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Coordinates: 64°04′13″N 16°12′42″W / 64.07028°N 16.21167°W / 64.07028; -16.21167
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Location of Jökulsárlón in Iceland.
Location of Jökulsárlón in Iceland.
Coordinates64°04′13″N 16°12′42″W / 64.07028°N 16.21167°W / 64.07028; -16.21167
Primary inflowsBreiðamerkurjökull glacier
Primary outflowsAtlantic Ocean
Basin countriesIceland
Max. length8 km (5.0 mi)
Surface area18 km2 (6.9 sq mi)
Average depthca. 153 m (502 ft)
Max. depth284 metres (932 ft)[1]
Water volume2,500–3,000 hm3/s (0.60–0.72 cu mi/s)
Surface elevation0 m (0 ft), sea level

Jökulsárlón (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈjœːkʏlsˌaurˌlouːn] ; literally "glacial river lagoon") is a large glacial lake in southern part of Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. The glacial front is now about 8 km (5.0 mi) away from the ocean's edge and the lake covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). In 2009 it was reported to be the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 284 m (932 ft), as glacial retreat extended its boundaries.[1] The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s.[2][3][4][5]

The lake can be seen from Route 1 between Höfn and Skaftafell. It appears as "a ghostly procession of luminous blue icebergs".[3]

Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Batman Begins, as well as the reality TV series The Amazing Race.[3][6][7] In 1991, Iceland issued a postage stamp, with a face value of 26 kronur, depicting Jökulsárlón.[2]

The tongue of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a major attraction for tourists.



The Jökulsárlón lake provides outstanding views of the ice cap, a vast dome of ice that rises to a height of 3,000 ft (910 m). It spills to the lagoon 12 mi (19 km) away from the jagged glacier hill to the edge of the water line.

Ice lagoon Jökulsárlón at the foot of the Vatnajökull Glacier, 2023

The lake developed only about 60 years ago (1948 is mentioned), when the entire area was less than 100 ft (30 m) of glacier, which was only 250 yd (230 m) from the Atlantic Ocean, and 2 mi (3.2 km) away from Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull was at the shore line of the ocean and dropped icebergs into the ocean. However, it started drifting inland rapidly every year, leaving deep gorges en route, which got filled with melted water and large chunks of ice. These icebergs gather at the mouth of the lake's shallow exit, melt down into smaller ice blocks, and roll out into the sea. In summer, icebergs melt and roll down the channel into the sea. The lake does not freeze in winter. Ice water and soil make a unique ecological phenomenon.[citation needed] Jökulsárlón Lake, the "glacier lake", was reported to have doubled in size in the 15-year period before 2007. The huge blocks of ice that calve from the edge of Vatnajökull are about 30 m (98 ft) high, which fills the lagoon stocked with icebergs.[5][8][9][10] Some icebergs appear naturally sculpted on account volcanic ash from ancient eruptions that partly covers them.[11]


The icebergs that calve from the glacier edge move towards the river mouth and get entrenched at the bottom. The movement of the icebergs fluctuates with the tide currents, as well as being affected by wind. However, they start floating as icebergs when their size is small enough to drift to the sea. These icebergs are seen in two shades: milky white and bright blue, which depends on the air trapped within the ice and is an interplay of light and ice crystals.[12]

Glacier - Breiðamerkurjökull[edit]

The outlet glacier that feeds the lagoon is called Breiðamerkurjökull.

Out-wash plains - Breiðamerkursandur[edit]

The glacier is responsible for the formation of a large outwash plain called Breiðamerkursandur. It has a breadth of around 25 km and serves as bird habitat in the summer month. This outwash plain is constantly changing. The shoreline of the glacial lagoon used to be advancing, but is now retreating as there is a decrease in glacial rivers depositing material. However, as the glaciers melt, the land rises around 2–4 cm each year somewhat balancing out the retreating shoreline.


Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)
Grey seals on the Jökulsárlón lake

The lake is filled with fish that drift in from the sea along with the tides. Seals gather in large numbers at the mouth of the lake to catch fish during the winter. Large numbers of seabirds, particularly Arctic terns, which nest nearby, gather to catch herring, trout, salmon, krill and other fish. Breiðamerkursandur (the large sand deposits in the area) is the main habitat of the Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus).[5][11] During the summer season, the gull-like skuas have their nests on the lake's shores. The skuas, fat and dark in colour with white wingtips, are said to be aggressive "pirates of the seas", which harass other birds as big as gannets. They also kill and eat smaller birds such as puffins. Great skuas are not afraid of human beings and also do not tolerate human beings close to their nests. These birds are reported to migrate from their wintering grounds off the coasts of Spain and Africa.[citation needed] Seals are seen either swimming in the lagoon or lying on icebergs. Many times, the tides carry shoals of herring or capelan into the lagoon by the tide and the birds feast on them.[12]

Land Use History[edit]

Bridge across the lagoon

Land Settlement and Farms[edit]

The first settlers arrived in Iceland around AD 870, when the edge of the tongue of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier was about 20 km (12 mi) further north of its present location. During the Little Ice Age between 1600 and 1900, with lower temperatures prevailing in these latitudes, the glacier had grown by up to about 1 km (0.62 mi) from the coast at Jokulsá River, by about 1890. When the temperatures rose between 1920 and 1965, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue rapidly retreated, continually creating icebergs of varying size, thus creating a lagoon in its wake around 1934–35. The lake is over 200 m (660 ft) deep where the glacier snout originally existed. Glacial moraines became exposed on both sides of the lake. In 1975, the lake was about 8 km2 (3.1 sq mi) in area and now it reportedly stands at 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) at the edge of the glacier tongue.[4]

Current Ownership[edit]

In 2017 the Icelandic State bought the farm Fell which includes Jökulsárlón.[13] Later that same year Fell and other public land surrounding Jökulsárlón got protected as a part of Vatnajökull National Park.[14]

The Jökulsárlón Landowners Association represented the owners of the land property Fell. This property was leased out for filming or any other commercial activity as required.[15]

Einar Björn Einarsson is the operator of the boat trips on Jökulsárlón. The Landowners Association leased out the site at the lagoon front to this operator to ply the boats on the lagoon.[15]

Nature Protection[edit]

Jökulsárlón and the surrounding area are a part of Vatnajökull National park. The size of the park is 14,707 km2  Which is approximately 14% of Iceland, making it Europe's second largest national park in terms of area after Yugyd Va in Russia. On 5 July 2019, Vatnajökull National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unique qualities of Vatnajökull National Park are primarily its great variety of landscape features, created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity. The National Park aims to preserve unimpaired the natural beauty of the park for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

An iceberg with Öræfajökull (southernmost part of Vatnajökull) in the background: The icebergs in Jökulsárlón, as well as this iceberg, fell off Vatnajökull.
An isolated iceberg on the beach

Protective measures for the bridge[edit]

A coffer dam was constructed near the Glacial River Bridge that spans Jökulsárlón to build a row of protective measures of stone boulders to prevent any erosion of the foundation of the pillars of the bridge. This coffer dam enabled the Icelandic road administration to create workable access for the power shovel digger to place the row of stone protective measures, which would also divert the icebergs from hitting the bridge pillars, thus avoiding damage to the structure.[16]

Given the current retreat rate of Vatnajökull, likely a deep fjord will develop where Jökulsárlón is now. This retreat is also posing a threat to the National Highway Route 1 of Iceland. The lagoon is 75 km (47 mi) to the west of Höfn town and 60 km (37 mi) east of Skaftafell.[9][17] It is accessible by the ring road, Route 1, that goes across the lake, and where parking facilities have been provided for visitors. It is also known as the "tourist conveyor belt".[5] Isolated large blocks of icebergs can be seen on the black sand beach, sometimes called "diamond beach" because of ice chunks scattered on the sand.[18] The name of the beach is actually Eystri-Fellsfjara. [19]

Panorama of Jökulsárlón.

Tourism and Services[edit]


Tourists at Jökulsárlón in January 2017.

There are many activities available to guest at Jökulsárlón. There are lagoon tours provided by several different companies in boats or kayaks. In the winter there are ice cave tours that leave from the lagoon parking lot. There are hiking trails around the area that offer guests an opportunity to explore the area.

