Jokulsarlon, which literally means glacial river lagoon in Icelandic, is a large glacial lake in the southeastern corner of Iceland, right at the base of the legendary Vatnajökull glacier on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.
The lagoon is located at the base of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, the area developed into a lake after the glacier began to recede from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
The lake is only began to develop about 60 years ago, at which point the area was less than 100 feet of glacier and was only 230 metres away from the Atlantic Ocean.
Since then, the lake has grown at varying rates and now sits about 1.5 kilometres away from the ocean and measures an area of around 18 square kilometres.
The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s. At over 248 metres deep, it is the deepest lake in Iceland. At the current rate retreat rate of Vatnjökull, it is plausible that there will be a deep fjord where Jökulsárlón is currently located in the not too distant future.
Jökulsárlón is considered one of the natural wonders of Iceland.
To guests visiting the lake, it appears to be a collection of small to large icebergs floating along in a large body of water. Depending on the reflection of the light, the icebergs take on either a blue, white, greenish hue, making for a truly spectacular sight.
As the icebergs break off from the glacier edge and move towards the river mouth, they become entrenched at the bottom of the river.
Once they have decreased in size to a certain point, they will begin to float towards the sea. It is a truly spectacular sight to behold.
In fact, it is possible you have already seen it. Jökulsárlón has featured in a number of movies and TV shows, including A View to Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and the popular American reality TV series The Amazing Race.
There are a number of tours offered at Jokulsarlon. Those who really want to experience the whole lake and get up close and personal with the glaciers can take any number of the boat tours on offer.
There are amphibian boat tours that allow guests to boat through the glaciers, taste the 1,000 year old ice, and receive an expert explanation of the area’s geology from an experienced tour guide. Some days, you might even be able to see seals out around the icebergs.
In addition to the amphibian boats tours, there are zodiac boat tours. As the zodiacs are faster, these tours cover a larger portion of the lagoon than the amphibian tours. Additionally, they allow visitors to get closer to the icebergs. Either of these tours are fantastic ways to see more of the beautiful lagoon and experience it from an entirely different perspective.
If you don’t want to go out on the water, there are still ample opportunities for experiencing Jökulsárlón and taking in everything it has to offer. There are multiple onshore viewing points, including a particularly fantastic elevated one that allows guests to look out over the lagoon.
There is also a bridge that spans the mouth of the river heading out to the ocean that offers excellent views over Jokulsarlon . Whether you are an adventurer, a photographer, a couple, a family, with or without children, Jökulsárlón is a fascinating and truly spectacular sight.
There is a small café at Jokulsarlon serving a variety of small refreshments, including sandwiches, coffee, hot chocolate, soft drinks, and the fantastic Icelandic yogurt, skyr.
You can also enjoy other traditional cuisines, including Icelandic waffles and seafood soup, as you take in the view. The café is open year round.
Jokulsarlon can be assessed via the Ring Road, or Route 1, between the towns of Skaftafell and Höfn.