As in Summer, Jokulsarlon in Winter is a highlight of any Iceland trip. There is much to enjoy:
- the glacier,
- the lagoon,
- the icebergs,
- the Diamond Beach,
- and the Jokulsarlon ice caves
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with map, tips and photos.
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Why visit Jokulsarlon in Winter?
Jokulsarlon is a large lagoon at the foot of a glacier tongue (glacier Breidamerkurjokull). It is one of the easiest places to access to see icebergs.
Ice chunks detach from the glacier and float on the lagoon and towards the sea. Some are white, others are blue or with some black lines. The shapes and sizes vary, which is why this is a view you don't get bored with.
I last visited after a storm and the lagoon was completely full of ice !
Plus, once the icebergs escape into the sea, some of them are pushed back towards the black sand beach and melt there. This is quite a unique sight! With the sun out, the icebergs are sparkling against the dark sand. This is why it is called Diamond Beach.
And bonus, Jokulsarlon is also the departure point to visit some natural ice caves. This could be the highlight of your trip, as it is for many people. You can check out my article about Iceland's ice caves to help you choose your tour. This is actually the main difference with Summer, as otherwise, the experience is similar.
Below is a short video to show you what a visit to the lagoon and the beaches the area looks like (without the ice caves, the video of those are in the ice cave article).
More photos after the planning tips.
And before we go further, you can check the pronunciation of Jokulsarlon on Forvo (this will help you read the article lol).
Planning Tips & Map - Jokulsarlon, Iceland
How to get to Jokulsarlon - Map
- Very easy to access along Road 1 on the South Coast
- Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon = 5 hour drive non stop in good conditions
- Vik to Jokulsarlon = 2h30 drive
- Höfn to Jokulsarlon = 1h10 drive
- If you don't want to drive, book a 2 or 3 day tour from Reykjavik (with only one day, you would spend at least 10hours in the car!) - check out options
- Below is a map to help you get oriented and locate Jokulsarlon in Iceland:
And if you are planning a road trip, Jokulsarlon is included in my Winter guide to help you plan your itinerary:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
Accessibility in Winter
- Right by Road 1 - carparks are cleared of snow (one on the lagoon side and 2 next to the beaches, on each side of the river).
- Of course road closure can always happen due to snow and wind - check out the status on road.is
- As it is a very touristic spot, they clear the marked walking paths - but it can always get icy, so carry spikes (see options) that you can add on your shoes at any time
- Plan 15 minutes to just look at the lagoon - Plan 1h to 2h to walk around (up the small, hill, under the bridge and to the beach)
- Be extra careful when approaching the icebergs on the beach, some of the waves can suddenly reach a lot higher and you will get your feet wet
- Parking on the lagoon side for a fee
- Food trucks and café on the carpark
- Toilets at the lagoon carpark
- Nothing on the Diamond Beach carparks
- The boat tours do not run in Winter (they stop in October and restart in May)
- The ice caves are accessible from November to March if conditions permit
Where to stay?
- There are no accommodations at Jokulsarlon itself
- You can find a few hotels or guesthouses in the area, this will allow you to get there for sunset, sunrise or the northern lights faster - see options
- Otherwise, you can choose to stop at the small towns of Vik or Höfn on your road trip, where you will have more choice - see the best rated accommodations in Vik and the best rated in Höfn
Where to stay in Iceland in Winter?
- Reykjavik - capital city - see best rated accommodations
- Selfoss - between Golden Circle and South Coast - see best rated accommodations
- Vik - near waterfalls and glaciers - see best rated accommodations
- Höfn - gateway to the East fjords - see best rated accommodations
- Egilsstadir - between fjords and North Iceland - see best rated accommodations
- Reykjahlid - for the wonders of Lake Myvatn - see best rated accommodations
- Akureyri - capital of the North - see best rated accommodations
- Grundarfjordur - to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula - see best rated accommodations
Jokulsarlon - Winter accessibility
Here are some pictures of the arrival at Jokulsarlon.
There is a one lane bridge above the small river from the lagoon to the sea.
Note that people will slow as they look at the icebergs floating under while crossing the bridge. Be careful, the visibility is not great.
The entrance to the lagoon carpark is on the East side of the bridge. if you are driving from Reykjavik, it is to the left after the bridge. This is where you will find all the facilities.
But you can also park on the right side of the road (beach side), before or after the bridge. If you park after the bridge, you can walk under the bridge to reach the lagoon.
I am sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the beaches' carparks. They are simple but clearly marked areas (without any facilities).
