Iceland’s icy pearl: Glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón

Iceland’s icy pearl: Glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón

In the southeast of the island, Iceland hides it’s crown jewels: The glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón and the nearby Diamond Beach. Its bright colours seem almost unreal and reveal the creative power of nature.

It’s a bewitching sight, one can hardly get enough of so much arctic beauty. In front of the mighty backdrop of the Vatnajökull glacier, gigantic icebergs float majestically in the crystal clear waters of a lake. Their colours range from white to soft violet and bright turquoise.

Vatnajökull glacier: The originator of the natural spectacle

The place exudes a pleasant peace. And this, although gigantic forces are responsible for its emergence. The lifeline of Jökulsárlón is the Vatnajökull glacier. One of its approximately 30 tongues, the Breiðarmerkurjökull, calves directly into the almost 250 meters deep and approximately 20 square kilometers large lake.

Climate change up close: Meltwater forms glacial lake

With an area of 8100 square kilometres, Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe. Over thousands of years, the gentle giant has made its way from the interior to the coast. The global warming gnaws unrelentingly at his icy skin. The meltwater flowing off has formed the lagoon, thus a glacial lake, in its terminal moraines over centuries.

Drifting icebergs: last voyage towards the sea

Just a short walk from the glacier lagoon, the Vatnajökull celebrates its climate-induced decline with a breathtaking spectacle. At low tide, the smaller icebergs make their way out of the lagoon towards the sea. They swim through under a small bridge and start their last journey.

Diamond Beach: blue sculptures on black sand

Like giant diamonds, they lie on the beach. The contrast of their crystal and blue colours to the deep black lava sand could hardly be greater. The sight is almost unreal. Some ice chunks swim on the shore in the water. They sway gently in the surf and are washed around by powerful waves. The experience is particularly magical when the sun makes the icebergs shine. Then, they unfold their full radiance. A feast for the eyes from which one can hardly detach one’s gaze.

Best travel time, directions, tours & accommodations

Basically the Jökulsárlón can be visited all year round. However, it is advisable to plan the trip in spring or summer, for example between May and September. On the one hand, the days are much longer bright. On the other hand, the climate is much milder. Already in the warm season it is very cold at Jökulsarlon. Wind and ice can disturb not only the trip, but also the journey. A tip: Don’t forget to wear warm clothes even in the spring and summer months!

An excursion to the glacier lagoon can be perfectly integrated into an Iceland roundtrip. Jökulsárlón is about 230 miles away from Reyjkavik. By car it takes about five hours to get there. The Jökulsárlón can be reached via ring road. On the way, there is a stopover at Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss – two absolutely worth seeing waterfalls.

For a quick trip from Reykjavík there are two possibilities: You can book an organized trip or arrive by rental car. Self-drivers should plan two days or one overnight stay for the trip, so that there is no time pressure on the spot. The duration of the journey should not be underestimated. Also with an organized Tripp the day becomes really long. But then you don’t have to sit tired behind the wheel. Some hotels and guesthouses in Höfn, approximately 50 miles away, as well as surrounding bungalows offer themselves as overnight accommodations. Campers stay at the nearby Svinafell Campground.

Numerous organizers offer various excursions and tours to Jökulsárlón. Classics include boat trips on the lake. Either with an amphibious vehicle or small rubber dinghies, the so-called Zodiacs. If you are seaworthy, we recommend a tour with the Zodiac. With the small rubber dinghies you can get much closer to the icebergs. Those who have to struggle with seasickness will find a more digestible alternative with a tour in an amphibious vehicle. Other offers for adventure seekers include an excursion to an ice cave in the Vatnajökull or a guided glacier hike.

Camera tips: equipment & photo motifs

For photographs, the Jökulsárlón and the adjacent Diamond Beach reveal a creative playground of superlatives. A wide-angle and a telephoto lens (ideal from 15mm and 200mm focal length) are essential. As an alternative, a zoom lens (for example a 28-105mm) is also suitable. However, the aperture range (from 3.5-5.6) should not be too narrow.

For really impressive shots, day times at sunrise or sunset are recommended. At these times, light is particularly atmospheric and makes the ice floes glow. Due to its width, the Jökulsárlón is ideal for panoramic shots. To capture the splashes of the powerful waves at Diamond Beach, short exposure times are necessary.

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