Jökulsárlön: the icebergs lake

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  2. South Iceland
  3. Jökulsárlön: the icebergs lake
Written by SandrinePublished on 09/15/16

A must in Iceland, Jökulsárlón has become one of the country's emblems. The lake with its beautiful icebergs is one of the most visited and photographed places on the island. What makes this popular lake so charming is its blue icebergs, which stand out from the Breidamerkurjökull, an ice tongue from the immense Vatnajökull.

Icebergs and reflections on the lagoon of Jökulsárlón

The tip of the ice tongue is bathed in a lagoon, the Jökulsárlón, connected to the ocean by a small channel. It is important to know that under the effect of warming and erosion, seawater is moving more and more into the lagoon and increasing the melting of the glacier, which is retreating from year to year. Today, the lagoon stretches for 7 km and it's not about to stop.

The icebergs that break away from the glacier then migrate peacefully to the channel, slowly melting as the tides and sunny days unfold. The larger pieces, which did not melt completely after crossing the lagoon, clump together at the gates of the channel, waiting for a favourable current to move offshore. Hundreds of small icebergs gather near the banks of the lagoon, close to the mouth of the river where they can be easily observed.

Icebergs at Jökulsárlón.

1Discover the lagoon of Jökulsárlón

The site has 2 main accesses on either side of the channel. Large car parks are located in the immediate vicinity of Route 1. Access from the east side of the channel is the busiest as buses stop by and there are also amenities. We therefore advise you to go to the west bank, a little less frequented, even if there are still crowds in high season.

Some icebergs on the lagoon.
And more icebergs ;)

From the edge of the lake, scan the water and watch the icebergs move slowly. Some are moving relatively fast! You can even see fragments of them splitting apart and tipping over into the water creating a small cataclysm. You will also notice that not all icebergs are the same color. Some are tinted blue, others are whiter. This difference in colouring is actually due to the compression of the ice, the more it is compressed, the more blue it is. The black deposit that is visible on some boulders comes from previous volcanic eruptions that covered the glacier with a film of ashes that fades over time.

It's not uncommon for seals to laze around here in the middle of ice blocks, scan the surface and you may see a small head appear!

When a seal has fun in the middle of icebergs!

2See the icebergs washed up on the black sand beach near Jökulsárlón

Then, go to the other side of Route 1, this time along the ocean. You can cross the road on foot, leaving your vehicle in the parking lot on the west bank, or you can park in the parking lot on the ocean side. Walk a hundred metres until you reach the water's edge. You will soon see the small debris of icebergs stranded along the shoreline. Their translucent bodies break down slowly with the waves and form a nice contrast to the black sand. Photographers will be delighted to immortalize unusual photos.

Iceberg grounding!
An iceberg turned ice cube

3Our tips for enjoying Jökulsárlón better

If you are looking for an ideal place to enjoy the lake of Jökulsárlón and its icebergs, here is a tip. If you arrive from the West, you will see 4 small car parks on your left hand side of Route 1. Depending on the position of the icebergs, park in the second or third position. On the other hand, if you come from the East, after crossing the bridge, cross the big car park and stop on the second or third small car park that you will see on your right. From here, walk about 100 meters towards the lagoon and climb the small black sand bute. On the other side, you squeeze by the lake. But don't just stand there, walk a little further along the waterfront until you find the perfect spot. Here, you will be away from all hustle and bustle and you will be able to enjoy the place peacefully.

And for even more fun, come admire the icebergs at sunset or sunrise. The colours are extraordinary in good weather. If you are camping, you will have the possibility of bivouacing not far from the lake. Beware, the nights are cool, and the soil is rather sandy (no grass), but what a joy to wake up in this magical setting.

Color gradients!

4Boat excursions on the lagoon of Jökulsárlón

Companies offer boat trips on the lagoon. They'll take you like herring on their small boats. A second boat will pick up a piece of iceberg and bring it to you for you to touch. This walk has no interest except to pollute the lake. You'll enjoy the icebergs much better as you stroll along the lagoon where you can even touch a few bits of ice. This will protect the planet and your wallet.

Our opinion
We like

The beautiful place, especially in person with nature, away from the crowd.

Go as far as the ocean to see the mini icebergs run aground.

We don't like

A lot of people amassed at the estuary.

About us

We are Sandrine and Flo, French thirty-somethings. In 2019 we quit everything to live our dream, become nomads and travel around the world. We left with our baby, Lena, who was only 5 months old at the time. After a first trip around the Pacific Ocean by plane and a long 3 months stay in Hawaii, we left to discover Iceland for 3 months on board our 4WD pickup truck and truck camper. Then we continued our adventure in North America.

Today, if we can continue this adventure, it is above all thanks to our blog, Smartrippers! We created it one day in 2016, with the desire to share our good travel tips, without thinking that it would lead us there! We have developed it a lot over the years and have become experts on our 3 favorite destinations: Hawaii, Iceland and the American West. We now guide you to these destinations to help you plan the trip of your dreams!

Follow our adventures!