A Beginner’s Guide to Jökulsárlón

Iceberg in Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland

What You Need to Know Before Touring the Glacier Lagoon?

As you peruse the World Wide Web and the odd travel booklet in preparation for your journey northward to the incomparable Iceland, you have probably come across a few standard images. A scintillating trail of neon green lights weaving through the night sky, ethereal clouds of steam rising from the Blue Lagoon’s opalescent waters, colourful rooftops captured from an aerial shot of vibrant Reykjavík with mountainous volcanic systems rising in the background, monumental waterfalls, and a crystalline arrangement of glaciers spread out over waters almost too blue to be real – many of these aforementioned locations are perceived to “epitomize” Iceland’s environmental beauty. However, though many who dream of traveling to Iceland are familiar with the island’s otherworldly mountains and glacial masses in general, many also are overwhelmed by the options.

A good many of the more striking glacial mass photographs you’ve seen likely capture the Jökulsárlón Glacier, one of the most visited places on the island, and for good reason. The indescribably beautiful, must-see location in South Iceland is actually a relatively new environmental phenomenon – it only just formed about sixty years ago! Yet it has already taken its place among Iceland’s most hauntingly beautiful landscapes. If you want to see extraordinary and current geological powers at work and witness one of the best of Iceland’s many gorgeous glacial sites, Jökulsárlón is an excellent choice.

What Is Jökulsárlón?

Icebergs in Jokulsarlon glacial lake at sunset
Icebergs in Jokulsarlon glacial lake at sunset

Jökulsárlón is a glacial system, but it also has its own lagoon and various glacial ice “tongues,” or sub-systems. Located in the Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest icecap (also titled Vatnajökull), Jökulsárlón is actually a by-product of the larger glacier’s gradual retreat. The resulting lagoon, which is characterized by an array of glistening, beautifully crafted icebergs floating in its icy teal waters, is now one of the deepest lakes in Iceland at over 600 feet. It is estimated that the glacial lake has actually doubled in size over the past fifteen years or so! Given Vatnajökull’s relatively quick rate of retreat, it is probable that there will be a tremendous fjord formed in the area in the near future as well.

On the shores of Jökulsárlón are Iceland’s world-famous “black sand beaches,” but on this particular shoreline there are icebergs of various sizes and shapes perched on the dark, jewel-like expanses of sand. Tumbling down from Vatnajökull’s crumbling ice fissures, these sleek, icy structures are often referred to as massive “crystals” by visitors due to their startling clarity and geometric artistry.

Did you know that icebergs have an average “lifespan” of about seven years? After they melt to a sufficiently small size, they can float away into the North Sea. The melting process is rather sluggish, as the ice that comprises icebergs is extremely compacted, meaning there are barely any air bubbles within the structures. Thus, they can only melt from the outside in. And yet, the waters in which they dwell do not freeze over and solidify themselves. This is because the small but steady flow of salt water through the sea channel into Jökulsárlón prevents the lagoon from every fully freezing over. Yet the lagoon waters are frigid just enough maintain the icebergs’ forms nevertheless. Jökulsárlón’s characteristics represent a very interesting combination of contrasting natural forces indeed.

If you’re hoping to see something a bit cuddlier than gargantuan ice masses on the shores of the glacial lagoon, you are in luck! Seals are very common in this area and they tend to be friendly and inquisitive; you can typically see them resting on the sands or atop icebergs if they aren’t doing laps in the lagoon. Furthermore, the Vatnajökull region is home to many roaming herds of wild reindeer, as well as huge flocks of Arctic terns and other seabirds. Watch out for the skua in particular; these sleek, gull-like birds are nicknamed “pirates of the seas.” With their thick dark feathers broken up by streaks of pure white, they are beautiful to look at, but these fearless birds sometimes bully avian species bigger than they are. Watch from afar, as they’re not dangerous to people, but they’re not exactly friendly either!

