As soon as I saw the image of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in my Lonely Planet Iceland, I knew we had to make it there. In fact, I pretty much planned our entire route through the south of Iceland to lead up to a grand finale at Jökulsárlón… its true!
Without exaggerating, the glacial lagoon is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited. Like so much of Iceland it is other-worldly and makes your existence seem tiny. It’s also quite famous for being a film location. Apparently some James Bond movies have been shot there, but hell, I’ve never seen them so I’m just trusting what I read online 😉
Looking to plan your visit to the glacial lagoon? Look no further, I’ve got you covered with all your basic info (and inspirational pics) below!
First things first… this place is stunning beyond words … and best of all, none of these images are edited – this is really how it looks!
Where is Jökulsárlón?
Jökulsárlón is located in the south-east of Iceland, and the closest nearby towns are Hof and Hofn. It is about a 5-6 drive from Reykjavik, so I’d definitely recommend making an overnight stop on the way there and on the way back if you don’t plan to drive the entire ring road.
The glacial lagoon is actually a lake that is connected to Vatnajökull glacier. Icebergs break off from the glacier and drift toward the sea on their way to their final destination – melting into the ocean of course. The result is truly spectacular.
Due to its proximity to Vatnajökull National Park, it is ideal to combine a trip to Svartifoss (at the national park) and the glacial lagoon in one day – they are only located around a 45 minute drive from each other.
How can I book a tour of the glacial lagoon?
We booked our tour through Icelagoon.is and did an amphibian tour of the lagoon – prices are around $50 per person – which is COMPLETELY worth it!
Our guide was really knowledgable and imparted all his wisdom about the lagoon on us. As an added bonus, one of his colleagues who was patrolling the water for ice in front of our boat picked up that block of ice he’s holding and we all got to have a taste. The glacial ice is some of the purest in the world! Yum.
If you’re lucky, you might catch some seals taking a nap on the icebergs during your tour. Seals often swim into Jökulsárlón for protection from orcas – so you might find them resting after surviving a long chase! Orcas apparently don’t enter the lagoon, so seals are safe here.
As with everything in Iceland, make sure to book well in advance during high season. It would be terrible to drive all the way there only to find all the tours filled. I booked about one week in advance during the beginning of August and could only choose a few times in the early evening on our selected day – so be sure to plan ahead! That being said, visiting at the end of the day meant that we had gorgeous light hitting the lagoon for our entire tour, making for some pretty incredible pictures.
Where should I stay for a visit to the glacial lagoon?
We stayed in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (try saying that ten times fast… or better yet, try saying it just once!), which was about an hour and forty-five minute drive away. For us it was perfect since the glacial lagoon was as far east as we would drive before turning back toward Reykjavik and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula . Kirkjubæjarklaustur is pretty much the only “big” town nearby the glacial lagoon. And by big town, I mean a place where you can stop and get gas an a hot dog. That’s pretty much it. So, whether you stay there or not, you might want to stop there to get some food on your way to the glacial lagoon cause you’ll hardly see anywhere else in between – and it is the last place you can stop for gas!
We stayed at Klausterhof Guest House, which was just OK. We visited during very high season so we had to share what amounted to a four person dorm with a bathroom that was shared with other guests. Not my preferred lodging situation, but hey, it was clean and it gave us a place to stay in the area, so it worked out alright.
If you plan to visit, please make sure you book your hotel well in advance. I booked 2 months prior to our visit and Klausterhof was the only hotel left in the area (there are very few), and I got the last room.
And lastly… don’t forget to visit Diamond Beach!
Just before you cross the bridge (if you approach the glacial lagoon from the west), turn right to visit Diamond Beach. As the name suggests, you’ll find ice littering the black sand beach. Not the ice you wear though, the ice that melts 😉
Some of the icebergs that didn’t melt yet find their way out to the sea where they get washed up on Diamond Beach, and melt over a few days.
We saw a little seal washed up on the shore here. My immediate thought seeing it laying there on the beach was “Oh no, its dying… how can people be taking a picture?” Well, stupid me. It was apparently just resting, likely after an orca chase. So I lied, we did see a seal, but just not on an iceberg.
Have you visited Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon? What was your experience like?