The Spectacular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Large icebergs create stunning formations and a beautiful reflection on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the most visited and photographed sites in Iceland. A stunning landscape location Jökulsárlón has featured in numerous Hollywood films including the following:

  • A View to a Kill

  • Die Another Day

  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

  • Batman Begins

Jökulsárlón was also featured in the critically acclaimed and hugely popular HBO series a Game Of Thrones.

Jokulsarlon - Visitor Facts

Jokulsarlon is 1.5 kilometres in length and up to 250 metres deep. Expanding significantly, due to global warming, It’s now the deepest lake in Iceland.

The surface of the lagoon is at sea level which allows sea water into the lagoon at high tide.

Huge chunks of ice constantly break off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and find their way across the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean about 1 ½ kilometres away.

Open to the sea the lagoon contains a mixture of salt and freshwater which gives it a unique blue-green color. With lots of fish in the lagoon there’s a good chance you’ll see seals and sea birds making the most of it.

Hundreds of seals find refuge in Jokulsarlon during the winter months.

During the warmer summer months a variety of boat rides are on offer and it’s possible to hike around the edge of the glacier lagoon throughout the year.

How to Get to Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Jokulsarlon is easy to find. It’s situated by the southern coast of Iceland around 370 kilometres (230 miles) best of the capital Reykjavik.

The carpark for the glacier lagoon is just off Highway One, the route you’d take to drive around the entire island.

Jokulsarlon Entrance Fee

There’s no admission fee to enter the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. This tourist friendly policy is true for most natural locations in Iceland.

A lone iceberg, having broken off the Breiòamerkurjökull Glacier, skims across the surface of the water on Jökúlsárlon Glacier Lagoon on its way to the sea off the southern coast of Iceland.

Jökulsárlón Boat Tour

This is certainly true for Jökulsárlón. As well as making photos from various places along the edge of the lagoon, it’s possible to take a zodiac cruise on the waters of this massive glacier lagoon.

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon boat tour gets you nice and close to some of the icebergs and allows you to photograph them from a variety of angles on your quest for a compelling image.

I signed up for a Jökulsárlón zodiac tour on each of my two visits to the glacier lagoon. The experience was great each time, but also radically different.

The icebergs break off the glacier and make their way across the lagoon over a period of a couple of days. But, given the amount of ice breaking off the glacier and the massive size of the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is never the same twice.

That’s why I plan to return again on my third trip to Iceland.

Ripples create a series of concentric patterns, surrounding floating ice, on the surface of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Iceland.

Jökulsárlón: There’s Just So Much To Photograph

Simply standing on the bank, by the water’s edge, will provide you with great photo opportunities.

There’s just so much going on as the light changes throughout the day and the icebergs make their journey from the nearby glacier, across the lagoon, to the sea about a kilometre away. 

Jökulsárlón is set amongst stunning mountains and is backed by the massive Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

The gorgeous turquoise and teal colors of the water and icebergs are a spectacular sight and will likely be one of your most vivid memories from your trip to Iceland.

But to adequately photograph a location you sometimes need to return several times during the day and photograph under different light conditions and from different perspectives.

To Photograph Is To Write With Light

By photographing an iceberg from different angles you’ll likely be able to explore light, color and texture in a variety of ways. Here’s some examples:

  • Front lighting is great for revealing color in the object photographed.

  • Side lighting is ideal for emphasizing shape and texture.

  • Back lighting can create a silhouette or, when the ice is thin, can reveal the liquid and color qualities of the ice. It’s a little like photographing stained glass.

The glacial lagoon is a compelling location and really should be visited at different times of the day.

For many folks their visit to Jökulsárlón and the nearby Diamond Beach will be a once in a lifetime experience.

Being properly prepared will make all the difference when it comes to making great photos of your own visit to Jokulsarlon.

A beautiful glow at sunset illuminated the sky and water with a myriad of colors at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.

The Advantages Of A Tripod At Jökulsárlón

If you’re a serious landscape photographer you’ll likely have a tripod with you for long exposure work at the edges of the day and when you’re looking to make beautiful images that explore movement and the passage of time within a still image.

Under brighter, higher contrast conditions a tripod is a necessary piece of kit as part of a HDR workflow.

My recommendation is to stay nearby and photograph Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon several times throughout the day.

During my first visit to Iceland I travelled around the country in a camper van. That allowed me to take a nap during the day or when the inclement weather rolled in. And it rains frequently in Iceland.

Seems you’ve travelled so far to get there your day’s photography should include the following:

  • Dawn and sunrise photography session

  • Photos while undertaking a zodiac cruise on the surface of the glacial lagoon

  • Sunset and dusk photography session at the nearby Diamond beach

Jokulsarlon Hotel - Sadly There Isn’t One

If you’re wondering about a Jokulsarlon hotel I’m afraid there isn’t one.

The first time I visited Jokulsarlon I slept in a camper van on the shores of the Lagoon. It was an amazing experience as it allowed me to dodge the rain and hop in and out of the camper van, throughout the night, to make photos from the shores of the lagoon.

Apparently this practice is no longer allowed and, as there are no guesthouses or hotels near Jokulsarlon, you’ll likely end up taking the short drive to the fishing village of Höfn about an hour away.

Höfn means harbour and it’s an apt name as this small town sits on one of the few natural harbours in Iceland.

Jökulsärlon Cafe

Thankfully there’s a small cafe offering a limited amount of snacks at Jökulsárlón. Just be aware that it’s only open during the tourist season.

While I think it’s important to support local business my advice is to play it safe and bring your own drinks and food. After all you should plan on a full day of exploration at the glacier lagoon and the nearby Black Diamond Beach.

If the cafe’s open during your visit consider it a bonus and support a local Icelandic enterprise by enjoying a treat or three.

Submarine Ice, Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland

About To Travel?

Iceland | One Of The World’s Great Photography Destinations

Iceland is one of the world’s great photography destinations. Its relative isolation and low population make it a mecca for landscape photography.

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Iceland on two occasions, including an Iceland Photography Tour I conducted back in 2016.

There’s no doubt facilities have improved dramatically since my first visit in 2011. There’s good accommodation and food available around much of the island.

However, landscape photograph doesn’t often fit in with normal meal times. You need to be organized proper clothing, including spare socks and shoes, and bring meals and snacks with you on a long day out.

There’s just so much to see and do but, because roads aren’t always good, don’t underestimate the importance of a well planned itinerary, that still leaves time for unplanned exploration.

Most important of all ensure your accommodation is booked well in advance. Many towns are little more than hamlets and sleeping in a small car is no fun in any part of the world.

I’m really looking forward to my next trip to Iceland which should involve another driving adventure around this most sublime island nation.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru