Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is truly a unique place in South Iceland. Experience the floating icebergs and the magnificent Vatnajokull Glacier. See a list of tours and excursions to the glacier lagoon in Iceland here below.
Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lagoon at the foot of Europe’s largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier. At the point where the melting glacier reaches sea level, it creates a large lagoon. As the ice melts, massive chunks break away from the glacier tongue.
These giant icebergs then move toward the ocean, floating slowly across the lagoon. This creates such an otherworldly sight that leaves no one untouched. The icebergs appear in many different hues. Some are an appealing blue and turquoise, while others are milky white. Many others appear transparent as if they were made of glass.
These thrilling natural phenomena are quite varied in size and shape. The biggest icebergs can be as large as 20 to 30 meters. The lagoon never looks the same. Tide currents, air temperature, and winds affect the movement and appearance of the icebergs. The view of this glacial lake can completely change overnight.
Many refer to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon as the crown jewel of Iceland. It is truly a unique and awe-inspiring natural wonder. The fact that it is very easy to access makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. In fact, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach are the most photographed places in Iceland.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is the deepest lake in Iceland (284 m/0.648 ft) fed by Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an outlet of Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. The glacier tongue is quickly receding, leaving behind a myriad of azure ice chunks in different shapes and sizes that slowly drift out to sea. A narrow channel connects Jökulsárlón to the Atlantic Ocean, making its waters clearer and bluer than of other glacier lagoons.
Jokulsarlon’s beauty is its impermanence, as every visit to the lagoon is unique. The icy panorama is changing all the time, as newly calved icebergs glide along the shore. Some bergs are bright cyan-blue chunks, while others have smokey black and grey spots - evidence of volcanic eruptions throughout the ages.
It’s possible to spot both small diamond-like bits of ice and gigantic icebergs that can reach sizes of 20-30 meters (65-98 feet). We guarantee that you won’t get bored at Jokulsarlon, as it’s impossible to ever get enough of these wondrous ice sculptures!
At Jokulsarlon you will feel like an ice-bound movie star! It’s nicknamed The Hollywood Glacier lagoon and blockbusters like Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and two James Bond films: A View to a Kill and Die Another Day were all filmed here. Even Justin Bieber took a dip here while filming his music video “I’ll show you“. However, we strongly advise against swimming in the lagoon or climbing on the ice, unless you have a medical team with you on site like Justin.
Jokulsarlon is not the only ice lagoon in Vatnajökull National Park. At the southern end of the glacier, within a few kilometers from Jokulsarlon lies another renowned glacier lagoon, Fjallsárlón. It belongs to another outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, Fjallsjökull.
This lagoon sits in the shadow of the mighty Öræfajökull volcano, and the glacier itself is within sight of the lakeshore. Fjallsárlón is known to be much less crowded than Jokulsarlon, while it still boasts an impressive variety of slowly drifting multicolored ice.
In 2016, the band Kaleo filmed their music video “Save Yourself” here, performing live on top of a floating iceberg. Although climbing the bergs is extremely dangerous, floating among them is just as thrilling and much safer. You can hop on a boat and depart to this iceberg shelter for a close-up photo with the glazed giants!
On the eastern side of the Vajtnajökull glacier, you’ll find calm in the rarely-seen Grænalón and Heinabergslón glacier lagoons. These are not easily accessible, as you can reach them by hiking, on 4x4 vehicle, or with a helicopter. To avoid the crowds, venture here and admire Europe’s largest ice cap from a whole new perspective.
These are just a fraction of glacier lagoons in Iceland, as 11% of the country is covered in ice, so wherever there’s a glacier tongue, expect to find a lake with icebergs. In addition, the glacial cover is constantly changing, keeping us excited about what they will look like on the next tour!
Although remote, Iceland’s glacier lagoons can be explored in more than one way. You can take a hike, roam around the Diamond beach, board a Zodiac or an amphibian boat, or make your way through the icebergs yourself in a kayak. And if you feel like doing it all on one tour, travel the whole Golden Circle during the 3-Day South Coast adventure!
Even though the arctic waters are always frigid, there are still plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. Jokulsarlon, the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the country, is home to many seal colonies. The river running from the lagoon to the sea has become much shorter, so seals often wander into the glacial waters to rest on the icebergs. Seals usually get curious, too, and swim closer to the boat to peek at the visitors.
During your glacier lagoon tour, you might also see some birds such as Arctic Terns, Seagulls, and Great Skuas. The birds are not afraid of the chilly weather and feast on the fish living in these Arctic lakes.
Step into the four-wheel amphibian boat for a ride through the heart of the lagoon. They are accompanied by guides who will share history and facts about these iconic locations. Enjoy the Arctic wilds and remember to look out for seals and birds in between giant towering ice cubes.
For an even closer encounter with the bergs, join a zodiac raft tour to the hidden corners of the lagoon where most of the tourists will never go. Speedy inflatable boats can get even closer to the icebergs and reach farther into the lake than amphibian boats.
If you feel adventurous and can handle the challenge, the kayaking tour in the lagoon will be your ultimate adventure. Even without previous kayaking experience, you can roam the waters at your own pace in safe and stable boats. This is not your average kayaking trip, you can touch the ancient glacier pieces, observe seals and paddle in some of the most unique places on Earth!
During our tours in the glacier lagoons, you’ll also have a chance to nibble on the frozen history. Our guides will offer you a pure piece of the iceberg for a try, so if you ever wondered what 1000-year-old ice tastes like - we’ve got you covered!
Even though the lagoon is accessible all year round, boat tours only operate during summer and autumn and are dependant on the weather conditions.
Between June and September, you’re in for the ultimate amphibian and zodiac boat tours and kayaking adventures. Journeys in the glacial waters offer the best opportunities to get close to the calving frozen giants and meet many seals and birds. The midnight sun at the end of June creates the perfect atmosphere and provides sublime light all day and night!
The winter months offer another perspective on the glacier lagoons, as they become tightly packed with icebergs, which makes boat tours impossible. You can access some of them by road, take a hike in a chill breeze, or see the glacial panorama on a helicopter tour. Tourist crowds become rare and the ice glistens in the low winter sun. The glacier lagoons are a long way from the bright lights of the city, making them a perfect viewing platform for the Northern Lights as the night falls.
Another winter paradise that stands out in the cold is the Diamond Beach. If you brave the frost and visit in winter, you’re in for a sight of enormous icebergs that travel here from Jökulsárlón. In the night you can also hunt for the Aurora show, and combine “diamonds” with the dancing lights!
To catch a sight of the Northern Lights, and see the blue icebergs in more than one form, join the 2-Day tour of the South Coast.
To see more of nature’s supreme artistry, go to the Diamond Beach, which is approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) away from Jokulsarlon. Together with the glacier lagoon, it is one of the most photographed places in Iceland and a famous proposal spot. This volcanic black sand beach hides millions of shimmering icebergs creating dream-like scenery, as you walk past them.
When the huge ice blocks (some a 1,000 years old!) break away from the glacier, they fall into the lagoon and then float away to the ocean while slowly melting. Then, the waves wash some of the icebergs’ chunks up on the shore of the Diamond Beach, creating a stunning black-and-blue landscape.
If you don’t want to miss out on this magical volcanic shoreline on your trip, join the South Coast, Jokulsarlon & Diamond Beach adventure that combines the two!
In summer, warmer weather causes more ice to break down from the glacier, filling the lagoon with a huge quantity of gorgeous floating icebergs. If you want to see this stunning place in its full glory, we recommend visiting between April and October. Huge numbers of loud arctic terns also nest around the lagoon, so take care not to stumble onto a nesting ground!
For the most fun, come between June and September. During this time, you can go on boat tours on the glacier lagoon. Sail between the enormous icebergs and get up close to them. For adventurous souls, we recommend trying the kayaking tour, which is even more fun!
In winter, Jokulsarlon is quieter. There are no birds around and the boat tours don't operate. Sometimes, if the weather is very cold, the so-called “calving process” of the glacier slows down. The lagoon might be covered by a thin ice shield for shorter periods, making it more difficult for icebergs to float.
On the plus side, there are fewer tourists this time of the year and the low winter sun paints this amazing place with surreal colors. Also, you have a pretty good chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights! During wintertime, the Aurora Borealis might show up dancing over the lagoon, a sight that leaves no one untouched. This could be an unforgettable memory of a lifetime!
A winter visit also means you can explore natural ice caves nearby. These crystal blue ice caves are rare and short-lived wonders. They are formed in late autumn and they melt in spring, so you can’t visit them during summer.
Still got questions about Glacier Lagoons? Find the answer here!
No matter the time of the year, the weather can change fast and it gets quite chilly near the glacier lagoons. Therefore, we recommend wearing a warm hat, a scarf, gloves, and comfortable shoes even if it’s sunny and you’re visiting in summer.
The age limit depends on the tour you're interested in. While some tours have no age limit at all, others typically accept participants starting at 6 years old. Check the specific tour pages for exact information about the tour you’re interested in.
Wheelchair users can view the lagoon but many activities on and around the glacier are not suitable for people with limited mobility.
There is a café with restrooms right beside the lagoon. The café offers light refreshments such as twisted donuts and sandwiches and hot drinks. You can also find restaurants with a bigger menu at the nearby hotels, such as Hof and Icelandair Hotel.
The water in the ice lagoons is extremely cold all year round. Do not attempt to swim in the glacier lagoons, as it can cause hypothermia in just a few minutes.
No, you should never try to step on the ice in the lagoons. Some parts of the lagoon may not be frozen enough to walk on them even during the coldest months. Also, remember that the icebergs can flip over or collapse at any time. You should always keep your distance and not risk your safety for the perfect selfie!