceland's nature! 

If you don't want to drive yourself then you can always book a tour to go there, such as this Christmas Season 3 day tour or this 2 day winter tour to Jökulsárlón with ice caving

This 2 day tour to Jökulsárlón that includes glacier hiking is also available all year round.

Activities at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon


Boat tours operate in the summertime on the lagoon, between April and October. They are indeed the same boats that were used in Tomb Raider, and were featured in the clip above that supposedly takes place in Russia.

Boat tour on Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

During high season (July and August), up to boat 40 trips run on the lagoon per day. You can choose between going on an amphibian boat tour that leaves multiple times per day, or a Zodiac boat tour that has a fixed time schedule. 

Individuals don't need to book in advance for the amphibian boat tours but groups larger than 12 people will need to book.

The Zodiac tours can sell out and it's advised to book them in advance as they only operate between June and September. 

Natural ice cave in winter near the glacier lagoon

It is also possible to go ice caving from Jökulsárlón and explore a natural blue ice cave within Vatnajökull glacier. The ice caves form when the glacier is melting and rivers run underneath the ice, sculpting the ice into a tunnel.

Each cave is different from the next one and they vary in size and shape. What they all have in common is the incredible blue colour of the ice.

Another ice cave in Iceland

Most ice caves are only accessible between November and March each year, and tours are very dependent on the weather. If it's too warm, the caves may fill with water, melt or even collapse in places, so you should never enter an ice cave unless you're with a guide that knows the area and the cave well, and has deemed it safe to enter.

However, the Sapphire Blue Ice Cave is the only one open the whole year round. Due to the cave's location high upon Vatnajökull glacier, the shape of the cave stays the same throughout the year, although getting to the glacier is still dependent on the weather.

The tour departing from Jökulsárlón is also the only tour that visits this particular cave, providing visitors with the opportunity to enjoy it far away from all crowds.

Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón is also a very popular place to try and catch the Northern Lights dancing above, as the scenery looks phenomenal with the auroras reflected in the water and the ice.

Auroras over Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

The Northern Lights occur all year round, but are only visible when it's dark and can therefore not be seen in the summertime when the nights are bright. From September until mid April is when you can see the Northern Lights in the sky, depending on a clear sky and how active they are.

Check out our 5 day winter package that includes the glacier lagoon, Northern Light hunts, the ice cave and more.

Where to Stay at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is Iceland's deepest lake.

There are many options for accommodation around the glacier lagoon if you plan to stay in the area overnight. The two closest establishments are the Hali Country Hotel and the Gerði Guesthouse. Both of these are immersed in the countryside, and all the rooms come with private bathrooms.

Also nearby is Hotel Skaftafell, in Freysnes, located in the stunning Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Though not overly lavish, its incredible location makes it extremely popular amongst visitors.

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a four-star, stylish hotel in the area, suiting those on a higher budget.

The Nónhamar Cabins are excellent for groups of four or less who prefer self-catering options and like to be surrounded by nature.

Vesturhús Guesthouse, meanwhile, has comfortable shared sleeping bag accommodation, perfect for those who are not willing or able to spend as much as the other places ask; the same applies for the HI Hostel Vagnsstaðir, which is just 30km away. 

Hotels and hostels close to the lagoon, however, have the tendency to book up very early. If you aren't fortunate enough to get a room at one, then the second most convenient option is to stay at the nearby town of Höfn. If you were planning on travelling the ring-road, or wanted to finish your day in a place with a wealth of amenities, this is a preferential place to retire regardless.

Diamond Beach is one of the most beautiful photography locations in Iceland.

Höfn also has a variety of different lodgings, to suit different budgets and styles. Hotel Höfn and Hotel Edda Höfn are two lovely hotels for those who prioritise comfort, while the HI Hostel Höfn is perfect for those who prioritise cost.

If you are seeking accommodation more in the nature, however, you may wish to stay at the Lambhús cottages, where you will have incredible views of Vatnajökull glacier. These are located less than halfway between the glacier lagoon and the town.

If you are travelling all around Iceland, and Jökulsárlón is just one of the many places you plan on staying at, you may find this article on where to stay in Iceland useful. 

What to be Aware of at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Tourists climbing on top of the ice at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon - photo credit Owen Hunt

(Picture by Owen Hunt)

There's one main safety measure you should be aware of when you go to this ice lagoon. It should go without saying that it's not wise to go swimming in a lake full of enormous icebergs, or climbing on top of those icebergs—but for some strange reason, many people are tempted to do so!

People sometimes underestimate Icelandic nature and find themselves in dangerous situations, often needing the aid of some of Iceland's search and rescue teams.

So don't be tempted to do what many film characters or singers do (such as James Bond, Shah Rukh Khan or Justin Bieber) and swim in the lake or climb on top of the icebergs! We're not just being boring by saying so, the current in the lagoon is very strong and can easily carry you out to sea if you venture a little too far swimming in the lagoon.

The lagoon is 200m deep, and is, in fact, Iceland's deepest lake. What you see of the huge icebergs floating in the lagoon are literally just their tips as about 90% of the ice is submerged in the water.

Sometimes the icebergs tip over, when the ice underneath the water surface has become smaller than what is seen above the surface (due to the ice cracking or melting).

If people are climbing on to the top of the ice and then the ice tips over, you might get caught underneath the ice and find yourself in a life-threatening situation. That's not really worth a good picture. So just take care and enjoy this gorgeous location in Iceland! 

Here you can read our list of other dumb things to do in Iceland