2 Day Jökulsárlon Tour | Glacier Hike, Boat Tour, Black Beach & South Coast waterfalls
Join this exploration along Iceland’s south coast to discover the stunning glaciers, lava fields, volcanoes and waterfalls it holds, on this two-day tour perfect for anyone looking to see the finest of which Iceland’s nature has to offer.
You will embark on a boat ride of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and behold the Diamond Beach on which the icebergs gather to bathe in the sun. You will also ascend a glacier tongue on a guided hike, where you will feel the power of the ice cap from under your feet and enjoy the scenery of a frozen wonderland from above.
Get ready to catch a glimpse of Iceland’s wildlife, as puffins nest in the hills of Reynisfjall, and curious seals swim around the icebergs of Jökulsárlón.
Your tour provider will guide you through these and more leading attractions of the greater Skaftafell National Park, on an unforgettable adventure of summer south coast delights.
This tour is extremely popular so reserve your spot now to not miss out on this incredible opportunity. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: May. - Oct.
- Duration: 2 days
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Hiking, Sightseeing, Boat Trip
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 10 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Jökulsárlón,
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.Vatnajökull,
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Skógafoss is one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 25 meters (82 ft) and a drop of 60 meters (197 ft). Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces, a rainbow is present any time the sun emerges from behind the clouds.
Located on the Skógá river, this mighty cascade is clearly visible from Route 1 and is an excellent place to stop and stretch the legs while travelling Iceland’s South Coast. The river below Skógafoss holds a large char and salmon population and is thus a favourite spot for fishermen in the summer.
The land underneath the waterfall is very flat, allowing visitors to walk right up to the wall of water. Keep in mind, however, that this will get you drenched. Skógafoss can also be viewed from the top as a steep staircase leads to an observational platform above the cascade.
Skógafoss is located near the small village of Skógar, south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano. There you’ll find the Skógasafn folk museum, an open-air museum with both old wooden houses and turf houses, as well as a regional museum with various artefacts from this area.
A part of the Skógasafn Regional Museum is the Museum of Transportation, which showcases the history and evolution of transportation, communication and technologies in Iceland. There, you can see how this nation evolved from the age of the working horse to the digital communications of the 21st century.
The Skógasafn museum also includes a café and a museum shop, and in the village of Skógar, you will find both a hotel and a restaurant.
At the eastern side of Skógafoss, you will find one of Iceland’s most famed hiking routes; the Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 22 km (14 mi) trail takes you along Skógá river, between two glaciers, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull, before ending in the beautiful Þórsmörk valley.
A gold ring is on display at the Skógasafn museum. According to legend, the ring is from a chest that was owned by Þrasi Þórólfsson, one of the first Viking settlers in the area. Folklore states that before his death in 900 AD, Þrasi buried a chest filled with gold in a cave behind Skógafoss waterfall.
Many attempts were made to retrieve the chest after Þrasi’s death, and years later, locals managed to grasp a ring on the side of the chest. As they pulled, the ring broke off, and the treasure was lost forever. The ring was then given to the local church before it made its way to the museum.Seljalandsfoss,
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.Sólheimajökull,
Solheimajokull is a beautiful outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull icecap.
Solheimajokull is a rugged glacial tounge riddled with crevasses and spectacular ever-changing ice formations, jagged ridges and sinkholes and is popular for hiking and ice climbing.
The glacier river Jokulsa a Solheimasandur has its source at the glacier, flowing over the sand plain of Solheimasandur towards the sea.Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach,
Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal.
With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
Reynisfjara is found around 180 km from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and is a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along South Coast. Driving to the beach is particularly easy, taking an approximate two and a half hours from the capital.
Upon visiting the beach, travellers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar. According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls engaged in trying to pull ships from the ocean. However, as bad luck would have it, the dawn quickly arose, turning the trolls into solid stone.
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include Puffins, Fulmars and Guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.
Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.
Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, don't go chasing after them and keep a safe distance of 20-30 metres.
Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in tide (known as “sneaker waves”), the currents off the shore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.
Gljúfrabúi ("Canyon Dweller“) is a beautiful waterfall located at Hamragarðar in South Iceland, close to its better known counterpart, Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
The 40 metre high Gljúfrabúi can be considered somewhat of a hidden gem. It is indeed partially hidden behind a huge cliff that lends much atmosphere to the scenery.
To enjoy a view of the fall you need to wade the Gljúfurá river into a narrow opening in the cliff or follow a steep path up the cliff. Both endeavours are demanding so utmost caution is advised.
As mentioned, this waterfall is less known than its neighbour but as a result may provide for all the greater serenity, in addition to excellent scenery.Foss a Síðu,
Foss á Síðu is a historic farm in southeast Iceland, renowned for its folklore and natural beauty.
The farm has been inhabited since Iceland’s Settlement Era, between 874 and 930 AD. The folklore, surrounding it goes back to the 16th Century when a family in the area was said to be cursed for nine generations and haunted by the spectre of a dog, which some still claim to see.
Why it has been inhabited so long, in spite of the curse, becomes apparent when you see it. The farm is on a verdant hillock, against a dramatic set of cliffs that hold a beautiful waterfall.
Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by DebivortSouth Coast,
The South Coast of Iceland is the country's most visited sightseeing route, along with the Golden Circle.
The famed South Coast shoreline stretches from the greater Reykjavík area and is dotted with natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, volcanoes both active and dormant, black sand beaches and glacier lagoons.
