The Jkulsarlon glacier lagoon, Iceland’s deepest and most spectacular glacial lake, is popular with tourists, photographers and adventurers. If you had visited this frozen landscape a hundred years ago, you would have seen ice. But then the world started to heat up, and there it was!
As world temperatures began to rise around 1920, the frozen edges of the Breiamerkurjkull glacier began to melt. The Icelandic Jkulsarlon actually means “glacier lagoon.” Jokulsarlon lagoon is part of Vatnajkull national park and has become one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.
In less than a century, this vast frozen landscape collapsed into the broken ice and liquid we see today, and so a river soon formed and found its way to the sea, pulling broken icebergs into the north Atlantic and carving mysterious shapes along the black sand Banks. Each year, the fledgling glacier lagoon grows larger as icebergs break off the Vatnajkull glacier, float in the lagoon, and eventually drift out to sea in the summer. Jokulsarlon doubled in size between 1975 and 1998. It now covers seven square miles and is growing every year.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is a photographer’s paradise. I visited this paradise in November. Squeezed glaciers often break into glassy shapes, combined with the deep blue water, stunning beauty, and icebergs are at their best when broken and flipped. At Jkulsarlon you will see a mass of broken blue icebergs, unspeakably beautiful in contrast to the white background of the black sand of the glaciers and lagoon beaches in the distance. You can even see seals, the river that leads to the sea, the lagoons are full of fish, seals and large Numbers of seabirds often congregate at the mouth of the river.
There are two types of Tours to choose from. One is to take an amphibious boat for a relaxing tour around the largest icebergs, with a guide. Another option for the adventurous is to wear flotation suits and life jackets to get a closer view of the ice, including being right on the edge of the glacier when conditions permit, to view the unique landscape.
The Jokulsarlon cruise only takes place between may and October, a few months before Iceland’s weather can turn nasty. The best months to take pictures in the lagoon are July and August, but September and October may be a better time to visit Iceland as the tourist season is over and prices are lower, fewer people will visit and you’ll have a better chance of seeing Iceland’s incredible northern lights!
Jkulsarlon travel tips and Suggestions: first, Iceland can be very warm in summer, but the icebergs in the Jokulsarlon lagoon give off cold winds that you can feel. Wear a hat and warm gloves, even if the weather looks sunny. Second, keep an eye out for the skua seabirds that live in the area. If you go near their nests, they will peck at you until you retreat! Third, sunrise is the best time to photograph icebergs in the glacier lagoon, not only because of the good light conditions, but also because there are fewer tourists. The sunset is good, too, but more crowded than the sunrise.
Iceland’s incredible crystal ice caves are not far from Jokulsarlon, so if you happen to be visiting in the winter, I highly recommend taking a guided tour to explore them! No trip to Iceland is complete without a stop at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, and as you can see, here’s a good reason it’s one of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions!