LivingTravelJökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: the complete guide

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: the complete guide

If you’ve been to eastern Iceland, you’ve likely seen, or at least passed, Jökulsárlón. Glacier Lagoon is famous the world over for its front row view of Vatnajökull and its surrounding icebergs. Across the street from the lagoon, you’ll find Playa Diamante, named for the chunks of ice that wash up on the shore and sparkle in the sun.

Entering the Jökulsárlón waterline is like entering a different world; In addition to the chatter of the tourists around you, your glacier lagoon experience will consist of birdsong and the meditative splash of icy water.

If you are lucky, you will see a local seal – they are known to swim among icebergs. You can also get an even closer look at icebergs by joining a tour guide on a water kayaking trip (Extreme Iceland offers a good one).

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting this landmark.

How to get there

Jökulsárlón is about a five hour drive from Reykjavik and a seven hour drive if you are coming from Akureyi. If you are heading from Reykjavik, you will pass a bridge just before reaching your destination. If you head from Akureyi and hit a bridge, you’ve gone too far. The lagoon is located just off Route 1, the main highway that takes travelers from all over the country.

What to expect in Jökulsárlón

Once you are in the parking lot, you will not be able to see the glaciers from your car because there are a number of dunes that block your view. To get to the water, and it is safe to walk to the water here, you have to walk on the dunes.

In the parking lot, there is a small visitor center, where you can use the bathroom, eat something or buy souvenirs. You will also find more information about the tours offered in the area.

Some of the icebergs in the lagoon are huge and others barely float on the water. This variety of ice sizes is what makes photographing this area so spectacular.

What to wear

Like any other outdoor attraction in Iceland, it is windy and cold. If you plan to get close to the water, opt for waterproof boots and clothing.

While it’s not a piece of clothing, do yourself a favor and triple-check that you have your camera.

Another thing to consider is having a dry and safe place for your camera in the event of a surprise rain or snow storm. The weather is constantly changing in Iceland and given the dune you have to cross to get back to your car, it is best to be prepared to operate a climate switch without having to return to the car.

Safety

Unlike Diamond Beach or Reynisfjara, Jökulsárlón is not in open water. You can walk to the coast without risking your life in any way. But, as with any natural environment, be wary of local wildlife. There are birds and seals that call the glacier lagoon home.

The dunes next to the lagoon can also be a bit precarious. There is an artificial walkway built into the dirt, but to get to some of the more remote sections of the lagoon, you will have to do a bit of ‘off-roading’. The dirt may be loose, so make sure you have a solid base before proceeding.

It can be tempting to walk on the larger chunks of ice that remain close to shore, but don’t. Unless you agree to soak up, that is. It is not known how strong the ice is and whether or not it can support your body weight.

The best time to visit

Jökulsárlón is best seen during the day when there is a lot of light hitting the icebergs. There is a relatively small space to explore, a thin strip of shoreline, for you to fill up, the largest of which you will pass during the day due to the tour buses that make the trip.

That said, seeing the Northern Lights from here is a truly phenomenal experience and can only be had at night during winter.

Nearby walks

Like Diamond Beach, the best local hike is over the nearby glacier that feeds the lagoon, Vatnajökull. It’s best to book a tour guide to take you through this hike as they can provide you with special equipment and better understand the safe routes to follow. Glacier ice can move at any time, so it is key to follow someone who knows the area and the melting patterns.

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