Visit the Magical Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland | Travel Guide
What comes to mind when you think of Iceland? For me, it Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This incredible lagoon nestled next to mountains and Europe's largest glacier is everything you'd imagine a land named "Iceland" to be. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the most visited places in Iceland and we're sharing all the details to help you make the most out of your time there so you can spend more time having fun and less time Googling for info.
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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is located on Iceland's Ring Road on the southern coast of the island. The lagoon is nestled at the base of Breiðamerkurjökull, Europe's largest glacier. As chunks of ice break and melt off the glacier, they float to sea by way of the lagoon. The view of the icebergs floating across the blue water surrounded by beautiful mountains and a gigantic glacier are breathtaking. It's easy to see why Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the most visited spots in Iceland.
Getting to the lagoon is a bit of a roadtrip, but worth every mile of the journey! Most of Iceland's iconic attractions are located on the southern side of the island, and most people's itineraries begin in Reykjavik and end at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (unless you're planning to drive the whole Ring Road).
How far is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon for Reykjavik?
The drive from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is just under 5 hours and about 380 kilometers. The drive follows the southern coast of Iceland past some of Iceland's most iconic sites including Skógafoss, Vík, and Svartifoss.
Getting to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavik: 380 km/ ~5 hr | Google Maps
Getting to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Akureyri: 570 km / ~7 hr 14 min | Google Maps
How to get to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavik
The easiest way to get to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is by renting a car in Iceland and driving yourself. We decided to drive the entire Ring Road while were in Iceland and the whole experience was wonderful. Icelandic drivers were very safe and polite the entire way. We almost always decide to splurge a little extra to rent a car because of the freedom it gives to experience a place and even get a little bit lost.
You can also take Iceland's Hop On and Off bus to the lagoon, but you'll want to plan ahead to ensure the times line up with your schedule. This is a cost effective way for tourists to see Iceland, especially if you're too young to rent a car.
Note: The Hop On and Off bus only operates in the summer season.
Iceland also has public buses with more extensive routes than Hop On and Off, one of which goes right past Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. However, if you're planning on taking a bus several times during your visit and sticking to the main tourist locations, Hop on and Off is probably the way to go since it's just one pass vs. multiple tickets.
Where to stay near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
While Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is in a relatively remote area, there are plenty of accommodation options within an hours drive. From four star hotels to camping, there are our top picks.
Hotels in Iceland are certainly the easiest option, especially if you've had a long day of exploring. One perk of staying in a hotel when visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is the onsite restaurants. Because trust me, there's not much to eat around there parts after the sun goes down.
Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a four star hotel that offers stunning views in modern and minimalistic style just minutes from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The hotel offers an onsite restaurant and bar that serves dishes that are prepared using local produce and flavors. Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon also offers free wi-fi, a continental breakfast, gym, and sauna to guests. (Note: the sauna is free to use but a time slot should be reserved upon arrival.)
Let me just say that of all the hotels in Iceland, this is the one I most wanted to stay at. We drove past it a few times on our journey and it looked beautiful nestled up against the mossy cliffs with views of mountains and the ocean. If you're looking for somewhere with more amenities and to truly relax and unwind, this is the place.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: 30 km / 24 min | Google Maps
On our second trip to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, we stayed with our group at Hotel Skaftafell. While the appearance from the outside looks basic and the rooms aren't necessarily fancy, it was very clean, the beds were comfy, and the bathrooms even had heated floors. There was a restaurant onsite which served wonderfully prepared salmon the night we were there, as well as a continental breakfast in the morning. There's a small bar upstairs with a room and plenty of seating for hanging out with friends (or alone) at night. It's not fancy, but neither were we when we stayed there. After a long day of hiking and riding on a windy boat around a glacier lagoon, a simple and warm hotel was perfect.
If you're looking for somewhere budget friendly, safe, comfortable, and clean to rest your head after a busy day of exploring, this is the place.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Hotel Skaftafell: 51.6 km / 40 min | Google Maps
Airbnb is the place to look for accommodations if you want somewhere unique, with more home-like amenities, and (often) a bit more privacy. We typically book Airbnbs vs. hotels if we are looking to do laundry and/or we're traveling with our dog, Kramer. Airbnb's filter search allows you to sort through all sorts of features such as kid friendly, dog friendly, places with a view, etc. I'm not a big fan of Airbnb's crazy tacked on fees they throw at you at the last minute. Sometimes Airbnb ends up being way more expensive than hotels, and other times it's a bargain. I suppose it really comes down to what you're looking for in a place to stay. If you're traveling with friends, consider looking for Airbnbs with multiple bedrooms so you and your friends can split the cost and save some money.
