southeast iceland: jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Sunday, August 21:  There is no breakfast at the Guesthouse Hvammur, so we eat some Skyr, an Icelandic dairy product with the consistency of strained yogurt, but with a much milder flavor; we stored it overnight in the kitchenette refrigerator.  We also drink some of the coffee that the guesthouse does provide. I need all the coffee I can get as I’m pretty groggy this morning from the nighttime cold medicine and Tylenol I downed last night.  I’m miserable this morning with post nasal drip, a sore throat, a cough and tickle in my throat. Mike’s been sick several days already, and now I’m as sick as he is.

Still.  We can’t be stopped. We check out of the hotel by 8:15 and we’re on our way to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon where we’ve reserved a zodiac tour of the lagoon with Ice Lagoon Adventure Boat Tours.  We arrive just before 9:30, so we have some time to walk along the rocky shore and take some photos.

Arrival at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Arrival at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

From the bank, we see blue and white icebergs drifting through the glacier lagoon. The black stripes or blotches on the icebergs are ash layers from past volcanic eruptions.  Looking to the south, we can see the one-lane Ring Road bridge that crosses over the lagoon’s opening.

Ring Road bridge across the lagoon
Ring Road bridge across the lagoon

We check in inside the huge truck that serves as the operator’s office.  Here, we’re able to use a foot-pedal operated flush toilet and we don flotation suits and life jackets that inflate upon hitting the water.

Ice Lagoon Zodiac Boat Tour
Ice Lagoon Zodiac Boat Tour

We both look like creatures from outer space.

Mike all suited up
Mike all suited up
me ready for the boat ride
me ready for the boat ride

One of the guides insists that we stand up against the truck for a photo; only later do I realize that there’s an iceberg in the picture on the truck.  It definitely looks like one of those fake pictures!

posing in front of the truck
posing in front of the truck

Twenty of us pile into a bus and we’re driven east along the Ring Road and then on a bumpy dirt road to the edge of the lagoon.  There, we split into two groups, ten each, and pile into the zodiac boats.

Getting in the boat
Getting in the boat

Once in the boat, we take off at full speed across a 7km open expanse of water to the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of the larger glacier of Vatnajökull in southeastern Iceland.  The icebergs in the lagoon calve from this outlet glacier.

Breiðamerkurjökull glacier
Breiðamerkurjökull glacier
Our captain
Our captain
Breiðamerkurjökull
Breiðamerkurjökull

After cruising back and forth in front of Breiðamerkurjökull, our captain tells us to hang on as we speed off toward the nearest iceberg.  He explains that some icebergs are blue because they don’t have much air in them; they were recently underwater or may have just turned over.  The white icebergs have been exposed to the air for a longer period of time.

blue glaciers at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
blue glaciers at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

The icebergs calve from Breiðamerkurjökull, crashing into the water and drifting toward the North Atlantic Ocean.  We don’t get to see any calving or crashing action this morning, sadly.

Icebergs can spend up to five years floating in the 25-square-km-plus Jökulsárlón, which is 260m deep.  They often melt and re-freeze and sometimes topple over.  Our guide explains that one of the larger glaciers in the lagoon turned over at 6:00 last night, making a huge crashing sound.

Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón

I love this otherworldly lagoon, and find each iceberg has its own distinct character.  I can’t stop taking pictures.

Apparently, Jökulsárlón is only 80 years old.  The glacier Breiðamerkurjökull reached the Ring Road until the mid-1930s; it’s retreating now at a rate of 500m per year due to global warming.

Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón

We stop in front of a big iceberg, where our captain takes pictures of everyone on the boat.

Mike and me at Jökulsárlón
Mike and me at Jökulsárlón

Our boat ride is only an hour long, but we get to see so many variations of ice sculptures it’s like being in a museum.

After we exit the boat and ride the bus back to the truck/office, we shed our flotation suits and take a walk along the shore. From a hill on the path, we can see other offshoot glaciers from Vatnajökull in the distance.

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

The views from the trail along the shore at Jökulsárlón are as amazing as the views on the boat ride.

Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
odd-shaped icebergs
odd-shaped icebergs
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón

Finally, it’s time to head to our next destination.  As we walk down from the hill, we see the other big tour operator here, Glacier Lagoon Amphibian Boat Tour.  I’m glad we did the smaller zodiac boat tour.

The other tour company - Glacier Lagoon Amphibious Boat Tours
The other tour company – Glacier Lagoon Amphibious Boat Tours

We take a walk across the bridge to the mouth of the river Jökulsá, where we can see some icebergs floating out to sea and other icebergs resting on the black sand beach.

6 thoughts on “southeast iceland: jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

  1. having got a flu bug myself at the moment I truly admire your ‘get up and go’ – hard when you can’t breathe! Some of your best iceberg shots here Cathy from the boat – lovely blues.

    1. Oh no! I’m sorry you’re sick, Jude. It is miserable to be sick, especially when traveling. Once I returned home, I got walking pneumonia, and was totally out of commission for 3 weeks.

      I loved those blue icebergs. Thank goodness we at least got some slivers of sunshine here.🙂 Thanks!!

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