When you know absolutely nothing about a country before you arrive, you’re in for all sorts of surprises — those you may expect and those you had no idea existed. When you’re heading to Iceland, you obviously expect to find ice even though I wasn’t sure that would be the case during summer. Without time to research what I wanted to do or see, I ended up relying on locals through Skype, Twitter and after I arrived, in person over coffee or introductions on the ground.
After about a month, I had taken in pretty much everything the country had to offer, from volcanoes, snowmobiling and lava to landscape hikes and thermal waters, yet I hadn’t yet seen or felt the “ice” of Iceland.
Less than a week before I was due to depart, I saw photos of a magical and breathtaking ice lagoon known as the Glacier Lagoon in the far east of the country and knew immediately I had to make it there before boarding a plane back to the states. It was a visceral feeling of sorts that is hard to describe, but the photos were so beautiful I found myself dreaming about “ice” for several nights before I headed southeast with my solo guide Guðmundur Sigurðsson (otherwise known as Gummi), who is co-owner of Gateway to Iceland, a boutique tour operator that specializes in personal and individualized trips. (I strongly recommend them)
Just before you reach the lagoon, you’ll pass Iceland’s biggest volcano, Oraefajokull glacier, which also has the highest peak of the island, Hvannadalshnjukur, at 6,950 feet (2119 meters).
The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most amazing natural wonders of Iceland and one of the most popular attractions for travelers to visit. The lagoon started to form in 1934 when the glacier started to retreat in the area. In 1956 the size of the lagoon was 4,5 square kilometers and in 1975 the lagoon had reached the size of 8 square kilometers. Today, the size of the lagoon is estimated to be around 25 square kilometers and it’s constantly getting larger as approximately 500 square meters of ice break off the glacier every year. Jokulsarlon is the deepest lake in Iceland with maximum depth of 260 meters in front of the glacier edge.
Jokulsarlon is located in the southeast part of Iceland, in the realm of Vatnajokull, roughly 379 kilometers east of Reykjavik and 78 kilometers west of the village Hofn. The lagoon lies along the major ring road so it’s easily accessible if you’re driving.
As soon as you arrive, you’re hit with unspoiled nature where huge icebergs calve off Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe. Suddenly, you’re not hit with ice in all shapes and colors and they change as the sun changes or as clouds move in at a particular angle. It’s nothing short of magestic, surreal and overwhelmingly beautiful.
You can opt for larger boats or choose the more personalized Zodiac boats (my recommendation – it’s so worth it) since you’ll get closer to the ice and have a more personalized experience of the lagoon.
They’ll suit you up. I have requested purple suits for women but for now, you’ll go out with 6-8 people and be all dressed in red.
It is a small team effort and the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon’s owner Inqvar Geirsson is originally from the area, which means he has firsthand knowledge of not just the lagoon but stories which give you a deeper understanding of the region overall.
Life is grand! The experience will move you to a place of gratitude and beauty. In other words, the ice had me at hello.
After you finish your spectacular ride, be sure to walk around. On foot, you’ll also be dazzled by the magestic ice formations right in front of your eyes and off in the distance.
More than once, I wanted to (and did) jump for joy! Do not miss this experience when you venture over to Iceland. Tell Inqvar and Karl I sent you and request one of them as your guide.
Below are a few videos I shot of my experience there with owner and guide Inqvar Geirsson.