This bungalow is beautiful and features incredible views, but it books up fast. Unless you're planning your trip way in advance or are lucky enough to catch someone's cancellation dates, this one won't be for you. Airbnb doesn't give the exact location of a property until closer to check-in, but this one appears to be very close to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
This simple, cute, and clean Airbnb is located in Höfn. While Höfn is about an hour from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, considering the remoteness of the area, an hour isn't too bad. Höfn is a cute little town on a peninsula. You'll have more food and fuel options here, not to mention it's where they filmed part of The Secrete Life of Walter Mitty (one of our all time favorite movies and a must watch movie before visiting Iceland!).
The first time we visited this area, we were on a road trip around the Ring Road and tent camping in Iceland along the way. Camping is a great way to save money in Iceland while also getting up close and personal with some of the most famous sites. Campgrounds are usually located much closer to attractions than hotels or Airbnbs, and they're much cheaper, especially near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Camping in Iceland is also the way to go if you want to experience Iceland on a whim and go wherever whenever. *Most campgrounds don't take reservations, and the ones that don't take reservations rarely fill up (or so we've been told). We never had a problem rolling into campgrounds a couple hours before sunset and snagging a spot.
The campgrounds we stayed at in Iceland all had dish washing areas, hot showers, flush toilets, drinking water, and plenty of camping for tents and RVs/camper vans. Some also had electric plugin options for an additional charge.
If you're not much of a tent camper, consider renting a camper van in Iceland. It'll be more expensive than a regular economy rental car, but camp spots in Iceland typically ranged from $10-30 USD per night. Not to mention that renting a camper van will likely come with some basic kitchen necessities allowing you to cook your own meals, thus saving more money.
Note about tent camping: the weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and can be very rainy, very windy, and cold at night. If you do decide to tent camp, go prepared with the right gear!
*Always double check to see if the campground you have your eye on does or doesn't take reservations. You don't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without somewhere to sleep for the night.
Skaftafell Campground gets five stars from us, we absolutely loved our stay there after our visit to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon! Located right inside the national park and at the base of a few of the main park trailheads, this campground is open year around and offers 400 tent sites (no reservations), and several (maybe 100?) sites for RVs and camper vans, some spots offering electric hookups. The campground offers [very clean] hot showers, outdoor sink for cleaning dishes, fresh water, laundry machines, and 3G mobile cell coverage around campsite. No reservations are accepted accept for groups.
Where to eat near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
For lunch you'll have a few different food truck options right in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon parking lot area. There's a crepe truck, a fish and chips truck, and a hotdog food truck that also serves lobster soup. The hotdog truck stays open until 5:00 pm daily, but the fish and chips truck closes up at 3:30 pm. (I'm not sure about the crepe truck, but I do know it's closed by 5:00 pm.)
For dinner there's not much to eat near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon after the sun sets (take my word for it). There's only one little gas station/convenience store open past 5:00 or 6:00 pm. The convenience store has a small restaurant in the back and also provides free wi-fi. The food was basic but warm and clean. After a cold day of hiking, their warm fish and chips hit the spot.
If you're staying at one of the hotels mentioned above, you'll be in good shape for dinner since they both offer multi-course dinners. Or, if you're staying at the campground, there's a fish and chips truck that closes up at 4:00 pm and a nice cafeteria in the visitors center that closes at 6:00 pm.
Getting to the restaurant/convenience store: Google Maps
If you want more than the simple restaurant at the gas station, you'll need to head about an hour further east of the lagoon to Höfn where you'll have a few more options.
Do be aware of when all places close at night. The summer sun makes the days very long and and it wasn't unusual for us to find ourselves hungry at night not realizing how late it actually was. Don't make that mistake, too.
What is the best time of day to visit the lagoon?
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is open for visitors 24/7, but depending on what you're planning to do while there will determine when you should visit. Keep in mind that the weather is always changing in Iceland and can be very unpredictable. You'll also want to note that the winter days offer only a few hours of sun, but in the summer Iceland is blessed with the midnight sun.
If you're planning on taking a boat tour across the lagoon (highly recommend, more info below), you'll have to visit during tour operating hours which are 9:00 am-5:30 pm.
Depending on what time of year you visit will determine when sunrise and sunset (of you even get one!) will be. The lagoon is most beautiful at sunset golden hour (the hour before sunset time) when the sun sets behind the mountains and turns the sky and water beautiful hues of blue, pink, purple, and orange.