Like many of Iceland’s premier locations, Jökulsárlón has served as the backdrop for an impressive array of international film and television projects. Most notably, two James Bond Films, Die Another Day and A View to Kill, were partially shot there. More recently, Tom Raider, Batman Begins, and Interstellar were shot close by at Svínafellsjökull glacier, which is within the Vatnajökull National Park. Furthermore, this area was recently hired by the international television phenomenon Game of Thrones as one of its many dramatic, soaring landscape settings. If you’re a Bollywood fan, look up the music video to the film Dilwali starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol – you’ll spot Jökulsárlón’s lovely lagoon amidst all the dancing!

History of the Lagoon

Ices on the beach at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
An enchanting shot of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in sunset

Jökulsárlón is indeed a relatively new phenomenon, but the known history of the area overall reaches back much further than 1930. We know that, as the first settlers arrived in Iceland roughly between 870-930 AD, the southeastern edge of Vatnajökull was roughly twenty kilometers further north than its current placement. As the gradually cooling climate reached its coldest point during 1600-1900, a period often described as the “Little Ice Age,” the glacier continuously grew, and then retreated again as temperatures rose from 1920 onward. As a result, glacial moraines, icebergs, and aquatic bodies began to form and reveal themselves within and around the glacier. These days, Jökulsárlón is estimated to be around 25 square kilometers, and it is consistently expanding, given that around 500 square meters of ice break off of the glacier each year. The Breiðamerkursandur glacier, currently at the northern outlet of Vatnajökull, then ushers eroded sediments out to sea via the river Jökulsá.

What To Do There?

Extremely beautiful tourists stand on the massive icebergs in lake Jokulsarlon in Iceland in winter
Extremely beautiful tourists stand on the massive icebergs in lake Jokulsarlon in Iceland in winter

There is much more to do at Jökulsárlón than simply ogle at its beauty and say hello to some doe-eyed seals. Given that Jökulsárlón is a partially aquatic attraction, there is certainly no shortage of boating tours operating year-round. In the active summer seasons of July and August, The Glacier Lagoon runs its tours up to forty times per day! There are two options for boating on the glacial lake. You can either opt for the Amphibian boat tour, which takes place on a medium-sized, flat-bottomed cruiser and takes place for about thirty-to-forty minutes, or the Zodiac boat tour, which uses a smaller, lightweight vessel that allows visitors to get even closer to the icebergs. If you’re lucky, you might cruise right past some seals! The tour guides are also known for breaking off hunks of iceberg (when safe) so that tour-goers can feel the weight and texture for themselves. As you settle into the vessels, you will be suited up in weather- and wind-resistant red over-suits and lifejackets.

These boats have an interesting history associated with them. Glacier Lagoon Tours actually uses the same types of amphibious vessels that were employed in combat during the war in Vietnam. Those boats have certainly proved themselves to be versatile. They were designed to navigate Vietnam’s tepid, jungle-like atmosphere and tropical waters, but they also traverse Iceland’s freezing glacial lakes just as adeptly.

Ice caving is also a very highly sought-after activity on the Vatnajökull area in general. An ice caving tour is essentially an explorative journey through the icy tunnels and caverns morphed by Iceland’s glaciers. The interior of these caves is truly mesmerizing, and the Jökulsárlón area is a particular favourite for fans of this winter activity. Its caves are often referred to as “Crystal Caves,” due to the sleek, glassy aquamarine ice that makes its cavernous walls look like works of modern art. Typically, ice-caving tours run for forty-five minutes at the least, and your guides will make sure you enter equipped with flashlights, hard hats, and even ice axes if necessary. Your job is just to come prepared in warm, waterproof attire and durable hiking shoes (preferably water-resistant). Note that ice-caving tours only operate in the wintertime, as it is unsafe to enter during the warmer months, when ice melts and caves collapse unpredictably. Furthermore, you definitely want to witness these caves at their most beautiful, when the winter air has only just sculpted the Earth into crystal blue cathedrals.

Jökulsárlón is a very popular location for travelers who want to catch a glimpse of the elusive, ethereal Northern Lights as well. The glacial lagoon itself is host to an array of luminous colours, and the aurora borealis cuts a rather striking figure against Jökulsárlón’s glassy, reflective icebergs and clear waters. You can even take a boat tour in the evening and watch the lights dancing overhead in the middle of the lagoon!

