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Iceland is a land home to many incredibly diverse natural sites. From geysers to waterfalls, every feature presents dramatic beauty that so many people crave to see. The glacier lagoons, however, are arguably one of Iceland’s best. Thousands of people flock to the lagoons to see the immense free-flowing icebergs, gorgeous ice spectacles and the wildlife that inhabits there.
When planning a visit to Iceland, it can be difficult to squeeze everything into a tight itinerary. Two amazing glacier lagoons are Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón, but which one should you pick? Join us as we uncover the wonders of both to inspire your trip. It’s time for the ultimate glacier lagoon showdown!
What is a Glacier Lagoon?
Glacier lagoons are lakes that emerge at the foot of glaciers. As ice caps retreat, they carve out hollows in the Earth's surface, filling them with meltwater. Approximately 10,000 years ago, at the end of the ice age, Iceland witnessed the birth of the first of many glacier lagoons.
Jökulsárlón at sunset
Glacier lagoons feature a mesmerizing combination of elements. They often have a pristine, icy blue hue, owing to the fine sediment called "glacial flour" that reflects and scatters light in the water. The lagoons are surrounded by towering glacier-carved cliffs, showcasing dramatic, rugged landscapes.
Floating within the lagoons you will find majestic icebergs, varying in size and shape. These icebergs break off from the glacier's edge and float in the calm waters of the lake. They are known to change in appearance over time, with the size, shape and arrangement of icebergs constantly evolving. Regardless of when you visit, the lagoons will always be different than before, creating a truly unique experience every time.
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Fjallsárlón sits in southeastern Iceland, near the country's renowned Vatnajökull National Park. This lesser-known glacier lagoon is a hidden gem that offers a captivating experience for anyone that takes a visit.
Fjallsárlón is smaller in size compared to its more famous counterpart, Jökulsárlón. However, what it lacks in size it compensates with its serene atmosphere, with a magnificent display of icebergs floating on the tranquil waters.
Person visiting Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon
Here are just some of the benefits of visiting Fjallsárlón in Iceland:
Fewer crowds - Nestled amidst Iceland's breathtaking landscapes, Fjallsárlón is a true hidden gem. Lesser known than Jökulsárlón, this is the perfect spot to avoid crowds of tourists without compromising on the whole glacier lagoon experience.
Good accessibility - Fjallsárlón can be accessed just off the Ring Road in Southeast Iceland. Just 10km away from the infamous Diamond Beach, the lagoon is very easy to visit when on a tour or road trip of the country.
Amazing photo opportunities - The lagoon is a photographer's paradise. With Vatnajökull Glacier towering overhead, the view is truly to die for.
Jökulsárlón, often referred to as the "Crown Jewel of Iceland," is a world-famous glacier lagoon also located in Southeast Iceland. It is widely regarded as one of the country’s most iconic natural attractions, drawing visitors from across the globe.
Big iceberg at Jökulsárlón
Here are some of the benefits of visiting Jökulsárlón in Iceland:
Its size - The lagoon spans over 18 square kilometers and has a maximum depth of 814 feet (248 meters). This makes it Iceland’s deepest lake.
Brilliant wildlife - Jökulsárlón is not just a feast for the eyes but also a habitat for diverse wildlife. The lagoon is home to various species of fish, including Atlantic salmon, as well as seals that can often be spotted sunbathing on the icebergs. Bird enthusiasts will also observe a variety of seabirds, including Arctic terns and skuas, that nest in the surrounding area.
Famous film location - Jökulsárlón’s icy landscapes have attracted many filmmakers, and featured in a number of movies, including James Bond ‘Die Another Day’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Tomb Raider’, to name a few. Take a look at some more films shot in Iceland.
Tours of Jökulsárlón are available year-round, with some offering thrilling adventure activities such as boat tours, glacier hiking and Super Jeep tours. Check out our range of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Tours to see what’s available.
Convenient Location - This is something that both lagoons have in common. Jökulsárlón’s is also situated right along the Ring Road, making it ideal if you’re planning to explore attractions right in the vicinity of Iceland's famous route. Directly opposite Jökulsárlón’s and just on the other side of the Ring Road, you will find Diamond Beach, meaning that no matter which lagoon you opt to visit, you won’t have to miss out on the stunning black sand and ice chunks of this beach.
Which Glacier Lagoon Should I Visit?
Choosing between Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón depends entirely on personal preferences. If you’re looking to experience something world-famous on a larger scale, Jökulsárlón is the ideal choice. It offers a mesmerizing display of icebergs, with excellent wildlife-watching experiences and activities to enjoy. If you’re looking for something more secluded and intimate, Fjallsárlón is definitely worth exploring. It offers a serene ambiance with far smaller crowds, allowing you to appreciate Iceland’s beauty without all the tourists.
Ultimately, both have their unique charm. Visiting both lagoons, if time permits, can provide you with a well-rounded experience of Iceland’s glacial landscapes.
Keen to explore the lagoons on an adventure of your own? Take a look at our self-drive tours which give you the freedom to get behind the wheel in Iceland.