The lagoon is also beautiful at sunrise time, but there can be a heavy fog across the water blocking the view of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier (the largest glacier in Europe). We experienced heavy fog during our boat tour and while the views were still beautiful, the visibility was low and we couldn't see much.
My recommendation: Visit either before the boat tours start for the day then book the earliest boat tour time slot, or do the opposite and book the last tour time slot and stay after the tour is over to catch golden hour. Or, if you're okay risking your views being obstructed by heavy fog, you could visit in the morning and beat the crowds.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours
The lagoon is still 100% worth visiting even if you aren't doing a boat tour, but we did thoroughly enjoy our boat tour across Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and learned so much with our amazing guide. We weren't sold on the idea of a tour before we took one, but we're so glad we did! All boat tours operate May-October and there are two different options when it comes to choosing a lagoon boat tour: Amphibian Boat Tour or Zodiac Boat Tour. Both tours are operated by the same company.
If you're never seen an amphibian boat, it's the one that drives on land then floats on water. Pretty cool, especially if you're traveling to Iceland with kids. We opted for the Amphibian Boat Tour seeing as it was the less expensive boat tour option. The amphibian boats are much larger than the Zodiac tours, which in turn means more people onboard with you, but everyone gets a good view of the icebergs. The other reason we chose this one was because we weren't totally sold on the idea of a tour of the water and because the Amphibian Boat Tour is only 35 minutes long.
The Zodiac Boat Tour is certainly the more intimate experience seeing as the boats hold far less people (it looks like it's 6 or 8 people max, but I can't guarantee that). The tour is also twice as long as the Amphibian Boat Tour at 75 minutes long. The longer tour comes with a larger price tag but also a more one-on-one type experience with your guide. And, because the boat is smaller, you get up closer and in more places than the large amphibian boats can.
Ages 10-12: ~49 USD
Ages 13+: ~99 USD
*Children under 10 years old are not permitted on the Zodiac Boat Tour. The height requirement for all participants is 130 cm (~4 ft 4 in).
What to do near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Iceland's southern coast (where Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is located) is the most popular region in Iceland for tourists. Within just an hours drive are several different options we'd recommend checking out. This region of Iceland is by far the most popular destination for tourists in Iceland and it's no wonder why. While the entire country is stunningly gorgeous, this area in particular is absolutely bursting with beautiful sites and things to do.
Iceland's famous Diamond Beach is located right across the street from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and is free to visit. There's even a walking path that connects the two. If you're seeing one on the trip, you can't miss seeing the other. We have a whole travel guide about visiting Iceland's Diamond Beach if you're interested in learning more about it.
Skaftafell National Park
Beautiful Skaftafell National Park is located just under an hour from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This national park is free to visit and offers multiple glaciers and lots of hiking trails to enjoy mid-June to mid-August. The most popular and lower elevation trails will remain open until snow hits the region. We visited at the end of September and still had plenty of trail options including visiting Svartifoss and it's famous hexagonal basalt columns.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Skaftafell National Park: 57.2 km | 48 min
Tour an ice cave
I'll be the first to tell you that I rarely willingly walk inside a cave. I'm not much for tight, dark spaces, but I loved our ice cave tour in Iceland and there are so many ice cave options near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We had originally intended to walk on a glacier but due to the fact our visit was so late in the season (September), we were advised to do the ice cave instead. Ice cave visits are typically more of a winter activity, but if you visit late enough in the fall, you might just get to go inside early. It all depends on the weather and how cold it is which decides how stable the caves are for visiting.
Note: Unless you are an experienced caver and know Iceland's weather and terrains very well, you should not enter the caves without a guide!
Take a glacier walk tour
While I haven't walked on a glacier in Iceland, I've heard wonderful things about the experience! The same company we took our ice cave tour through (Blue Iceland) also leads glacier walk tours. If a glacier walk tour is the highest thing on your Iceland wishlist, we'd recommend visiting earlier in the summer than we did. We were told by some of the locals that by the end of the season the glacier can start to look pretty brown and dirty, not as iconically blue and white that you might see in photos. This doesn't mean don't take a glacier walk tour when youre near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon late in the season, just be aware that conditions might not be as ideal.
If it's your first visit to Iceland, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must. It's incredible glacial views next to an iceberg lagoon leading to the ocean, all surrounded by mountains is truly breathtaking. Be sure to make time to visit during your trip to Iceland!
Checkout our other Iceland travel guides for planning your trip.
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!