Kokulsarlon is one of Iceland’s natural crown jewels, and the nearby black beach has coined the name Diamond Beach, as the ice chunks lying on it resemble diamonds glistening in the sun. Thousands of visitors are drawn to Jokulsarlon year-round to watch the free-flowing icebergs, explore the lagoon on boat tours, and snap pictures of seals.
The glacier lagoon is the main reason we rented a car. The lagoon is almost 6 hours drive one way from Reykjavik, hence a day trip from Reykjavik will take 14 hours with most of the hours spend on the road. If you are not renting a car and drive, your second best option is to take a 2 days tour so you can see the lagoon in a nicer pace and enjoy the journey. And if you are coming in winter, you can combine the tour with visiting the blue sapphire ice cave in Vatnajokull.
Glacier Lagoon is only 15 minutes drive from our accommodation in Hali. We have booked ice caving tour with Glacier Journey and the meeting point would be at Jokulsarlon parking area. Our tour was rescheduled to one hour later so we had time to do sightseeing at the lagoon prior to the tour. We had a rough drive last night with icy road and low visibility due to the snow and wind as we drove to Hali. However in the morning the weather has calmed down and the road to the lagoon looked so much clearer.
With a maximum depth of 814 feet (248 meters), Jokulsarlon is Iceland’s deepest lake and its surface area measures to 11.2 square miles (18 square kilometers). The icebergs in Jokulsarlon are composed of ice that is over 1,000 years old. Jokulsarlon glacier first started forming in 1934, when the Breidamerkurjokull glacier started retreating, leaving the lagoon in its path and since 1970 it has increased fourfold.
The lagoon connects with the ocean and is composed of seawater and freshwater. and is therefore creates the unique color. Seals can be seen in Jokulsarlon year-round, but they flock to the lagoon’s mouth to catch fish in the winter. There is several Hollywood movies filmed at this location, such as James Bond “Die another day”, a view to kill and Tomb raider.
Right across Glacier Lagoon is the equally famous Diamond beach. Diamond beach is a strip of black sand belonging to the greater Breidamerkursandur glacial plain. Diamond beach looks exactly like what it sounds like, but you won’t find any sunbathers at this stretch of black sand. Bits and pieces of the passing glaciers and icebergs break off, some eventually landing on the Diamond Beach. The sand is covered in glittering shards of ice in various stages of melt, making it stunning.
Where to Stay
We don’t recommend driving for a day trip from Reykjavik as there are a lot you can see along the South Coast and in the area. Most popular place to stay about one hour drive is in Kirkjublaeklaustur area. Some travellers also like to stay in Vik, about 3 hours drive. However if you are booked for Ice Cave tour or Glacier Hike don’t stay in Vik as you will need to be in the meeting point in the morning and it is tiring to do long drive after a lot of walking on the ice.
We stayed in two different locations; the first night in Hali at Sjyrhusid guesthouse (our review here) and the second night near Eldhraun Lava field area at Eldhraun holiday home. It is a complex of holiday homes and you can find many holiday homes in a similar format all around Iceland. Ours was a three bedroom house with kitchen. It is 30 minutes away from Kirkjublaeklautur town center so do your grocery shopping before checking in. The area is remote and close to the sea, with very little light pollution – perfect for northern light sighting.