Jökulsárlón also has your refreshments covered. In the Glacier Lagoon Café, you can enjoy fresh, daily-made sandwiches and other snacks, coffee, hot chocolate, and an assortment of soft drinks, not to mention their famous seafood soup. Jökulsárlón has its own website, where you can learn more about its history, associated activities, amenities, and more. Visit to learn more.

Photographing Jökulsárlón

A couple taking photo on Jokulsarlon Beach, South Iceland
A couple taking photo on Jokulsarlon Beach, South Iceland

Visiting Jökulsárlón offers the opportunity to photograph one of Iceland’s most amazing landscapes, and undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary places on the globe. There is enough to take in to overwhelm the photographer, however – you’ll surely want to capture the incomparable black sands, glass-like icebergs, unearthly blue waters, and the massive caves looming in the distance all at once! Fortunately, quite a few photography aficionados have visited the area, and some common knowledge exists out there in cyberspace (and via word of mouth) to guide you to your best image possible.

Tip #1: Know the layout of Jökulsárlón. You can think of the glacial region as being split into four “quadrants,” split horizontally by one long stretch of highway and vertically by a great river funneling the lagoon to the North Sea. Many photographers prefer “quadrant” number three, which is on the left side of the lagoon (and close to the parking lot and gift shop). If you want a quieter view, the fourth quadrant just across to the right side of the lagoon is also beautiful. However, quadrants one and two are closer to the black sand beaches. Take your pick – you can’t really take a bad picture at Jökulsárlón!

Tip #2: Select your time of day to photograph thoughtfully. Jökulsárlón attracts huge amounts of tourists each day. But here is an interesting statistic that might worth considering – most visitors actually tend to stay within about sixty meters of the parking lot. If you arrive early in the morning, Jökulsárlón will be quieter, but if you prefer to arrive mid-day, you can still avoid some crowding by moving a little further into the interior. Do bear in mind, though, that sunrise is wonderful for lighting.

Tip #3: Use different sets of camera equipment for the lagoon and the beach. This applies more for photographers who are fairly serious about their craft. Wide-angle lenses are great for photographing ocean shots, whereas a slightly narrower lens is best for getting detailed shots of the icebergs. It goes without saying that a tripod is important for any photographer. Using a tripod can be a bit tricky on those black sand beaches, however – they have a tendency to sink, which can be frustrating for photographers. Fortunately, if you’re dead-set on taking an artful beach photograph, there is the option of purchasing tripod spikes to make sure your equipment doesn’t get sucked down by the sands.

Tip #4: Keep your gear safe. When photographing in Iceland in general, it is wise to protect your camera from the unpredictable rain, ice, and/or wind. Condensation inside your camera can seriously damage its electrical components, so make sure changes in temperature only reach your camera gradually. In other words, if your digital camera has been sealed in a warm, dry bag for hours and is about to be utilized in freezing temperatures, make sure its exposure to the weather is steady and not sudden. You can also put your camera in an airtight bag like a Ziploc in order to keep it safe and dry. Further to that, make sure that you keep your camera equipment in a padded bag, as freezing conditions can make these materials brittle. Finally, cold weather can cause your battery to diminish rapidly, so it is recommended that you bring spare battery packs.

Where To Stay?

Icebergs at Jokulsarlon, Iceland. Black volcanic sand beach and blue icebergs
Icebergs at Jokulsarlon, Iceland. Black volcanic sand beach and blue icebergs

Many travelers opt to stay in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík, but South Iceland is also home to many popular hotels, inns, and guesthouses as well. Many of these accommodations are cozy and have a cottage-like feel, though a medium-sized luxury hotel has just opened in the Vatnajökull region in this past year. If you are thinking about selecting lodgings in or close to the magnificent national park and the world-famous Jökuklsárlón Glacier Lagoon, consider the following options:

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon just opened in 2016. It is conveniently built right between Skaftafell, a popular hiking area and nature preservation, and the stunning Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Fosshotel is an elegant example of contemporary, luxury lodgings, nestled between Iceland’s towering mountains and majestic glacial systems.

Hotel Skaftafell

Hotel Skaftafell is a charming, family-run lodging, operated by a family who has lived in Skaftafell for centuries. These warm, comfortable accommodations offer striking views of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, and Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnjukur.

Nónhamar

Nónhamar offers travelers homey, self-catering accommodations in cozy cabins. Each unit is complete with free wireless Internet, private bathroom facilities, and a kitchenette. All cabins are eighteen square meters and offer sleeping space for up to four individuals.

Guesthouse Hali

The Hali Guesthouse provides accommodations for couples or families in homey mini-cottage facilities (though there is one single room available in the main guesthouse). These tidy cottages come complete with cooking facilities, as well as a living room with plush sofas and a television.

Guesthouse Gerði

Gerði is nestled between Skaftafell National Park, within Vatnajökull, and the town of Höfn, just thirteen kilometers east of Jökulsárlón. Ideally located close to the North Sea, Gerði offers spectacular views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains and is open year-round. There are 500 winterfed sheep and a few horses nearby as well!

Skyrhúsid Guest House

Skyrhúsid is a mere ten-minute drive from Jökulsárlón. This farmhouse lodging is cozy and rustic, with wooden floors, all necessary amenities, and incredible mountain views. There are two restaurants on-site that serve meals in the afternoon and evening, while hot beverages and soft drinks are consistently available in the Skyrhúsid Guest House’s main dining area.

Iceland’s Ring Road

Huge Iceberg and splash of waves on black sand volcanic beach near Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland (long exposure shot)
Huge Iceberg and splash of waves on black sand volcanic beach near Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland (long exposure shot)

Jökulsárlón is accessible via Iceland’s Ring Road, or Route 1, which loops around the island for approximately 1,339 kilometers. It connects some of the more populous regions on the island, and provides travelers easy accessibility to Iceland’s many natural attractions. If you opt for visiting Jökulsárlón and/or the Vatnajökull region with a tour group, in all likelihood you will be ushered to your destination via minibus or Super Jeep…or even by helicopter! But many travelers prefer to drive themselves, and this decision generally leads to a journey down Iceland’s Ring Road. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve made the educated decision to drive to Jökulsárlón, consider the following tips and advice for your own safety and comfort:

Be very conscientious of the weather when driving. Indeed, the weather can change in the blink of an eye in Iceland, and driving the Ring Road during the winter months is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. There is a reason Super Jeeps are so popular on the island! They are great for negotiating rugged landscapes, unpredictable weather, and winding, frozen roads. Many drivers who have traversed the Ring Road in winter also recommend studded tires, which provide more traction on ice-covered roads.

Check this website before you start driving. Vegagerdin is an exceptionally useful website, used by many a well-researched tourist to monitor conditions for aurora borealis hunting. It is also great for practical road usage, as it provides real-time updates on driving conditions and will indicate large patches of thick ice you’ll want to look out for.

Bring snacks and water. This might seem a bit extreme and applies more for driving in the winter months, but do consider bringing provisions. We don’t anticipate that you will be camping out along the Ring Road, but it might take you longer to get to your destination than you initially planned for if roads are frosty. You will definitely want to value safety over speed, so make sure you stay full, hydrated, and alert. Bring a map. This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Make sure you have a navigation system handy – and we also recommend that you bring a physical map as a backup option.

Safety Precautions

Ice on the black volcanic beach near Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, winter Iceland
Ice on the black volcanic beach near Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, winter Iceland

Even though it goes without saying that climbing slippery icebergs shifting unpredictably in frigid water is ill-advised, many make the attempt anyway! Even though Jökulsárlón – like much of Iceland’s nature – exudes idyllic tranquility, the danger of getting too close to the frosty water outside of a boat should not be underestimated. Iceland’s natural environment is certainly lovely, but it is also exceedingly powerful. And remember, this is one of Iceland’s deepest lagoons. Icebergs can also crack and tumble and you don’t want to find yourself stuck underneath one.

It’s not hard to have a good time near Jökulsárlón and keep yourself safe and warm in the process. Just make sure you wear the safety equipment provided to you while you are boating or caving on or near the glacial lagoon. And don’t climb the icebergs!

