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Breiðamerkurjökull: the glacier that feeds Jökulsárlón

Breidamerkurjokull Jokulsarlon meng-ji

Imagine for a moment, a glacier in the shape of a hand. The main body of ice is the palm, while the outlet glaciers are its fingers. In the case of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, that outlet glacier is Breiðamerkurjökull. As you visit this part of South Iceland, it’s easy to get caught up in its beauty, zooming in on the glittering icebergs and if it’s sunny, their reflections in the water. But it’s also worth taking a step back – literally – so that you can appreciate the bigger picture. Let’s take a look at this important glacier and find out a bit more about it.

Iceland’s largest glacier covers a significant proportion of the southern highlands and around 10% of the country’s area. Vatnajökull is not only huge by Icelandic standards, it’s the second largest across Europe too. So, it makes sense that the tongues of ice that radiate out from the main part of this mighty glacier are large enough themselves to have names.

Jokulsarlon bridge Diamond beach - mauro-fabio-cilurzo

Jökulsárlón Bridge – Diamond Beach

Did you know that there are different types of glaciers? While large bodies of ice carve out U-shaped valleys as they slam into the landscape, sometimes they’re able to find space. So Breiðamerkurjökull is an example of what’s known as a piedmont glacier. These form when ice spills out onto lowlands and spreads out.

At the snout (end) of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, we find a lake littered with icebergs – this glacier lagoon is Jökulsárlón. Effectively, what we are seeing when we visit are broken pieces of Breiðamerkurjökull, without the glacier the icebergs wouldn’t exist. Their journey doesn’t end in the water: the icebergs continue to drift under Jokulsarlon Bridge and out to sea where they are washed back onto a black sand beach called Breiðamerkursandur – you might know it as Diamond Beach.

Diamond Beach – Iceland

Being so photogenic, it’s hardly surprising that Breiðamerkurjökull receives a large number of visitors each year. As well as taking boat trips in this area, it’s also possible to ride up on the surface of the glacier on a snowmobile or arrange an ice hike with a qualified guide. Ice cave tours are operated on Breidamerkurjokull during winter. Here, you’ll get a close up look of the cracks and crevasses that are evidence that the glacier is moving and splitting as it travels over the rocks below. Breidamerkursandur is just across the road where you can find the Diamond beach with icebergs from the glacier lagoon laying picturesquely across the beach.

If you’d have visited Iceland a thousand or so years ago, however, you’d have found a different landscape. Breiðamerkurjökull did exist back then, but it was smaller and much further inland. Today, the ice is around 20km or 12 miles further south than it was. But temperatures are once again rising, and the glacier which grew during the Little Ice Age is starting to shrink once more. Since the start of the 20th century, scientists have measured it at regular intervals and they can confirm it has retreated 5.6km (3.5 miles).

Diamond Beach - Glacier Lagoon sammy-schuckert - Fjallsarlon
Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon - Iceberg calving Iceland IMG_8652

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon – Iceland

Breiðamerkurjökull is not the only outlet glacier of Vatnajökull nor is it the only one to be experiencing a retreat. Close to Jökulsárlón is another magnificent glacier lagoon, called Fjallsárlón. Close to Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, it too contains lumps of floating ice and can also be explored by boat. The source of its icebergs is Fjallsjokull Glacier a smaller but steeper glacier than Breidamerkurjokull. The photo shows a fresh calving at Fjallsarlon, which often create waves on the lagoon when they hit the surface. Therefore, on the zodiac boat tours, sailors sail close the glacier but only as close as it is safe to go. Witnessing a calving on a boat tour or hearing the glaciers cracking sounds is truly a powerful experience.

The stories of these two outlet glaciers, and the two lagoons they feed, have long been intertwined. These two areas of ice sit alongside a rocky outcrop named Breiðamerkurfjall and in the past they would have been joined together. Looking back on their history is a fascinating reminder that glacial landscapes are constantly changing. Just because we can’t see the ice slip downhill doesn’t mean that it’s stationary.

Take a close look when you visit – in decades to come visitors will see something a little different, making your experience even more special.

 

OUR TOURS

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5-6 hours

29.900 ISK

May - Nov

Your multi adventure starts with a calm boat ride on Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon. Following the boat ride, you’ll land at the foot of Fjallsjokull glacier, a place we have secluded access to. After the glacier hike, you will walk to a jeep for a fun 15-20 min. return drive.

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75-90 min

10.100 ISK

Apr - Nov

Sail with us in a Zodiac boat, amongst floating icebergs on the majestic Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This adventure tour will allow you to connect with the Icelandic nature in a way you have never experienced before. Come, have fun and cruise with us!

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4 hours

19.800 ISK

May - Nov

Embark on an extraordinary adventure on our glacier hike. This tour is perfect for adventurers who like to go off the beaten path as this journey takes you through untouched, alluring landscape to Fjallsjökull glacier.

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Overnight

155.000 ISK

May - Oct

Immerse yourself in the spectacular Icelandic wilderness and spend a memorable night on the lagoon. The magnificent view over the glacier lagoon towards Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe is sure to impress even the most experienced traveler!

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75-90 min

101.000 ISK

Apr - Nov

On this private tour you can decide along with your captain how your cruise evolves. Cruise among icebergs and sail beside the glacier wall in your own style! This tour is popular with couples, friends & families who want to share an adventure in a private and personal way.

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2 hours

255.000 ISK

Apr - Oct

Cruise to a secret island located close to the edge of the glacier in the lagoon. Set foot on land that only few have entered! Sip champagne and take in the magnificent view towards Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. Create memories that will last a lifetime.

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3,5-4,5 hours

24.500 ISK

Nov – Mar

Explore the Icelandic wilderness on our way to a blue ice cave located in Breidarmerkurjokull glacier outlet.
Ice caves are a natural wonder that every adventurer should behold.

BLUE ICE GLACIER HIKE

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3-4 hours

21.900 ISK

Encounter the extraordinary by joining our exclusive glacier hike! This trip is tailored for those who seek adventure, are physically fit, and have a deep desire to explore the untouched, rugged attraction of Fjallsjökull glacier.

Fjallsarlon Iceberg Boat Tour Iceland

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