Boat tours on the glacier lake[edit]

In 1985, the premiere of the James Bond movie A View to a Kill marked the start of commercial boat tours on the lake. Guðbrandur Jóhannesson started the tours on Jökulsárlón. Jóhannesson, who today owns and operates the company Vatnajökull Travel, operated the tours for the first two years. In summer 1987, about 5,000 passengers sailed on the company's two small vessels. The next year, an amphibious vehicle, the LARC-V, joined the fleet. By 1995, the number of passengers per year had multiplied and the company then operated three amphibious vehicles. In 1999, Einar Björn Einarsson, a local from the nearby town of Höfn, bought the company. In 2006, the company added a fourth amphibian.

The company Jökulsárlón ehf now employs about 30 seasonal employees. For the past few years, the company has carried 60,000 to 70,000 passengers annually; since the first commercial boat tour, about 900,000 tourists have taken the excursion.


There are park rangers working in the area all year round. During the summer months park rangers offer free educational walks for park visitors.

In popular culture[edit]


Jökulsárlón and the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier have been part of the James Bond films A View to a Kill (1985) and Die Another Day (2002), Batman Begins (2005),[3] Beowulf and Grendel (2005), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Dilwale [4][11]

The popularity of the lake has been further boosted by the TV coverage provided live from Jökulsárlón on the American TV program Good Morning America in southeast Iceland, on 13 November 2006. The live broadcast is reported to have been watched by four million people.[20]

In 2014, Swedish electronic multimedia project, iamamiwhoami, filmed their music video "vista" in Jökulsárlón.

In October 2014, scenes of French singer Indila's music video "Love Story" were filmed at the lagoon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Jökulsárlón tekið við sem dýpsta vatn Íslands". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  2. ^ a b "Jökulsárlón". Virtually Virtual Iceland. Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  3. ^ a b c d Stone, Andrew (2009). Scandinavian Europe. Lonely Planet. p. 268. ISBN 978-1-74104-928-2. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  4. ^ a b c "Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon". Iceland on the web. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  5. ^ a b c d Evans, Andrew (2008). Iceland. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 389. ISBN 978-1-84162-215-6.
  6. ^ "Jökulsárlón". Nordic Visitor Iceland. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  7. ^ "All You Need to Know about Jökulsárlón, The Glacier Lagoon". Tröll Expeditions. June 12, 2019. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Woodward, Colin (February 2007). "Curbing Climate Change: Is the World Doing Enough?" (PDF). CQ Global Researcher. 1 (2). CQ Press: 29. Retrieved 2023-08-27. A century ago there was no lagoon, and this spot was under 100 feet of glacial ice. The glacier, the Breidamerkurjokull, extended to within 250 yards of the ocean. Now the Atlantic is more than two miles away from the glacier's massive, miles-wide snout, which stands in an expanding lake of its own melt water. Jokulsarlon — "glacier lake" in Icelandic — is now more than 350 feet deep and has more than doubled its size in the past 15 years, threatening to wash out Iceland's principal highway.
  9. ^ "Formation of the Glacier Lagoon". The Icebergs and jökulsá river formed the Jökulsárlón, Glacial Lagoon. Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  10. ^ a b c "South Coast and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon". Nordic Visitor day Tour in Iceland. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  11. ^ a b "A unique pearl of nature". Landowners Association. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  12. ^ "Ríkið kaupir jörðina Fell við Jökulsárlón". 9 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Jökulsárlón og nærliggjandi svæði friðlýst sem hluti Vatnajökulsþjóðgarðs".
  14. ^ a b "The Jokulsarlon Landowners Association". Landowners Association. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  15. ^ "Building of a dam on Jökulsarlon in June 2010". Jökulsarlon Landowners Association. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  16. ^ "Glacier lagoon: Unique iceberg lagoon". The Vatnajokull Region Wow South East Of Iceland. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  17. ^ Iceland Monitor: "Tourist trapped on iceberg on Diamond beach" 11 February 2019
  18. ^ Glitrandi ísjakar við Eystri-Fellsfjöru heilla strandsólgna Rúv, 1 of May 2024
  19. ^ "Good Morning America live in Iceland". Iceland Review Online. 2006-11-14. Retrieved 2020-02-17.

External links[edit]