Jökulsárlón’s Home: Vatnajökull National Park

Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland
Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland

Vatnajökull National Park was established in 2008, and it is the largest of its kind in Iceland. It is so massive that it has actually consumed previously existing national parks! Skaftafell National Park in the southwest and Jökulsárgljúfur National Park in the north are now considered part of the all-encompassing Vatnajökull, meaning that the larger park now covers roughly 13% of Iceland’s entire surface. While Jökulsárlón is obviously a natural marvel in and of itself, there are many other areas to explore in the larger Vatnajökull region. After all, there are very few places in the world where you will witness such a strange and wonderful array of natural forces intermixing.

On the south side of Vatnajökull, many lofty mountain ridges rise on the horizon, with glaciers gently sloping towards the lowlands. In the south you will find the central volcanic system of Öræfajökull, as well as Iceland’s tallest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, which stands at approximately 2,110 meters. Also in the north is Dettifoss waterfall, one of the most powerful in Europe. Finally, you have Jökulsárlón of course, which is easily accessible as you travel along Route 1, between Skaftafell and the village of Höfn.

Inside an ice cave in Vatnajokull, Iceland. The ice is thousands of years old and so packed it is harder than steel and crystal clear.
Inside an ice cave in Vatnajokull, Iceland. The ice is thousands of years old and so packed it is harder than steel and crystal clear.

The glacier Vatnajökull is obviously enormous; its maximum thickness amounts to about 1,000 meters (though its average is closer to 400-500 meters). About sixty percent of the icecap is located above what is referred to as the “equilibrium line altitude,” which demarcates the boundary between where ice and snow can melt during the warmer seasons and where ice cannot melt and simply accumulates over time. This means that forty percent of the icecap facilitates a water drainage system, resulting in numerous sub-glacial lakes and lagoons. Also under the icecap are numerous sub-glacial volcanic systems; in fact, it is estimated that there are at least seven underneath Vatnajökull.

The three most well-known are Grímsvötn, Öræfjökull, and Bárðarbunga. Öræfjökull is the calmest of the three – it is believed that its last eruption occurred as far back as 1728, and it has been essentially dormant ever since. Bárðarbunga also last erupted quite a while ago, in 1910, although some smaller, unsubstantiated sub-glacial eruptions may have indeed occurred within the last century or so. Grímsvötn, on the other hand, is one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland. Its last small-scale eruption occurred in 2004.

What to Explore in Vatnajökull Beyond Jökulsárlón?

Vatnajokull National Park in Northeast Iceland
Vatnajokull National Park in Northeast Iceland

Clearly, the area in and around Vatnajökull is highly varied, meaning there is quite a lot to do in the region. We mentioned earlier that the Jökulsárlón area is home to herds of wild reindeer – well, halfway between Jökulsárlón and Höfn is a charming little farm called Hólmur, which offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations as well as guided reindeer tours. This farm and its tours come highly recommended by TripAdvisor, and you are sure to have a unique, delightful experience with their friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Icelandic tour operators offer quite a lot of options for glacier hiking and glacier walking, depending on your stamina and level of expertise. With Icelandic Mountain Guides, you can take an energetic stroll through Vatnajökull’s many glacial tongues. If you’re more apt to ride, Glacier Jeeps brings travelers along in four-wheel drive Super Jeeps through the glacial landscape on guided tours. They also have skidoos, a durable type of snowmobile, available for speed-loving visitors to ride if they so desire.

Touring agencies such as Extreme Iceland offer helicopter tours for travelers who are eager to enjoy aerial views of Iceland’s spectacular glacial landscape. Typically, these tours depart from Reykjavík Domestic Airport or from Keflavík Airport, and take two-to-three landings on various glacial surfaces on and around Vatnajökull. This way, travelers are able to observe the towering icy structures and glacial lagoons from the air and spend a good hour exploring the fissures, layers, and structural evolutions of Iceland’s frozen landscapes on foot.

Now, all the aforementioned activities involve traversing the wilderness quite a lot, and many travelers will want to take a few breathers and intersperse their adventures with quieter activities. In the town of Höfn, you can take a restful moment away from boating, hiking, flying, or caving and visit The Þórbergur Centre of Culture. Built in memory of famous Icelandic writer Þórbergur Þórðarson (1888-1974), this cultural museum was built in 2006 to celebrate the author’s body of work and the regional heritage of Iceland’s southeast. It is also a fully licensed restaurant and coffee house, and serves home-baked cakes, coffee, tea, and breakfast or lunchtime options all year round from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. All products served are locally sourced. Also worth noting is that The Þórbergur Centre is only thirteen kilometers east of Jökulsárlón.

On the outskirts of Höfn is an impressive nine-hole golf course called Silfurnesvöllur. This place offers an experience most golfers will never enjoy in their lifetime – you can actually play over and across the Vatnajökull glacier and mountain ring! And here’s another interesting activity available for visiting hobbyists in Iceland: while you’re in Höfn, you can stop by Hornhúsið Yoga Studio and practice mindfulness and relaxation early in the morning before you start trekking through the frosty wilderness.

Mats are provided on-site. If you’re feeling fashionable, you can do some local shopping in Höfn, at the popular local design house and clothing company, Millibör. Their clothes, designed for women of all ages, truly epitomize the individuality of Icelandic art, style, and design. These fashion items are literally inspired by Iceland’s mercurial and beautiful weather patterns, as well as the island’s rich marine life. Each garment is meant to reflect an element of weather or a creature from the North Sea. A café called Kartöfluhúsið is attached to the shop, and visitors are welcome to help themselves to freshly brewed coffee at any time.

Fjallsarlon, glacier iceberg lagoon in Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
Fjallsarlon, glacier iceberg lagoon in Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland

If you can’t get enough of Iceland’s wildlife, head south from Höfn and visit Ósland, a conservation area much beloved by hikers and bird-watchers. Like much of Iceland, this territory has an interesting geologic history – it was actually once an island separate from the mainland. For that reason, many species of aquatic birdlife still make their homes here. During the nesting season, the Arctic Tern population reaches the thousands.

Ingólfshöfði Nature Reserve, conversely, is still an isolated island, located just off the black sand beaches of Iceland’s South Coast. It is named for Iceland’s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, who dwelled on the island during the winters of 874-875 before taking his family further west. Given its isolation and quietude, this cape island is ideal for many Arctic nesting birds to make their homes. If you ferry over to Ingólfshöfði, you will undoubtedly come across a good amount of adorable, plump, tuxedoed puffins and the bold pirates of the bird world, the great skua. There is also a family-run company called Local Guide, which ushers visitors around he cape in quaint, tractor-pulled trolleys.

Venture about nineteen kilometers from Höfn to the town of Hoffell, and you’ll stumble upon the delightful Glacier World. This family-run organization offers accommodations, guided tours, and nature-based activities to visitors. There are three guesthouses available for travelers – one is a remodeled two-story, one is a homey renovated barn and sheepcote, and the third is a spacious remodeled cowshed. Accommodations come complete with access to Glacier World’s five geothermal hot tubs, free of charge and open year-round! Their knowledgeable guides will take visitors on all-terrain vehicle four-wheeler adventures through the Hoffelsjökull glacier and its surrounding mountains and glacial lagoons. This is a very unique, high-spirited place located not too far from Jökulsárlón, and it is definitely worth a visit if not an overnight stay.

Finally, if you’ve explored all there is to explore at Jökulsárlón but want to see more gliding icebergs and crystalline waters, venture west to discover the lagoon’s “younger sibling,” so to speak. Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, also located in Vatnajökull, is also an inarguably beautiful site and offers travelers the opportunity to go on guided hikes and boat tours as well. Visit the site’s official web page, to learn more.

Guided Tours on Vatnajökull

Skaftafellsjokull Glacier in Iceland, part of Vatnajokull National Park
Skaftafellsjokull Glacier in Iceland, part of Vatnajokull National Park

We’ve mentioned a few of Iceland’s many reputable touring agencies that operate out of or near the Vatnajökull region. However, if you haven’t found an adventure that completely suits your fancy, consider exploring some of the tour opportunities offered from the organizations listed below. They come highly recommended by their Icelandic partner organizations, as well as TripAdvisor.

