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A deep inky lake set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks and littered with icebergs of all shapes and sizes, Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland’s most compelling destinations. It’s also easy to drive to in the summer, though we suggest guided tours during the winter. It’s located right beside the ring road on the island’s southern shore and on the edge of the enormous Vatnajökull National Park.

The icebergs calve off Breiðamerkurjökull, a glacial tongue of the larger Vatnajökull ice cap, and fall into the lake where they bob for several years before finally drifting out to sea. It’s an arresting sight and it’s easy to while away several hours here walking and examining the ice formations or taking a boat trip right into their midst.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoonIt’s impossible to miss the glacial lake if you’re driving along Iceland’s southern shore, yet it’s a less visited destination than those closer to Reykjavík. A parade line of icebergs, bergy bits and growlers flank the road and carpet the lake, which sits at the tail of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. The glacier is rapidly receding and the lake is increasing in size as the meltwater descends, now covering a huge area at the foot of the mountains beyond.

Many of the bergs are striped with frozen layers of black volcanic ash, others are perfectly white or tinged with blue. Over time, they melt and re-freeze, topple and turn, providing an endless variety of views. It’s a scene beloved by Hollywood and the lake has featured in many films, including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins and two James Bond outings, A View to Kill and Die Another Day.

In the summer, you can kayak out onto the lake or take a guided boat trip to see the bergs up close and learn about the history and geology of the glacier-carved landscape, the ever-changing face of the glacier, and the wildlife that makes the lake its home. As you weave between the icebergs, you’ll get impressive views hidden from the shore. With a guide, you can also approach the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier to see the place where the icebergs calve. In winter, you can explore by hovercraft.

Jökulsárlón sealAs you travel around the lake, you’ll probably see seals popping their heads out of the water or snoozing on the bergs themselves. The lake is filled with fish that drift in with the tide, making it a gathering place for seals as well as birdlife, with large numbers of Arctic terns and Arctic skua feasting on the rich supply of food.

From Jökulsárlón, the bergs eventually drift down Iceland’s shortest river, the Jökulsá, to the Atlantic. Some are washed ashore at nearby Diamond Beach, where chunks of ice dot the shoreline.

Best time to visit Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón is impressive at any time of year but it’s busiest during the summer months from June to August, when more people are making their way around the island’s ring road. In summer, you can explore the glacier lagoon by kayak or on a guided boat tour, while in winter, hovercraft wind their way between the bergy bits and growlers.

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Suggested itineraries featuring Jökulsárlón

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Jökulsárlón, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Jökulsárlón

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