A glacial lagoon at the base of Breiðamerkurjökull, Jökulsárlón is littered with icebergs set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Behind it looms the Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland’s largest. Here, ice calves from a glacial tongue and falls into the lake, where it can spend up to five years before finally drifting out to sea. Although it’s possible to see the bergs from the lake shore, this outing lets you board a boat and sail between them to examine their various forms, hues and stripes of volcanic ash. It’s an eye-opening experience as your guide explains the geological processes behind such an impressive phenomenon.
You’ll meet your guide and the small group you’ll be joining at the base at Jökulsárlón. Once you’ve checked in and been equipped with warm, waterproof overalls and a lifejacket, you have a short walk to the lagoon shore to board the boat.
The Zodiac boat takes a maximum of ten passengers plus your guide. Board the boat and set off between the icebergs as your guide carves a route toward the glacier itself. As you go, you’ll learn about how the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is rapidly retreating, increasing the size of the lagoon each year as the meltwater runs into the lake below.
Your guide will point out any bergs of particular interest, describing how they are formed, eroded, flipped, melted and refrozen over the course of the year. As you thread between them, get impressive views impossible to see from the shore and learn about the area’s geography and wildlife.
You may see seals basking on the smaller icebergs: both harbor and common seals live in the lagoon and can often be seen lolling on the ice or swimming through the water. The lake is filled with fish that drift in with the tide, making it a gathering place for seals as well as birdlife — large numbers of Arctic terns and Arctic skua come here to feast. During the summer months, the seals head out to the ocean to calve so their numbers are reduced.
As you approach the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, your guide will describe how it calves, as well as explaining why the glacier has retreated, and how the position of the moraines indicates its previous extent.
Once you’ve seen the foot of the glacier, weave back through the bergs to the shore. You’ll be on the lagoon for just under an hour with plenty of stops for photos.
In addition to warm layers, we recommend bringing gloves and a hat with you — even on a warm day, the wind created as you speed across the water can be quite cold.