Gazing out across the incredible vista of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of Iceland’s many highlights.
In this article we take you through how to visit it and what to do when you get there. We also give you the low down on camping near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
What’s so special about this lagoon then?
This famous lagoon lies on the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park in Southeast Iceland. Fed by the melt water of the huge Vatnajökull glacier it is growing in size every year. In fact it has nearly quadrupled since the 1970s and is currently around 18 km squared (and expanding). The magnificence of the lagoon stems from the beautiful floating icebergs that adorn its surface.
The lagoon has a small channel opening into the North Atlantic Ocean. So ice and melt water make their way from the Vatnajökull ice cap into the ocean. There are hundreds of sculptural icebergs of varying sizes dotted across the lake’s surface.
This ice is extremely compact from spending hundreds of years packed into a glacier. As such it takes on an incredible, glowing blue hue. It is really remarkable to see and a delight to photograph.
Getting to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you are hiring a camper van or renting a car then the lagoon is within easy reach of Reykjavik. It is about a five-hour drive from the capital to the parking lot at Jokulsarlon. However, you will definitely want to take much longer to get there than that. The drive encompasses the whole South Iceland coast and there is just so much to see along the way.
At the very least, we recommend that you take three days for the trip. One day to drive there with some chosen stops along the way. Then one full day to explore the area around the lagoon.
This could include the lake and Diamond Beach, the glacier, hiking trails and more. Then one day to return to Reykjavik with an additional stop or two along the way. If you have more time do take it. You could quite easily spend a full week or more travelling along Iceland’s South Coast to the lagoon.
Another option if you are not hiring a camper or motorhome is to join a day tour. If you are staying in Reykjavik then there are many day tours that head out of the city. Be warned though this would be a very long day and you will be spending a lot of time in a tour bus. This would include at least nine hours of actual driving time.
Things to do a Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you are visiting the lagoon in the summer, then the ultimate way to enjoy it is by boat. You can easily book a group boat tour between April and October and head out around the icebergs to explore.
The views back across the national park and the glacier are also lovely. You should also visit the nearby Diamond Beach. This beautiful black sand beach is dotted with glinting pieces of ice in all shapes and sizes.
In the winter months, you can enjoy ice cave tours. Tours are weather dependent and only operate between November and March when it is safe to walk beneath the ice. If you are lucky enough to join one you will discover a world of glowing blue pathways and caves.
Winter trips to the area also offer the exciting possibility of spotting the Northern Lights. Being far away from any urban areas the lagoon is a fabulous place to see them. You should also spot seals feeding on the abundant fish at this time of year.
In terms of travel gear you should pack warm and waterproof clothes whatever the season. Add to this drinks and snacks to keep you going. You will also need plenty of space on your camera memory card and maybe even a spare battery pack!
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon camping
There are no campsites at the lagoon itself. The closest campground to Jokulsarlon is Skaftafell Camping. This large and well-equipped campground lies around 35 miles to the south and inland a little.
It is the campground that serves the beautiful Skaftafell National Park where there is some truly excellent hiking to be enjoyed. The campground lies just off of the Ring Road so it is really easy to get to. The nearby Svinafell Campground is also an option.
If you are driving the Ring Road from the South to Northwest then you may not want to backtrack. If this is the case then you could continue north to the small fishing village of Höfn. This would be about an hour’s drive along the coastal Route One or Ring Road.
It is a very scenic drive passing between the national park and the ocean. The route takes you through lonely mountain scenery and beautiful fjords. It is a lovely drive so try not to rush and take your time in daylight hours.
There is a good campground at Höfn and this charming little town has lots to offer. If you prefer somewhere more remote then the other option is the Haukafell Campsite. This campsite lies a short drive to the west of the Ring Road just on the outskirts of the Vatnajökull National Park.
It is a small and peaceful place and a similar distance to Höfn from the lagoon. The drive to either should take you just over an hour.
Alternatively you might like to begin heading south towards Reykjavik after your visit. The town of Vík í Mýrdal is a 2.5-hour drive along the Ring Road and it has an excellent camp site. Again there is a lot to do in the area including visiting the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach. The town makes a good base for a few days of sightseeing.
Wild camping in Iceland
And finally a note on wild camping in Iceland. It can be quite tempting to stay overnight at Iceland’s beauty spots. Especially if you have hired a motorhome so have all that you need with you. Note though that this is not officially allowed and you are obliged to head to a campground if you can.
One of the main reasons for this is to deter people from parking on pitching tents on Iceland’s delicate vegetation. The slow growing moss and greenery that covers much of the country is really easily damaged. It also takes a long time to recover from any trampling. So you should always use designated parking and camping areas to help preserve it.