Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

When Is the Best Time

Jokulsárlón (Google Maps) is a truly striking spot to visit in Iceland and was one of the Game of Thrones filming locations for season 7. However, it does get incredibly crowded during the daytime. Read on for our guide on how to avoid the crowds, when to see the most icebergs and more useful tips:

Accessibility

The lagoon is accessible year-round. Even in the winter, the part of Route 1 (Ring Road) between Reykjavik and Jokulsárlón is usually snow-free. There might be some exceptions when heavy snow-storms occur. Tip: You’ll have the best experience and more freedom if you rent a car, preferrably a 4WD. Most of our tips below can only be followed with a (rental) car.

Highlights (Icebergs)

The icebergs are present year round. However, it’s impossible to predict the amount of ice on a certain day. Our tips on increasing your chances:

Visit In Winter:
You’ll often see more icebergs during the winter months. Another great advantage to visiting in winter is the Northern Lights. The downsides: It’s colder, and no boat tours are available in winter.

Visit In Summer:
In the summer, as well as late spring and early fall, there are slightly fewer icebergs, but boat tours are available, and the weather is more pleasant. However, you’ll usually spot enough icebergs in every season. A great experience in the summer: Afternoon on a sunny day for incredible contrasts between light, ice and the black beach.

Stay Two Days:
Regardless of the season, you should stay at least two days.  Book a nearby hotel (Best Hotels at Jokulsárlón). First you visit the Lagoon in the afternoon/evening, then you stay the night in the hotel and on the next day you get back to the lagoon early in the morning. That way you’ll avoid the crowds at both times (evening and morning). Staying two days also means, you can experience different tide levels, often different wind/weather and different light. You’ll maximize the chances to see enough icebergs as well. Few visitors report, that almost no icebergs were there on a given day. It’s not very likely but possible. Visit 2 days to be on the safe side.

Avoiding the Crowds

Crowds at Jokulsárlón are usually present year-round. The peak summer months bring the most tourists. However, there are easy ways to get away from the crowds:

Be Early or Stay Late:
Be there as early as possible, preferably around 7:30 AM. Then you’ll have about an hour or more until the first tour buses arrive. Since a drive from Reykjavik takes about 5 hours, the best bet is to stay at a nearby hotel the night before you visit early. We highly recommend staying two days (see section above: stay two days for the icebergs and light). Example: Day #1: Stay late at the lagoon until at least 4 or 5 PM when most tourists are gone. Staying late is a great idea even if you are not planning to visit again the next day. The night: Stay at the nearby hotelDay #2: Be at Jokulsárlón early in the morning  (see above).

Walk Farther:
The area around the main parking lot is always crowded: Check out the layout drawing below. Most people stay within 60 m of the parking area. Just walk a little farther, and you’ll get away from the main crowds. About half mile down the road is another parking lot. From there you can go down the cliff to the beach. It’s significantly less busy here and most of the time you see as many icebergs. The two beaches are nearly identical, while one of them often has more icebergs than the other. It’s impossible to predict that on a certain day. If you’d like to avoid crowds, just go to the beach with fewer icebergs.

Visit In Shoulder Months:
Usually, the place is busy year-round nowadays. The peak season used to be from June until August. However, in the recent years, many visitors also come for the Northern Lights in winter. A chance of a slightly less busy place is the months of late September – October or April – early May. However, don’t expect a quiet place during daytime regardless of the season.

Hotel Tip & Tours (Cave – Hiking – Boats)

Special Tip!! Stay at the nearby Hali Country Hotel! It’s a short drive and fantastic. A must if you want to avoid the crowds and get  early to Jokulsarlon (see above). If you’d like to visit the ice caves as well (highly recommended) then take a look at our suggested tours (safe booking and excellent guides! Really worth it!): Jökulsárlón Glacier Hike & Cave Tours


Review

Jokulsarlon (Jökulsárlón) is a glacial lake at the Vatnajökull National Park in front of the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, you can see Iceland’s highest mountain (and Volcano) Oraefajokull (summit Hvannadalshnúkur).

Book a guided tour in one of the amphibian boats. After the ride, check out and find a place to have a break while sitting in front of some fascinating icebergs. Later in the day, the tourists are and you can have a walk and find resting seals on floating ice sheets.

 

 

Boat Tours

The boat tours are only available from early May until September. Our recommended operator if you’re staying in Reykjavik: Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon with Boat Trip

Why book a boat trip? A boat trip that takes you right up close to the icebergs of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. During the tour, you’ll sail right through a sea of fascinatingly colored icebergs that have broken off from the adjacent glacier. The ice of the glacier is over 1,000 years old and if you are lucky you will also see seals sunbathing on the ice floes!

How long is the boat tour? The tour lasts about 30-40 minutes and includes an English-speaking guide who will reveal exciting details about the geology and nature of the lagoon. You will even have the opportunity to lick the ancient ice – a unique experience considering its incredible age.

The glacier lagoon is considered by many to be the most beautiful sight in Iceland. An amphibious boat offers one of the best ways to see it in all its glory and to admire the impressive icebergs from more than just a distance.

Following this tour, a visit to the neighboring Diamond Beach (see above) is highly recommended, where you will get another view of the ice after it washes up on this black beach and glistens in the sun.

Amphibian Boats:
Some visitors say, that the Amphibian Boat tours are not as good as the Zodiac ones. We think both are equally stunning. You’ll probably get only a little closer to the Icebergs compared to being at the beach and cliff areas.

Zodiac Boats:
On the small Zodiac boats, you’ll get closer to the icebergs than on the amphibian tours. Also, a larger area is covered. When possible the Zodiac goes almost all the way up to the glacier. As close as possible. Most visitors recommend the Zodiac tours.

 

Useful Links
Maps/Guide

Even with GPS or Google Maps on your phonem, you need a map if you will be driving in Iceland. This map ist true life saver for finding camping or fuel nearby as there is not everything within a GPS in the less populated regions. And it’s water resistant: Iceland Adventure Travel Map (via Amazon)

 

1 thought on “Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon”

  1. We were there in early April which was perfect to still get dark skies for the aurora. There was still a huge amount of ice in the lagoon (which is why the boat does not sail at this time of year). We had perfect weather which obviously helps a lot. Based on our experience I would definitely recommend going at this time of year. The whole Iceland trip was one of the most memorable trips ever! Find more Iceland photographs and others on my 500px page: https://500px.com/aderussell

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