Jökulsárlón – A ride around icebergs on glacial lagoon in a zodiac boat, with a couple of seals for good measure!
When we first visited Jökulsárlón 8 years ago, for me it was love at first sight. The only reason I got back in the car to leave was the sun had long set and with the little light left we still had a bit of a walk to find where we parked the car!
One happy girl – hiking boots and this view!
However our trip to it this time was a bit different. When we arrived 8 years ago we had the lagoon to ourselves and the seals were just meters from us on the shoreline. This time, we had to be directed to the next available car parking place in a large parking area and there were hoards of people. For me, it did detract slightly from the overall feel of the place. However, the crowds take nothing away from its beauty, especially when you are looking out over the lagoon and icebergs at the stunning landscape.
Stunning beauty of the white icebergs against the blue water
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon located in south east Iceland. The icebergs break off from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which is an offshoot of Vatnajökull glacier. It developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the ocean. Due to the glacier melting the lake has grown and now covers an area of about 18km2. It also recently became the deepest lake in Iceland – at over 248 meters!
One of the ‘bluer’ icebergs
We had a bit of time before our boat ride and wanted to try and evade the crowds so headed for the opposite shore to the cafe. After walking up the shoreline for a bit the chattering voices began to subside and we found our quiet place. Ironically it was near where we took our photos of the lagoon 8 years ago!
At least it was a bit warmer this time around!
Sitting on a large rock by the shore I looked out over the lagoon. I love this place! Listening to the dripping of the icebergs melting, with the inevitable splash as pieces drop off or the swooshing sound as the iceberg flips and turns. I could spend days here just observing nature at its best. Anyway… back to the boat ride!
Love at first sight
When the time arrived, we made out way over to the boat operators reception which was located near to the cafe. The Zodiac boat is able to cover much larger areas of the lagoon and will get as close to the glacier as safe, weather and ice permitting! It also gets you get closer to the icebergs than on the other boat tour offered on the lagoon, the amphibian boat.
Beautiful colouring on the glacier wall
After having the safety briefing we were provided with flotation suits and a life jacket. There are no ‘seats’ as such on the zodiac boats like the RIB boats used for the whale watching, these are more “sit on the side of the boat and hold on to the rope” which at first was a bit scary but you do actually feel quite secure in there! Our luck was in as well, we were told that there was a route clear up to the glacier wall.
Ready to go
On our way there we got so close to the icebergs. Being able to see the different colours of the icebergs was incredible. Some were striped like a zebra, showing the different volcanic eruptions that had happened over thousands of years. Some were white and others were blue – and this was dependant on how much oxygen had been trapped in the ice. It’s a well known fact that only 10% of an icebergs size is shown above the water. When you get close to the much bigger icebergs, it’s hard to imagine that 90% is still under the water – some would be huge!
Some of the icebergs were huge!
We were treated on our journey as there was a seal sunbathing on one of the flatter icebergs. We pulled up as close as possible, without disturbing the seal of course, and had a chance to take some photos and video. Seal photo shoot over, we again headed to the glacier wall. If the sheer size and beauty of the wall weren’t enough, then to add to the majesty, there was another seal on an iceberg in front of the wall.
We were all marvelling at the glacier, waiting with bated breath to see if any large chunks would break off in front of us, unfortunately not.
Seal and the wall
As previously mentioned, that the reason the lagoon was created was due to the glacier melting and retreating. However, the guide went on to inform us that in the latest calculations the glacier is melting at a rate of approximately 100m PER YEAR! So in the time since we were last there, it has lost 800m which is a staggeringly scary thought and is something that has stayed with me. To cheer us up, we were told to pick some ice out from the water and have a bite on it – well it’s not every day you get to chew on ice that’s 1000s of years old!
Sadly our time on the lagoon was over far too quickly and the boat increased its speed to get back to base.
As we got off the boat, with our cameras packed away, the iceberg closest to shore decided to put on a spectacular show by flipping over. Held by the pure beauty of it, I snapped out of my trance like state and tried to quickly reach for my camera, but with it hiding deep in the pockets of the flotation suits, the show was pretty much over by the time the camera was ready.
I have put a video together of Jökulsárlón by foot, boat and AIR (air is courtesy of ‘him indoors’ and his drone!) Watch it here…
If you are visiting Jökulsárlón, then also take a trip to the nearby black beach (nicknamed ‘Diamond Beach’). As the icebergs float down the passageway and out to sea, some get pushed back by the current and ice chunks lay on the beach resembling diamonds which glisten in the sun. On our visit in June, there were hardly any ‘diamonds’ there. In fact, we found only one small isolated piece of ice.