One place we had read quite a bit about before heading to Iceland is the infamous Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Located on the southeastern coast of Iceland (the edge of Vatnajokull National Park), this glacial lagoon is the gateway between a gigantic glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, and the Atlantic Ocean. All day (and night!), chunks of glacier ranging from tiny baseball-sized pieces up to car and even house-sized chunks of ice break off of the head of Breiðamerkurjökull and make their way through Jokulsarlon and on out to the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these ice chunks are carried out to the deep Ocean, while others just wash up on beach (right across the road from Jokulsarlon). Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is known as a large tourist location because of its gorgeous lighting, peaceful surroundings, and varied textures and patterns. If you’re driving from Reykjavik, here are the directions:
When we arrived at Jokulsarlon, there were quite a few tourists hanging around taking photos…so we grabbed our gear, made our way over, and just started snapping photos. The day was absolutely gorgeous… freezing but blue skies and a bright sun. The reflections of rays of sunlight on the ice chunks was indescribable.
We spent perhaps 2 hours taking photos. We captured the sunset right over the nearby hill with the lagoon in front. There were a multitude of photographers lined up with their tripods, not even paying attention to the sunset… clearly they come here often. They had their cameras set to take photos every few seconds for maximum effect. Honestly, I hope I never get to a point where I take something like Jokulsarlon for granted… to the point where my camera is just snapping photos. It was just too gorgeous and I probably wouldn’t even have moved if Andrew hadn’t suggested warming up a bit before coming back out.
We bought some hot chocolate in the little stand that was jus closing for the day. We sat in our car and warmed up a bit before we decided that we would try to move a bit down the road to look for another spot where we could set up shop and hopefully catch the Northern Lights. At this point in the trip, we had seen them a handful of times, but we hadn’t spent a solid night sitting out in nature and darkness watching… so we pulled down the road a few hundred feet. There were pull offs every so often and we selected one and pulled in. The parking area backed up against a hill and we hoped on the other side, we would see the lagoon. We ran up and scouted it out and to our happy surprise, you could actually hike down the other side of the hill to a small stone beach right on the shores of the glacial lagoon. A perfect little nook where no one else was yet set-up. Away from the main parking area of the lagoon, away from the cars, away from the talking… just the glacier, the lagoon, the sky, the mountains, and us. Perfect.
We grabbed a little disposable grill that we picked up in one of the towns we drove through, along with our little cooking bowls, some ramen, some bread, some cheese, some beer and Brennavin, our sleeping bags, our tripods, and our cameras. We bundled up a bit more with gloves and hats and sweatshirts and then made our way up, over the hill, and back down the other side to our secluded mini beach. Over the next hour, we laid a sleeping bag out to sit on and used the other as a blanket. We set up our tripods and cameras and adjusted the settings. We cooked ramen and grilled cheese on a tiny grill, and we reveled in how perfect the night was…
A little while later, we noticed something in a faded green color that started to dance across the sky. There they were; the Northern Lights. So unique and completely mesmerizing. They were perfectly imperfect. We snapped 100s of photos of the Northern Lights, the glowing red of Bardarbunga, the volcano erupting at that time in Iceland, and the stars. So many stars. Living in DC, we don’t get a lot of chances to watch the stars. Sure, we still see some here and there, but it’s nothing like being out in the middle of nowhere. We took as many pictures as we could and just soaked up the sights and sounds. It was absolutely beautiful and the perfect night.
When we eventually grew too cold to stay on our little beach, we packed up and head back up to our car, where we unloaded, crawled into our sleeping bags, and immediately fell asleep. What a perfect day! If you have the time, make sure you get out to Jokulsarlon. It is definitely worth the drive. There is no cost to “enter” and take pictures. They do run boat tours if you are interested in going out into the middle of the lagoon, but honestly it’s not necessary. There are a ton of vantage points to take pictures from or to just sit back and relax. I highly recommend that you venture beyond the main parking lot. Hike on up one of the hills and down the other side; you will be all alone and so happy that you did it!