Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in South Iceland is one of the top experiences in Iceland. Here is everything you need to know about it!

Visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in South Iceland is an experience that transcends mere sightseeing—it’s an encounter with the sublime forces of nature and a journey into a landscape of surreal beauty. 

I visited the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland in July 2023. It was one of the highlights of my Icelandic road trip around the Ring Road. If you decide to visit the lagoon and Diamond Beach, then read on. I’m going to share with you all my tips on how to make this experience memorable and be prepared. 

I’ll talk about all the details of how to get from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, where to park and how to make the most out of your trip by choosing one of the glacier lagoon tours offered. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon location

Situated at the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárlón is the largest and most renowned glacier lagoon in Iceland, offering visitors a spectacle unlike any other. 

Right on the other side of the lagoon and main road, you’ll find the famous Diamond Beach, which is also one of the most popular places to visit in Iceland. 

Very often, people include the Glacier Lagoon in their Ring Road itinerary. If you don’t know where to start, check out my 7day Iceland itinerary and add more days and locations to suit your trip. I highly recommend that you check out my guide for planning a trip to Iceland, as it will answer many of your questions.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

How to get there?

You can easily reach the Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon by driving along on the South Coast in Iceland. 

To get there, you can either rent a car from Keflavik airport or from Reykjavik and drive there yourself. The trip should take around 6 hours, without any stops. 

However, most of the popular attractions in Iceland are located on the South Coast, and you will want to make multiple stops on your way to the Glacier Lagoon. 

Jökulsárlón parking

You’ll need to pay for parking when you get there.

There are some machines to pay for the Jökulsárlón parking. As everywhere else in Iceland, you can pay by card for the Jökulsárlón parking. Instructions are also provided on how to pay online using a QR.

You’ll need internet connections for that (I always use Airalo when travelling). I ended up paying online as there were only two machines and it was a big queue. The parking fee is valid for the entire day and also for the parking on the side with the Diamond Beach.

Note that this is one of the busiest parking lots in Iceland, and you may struggle to find a parking spot during the summer months. I would advise you to plan to arrive here in the morning or later in the afternoon.

In the parking lot, there are a couple of food trucks. There’s also a small cafe that serves some food and snacks. During summer, all these food places close at 6 PM.

Other South Coast attractions until you reach the Glacier Lagoon

The top places you will want to stop on your way to the glacier lagoon are: 

  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall, 
  • Skógafoss Waterfall (here you can also do the waterfall way hike), 
  • Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck, Reynisfjara Beach, 
  • Vik (this town is often used a intermediate point to spend the night), 
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, 
  • Hofskirkja, 
  • and countless other waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints. 

These are the most popular sports, where everyone stops, and you will see signs pointing towards them from the main road. 

But this is why most South Coast tours and Jökulsárlón tours are usually planned for two or more days. This is particularly true for Jökulsárlón winter tours, as days are shorter.

However, if you’re in a hurry and only have a short stay in Iceland, then it is possible to book a day trip from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

How was the ice lagoon in Iceland formed? 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon was formed from the melting waters of the surrounding glaciers. Honestly, it’s a vivid testament to the dynamic nature of Iceland’s landscape. 

The lagoon is continuously fed by the calving of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, a process where ice breaks off from the glacier and drifts into the lagoon, creating icebergs of varying sizes, shapes, and hues of blue and white, tinged with black ash from ancient volcanic eruptions.

Eventually, as the icebergs from the glacier lagoon melt, they drift towards the ocean. Then, the currents push them on the nearby black sand beach, creating the famous Diamond Beach in Iceland. 

The beauty of Jökulsárlón lies in its ever-changing scenery. 

The contrast between the stark white of the icebergs and the deep blue of the water creates a mesmerizing view. It’s truly one of the most spectacular views I’ve encountered in my travels. The only thing that can make this place better is a sunny day and a blue Icelandic sky. 

The lagoon covers an area of about 18 square kilometers (7 square miles). Its depths reach up to 248 meters (814 feet), making it the deepest lake in Iceland.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Wildlife in Jökulsárlón

Beyond its icy allure, Jökulsárlón is a habitat for a variety of wildlife. 

Seals can often be seen swimming in the cold waters or resting on the icebergs. The area is also a haven for birdwatchers, with many species of seabirds making their home here.

To admire the wildlife, bring your binoculars. And hope for a clear sky day so you can spend more time outside and explore around. 

The Diamond Beach, Iceland

A short distance from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon lies the famous Diamond Beach. This is where icebergs from the lagoon wash ashore and glisten like diamonds on the black volcanic sand. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know
This is me freezing near a huge iceberg on Diamond Beach in Iceland

This stark contrast of colours and textures adds another layer of beauty to the already stunning landscape, making it a must-visit spot for anyone travelling to Jökulsárlón.

Note that there are actually two sides of the Diamond Beach. 

One is on the other side of the road to the Jökulsárlón parking. That one is smaller and didn’t have any ice on it when I visited in July 2023. 

The second Diamond Beach is on the other side of the bridge. So it’s diagonally from the Jökulsárlón parking. I recommend going there. Although from the main road, it doesn’t look too big or might not even look like there are any pieces of ice on it, you’re in for a surprise. 

After you park the car at the Diamon Beach parking, which also belongs to the Jökulsárlón National Park (and you won’t have to pay for parking again), you will have to walk on the black sand beach in search of the ice crystals. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Depending on the season and the day, you might find ice closer to the parking lot or further away. You will soon realize that Diamond Beach is huge, and you can walk around for hours. But it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes of walking to find the first big chunks of ice on the Diamond Beach. 

