Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The Complete Guide

 Chris VR / TripSavvy

Jökulsárlón

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Jökulsárlón, Iceland

If you've been to eastern Iceland, chances are you've seen — or at least passed — Jökulsárlón. The Glacier Lagoon is famous around the world for its front-row view of Vatnajökull and its surrounding icebergs. Across the street from the lagoon, you'll find the Diamond Beach, named for the chunks of ice that wash up on shore and glitter in the sun.

Stepping to the waterline of Jökulsárlón is like stepping into a different world; aside from the chatter of surrounding tourists, the experience to your glacier lagoon experience will consist of bird song and the meditative lapping of icy-cold water.

If you're lucky, you'll catch sight of a local seal — they're known to swim among the icebergs. You can also get an even closer look at the icebergs by joining a tour guide on a kayaking trip into the water (Extreme Iceland offers a good one).

Ahead, 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 journey if you're coming from Akureyi. If you're heading from Reykjavik, you'll pass over a bridge right before hitting your destination. If you're heading from Akureyi and hit a bridge, you've gone just a little too far. The lagoon is located right off of Route 1, the main road taking travelers around the country.

Chris VR / TripSavvy

What to Expect at Jökulsárlón

Once you're in the parking lot, you won't be able to see glaciers from your car because there's a series of dunes blocking your view. To get down to the water — and it is safe to walk right up to the water here — you have to walk up and over the dunes.

In the parking lot, there is a small visitor center, where you can use the restroom, grab a bite to eat, or purchase souvenirs. You'll also find more information about the tours offered in the area.

Some of the icebergs in the lagoon are massive and others are just barely floating above water. This variety of ice size is what makes photographing this area so spectacular.

What to Wear

Like every other outdoor attraction in Iceland, it's windy and cold. If you plan on getting close to the water, opt for waterproof hiking 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, safe spot for your camera in case of a surprise rain or snow storm. Weather changes constantly in Iceland and given the dune you have to cross to get back to your car, it's better to be prepared to handle a weather switch without having to return to the car.

Safety

Unlike the Diamond Beach or Reynisfjara, Jökulsárlón is not located on open water. You can walk up to the shore line without risking your life in any way. But, as with any natural environment, by wary of the 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 a manmade walkway built into the dirt, but to reach some of the more remote sections of the lagoon, you'll have to do a bit of "off-roading." The dirt can be loose, so make sure you have solid footing before moving on.

It might be enticing to walk onto the larger ice chunks lingering near the shore line, but don't do it. Unless you're ok with getting soaked, that is. There's no telling how strong the ice is and whether or not it can hold your body weight.

The Best Time to Visit

Jökulsárlón is best seen during the day when there's plenty of light hitting the icebergs. There's a relatively small space to explore — a thin strip of shore — so it can get crowded, the largest of which will come through during the day time due to the tour buses that make the trip.

That said, seeing the Northern Lights from this location is a truly phenomenal experience and one that can only be had at night during the wintertime.

Nearby Hikes

Much like the Diamond Beach, the best local hike is over the nearby glacier that feeds into the lagoon, Vatnajökull. It's best to book a tour guide to bring you through this hike, as they can provide special equipment and best know the safe routes to follow. The glacier ice can move at any time, so sticking with someone who knows the area and melting patterns is key.

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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The Complete Guide