A Mystical Ride through Icebergs at the Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Of all the other-worldly places in Iceland, the Jokülsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the strangest. After traveling two hours from Vík through some of the most barren landscapes we had observed in the South of Iceland, we arrived at Jokülsárlón for our glacier lagoon tour.

Like finding an oasis in the desert, the lagoon appears alongside the road after mile upon mile of bleak dark volcanic rock and ash. Suddenly you find yourself side by side with a lagoon that stretches back as far as you can see. My expectation was that from the shore we would see a few ghostly-white icebergs floating in the distance. To my surprise, there were many icebergs so close it felt like you could practically reach out and touch them from the shore. And these weren’t lifeless-looking, Hollywood-style icebergs. They were vastly different in shape, size, and color.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

Note: My tour was hosted by Jokulsarlon, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.

Some visitors drive out just to see Diamond Beach, the black sand beach that glitters with small chunks of ice, like diamonds on a velvet background.

Luckily, we had booked ourselves on a zodiac boat tour with Jokülsárlón, so I knew we were going to have a chance to get up close to not just the icebergs, but the glacier itself. But first, we had to gear up.

Going into a zodiac boat, I wasn’t quite sure how wet and cold we were going to get and exactly what gear we might need. Luckily it wasn’t a concern as they provide you with a floatation suit that makes you feel like a sumo wrestler. As long as you have a warm layer underneath, a hat, and at least a pair of thin gloves, you’ll be fine — no need for additional bulk or waterproofing. You might get a little spray from the wake but no water gets into the boat, even though it does ride low enough to touch the water.

Jokülsárlón also offers amphibian (or duck) boat tours that are larger groups, can accept younger children, and are less expensive. However, these mostly go in and out of the icebergs and don’t get up close to the glacier. We wanted the full experience so decided on the zodiac boat — which gets you close to the glacier but also really gives you a sense of the vastness of the lagoon.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

After about a dozen of us were geared up in our flotation suits, we headed out into the lagoon. Once again, I was so surprised to see the great differences between the icebergs. Some were white, some were an icy blue, others were zebra-striped, while there were some that had sections of clear ice. The icebergs are always changing and moving, with some breaking up and others forming, creating a different experience day-to-day.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

On our way out into the lagoon, our guide filled us in on the formation and ecology of the glacier lagoon. I was surprised to learn that the lagoon itself has only been around since the 1930s, as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier beats a swift retreat from the ocean, leaving a lagoon that is up to 250 meters deep in its wake. The lagoon gets larger every year as global warming rapidly melts the glaciers.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

In addition to the variations in color, we found the sizes and shapes of the icebergs to be as wholly unique as one snowflake to another. Some had that typical iceberg shape where you just know there is a lot more lurking underneath the water. Others were towering giants, while some were as pock-marked as Swiss cheese.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

To add to the mystical feeling that we had happened upon a place from another planet, we visited late in the day and the sky was slate gray, with a bit of mist in the air. The lack of sun added a spooky factor that was especially apparent as we approached the glacier. If you have ever read the Game of Thrones books or seen the HBO series, the glacier edge resembles “The Wall” that separates the North from the land beyond. I couldn’t help but expect to see the white walkers scaling its heights.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

Even in the zodiac boat you still can’t get too close to the glacier, as you never know when one might calve and send mountains of ice plunging into the lagoon and everything around it. While that certainly would be a sight to see, I’m actually relieved that we weren’t there to see more effects of global warming — although I do admit feeling guilty and uncertain about taking a tour that was undoubtedly contributing it its effects. Sometimes trying to find that balance between protecting our earth and wanting to see the natural wonders of our world is a tough call.

It is really easy to see why Hollywood has been drawn to the glacier lagoon in Iceland as a movie set for movies like A View to a Kill, Batman Begins, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. In the James Bond film Die Another Day, they actually froze the lagoon so that Pierce Brosnan, as James Bond, could drive his car onto the ice.

Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

The glacier lagoon in Iceland should be on everyone’s bucket list. Whether or not you take the zodiac boat tour is up to you. It was cool to see the glacier itself, but if you are visiting other glaciers and are more interested in the icebergs, the amphibian boat tour is probably all you need — or just take a walk along the coast to view them from the land.

If you can’t get there anytime soon, take a look at what a glacier lagoon tour with Jokülsárlón is really like:

Jokülsárlón offers amphibian boat and zodiac boat tours. The amphibian boat tour is 30-40 minutes and includes an English-speaking guide. Amphibian tours are 4500 ISK for adults, 1000 for kids 6-12, under six are free. Zodiac boat tours are a little over an hour and get closer to the glacier. These tours are 7500 ISK for adults and 3750 for kids ages 10-12 (under 10 not recommended.) It is recommended to book in advance, check times and current pricing on their website.

For more ideas on what to do in South Iceland, check out my five-day sample itinerary and these Iceland travel tips.

Want local tips and personalized advice for your trip to Iceland? Connect with Óli from Go Ask A Local!  Oli is an Icelander and 30+ year veteran guide who specializes in helping travelers get off the beaten path and see his country’s hidden places. He’s available for trip planning consultations done over Zoom.


Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs1Touring the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland -- getting up close with icebergs

Have you been to the iceberg lagoon in Iceland or taken a glacier lagoon tour?


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Publish Date: August 24, 2015

24 thoughts on “A Mystical Ride through Icebergs at the Glacier Lagoon in Iceland”

  1. It was amazing what a different experience you get viewing the glacier lagoon from the water vs the shore isn’t it? We opted for the less visited Fjallsarlon Lagoon and had the boat to ourselves!

  2. What a great experience for kids! I went to Alaska and went on a whale watching tour. It ended up being more of an iceberg watching tour with a couple of whale’s tales thrown in.

  3. Iceland is one of my favorite places in the world. Your pictures are gorgeous, and make me want to go back and visit!

  4. Esther of Local Adventurer

    this place looks absolutely stunning!! visiting icebergs are top of our list.. since the landscapes are changing so fast.

  5. heather | girlichef

    Wow, what an absolutely amazing experience. The ice looks like crystals, and I can’t go over the blue color! Now I’ve got the urge to watch GOT again (doesn’t take much to bring on that urge)… 😉

  6. Brooke of Passport Couture

    Looks incredible! I’m sure there’s nothing that can compare to this experience and I’ll definitely look into when I visit Iceland.

  7. danielle Bubs on the Move

    Wow! We have never been anywhere like this. I have serious travel envy. Think I would have trouble convincing my kids to wear those outfits but it would be worth the fight.

  8. My hubby would love photographing this place! Great for outdoor photography but it looks a bit cold and dreary!

    1. It was dreary when we were there, made it very surreal. I’m sure he would do a better job with the photography. I was worried about dropping the camera in the water or getting really splashed!

  9. What an amazing experience this must have been ! I am also quite fascinated by icebergs. I am hoping to get the family to Newfoundland’s “Iceberg Alley” next year…but really, Iceland is only a hop, skip and jump from there, isn’t it? Nice little video too !

    1. It is so close! I hadn’t realized that Newfoundland also had icebergs until very recently. It is such fun to see them up close.

  10. Katja - globetotting

    How incredible – it really does look otherworldly (and very Game of Thrones!). I love the photo of the flotation suits! Was an hour long enough or would you have liked longer?

    1. An hour was plenty to see everything but not get too cold or bored. Those suits made us feel like sumo wrestlers but I worried mess about our daughter falling overboard.

  11. Beautiful! Because my son’s too young I only got to go on the regular amphibious boat but my husband went on the Zodiac which sounded amazing. But even in the normal boat it was such a gorgeous, incredible place. Thanks for the reminders!

    1. Because the icebergs are so close I would expect the amphibious boat to give really great views too but it was fun to be close to the water.

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