You can spend as much as you’d like here, but now that it gets windy and cold, even on sunny days during summer. Also, because it was so cold, my camera batteries died pretty quickly. 

However, I managed to film a lot of my experience there, so if you want to see what Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach look like in July, here is my video on YouTube.

Iceland Glacier Lagoon tours

Depending on the season, visitors at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon can book one of these activities at the ice lagoon – boat tour or ice cave tour. 

To make really easy for you and shed all confusion about the Jökulsárlón tours, I will address each season separately. That’s because the weather at Jökulsárlón dictates what you can do there. 

Summer Jökulsárlón tours (May – November)

Most travellers choose to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon during the warmer months. That’s when there’s a higher chance of actually seeing a ray of sunlight and being mesmerised by the immensity of the lagoon. 

Besides admiring the lagoon from all sides, you can also book a glacier lagoon boat tour to admire the floating icebergs. 

The two main glacier lagoon boat tours are the Zodiac Glacier Lagoon and the Amphibian boat tour on the glacier lagoon. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

These boat tours are suitable for almost anyone. 

I recommend booking these tours in advance here – https://icelagoon.is/tours/. Note that these tours are under 1 hour long, and you can pre-book your desired time and day. 

I noticed that, generally speaking, these boat tours are available to book from one day to the next. But during Iceland’s high tourist season (July and August), these boat tours tend to be fully booked.

I know because I checked tours in June, and every day, there were some tours available. But then came July, and it was fully booked for the entire month. I know this because I was in Iceland for a month.

If you have a strict schedule and a limited number of days, I strongly recommend booking your tours online as early as possible to make sure you will get a spot on your desired day and time. 

And just like this small but important tip for planning your trip to Iceland, I have a list of top travel tips for Iceland to follow, which will make your trip unforgettable.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

What glacier lagoon boat tour to choose? 

As I mentioned, during the warmer season, you can choose between the amphibian and zodiac boat tour. 

The amphibian boat tour on Glacier Lagoon is a really chill tour, you jump on the boat on the shore, and then it slowly drives into the lagoon. The boat moves rather slowly and gives you plenty of time to admire the lagoon. 

The zodiac boat tour is a bit more adventurous and moves faster. That’s why it will seem more cold, and water may be splashing on the sides of the boat. 

However, the Zodiac Glacier Lagoon boat tour allows you to observe the icebergs from a closer distance. But don’t worry, the tour guides are very experienced and know when to get close to the icebergs and when to keep their distance. 

For those who prefer to stay on land, the shores of the lagoon provide ample opportunities for exploration and contemplation, with paths that offer stunning views of the icebergs and the surrounding landscape.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Winter Jökulsárlón tours (October – April)

During winter, boat tours are not available on the glacier lagoon. Instead, you can choose to visit the famous blue ice caves in the largest glacier in Europe, the Vatnajökull Glacier.

These ice cave tours take about 3 to 6 hours (depending on the chosen tour) and start from the Glacier Lagoon cafeteria. Check out the tour details here – https://explorers.is/

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Jökulsárlón tours from Reykjavik

If you’re visiting during winter, when it’s riskier to drive in Iceland, or you simply want to explore Iceland without a car, then you can book a tour that picks you up from Reykjavik

If you’re travelling to Iceland for the first time, you will probably want to do the Golden Circle itinerary first, and then continue on the South Coast until you get to Jökulsárlón.

Hotels near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Since Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is pretty far away from everything, including Reykjavik, you’ll want to spend one or two nights around it. 

It would be a shame to drive all the way to get to this point and then only spend 1 hour admiring this beauty so that you can drive back to Reykjavik. That’s also incredibly tiring, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s July and there’s the midnight sun to guide you. 

I’m not going to lie. Hotels near Glacier Lagoon in Iceland will not be cheap. If anything, these few hotels are the most popular and expensive hotels in Iceland (and I’ve already detailed how much I spend during my trip to Iceland). 

So here are some of the hotels near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to check out:

$$$ – Fjallsarlon – Overnight adventure, Nónhamar (2 nights minimum), Klettasel (6 person villa) 

$$ – Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, Ekra Glacier Lagoon, The Potato Storage (2 nights minimum), Hotel Skaftafell

$ – Old Cottages, Lækjarhus Farm Holidays, Vagnsstadir Guesthouse, Guesthouse Skálafell

Litla-Hof Guesthouse

Attention! Since the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a super popular spot in Iceland, most of these hotels nearby are fully booked up to 6 months in advance or more. If you want to visit the Glacier Lagoon in Iceland, book your hotel as soon as you book your trip. There are not that many hotels nearby, and the influx of tourists is huge, especially during the summer months. 

If you’re looking for truly unforgettable experiences, check out this list of the coolest hotels in Iceland (you’ll need to book them months in advance, but it’s worth it).

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Jökulsárlón web camera

If you want to check the current state of the glacier lagoon in Iceland, check out the Jökulsárlón web camera

That website offers multiple webcams from all around Iceland. You can even use it to check on the current weather, but bear in mind that the weather in Iceland can change in an instant. For a more exact weather forecast in Iceland, use the official weather channels, such as Vedur.is

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Everything You Need To Know

Is the Glacier Lagoon in Iceland worth the visit?

Visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is an unforgettable experience, a chance to witness the raw beauty and power of nature in one of the most spectacular settings on Earth. 

It’s a place where the silence is filled with the sounds of cracking ice and shifting bergs, where the air is crisp with the chill of glacier water, and where every view is a reminder of the earth’s ephemeral beauty.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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