Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Travel Update Summer 2020: Most destinations, sites and parks reopened with limitations. Check the official websites and read our crucial ‘BEST TIME TO GO' and ‘AVOIDING THE CROWDS’ tips:
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:
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.
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 to stay 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 hotel. Day #2: Be at Jokulsárlón early in the morning (see above).
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.
Jokulsarlon (Jökulsárlón) is a glacial lake at the Vatnajökull National Park in direct front to the Atlantic Ocean. To the west you have a good view to Iceland´s highest mountain (and Volcano) Oraefajokull (summit Hvannadalshnúkur).
Start with the guided tour in one of the amphibian boats. After your ride you may find a nice place having a break and sitting in front of some icebergs. Later when the other tourists are gone you can have a walk and find resting seals on floating ice sheets.
reviewed by René
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
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.
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.
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations (Jökulsárlón is a lesser know location which appears in Season 7!)
- TripAdvisor Reviews
- Iceland Buddy: Great Guide to Jokulsárlón
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)
Place created by Rene North Rhine. Texten written, extended and updated by the WHEN to be WHERE team (Micha and Michael)