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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon) - Iceland

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More than five hours after we left Reykjavik (and after a much-needed sleep in the van), we finally made it to Jökulsárlón (Icelandic Glacier Lagoon), which has been featured in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and "Die Another Day." The minute I saw powder blue icebergs in the brochure the day before, I scrapped all plans for wandering around Reykjavik and knew that I'd regret not visiting the Glacier Lagoon while I was in Iceland. Seeing it up-close did not disappoint.

I booked the Jokulsarlon tour with Bustravel Iceland for 17,500 Icelandic krona (about $145 USD), which also included stops at the waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. The Bustravel Iceland tour was one of the cheaper options to see the Glacier Lagoon because it didn't include the price of the boat ticket, which was an additional 3,500 ISK ($29 USD), but even adding in the boat ticket price, it still came out about $30 cheaper than other tour agencies. There are actually two kinds of boats that go into the lagoon, so that also works better if you want more flexibility in options. There's a discount if you book online in advance.

Pictures just didn't do this justice. Just imagine a huge lagoon with gargantuan bobbing powder blue icebergs. Luckily, I packed my winter coat because it was brrrrr, soooo cooooold! In August! The boats only go into the water from about April to November because the lagoon is too frozen the rest of the time. We easily booked our boat tickets and had about 20 minutes to take pictures while we waited until our departure time.

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Do I really need to say anything?

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Sooo beautiful.

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The lagoon's origins are Vatnajökull (Vatna Glacier (Icelandic Glacier of Rivers)), the largest glacier in Iceland, covering 8% of the country.

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We booked an amphibian boat to go into the lagoon. The other kind, a zodiac boat which sort of looks like an inflated raft, was low to the water and allows you to get closer to the icebergs.

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It was coooold! I couldn't imagine how much colder it'd be if we rode in the other boat.

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Every boat had an emergency rescue boat that trailed behind.

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Again, I was at a loss for words. Just sooo beautiful.

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The boat guide said the fresh water from the lagoon meeting the salt water from the ocean keeps the lagoon from completely freezing over. Until March 2002. What happened then? They dammed up the lagoon to freeze it for the James Bond Aston Martin and Jaguar car chase scene.

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The tour guide said this chunk of ice from Vatnajökull is about 1,000 years old, the amount of time they estimate that it takes the icebergs to make their way down to the lagoon from the glacier.

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She chipped it and gave us all a chunk. She said some people come prepared with a small bottle of whiskey and a glass so they could enjoy their drinks on the rocks. Darn it! I wish I had known!

Nonetheless, it was thrilling to munch on a glacial ice cube that's 1,000 years old!

Did it taste different?

Indeed it did! Imagine a super, super dense ice cube. I guess a thousand years of being compacted would do that.

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Don't fall in! I imagine by the time the rescue boats even get to you, hypothermia would have already started. Yes, it was that cold.

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The cold made my glasses steam over and drip, and my hair was plastered to my head. Brrr.

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Afterward, we had a little time to kill before hopping on the van again. So I went into the souvenir shop/cafe for a hot bowl of Icelandic seafood soup. The soup was mostly liquid, as it was self-serve and everyone had scooped out all the good bits, but I did manage to get flecks of Icelandic lobster here and there, and for 900 ISK ($7.46 USD) totally worth it to warm me up.

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Our tour guide then drove a bit of a ways down to a beach where the icebergs washed ashore.

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I got to walk amongst icebergs! And touch them! Coolest thing ever!

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Totally worth the 200+ mile drive out.

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I couldn't believe how blue the icebergs were.

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Black volcanic sand.

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I could have easily spent all day just wandering amongst the icebergs.

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Some of my friends rented cars and drove around Iceland, which they recommended I do when I asked for pointers for my trip. But since it was just me, it made more sense to book the tours. And in cases like this, I don't think I would have stumbled upon a whole beach of icebergs if I drove myself, so it was well worth it to book a tour.

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I took sooo many pictures.

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And this post is plenty filled with them, but I couldn't resist sharing so many.

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So if you ever make it to Iceland, I highly recommend setting a day aside and making your way to Jokulsarlon. I met two women visiting from Malaysia when I arrived at the hostel and I ran into them again while waiting for this tour to depart. As we got to chatting, I showed them pictures from my guidebook of where I was headed and they were a bit regretful they didn't know about the Glacier Lagoon to book it as well. But they were going to Greenland, so I'm sure their other adventures were just as great. Greenland! Ah well, as with travelers, we always want to be somewhere else.

Even though I ended up with less time exploring Reykjavik than I liked, I don't regret changing my plans to include Jokulsarlon at all. That's pretty much my motto when I travel. I ask myself what would I regret not getting a chance to do, see, eat, buy.

All Europe posts can be read in Series: Europe, but I suggest reading the Iceland trip in this order:
Saigon's Bakery and Sandwiches - San Gabriel
Kex Hostel - Reykjavik - Iceland
Blue Lagoon - Grindavik - Iceland
Icelandic Phallological Museum - Reykjavik - Iceland
Solfar (Sun Voyager) - Reykjavik - Iceland
Mid-Atlantic Ridge - Thingvellir National Park - Iceland
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) - Iceland
Great Geysir and Strokkur - Haukadalur - Iceland
Icelandic Kea Skyr Drykkur Mango Astaraldin (Passionfruit)
Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon) - Iceland

I booked the Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon) tour with Bustravel Iceland for 17,500 Icelandic krona (about $145 USD), which also included stops at the waterfalls Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. The Bustravel Iceland tour does not include the cost of the boat ticket to get out into the lagoon. There's a discount if you book online in advance.

Boat tours can be booked at the scene or in advance at Jokulsarlon.is. The amphibian boat tour is now 3,700 ISK ($30.70 USD) and the zodiac boat is 5,900 ISK ($49). While the cafe is open year-round, boat tours are only available from about April to November, depending on lagoon conditions.

Reynivöllum 3
781 Hornafjörður
+354 4782222

1 year ago today,
2 years ago today, Extraordinary Desserts - San Diego (Little Italy).
3 years ago today, House of Many Windows - Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado.
4 years ago today, one of my most popular posts, 100 Vietnamese Foods to Try.
5 years ago today, 3 of 7 random things about me meme: I make my own Homemade Body Scrub.


  1. What a great and informative post! I told my husband about the James Bond scene and now we have to check it out on youtube so we can see that car chase!

    Those are gorgeous photos! What an unforgettable experience to see these natural wonders, as well as TASTE them!!! Wow!

  2. CC,
    Yeah, I had to look up the scene afterward because I didn't remember either. I'm so glad I got to experience this. I've always wanted to see blue icebergs. And to get to touch them was amazing. I totally would have brought a mini bottle to have scotch on the rocks if I had known we'd get chunks of glacier to eat!


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