In January my husband and I spent 10 days driving around the west and southern portions of Iceland – as an aside, move Iceland up to the top of your holiday list. Just trust me. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of the most impressive sights we saw was Jökulsárlón, also known as the Glacier Lagoon. Located on the south east side of the island, this magical place is well worth the drive.
At this point in the trip we were staying in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (or just Klaustur for short). The weather was a bit of an icy mess which had us feeling a bit less adventurous than usual. The thing about weather in Iceland is just wait 10 minutes, or drive 10 miles, and it is likely to be completely different. With that in mind, we decided to brave the elements one morning and make the hour and a half drive east. Best decision ever.
There are all sorts of random little things to see and do right around Klaustur (I’ll save that for another post), but on the way to Jökulsárlón definitely stop at Skaftafell and Svartifoss. We were there only briefly as we ran out of daylight, but it is a great stopping point about halfway and the views will be rewarding. You also need to plan things like petrol (that diesel magic to power your vehicle) and food. There is one petrol station one town east of Skaftafell, but that is it between Klaustur and Jökulsárlón. Food isn’t much better, so bring your snacks along. The petrol station has a little restaurant and there is a snack stand with sandwiches at the actual lagoon.
The views along this stretch of the ring road were honestly some of my favorites. There is just a certain rustic beauty to it that is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before. What’s fun is that you can’t actually see the lagoon until you are right on top of it. What you can see in between the hills surrounding the lagoon are quick glimpses of bright blue ice jutting up into the sky. I literally squealed like a little kid on Christmas and scared my husband half to death while he was driving (oops).
When you arrive at the entrance to Jökulsárlón, you have several options – enjoy each one of them because each gives you a unique view and experience. Before crossing the large bridge that you see in the video I posted, there is a parking area to the left. This gives you a high vantage point as well as a lower one that enabled us to spend time watching the local seals bobbing around between the glacial ice.
Cross over the bridge and you can take in the lagoon from a different angle, walk right up to the water, hike up to a hilltop view, and grab a snack at the aforementioned snack shop (restrooms can also be found here). What amazed me was just how unbelievably clear the water in the lagoon was. If you are lucky you might even be able to grab a little piece of the iceberg floating by.
If you think that this is a winter only adventure, think again. While we found the lower number of tourists and crisp winter air to be quite nice, there are some perks to going during the warmer months – this is a glacier after all, so have no fear, the ice will be there. During the summer and fall you can actually take a boat tour out into the lagoon. They look amazing, but obviously I have yet to personally experience one. At example are the tours offered by Glacier Lagoon Tours. In the warmer months you are probably also more likely to get some better sun which, from a photography perspective with how glassy that water was, would have been phenomenal. So the short take away here – it’s worth it any time of year.
This is also probably one of the few times in my life I really wished I had a drone. Several people were flying them out over the ice and I can only imagine the stunning footage that they were getting. Maybe an excuse to buy a new toy, eh?
All of this scenery is thanks to the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier at the north end of the lagoon. You can see it stretching along the lagoon, ice chunks breaking off, floating through the lagoon and out into the ocean. We easily spent two hours walking around taking it all in. The extra bonus to visiting Jökulsárlón? Why the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, right across the street. A beautiful beach in Iceland? Trust me. Wait until my post next week and you’ll see exactly what I mean. 😉