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Heading to Iceland this year? Lakes are a great place to visit here, providing a home for an abundance of wildlife or creating simply stunning landscapes.
Iceland attracts tourists from across the globe, mostly for its immense geological landscapes. Towering waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers and geothermal springs are just some of the many attractions people come to see, not to mention charming cities such as Reykjavík and Akureyri.
What not many people consider about Iceland is its lakes, which draw hundreds of tourists, anglers and fishing enthusiasts each year. Iceland’s lakes offer beautiful unspoiled scenery, surrounding visitors with nothing but pure mountains and wildlife.
How many lakes are there in Iceland?
The country is covered with hundreds of lakes, varying greatly in size and shape. When looking at size, there are 10 lakes larger than 10 km2. The rest measure between the sizes of 2.5 and 10 km2, and include a list of smaller lakes and ponds.
Can I fish in Icelandic lakes?
Iceland has some of the best freshwater fishing lakes in the world. The untouched rivers and glistening lakes are full of salmon, trout and arctic char, with some spots considered first-class in the fishing scene. Most of the fishing lakes in Iceland are privately owned, and many owners will have regulations in place or even sell permits. Before fishing in any lake, you should always check with the landowner first.
Lakes in Iceland
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, whether it is to see the spectacular views or to go fishing, we’d highly recommend adding an Icelandic lake to your itinerary or to-do list. Here is our guide to, what we believe, are the 10 most beautiful lakes in Iceland.
1. Lake Mývatn
Lake Mývatn is a large lake in northern Iceland, formed thousands of years ago by a lava fissure eruption. The lake is titled as a must-see in Iceland and is the perfect spot for adventurers to enjoy a hike or photo opportunity. Lake Mývatn is characterized by its bright blue waters that contrast with the surrounding pitch-black lava fields and mountains. The wetlands surrounding the lake are exceptionally rich in bird species, especially ducks. They reside there mostly from April to May, making the Spring season the perfect visiting time for avid birdwatchers.
Lake Mývatn by the mountains in northern Iceland
2. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón, an ever-increasing lake with a depth of 248 meters, is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. The melting glacier that results in the continuous growth of this lagoon means that the views here differ year after year. Icebergs that have broken away from the glacier can sometimes be seen falling into the lagoon and drifting out to sea, a breathtaking sight for visitors.
Jökulsárlón, located in the Vatnajökull National Park, is home to some fascinating wildlife including seals and various birdlife. If you want to see more of the lagoon, a Jökulsárlón boat tour will allow you to sail through the serene waters and give a closer view of the icebergs.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon at sunset
One of the most unusual lakes in Iceland, Kerið is a volcanic crater lake that is almost perfectly circular. You can choose to take either an easy hike around the rim of the crater to view the water, or to head down the ladder into the crater for a closer look. Kerið, in the South of Iceland, is often included in the itinerary of many self-drive Golden Circle tours. Depending on the time of your visit, you may even be lucky enough to spot the Northern Lights from the lake.
Kerið volcanic crater lake in the South of Iceland
The beauty of this lake is not in the form of crisp blue waters, but instead the expansive volume of water and surrounding scenery. This deep lake in Eastern Iceland is shrouded in mystery and ancient tales of a sea monster known as the Wyrm or Lagarfljótsormur. Sightings of the worm date back to the mid-1300s and were once seen as a bad omen. Luckily there have been no reported sightings for many years, but that’s not to say the legend no longer exists…
Lagarfljót lake in Eastern Iceland
If you’re heading to Reykjavík, you’ll likely spot this prominent landmark on your travels. Visitors tend to enjoy strolling the shores of the lake whilst feeding the large collection of ducks and birds in the area such as Whooper Swans, Arctic Terns, Mallards and seagulls. During the winter, when Tjörnin freezes over, it is often used for ice skating and ice hockey.
Frozen lake in Tjörnin Reykjavík
6. THINGVALLAVATN LAKE
Thingvallavatn is a rift valley lake and is in fact the largest naturally occurring lake in Iceland. The body of water covers more than 30 square miles, so it’s hard to miss! Its location in Thingvellir National Park means that visitors on our Golden Circle tours are sure to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and wildlife the lake provides. This is also a world-famous lake due to being a popular scuba diving location in Iceland. The biomass in the lake attracts several species of fish too, so avid anglers should also consider this an important stop on your Icelandic travels.
Track leading to Thingvallavatn Lake in Thingvellir National Park.
Used for the generation of hydroelectric power in a nearby power plant, Hálslón Reservoir is located in East Iceland. The body of water was created by 3 separate man-made dams on the Jökulsá á Dal River. The area around the reservoir was granted protected status by the Icelandic government in 2005. The waters of the reservoir are a stunning blue color, contrasting against the monotone shades of the volcanic Eastfjords landscapes.
While perhaps not as accessible as the other bodies of water on this list, Álftavatn is a breathtakingly beautiful lake in the highlands of Iceland. The most popular way to reach Álftavatn is via the Laugavegur hiking trail, which starts in Landmannalaugar in the south of Iceland’s highlands. Surrounded by stunning rhyolite landscapes, the birdlife around these waters creates the atmosphere of an oasis on an otherwise empty route through the mountains. Mountain lakes or camping facilities can be found on the shores and are constantly in use, becoming incredibly popular in the summer months.
Lake Álftavatn with highland huts in the foreground and dark mountains behind.
9. FJALLSÁRLÓN LAGOON
If you’re looking for glacier lagoon views but want to escape the crowds around the more famous neighboring Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Fjallsárlón is a must-see. Though smaller, the crown jewel of this lagoon is the icebergs floating atop the body of water. Ice flows from the outlet glacier Fjallsjökull and into the water, creating these moving frozen features. As well as enjoying the lagoon from land, you can also explore on the water, mainly via zodiac boats onto the water.
Fjallsarlon Lake with a glacier in the background.
10. LAKE KLEIFARVATN
Another lake close to Iceland’s capital, Lake Kleifarvatn is renowned for the geothermal activity in its surrounding areas. You’ll likely have seen the volcanic activity of the Reykjanes Peninsula over the past few years. One corner of the lake, in fact, contains hot springs that appeared following an earthquake in the year 2000. The same eruption caused the lake to lose much of its surface area. Kleifarvatn is filled only by the lava rock in which it sits, with no rivers feeding into the body of water. Anglers will find plenty of action here, thanks to a thriving fish population.
Lake Kleifarvatn with rocky outcrops and volcanic surroundings.
If you’re currently planning a trip to Iceland and are keen to find more activities for your itinerary, we have a variety of guided adventure tripsandself-drive toursto suit the needs of all travelers. Explore our options today!