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and offerings by local companies are adapted - compare cars and prices of quality local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
You can walk from the East beach to the lagoon.
You can also climb a very small hill next to the lagoon to change your perspective.
The state of the walking paths will change depending on the weather. But overall they are well maintained.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Winter
Best time to see Jokulsarlon:
The lagoon is stunning whatever the conditions. I have seen it under the rain, in the fog, under the sun and more...
You won't see the same things but the experience is wonderful.
Of course, on a clear day (like I had on my last visit), you can see the glacier behind the lagoon, in the distance.
The amount of ice in the lagoon varies greatly. If you can visit after a storm, you will see a ton of ice chunks in the lagoon and on the beach, like below. Quite impressive!
Take the time to admire the icebergs. They vary in shapes and sizes.
And they also vary in colors: some will be white, some will be blue and other will have black (from volcanic ash).
This is mesmerizing and will trigger your imagination.
I recommend bringing binoculars to better enjoy the scenery (check out my tips to choose them).
Note: pay attention when looking at the icebergs. Seals are playing in the lagoon and in the channel to the sea. You might spot their head going up.
But the more ice there is, the hardest they are to find.
Diamond Beach in Winter
Whatever you do, don't miss the Diamond beach.
You can go on either side of the river. Have a look where it seems more promising. Sometimes one side has a lot more than the other.
The lagoon is great, but in my opinion, the beach is much more fascinating.
The icebergs escaping into the sea are pushed back towards the beach. Once again, my last visit was after a storm so the quantity of ice was impressive, but even with less, it is worth visiting.
These pieces of natural art are in great contrast with the darkness of the sand.
Plus if you get a little bit of sunshine, some of them sparkle like diamonds!
A few of them are really blue, it is quite fascinating, like in the ice caves.
Some ore opaque white while others are transparent and shine the most.
You could spend hours just walking around them. Be aware that if you enjoy photography, you will want to spend all day!
Just be careful as you approach the icebergs closest to the water. The waves can suddenly come way higher and you will have your feet wet, especially if you focus on your camera.
The Jokulsarlon Ice caves
In Winter, the other reason to be visiting Jokulsarlon is that it is the departure point to visit some ice caves.
Several companies are offering tours and will take you to different ice caves.
You can read my complete article to help you choose your Ice cave tour, but here are a few info and tips to think about:
- Plan 3 to 4h - you will first have 40min to 1h in a large 4WD vehicle to reach the entrance
- They provide the material necessary for the visit (helmet, flashlight, spikes). However I recommend you bring your own flashlight has they tend to run out of power
- Access is quite easy, you don't have to walk a lot
- Access will depend on the weather conditions - they will be in touch during the day to let you know in case it does not go ahead (safety first!)
- There is no 'best cave to visit'
- The caves disappear each year. You will not see what you see in pictures. Plus the pictures they use to promote a cave are taken by professional who make them look bigger
- There is no Crystal cave or Blue diamond cave. Every year they will search for caves in the same areas and rename them that way
- Even if it does not look like the pictures, it is well worth the visit
- The Jokulsarlon ice caves are the most visited. There is a limited number of seats, so book ahead
- My favorite is the Guidetoiceland one that you can book here - they try to find both a blue and a black cave (and in my opinion the black one is even more fascinating). If conditions permit, you will be able to visit both in a small group
Vatnajokull Glacier and alternative lagoon of Fjallsarlon in Winter
If you are lucky to be visiting on a clear day, you will see part of the glacier in the background.
It is Vatnajokull, the largest one in Iceland.
Below is a photo of the glacier tongue I took with my zoom.
As you can see it is quite far away.
If you want a better view at a glacier tongue, I recommend stopping West of Jokulsarlon at the Fjallsarlon lagoon.
Carpark is a short drive from Road 1.
Fjallsarlon freezes in Winter, so you won't see icebergs floating.
However the glacier tongue is much closer to where you can stand. So with good weather you can see it very well.
I love Fjallsarlon 🙂
However note that the access path is up and down hill and can be slippery. I recommend bringing spikes for your shoes.
Want to see more of Iceland in Winter:
- Driving in Iceland in Winter - read article
- Best things to do in Iceland in Winter - read article
- 35 pictures of Iceland in Winter - read article
- Iceland Ice Cave Tours and tips - read article
- 7 Iceland waterfalls in Winter - read article
- Things to do in Reykjavik in Winter - read article
- Tips for visiting Iceland in Winter - read article
- Planning an Iceland Winter Road Trip - read article
- Iceland Winter itinerary suggestions - read article
Planning a trip to Iceland in Winter
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
And keep track of your own trip!
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