Jökulsárlón is perhaps the top tourist hotspot in Iceland and is widely considered to be the most picturesque landscape in the south of the country.
The Jökulsárlón lagoon is a sight to behold, its waters populated with icebergs that break off regularly from the huge ice cap of the nearby Vatnajökull glacier. This splendid lake with its ever-renewing ice sculpture exhibition is very easy to get to with any type of vehicle.
The site, rivaled only by the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, is one of the most visited by tourists and was even featured on blockbuster movie sets (James Bond: Die Another Day and A View to a Kill; Tomb Raider, Batman Begins...).
Interestingly, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon didn't even exist until the early 20th century. We can blame global warming for its appearance when Breiðamerkurjökull glacier began to withdraw. From the 1950s to the early 2000s, the lake grew from about 5 to 30 km². Unfortunately, it is very likely that within a few years the glacier will be gone, and Jökulsárlón will just be a lake with no icebergs.
Jökulsárlón Lake belongs to the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier lagoon, which is itself an outlet of the massive Vatnajökull ice cap. The sculptures of ash and ice break off from the Breiðamerkurjökull, and it is truly a wonder to watch these colossal hunks of white, blue, and black floating silently by on the lagoon's dark blue waters.
These icebergs can range from 1 meter in height to building-size, up to 20 meters of ice that is over 1000 years old. The lagoon is narrow, the perfect stage for abstract sculptures, but those dark waters are up to 248 meters deep in places, making it simply the deepest lake in Iceland.
The site is located along Road number 1 and about 350 km from Reykjavík between Skaftafell National Park and the town of Höfn to the south. You can reach the lagoon in 45 minutes from Skaftafell and 1 hour from Höfn.
A large car park allows you to leave your car on site and walk not even that far from the main road, so you won't need a 4x4 vehicle to reach Jökulsárlón.
Visitors on short stays, if you're wondering if it's a good day-trip option, keep in mind it takes 4:45 hours to travel from the capital to Jökulsárlón, so a return trip will make for a very long day of driving.
From Reykjavik, for those who do not have a vehicle, you should know that the site is also accessible by bus.
Jökulsárlón icebergs in summer
The site is easily accessible all year round as it is located just off Road number 1. In winter, this spot is very popular with photographers for obvious reasons: you can just imagine the sight of these icebergs in a remote lagoon with an aurora borealis in the background. During summer, the colors may be different, but the place is just as magical.
For those who prefer to avoid the crowds, we recommend enjoying these icebergs in the late evening (if you come in summer, of course). You will enjoy a special kind of calm with the silvery light of the midnight sun over the lagoon.
In general, for a quieter experience, aim for early morning or late evening visit, in particular during the tourist season from mid-June to mid-August.
Indeed, as it is very popular, you should preferably avoid peak hours. If possible, it is best to come early before the tourist buses arrive or, better, later in the evening to enjoy the bright light offered by the midnight sun, which adds a magic touch. When all you hear is the birds and the cracking of the icebergs, you've found the true meaning of Jökulsárlón.
The ice blocks of Jökulsárlón
The best thing to do here is take your sweet time admiring the dance of the giant icebergs!
In the water, dotted along the icebergs you may see a few seals basking on the icy shelves. You may get the chance to meet the great skulas and other Arctic terns that reside along the Jökulsárlón.
If you are lucky enough to visit Jökulsárlón more than once, you will find that the lagoon never looks the same from one day to the next. The shape, size, and color of icebergs are constantly changing. The light is also very different depending on the season, the weather, and the time of day you go there. Remote and frozen and ever-changing.
For those who want a closer look, 40-minute amphibious boat trips strike out over the lagoon all year round (this boat with wheels drives straight into the water), especially during the high season from June to August when you can sail right into the maze of icebergs.
It is also possible to go on a zodiac trip between the icebergs from May to October.
Jökulsárlón diamond beach
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, you can take a lovely walk along the lake to admire the frozen sculptures floating away from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Across the road, the same path leads to the nearby beach.
This beach is called Diamond Beach because the river pushes freshwater icebergs back into the sea, which erodes them before the waves spit them back onto the beach but polished, hence the name. The constellations of clear ice sculptures on the black sand beach make for great photos.
The crystal cave of Jökulsarlon
The Jökulsárlón car park leads to another attraction, open between October and March, the “crystal ice cave”. This cave is located in the Vatnajökull National Park close to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. Known for its deep blue tones, it is one of the most beautiful caves in Iceland. A guide takes you to the entrance in a super jeep for a 45-minute tour about the origins and features of this cave. Additional information about the crystal cave.
About 8 km west of Jökulsárlón there is a road that was not official or accessible for a long time, but it has since been set up for visitors with a clear sign and a parking lot because it leads to another less famous but just as magical place: Fjallsárlón.
Much less touristy than Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón is a lake that emerged from the Fjallsjökull glacier. It makes for a great walk along the lake and features the same ever-changing dance of icebergs, and the site exudes tranquility. With nothing but the sound of icebergs cracking and sea-birds cutting the air, you can truly appreciate this tranquil beauty.
If you travel in a camper van with indoor living amenities, the Jökulsárlón car park is equipped for your needs. On the other hand, there is no camp site near the area and even though many pitch their tents on the site, it is prohibited and should be avoided.
If you want to stay in the area you can spend a night in a guesthouse or hotel, there are several between Höfn and Skaftafell but none directly near Jökulsárlón.