If you’re planning a trip to Iceland’s South Coast, don’t miss the beautiful Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. Watch the massive chunks of glacial ice float from the beautiful lagoon, past the stark black sand beach, and out to sea!
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Jokulsarlon (Jökulsárlón) is a remarkable sight – an 11 square mile lake filled with towering icebergs that are over 1,000 years old. The lagoon began to form back in 1934, when the nearby glacier began receding, leaving behind the lagoon. It has continued to grow in size since and is now Iceland’s deepest lake, reaching a depth of over 800 feet in some areas.
As the icebergs continue to melt, the glacier lagoon continues to grow, being fed by the glacial waters. This phenomenon is heartbreaking, but also makes this an incredibly interesting place, as it can look wildly different each time you visit.
We really enjoyed visiting the lagoon, and taking some time to relax and watch the beautiful icebergs. There is a little walking path that leads to a higher viewpoint where you can get a view of the lagoon in its entirety.
And keep an eye out for the seals in the summertime! The lagoon is a favorite hangout for seals who love showing off their moves in the icy waters. They put on a great show for us.
Boat Tours on the Lagoon
If you want to get an even closer view of the ice glaciers, the best way to do that is on one of the many boat tours offered on the lagoon. You have a few different choices:
Amphibian Boat Tour
The amphibian boat (sometimes called a duck boat) is the most popular boat tour at the lagoon. It’s a hybrid land/sea vessel that picks you up on dry land and then drives directly into the glacial waters of the lagoon. (Bonus – kids think this is really fun.)
This is the tour we did on our most recent trip to Iceland, and it was a really fun time. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and is very family friendly.
While the boats look rather crowded, everyone is able to stand up once it gets into the water, which made it feel much roomier. There were plenty of great views from all sides of the boat, and we got a chance to see a few seals up close.
The tour guide was very funny, and kept the group entertained. They even brought a big chunk of ice into the boat and passed it around for pictures. Then they broke off pieces for the kids and had them make a wish before tossing it into the lagoon. My son kept his wish a secret, but the little girl next to us wished for a pony. I hope she gets it! ;)
Zodiac Boat Tour
Another option if you want to get even more personal with the glaciers, is to hop on one of the Zodiac boat tours. These smaller vessels can get very close to the glaciers, and of course you’re much closer to the icy waters too. In fact, you have to bundle up in dry suits for this tour!
These tours are about one hour long and kids need to be at least 10 years old to join. (Note that there are some zodiac tours with a lower age limit at the nearby Fjallsárlón lagoon.)
And for the more adventurous in the crowd, you can also take a kayaking tour on the lagoon. Several different tour operators offer kayaking excursions, which typically last 1 – 1 1/2 hours and most have a minimum age of 14.
As the icebergs break from the glacier, they slowly make their way through the lagoon and drift out to sea. But many of them are broken up by the rough ocean waves and washed ashore on the nearby black sand beach, which has been affectionately named Diamond Beach.
The beautiful chunks of ice line the shore at this beach, sparkling like diamonds in the black sand. It’s a really interesting place to stop and spend a little time. If you sit and watch the waters, you can watch in real time as the chunks of ice float out of the lagoon and are washed out to the sea.
And if you’re lucky, you might even get a visit from the seals who enjoy playing in the water by the shores here.
You should note that there is a black sand beach area on both sides of the lagoon outlet – both of these are considered part of Diamond Beach. If you only visit one, I recommend stopping at the one on the west side (before the bridge if you are heading towards the lagoon from Vik). It tends to be less crowded with the same beautiful views.
Location & Hours
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is located on the east side of Iceland’s southern coastline. It’s approximately a 5 hour drive to Reykjavik.
As this is a natural attraction, the lagoon and beach can be visited anytime 24/7. But you’ll find food trucks open only during the day.
Fees & Parking
There are no entry fees to visit the glacier lagoon or the Diamond Beach, and there is plenty of parking available. You’ll also find free public restrooms here.
Eating at the Lagoon
You’ll find several food trucks adjacent to the parking area at the glacier lagoon, with a variety of offerings. The fish & chips truck is probably the most popular – and we found it to be pretty delicious as well!
Where to Stay near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
If you’re looking for a place to stay near the glacier lagoon, your options are actually a bit limited. While the south coast is a popular road trip route, most people choose to spend the night in the larger towns of Vik to the west or Hofn to the east.
The closest major hotel to the lagoon is the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. We stayed there on a recent trip, but it was unfortunately not one of our favorite places to stay. You can read our review and some alternative options here.
More Iceland Trip Planning Resources
If you’re planning the ultimate trip to Iceland, be sure to check out these other helpful articles: