Adventure Islands Hiking Iceland Nature & Wildlife

Ice Age TV – the drama of Jökulsárlón

People watching icebergs at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Ice Age TV – the drama of Jökulsárlón

Even if you are expecting it, your first sight of the glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón, is still a shock. Visitors to Iceland beware; one minute you are driving around the ring road listening to Bjork on the radio, and the next you are slamming on your brakes to avoid crashing into the ice age. After so much action white water rafting, hiking on glaciers, and 4WD expeditioning in the interior it was strangely compulsive to just stop, stand and watch ice melt. Doesn’t nature just make the best TV

Ice Age TV – all the drama of Jokulsarlon 

If I told you I’ve been spending hours watching icebergs melt, you might think I was in need of a good night out. But Iceland’s Jökulsárlón is drama, sport and wildlife, all rolled into one visually addictive package. And I am hooked. As soon as I tire of one scene, I just move a few yards and feast my eyes on another. Hours of entertainment- all for free on Ice Age TV.

People watching icebergs at Jokulsarlon

Ice Age TV is a popular pastime at Jokulsarlon

The wilderness channel

Welcome to the wilderness channel. You won’t find footage anywhere else like this. In blue skies and sunshine Jökulsárlón must look like its just dropped from another planet, because even today, in unrelenting grey skies and mist, it resembles an ice blue glitterball.  This lagoon catches whatever light is available, paints it blue and white and offers it up as an art work. The delicate pieces of ice floating at the edges of the milky glacier water look like they’ve been blown out of bubble mixture, crystal or glass as they push back and forth with the tide. The towering, luminous blue icebergs are totally absorbing as you try and work out what shapes they resemble. Dolphin? Eagle? Troll? And the smaller pieces of ice washed up on the shore seem sculpted into mysterious ice creatures from the deep.

Ice Monster

The ice conceals all kinds of monsters

The action channel

Nothing ever stops moving here. The animation starts way back on the slowly retreating glacier Breidamerkurjökull, an offshoot of Vatnajökull, where chunks of peel away from the main body of ice and clatter into the water. They then make their jumbled way down towards the sea.

Icebergs meet the sea at Jokulsarlon

Icebergs meet the sea at Jokulsarlon

By the time they hit the car park at  Jökulsárlón, (beside the ring road between Höfn and Scaftafell), they are almost at the end of their journey. They may have survived this far but the lagoon is crowded, and the tide pushes them together. Huge chunks fall off and splash noisily into the sea. You can play an entertaining game of guessing which is going to crack first and watching its broken edges float away. While the smaller bergs then get carried to the sea, the big boys hang around the in lagoon, turning it into one of the world’s most spectacular film sets. The volume is then turned up by the boats that service the visitors’ need to get closer. Zodiacs carry people out to see and taste the ice, and a fleet of lively amphibious boats turn from buses into giant tourist carrying ducks. For a change of programme I head down to the sea. It’s wild in the rain and wind and the spray smashes over the enduring icebergs. It reminds me of titanic and sends a shiver down my already thoroughly chilled spine.

Icebergs in the Sea at Jokulsarlon

Icebergs in the sea at Jokulsarlon

If you get bored of ice (believe me that’s unlikely here) you can watch the seal show. We spot three; one bobbing about in the silence of the quieter part of the lagoon, and two others putting on a spirited performance for the crowd. Or you can sit back and enjoy the kids’ interaction with nature. Today a crowd of little people gather at the water’s edge; picking up heavy glassy chunks to peer inside them and arguing over whether they resemble a hippo, a fairy or a tank.  As usual, my kids lead a few of the more adventurous ones astray; setting themselves the challenge of reshaping the lagoon by throwing smaller chunks of ice at the larger bergs to create more ‘unusual’ sculptures. As if the creations here weren’t unusual enough.

Throwing Ice into Glacial Lagoon

Kids enjoy throwing ice into the glacial lagoon, here near Skaftafell

The best channel in the freeview package 

‘The Land of Ice and Fire.’ might be one of the biggest cliches in history but it does encapsulate the essence of Iceland. Don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of other stuff here as well, and a lot of it easily accessible. But the ice caps that scrape heaven and the devil’s flame beneath your feet are the two things that make this country the extraordinary tourist destination that it is. And Jökulsárlón is ‘the one.’ Put simply it’s unmissable. Not visiting it while you are in Iceland would be like going to Rome and bypassing  the Vatican, poo pooing the Pope and a turning down date with the author of the Da Vinci Code. It would be like going to Disney and avoiding Cinderella’s palace, putting two fingers up at Mickey Mouse and refusing to sing along on the Small World ride.

It would be like….well, I think you get my drift?

Contemplating icebergs at Jokulsarlon

Contemplating the icebergs…. I could stay for hours

This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We spent summer 2012 exploring Northern Europe, Iceland and The Faroes by car and on mini biking expeditions, researching and reporting on attractions and activities on offer to adventure seeking families. We’re grateful to DFDS Seaways and Smyril Line for  support in getting us to Europe and onto Iceland and The Faroes. And to Berghaus and Thule who helped equip us for the journey.

You can see a map of our journey on The Family Adventure Project Punkt! and view some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of what we got up to.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow Us

We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


Trips100 - Travel Blogs   Trips100

© Copyright: Stuart Wickes & Kirstie Pelling 2000-2018