Now that’s just far too pretty. This is Jökulsarlon.

Jokulsarlon 1 s“Did you make it to Jökulsárlón?” asked my friend Jessica, when she heard I was in Iceland. The name didn’t ring any bells. “Don’t get on the plane without seeing it – really!” This from a woman who has traveled across 97% of the Earth’s surface, as far as I can tell.


I followed her link to a website and saw a spray of beautiful images, boats apparently tooling around among gorgeous iceberg hunks of calved glacier. How could we have missed something that beautiful?


Jokulsarlon Iceland travelI clicked the “translate to English” button, which pondered a moment and informed me that the page had been translated, though there was no visible change in the text. I love the Icelandic language. Anything that confounds google, for that matter, but this language of umlauts, accents, and whatever the hell this thing is: Þ


Jokusarlon Iceland ice lagoonBut upon closer inspection…oh, Jökulsárlón is that place! Hell yes we went there. I was just thinking of it as The Glacial Lagoon.


A few centuries back, in the Little Ice Age, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier dug its way down to the coast, where it met the Jökulsá river. (It’s okay that you enjoy the words more than the info.) Normally a glacier digs out a big ravine, sure, but when it’s equipped with a river to wash away the sediment it’s grinding? It overachieves.


Jokusarlon Iceland photos travelThus, the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, 300 meters deep, and growing in size as the glacier retreats. Fifteen square kilometers in 1998, it looked much bigger to my eye last week. Of course, to my eye it was an entire planet of seductively clear water, murky with cobalt mystery under striated chunks of ice that looked like the furniture of a liquid nitrogen god.


  1. Arrive at Jökulsárlón, put on all available clothing layers and get out of the car.
  2. Realize you’ve just spent an indeterminate amount of time gaping at the blue expanse, frozen yet liquid, immovable but constantly in motion, eternal and ephemeral.
  3. Walk down the shifting rock and gravel embankment, aware that sliding into this water would be lethal.

    The thing is full of seals, too

    The thing is full of seals, too

  4. Try to take pictures that don’t profane the place.
  5. Once your fingers feel like recent transplants from a corpse, limit yourself to 20 more photos. Okay, 50.
  6. Get back in car, thaw fingers, and soak in gratitude to this beautiful planet.


We returned to Jökulsárlón a couple times, because there was a whole other side to the place…


Jokulsarlon 10 s