Jökulsárlón: One of Iceland’s Natural Wonders

Unable to feel my, now frozen, fingers thanks to the minus temperature, I take a break from playing hide and seek with the seals and head inside the welcoming café to defrost.  Sitting at the large, unencumbered window the turquoise tinted iceberg flashes back at me as the low-rising, winter-day sun reflects on the dark blue indigo waters.

Jökulsárlón ice Lagoon Iceland Europe

Jökulsárlón

I am starring at one of Iceland’s natural wonders, Jökulsárlón ice lagoon, amazed at what I am seeing.  Never before have I seen, let alone stood on such a large expanse of ice.

The outer edge has begun to thaw leaving only shingle behind for people to wander on and it makes me question what we are doing to such a wonderful sight.  If we were not invading, would this habitat be melting at such a frightening rate?  In the summer months, boats fight for space on the bitterly cold waters taking day trippers around the glacier boundaries to get a closer look at the seals in their natural environment. 

Jökulsárlón Outer edge Ice lagoon Iceland

The Outer Edge of Jökulsárlón

Today, thankfully the boats are not running but that does not mean that the experience has been any less rewarding.  In fact, for the first hour we are the only humans to wander the shoreline giving us full exposure to the harsh elements and the wildlife in unbroken peace.  Never before have I been in touching distance of such playful seals, so willing to utilise me as their plaything for the afternoon.  I am sure they can see me flap, trying to get the right setting on my camera; using that as their cue they swiftly glide through the water towards the lagoon edge.  Astounded by their boldness I too move closer towards the edge hoping to gain that all-important photo; that one image that will demonstrate to others just how close I have come to these graceful creatures.  It would seem however, that these elegant mammals have different plans and as soon as the black cover of my camera lifts up to eye level they are off, ducking under the deep, dark waters once again, dodging the gaze of my lens.

Looking out over the glacier, as far as my eyes can see, seals grace the ice.  This is no zoo experience, this is an opportunity to see these wonderful animals in their own habitat and I suppose I can almost forgive people for wanting to get close to them – but only almost.  Sometimes, we all want our space, and surely animals feel the same way as well.  When they want to attract your attention they are vocal, splashing and brazen in their approach.   Often in small pods of three or four they will command your attention, drawing you in and making you aware of their close proximity to you.  Therefore, when they move away should we not, in the same way that we do for friends, respect them and give them their space? 

Seals in their natural habitat Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon

Seals in their natural habitat

Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon wildlife

Wildlife relaxing

In the peace of the fading sunshine I move to higher ground and sit up on the banks of the lagoon looking out to sea.  Seabirds move in with the tide, hoping to catch dinner perhaps and photographers start to emerge from their cars in a hope that they will gain the perfect sunset picture over the ice.  No-one speaks, frightened of breaking the calm mood that comes with the orange haze that is beginning to descend and whilst the birds are happy to stay, the one-time friendly seals have decided that the overwhelming increase in foot traffic is too much for one day and they head off to quieter expanses of ice.

Jökulsárlón Ice lagoon Iceland Europe

The view from the bank

Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon Iceland sun setting

As the sun begins to set

It may be the coldest way to see the sunset but, if you could find a quiet spot, it could also be one of the most beautiful. 

In our opinion, if you are travelling to the southeast end of Iceland, Vatnajökull National Park, the surrounding landscape, created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity, is well worth a few days of your time.  It is so large, covering 14% of Iceland that Jökulsárlón ice lagoon, in comparison, is only a pinhead of what you could experience in this area.

After a serene afternoon, in what felt like iceberg wilderness, it was time to return to the ring-road and head back towards Þingvellir National Park.  Normally, after such a peacefully rewarding afternoon, you are left feeling downtrodden and disheartened about the return journey – this however, is not the case in Iceland.  The varying, striking landscape left us feeling invigorated and hopeful for what we might encounter next.

Have you visited Jökulsárlón ice lagoon?  We would love to hear your thoughts?

Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon Iceland Europe

Jökulsárlón

 

16 Comments

  • Paul says:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 These photos, seriously they are gorgeous, so much detail, colour and amazing compositions. I went to Iceland last year for 4 days but didn't get round to Jokulsarlon, I definitely want to go back to the island and explore more – Looking at other peoples Iceland articles always makes me feel I have missed out on a lot of it

    • Thanks for your compliments Paul – Jokulsarlon is a beautiful area to visit and if you return I highly recommend spending some time here. next time we go we are planning on spending a few days in Hofn, which is close by so that we can explore more of the area.

  • I must admit I briefly visited Iceland a couple of years ago by chance for a few days and ended up falling in love with it. There’s a magical sense throughout the country and I can’t wait to return! I visited in the summer, so didn’t experience the chill nor the Jokulsarlon ice lagoon but EVERYTHING in Iceland is on my list! The most amazing country I’ve visit thus far.

  • We would love to return ourselves – we are just trying to agree whether to go back during the winter months or during the summer (I would like to experience 24 hours of daylight!). The winter months make it far harder to get around as well; with quite thick snow often falling causing road issues. 😀

  • I really did *WOW* out loud, especially at that first shot, although they’re all amazing.How wonderful that such a pristine, untouched place still exists. And that BLUE! Just unbelievable. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nita says:

    Amazing pictures!! I just went to Iceland this past May and also visited Jokulsarlon. We took the boat trip through the floating glaciers and it was magical. Seeing them so close was incredible. We only saw a couple of seals but we saw some dogs swimming in the icy cold water though 😉 Loved my experience at Jokulsarlon and really miss Iceland. Lovely post!

  • Chris says:

    Wow, absolutely stunning!

    It’s for places like this that we travel.

    Can’t wait for our Iceland detour when we cross the Atlantic!

  • All of your photos are good, but the first one was gorgeous! –Curt

  • Chris says:

    Jokulsarlon looks incredible! Will have to include it in my up coming trip to Iceland

    • In all that we explored during our time in Iceland this was definitely the one of the most impressive. Well worth the journey time. I would suggest if you haven’t finalised where you are staying yet have a look around Hofn to see if there is somewhere there you like the look of. We travelled from Pingvellir National Park and whilst it is doable we really wanted to spend more time there.

  • Ayla says:

    Absolutely stunning pictures! Seriously gorgeous!

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