Geography, Nature & Wildlife
Iceland is divided into eight geographical regions. Out of these, the Southern Region is the largest, as it spans over 24.000 square kilometres with its administrative centre in the municipality of Selfoss.
What is known as the South Coast embodies the shoreline of this particular region. The area consists of a lowland that is mostly composed of marshlands, bays and cultivated pastures that are met by a series of black beaches where the estuaries to the east and west of the district close off the coastal body.
Underneath the soil rests a vast lava field, known as Þjórsárhraun. Its edges reach several hundred metres offshore where the ocean waves crash upon them, thereby protecting the lowland from the invasion of the sea. This results in the South Coast being unusually lacking in the deep fjords that so distinctly characterise the rest of Iceland's shore line.
The region boasts vibrant bird life during all seasons. It is not only rich with both marshland birds and seabirds but also migrating birds such as the North Atlantic puffin. Some species stay throughout the harsh Icelandic winter, including the northern diver, the loom and various species of gulls and ducks.
Highlights of the South Coast
The South Coast offers an unprecedented array of natural wonders that draw thousands of visitors each day. When driving the route from Reykjavík City, the highlights in their correct order are:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Vestmannaeyjar; The Westman Islands
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier Volcano
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Dyrhólaey Peninsula
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks
- Coastal Village Vík í Mýrdal
- Skeiðarársandur Glacial Sand Plain
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
These attractions count for but a fraction of what the South Coast has to offer. The vast sand plains of Sólheimasandur are home to a crashed DC-3 Plane Wreck, and close to Seljavellir by the Skógar Village there's Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland.
- Explore the many wonders of the area on these South Coast Tours
Kvernufoss is a waterfall with a drop of 30 metres (98 feet) in South Iceland. Considered a hidden gem, it rests in a gorge on the South Coast, close to one of Iceland’s most visited waterfalls Skógafoss.
After having visited the highly popular South Coast attractions of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, most people continue along the Ring Road to their next destination. East of Skógafoss, however, visitors to the area should take time to visit the stunning Kvernufoss. Starting out from behind Skógar Museum, a hiking trail of approximately 20 minutes leads into the gorge Kvernugil by the river Kverná. The river is not to be confused with Kverná on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Once the waterfall is reached, you can walk all the way behind it and look out through its misty cascade. During the winter season, however, the slippery ice of the gorge and the risk of falling icicles prevent you from walking behind the falls.
Pickup time : 08:30
Hotel pick up & drop off in Reykjavik
Minibus tour for maximum 15 passengers
Guided hiking tour & gear
Accommodation for one night incl. breakfast
Boat tour on a glacier lagoon
Free Wi-Fi on the bus
What to bring:
Warm, wind & waterproof clothes
Good hiking shoes (available for rental upon request)
Good to know:
Meals other than breakfast are not included but we do make lunch and dinner stops where guests can buy meals.
The maximum number of passengers are 15 which gives a better atmosphere while travelling
A Single Room supplement of 7.500 ISK is mandatory for single travleres.
IMPORTANT: It can happen that the glacier hike is cancelled because of weather and/or safety reasons. Then we will find other activities when possible or make a partial refund.
Day 1 - South Coast, Waterfalls & Glacier Hike
Setting out from Reykjavík City, your transportation will begin by taking you to behold the various waterfalls of the south coast.
First up are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, two of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland. You will then have the additional pleasure of visiting their smaller and lesser-known counterparts Gljúfrabúi, Kvernufoss and Írafoss.
After a quick lunch stop, get ready to embark on your glacial adventure, as you will drive past the volcanic Eyjafjallajökull ice cap. Remember to ask your tour guide all about the colossal eruption back in 2010.
Then it is on to Mýrdallsjökull, a neighbour of Eyjafjallajökull that covers the famous and active volcano Katla. Gear up and get ready to ascend one of the glacial tongues called Sólheimajökull, where your guide will lead you on a hike of frozen scenic wonders, as you’ll explore the different crevasses and ice-sculptures found on your trail.
After descending from the glacier, it is on to Reynisfjara, a black sand beach nestling under Mt. Reynisfjall - seasonal home to numerous puffins that dive from its cliffs out to sea.
Your accommodation awaits in Seljaland, a beautiful area that boasts of Seljalandsfoss waterfall, that you are free to visit before turning in for the night.
Day 2 - Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon w. Boat Ride & Skaftafell National Park
Today, get ready to take a closer look at the glacial wonders of the south coast. After stopping in the village of Vík, you will head on east, where you’ll visit the waterfall Foss á Síðu. Then, it is on to Skaftafell National Park for lunch.
Central to this vast and dazzling preservation area is Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest ice cap in Iceland and the second largest in all of Europe. One of its outlet glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, leads into Jökulsár glacial lagoon, one of the most visited sights of the entire country and the location for your next adventure.
Jump aboard for the incredible opportunity of a boat ride in the lagoon itself, where you will glide past the ever-changing scenery of icebergs afloat in the freezing waters. Seals also reside within the lake, so keep a look out for one of these curious creatures, as they pop their heads above the surface to catch a glimpse of these odd visitors to their home.
The icebergs of the lagoon either float out to sea or gather at the nearby Diamond Beach, where you can observe them melting in the summer sun.
After such satisfying couple of days of incredible sights and adventurous exploits, your transportation will take you back to Reykjavík City, arriving there around 21:00 (09:00pm). Don’t hesitate to book this tour now for your unforgettable south coast experience.