Glacier Guides

Beautiful beached chunks of ice at the beach at Jokulsarlon, Iceland, at sunset in winter
Beautiful beached chunks of ice at the beach at Jokulsarlon, Iceland, at sunset in winter

Originating in 2009 and located in Skaftafell, Glacier Guides offers glacier hikes and alpine voyages throughout Vatnajökull National Park with its local expert guides. This organization is AMGA accredited, and it is the only touring organization outside of the United States that has received this accolade. Essentially, the accreditation program acknowledges that Glacier Hikes meets or exceeds the professional standards set for tour operators in Iceland. More to that point, Glacier Guides’ base of operations is actually located deep within Vatnajökull, meaning their experienced guides come equipped with top-of-the-line gear and a wealth of immediate, practical knowledge of the glacial and mountainous terrain nearby. They were awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2015.

Glacier Guides offers a wide array of hiking and caving tours. Their Crystal Ice Cave Tour is very popular, for example. Travelers first explore Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and then arrive at the mouth of the cave at Breiðarmerkurjökull to explore the ethereal, crystalline blue network of ice caves inside. For a moderately more challenging experience, you can also join Glacier Guides on its exciting Ice Cave Night Tour, which brings explorers through Jökulsárlón’s magnificent ice caves by moonlight. If you’re a robust sort of person, try Glacier Xtreme – Ice Climbing from Skaftafell. Here you will join a group of four other guests and make your way up the Falljökull glacier, equipped with top-ropes, ice picks, and safety helmets of course. For all of Glacier Guides’ tours, harnesses, helmets, and all other necessary glacier gear are included. Visit the web to learn more.

Arctic Adventures

Ices on the beach at Jokulsarlon - southeast Iceland
Ices on the beach at Jokulsarlon – southeast Iceland

Arctic Adventures is actually an affiliate of Glacier Guides – and like their affiliate organization, they too were awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2015. They have demonstrated tremendous commitment to environmentally friendly operation and ecotourism since the organization’s genesis in 1983. Based in Drumboddsstaiðir near Iceland’s famed Hvíta River, Arctic Adventures offers an impressive selection of exciting nature-based adventures in the South of Iceland and beyond. They are fully licensed by Ferðamálastofa – Icelandic Tourist Board.

Arctic Adventures offers multi-day and single-day tours through Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, the Vatnajökull Glacier, Skaftafell Nature Reserve, and all these sites’ associated crystal ice caves. You can opt for caving excursions, glacier hikes, or even snowmobiling adventures across Vatnajökull. Visit to peruse your options.

Hópferðir

Hópferðir, also known as Yes Travel Iceland Group Tours, is a trusted tour operator based in Reykjavík. This organization is a bit unique – they are entirely road-based, and they offer private, customizable jeep and/or coach tours for travelers all across Iceland. One of their most popular package options is the guided Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon minibus tour, which includes a boat ride for a maximum of 19 passengers. If you opt for this experience with Hópferðir, you will cruise past the magnificent Seljalandsfoss and Skófafoss waterfalls along Iceland’s South Coast, take a brief jaunt across the dramatic black sand beach of Reynisfjara, and finally take to the waters at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This tour wraps up the evening with an enchanting Northern Lights hunt. Visit the official web to learn more.

Extreme Iceland

Extreme Iceland should be a familiar name at this point, and for good reason. Also awarded TripAdvisor’s 2015 and 2016 Certificates of Excellence, Extreme Iceland organizes super jeep tours, sightseeing excursions, day trips, self-drive tours – basically any Icelandic expedition you can imagine and probably several you wouldn’t have thought of. They operate based on an extremely high standard of performance, and their love for their home country is evident through their thoughtfully-designed, environmentally conscious tour packages.

Extreme Iceland offers more than ten adventure packages based in the Vatnajökull region. You can enjoy a day of boating in Jökulsárlón’s vibrant waters and ice caving along the South Coast, culminating in an evening of Northern Lights hunting amidst Iceland’s otherworldly, mountainous landscape. You can also opt for a helicopter tour through Vatnajökull, with three landings included via your personal selection, a minibus tour along the ring road, a glacier hike excursion along Iceland’s South Coast, or a Super Jeep adventure alongside the waters of Iceland’s south shore (including, of course, the incomparable Jökulsárlón). Visit the official website to peruse your options – with Extreme Iceland, they are pretty limitless!

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