When one thinks of planning a trip to Iceland, you might think of a weekend break to its capital Reykjavìk. From here you can take in the popular Golden Circle tourist route that stops at the main attractions, including the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermally active region of Haukadalur with its erupting geysers, and the Thingvellir National Park, an area of historical importance. They are all very spectacular but they omit one of the major parts of Iceland’s intrinsic qualities. It is also a land of ice and nowhere is this more evident than at the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. A whopping 231 miles (372 km) east of Reykjavik, it’s obvious why this isn’t a trip that many undertake when they visit Iceland but it is most definitely worth the drive.
It's not just the journey, it's also the destination
Part of the adventure belongs to the ever-changing and other-worldly scenery that Iceland has to offer, and with many an hour to while away on the trip, you will certainly see plenty of it. With views of volcanoes, waterfalls, canyons, rivers and more waterfalls, there is so much more to a trip to the lagoon. It is well worth spending a day or two absorbing everything during your journey. Arranging a guided tour or a self-drive, whichever way you approach the lagoon, nothing can prepare you for the most majestic sight of the icebergs floating effortlessly before you. Remaining fairly hidden behind an embankment that runs along highway 1, the lagoon emerges from the barren landscape, like a diamond from a mine.
Stand back and admire
In stark contrast to the gritty and earthy surroundings, the lagoon is bright with white and blue wedges of ice floating in the water like a giant glass of the purest vodka over ice. Standing on the shores, the lagoon is nothing but spectacular no matter what the weather. Formed when huge blocks of ice are literally born into the water from the nearby glacier, the icebergs are styled like giant sculptures appearing to have captured shades of blue, white and black within their glacial form. If you stand quietly, you can also sometimes hear the icebergs creaking as they jostle for position in the water. Eventually, the icebergs melt in size and escape to the sea via a narrow slip way that runs under the road. Some remain on the shore before being lapped out to sea by the tide. The sand on the beach shimmers, speckled black peppered rock littered with some of the icebergs, melting slowly in the sun.
Things to see and do
If standing on the shores and watching the icebergs float past isn’t quite close enough for you, there is also the option of getting closer to these majestic structures by taking a trip out onto the lagoon and slipping amongst them. Hopping on to an amphibious vehicle or the Zodiac boat tour is relatively simple to arrange and can be booked in advance. One of the other real highlights here, especially for all nature lovers, are the seals that bob among the icebergs. Chances of seeing them are better in fair weather although you can be lucky to spot them anytime; in fact, they can often be seen on the Mila live webcams (see link below) that showcase many of Iceland’s main attractions.
How to get the best from your visit
The lagoon is also served by its own café, although picnicking by the water’s edge is also an option, provided you leave nothing behind to spoil the landscape. Accommodation options are limited along route 1 and not particularly close to the lagoon so it is advisable to book in advance if you don’t want to undertake the whole trip in a day. Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable all year round, but summer is probably the best time to visit. With maximum daylight hours, it also means you can pack more into each day. Take weatherproof warm wear though, as it often feels very chilly even when the sun is shining. Most of all, give yourself time to experience the scenery. Iceland really is a land of contrasts and although visually stunning, it also has a very tactile quality and begs to be seen, felt and heard.