3 Must-See Places in Southeast Iceland

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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Panoramic lagoon with out-of-this-world views.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Panoramic lagoon with out-of-this-world views.

Southeast Iceland is dominated by the colossal Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest icecap. Towns are far and few in between. Instead, the region is home to some of Iceland’s most spectacular glaciers and ice-filled lagoons.

This post is part of our comprehensive blog on how to plan for an Iceland Road Trip. Read also:

The following are 3 must-see places in Southeast Iceland. (Listed in random order)

 

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park (map)

“1.5hrs return hike to beautiful Svartifoss”

Skaftafell National Park in the distance with Skaftafellsjökull (glacier) clearly seen.
Skaftafell National Park in the distance with Skaftafellsjökull (glacier) clearly seen.

Skaftafell National Park is particularly popular with visitors for its hiking trails, glacier views (Skaftafellsjökull, which is a finger of Vatnajökull) and waterfall (Svartifoss).

Svartifoss (aka “Black Waterfall”) is easily the most popular attraction in the park. Surrounded by black basalt column rock cliffs, Svartifoss has a unique pipe organ look. It can be reached via a 1.5 hours return easy hike. Though not the most majestic of waterfalls in Iceland, it is still stunning by any standards.

Svartifoss (aka “Black Waterfall”) is easily the most popular attraction in Skaftafell National Park.
Svartifoss (aka “Black Waterfall”) is easily the most popular attraction in Skaftafell National Park.

The visitor centre at Skaftafell is a short drive from the Ring Road. Once at the visitor centre, there are some large displays near the carpark that will list the hiking routes available and their respective duration. If in doubt, approach the friendly staffs at the visitor centre and they will advice accordingly.

Hiking maps displayed at the Skaftafell National Park visitor centre carpark.
Hiking maps displayed at the Skaftafell National Park visitor centre carpark.

 

 

 

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon (map)

“Nice little glacier lagoon”

The beautiful Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.
The beautiful Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.

Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon is part of the Vatnajökull National Park and located at the southern end of Vatnajökull.

There are two glacier lagoons in the area, with Fjallsárlón being the smaller of the two. Its larger and more renowned cousin, Jökulsárlón, is located 11km away (via Ring Road) to the northeast.

Though much smaller and relatively less scenic than Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón is nonetheless nothing short of breathtaking. Being less prominent, it incidentally exudes more serenity due to the lack of crowd.

Definitely a place worth visiting, Fjallsárlón is a short drive off the Ring Road. As of my visit in Jun2014, there are no facilities/amenities available.


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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (map)

“MUST visit site in iceland!”

Breathtaking Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Breathtaking Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Situated on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárlón is formed by the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Large icebergs break off from the glacier and subsequently drift towards the mouth of the lagoon. Here they melt into smaller pieces before finally drifting slowly out towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The view is simply out-of-this-world and the stillness of the lagoon helps to bring out the absolute serenity of the area. Every photographer’s dreamland, take some time to observe the icebergs melting and drifting slowly in the lagoon towards the bridge/sea and be amazed. Surely another must-see site in Iceland!

Icebergs melt into smaller pieces before finally drifting slowly out towards the Atlantic Ocean (background).
Icebergs melt into smaller pieces before finally drifting slowly out towards the Atlantic Ocean (background).
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon : Absolute serenity
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon : Absolute serenity

 

“Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as the “reality TV” series Amazing Race.” (Source, Wikipedia: Jökulsárlón)

 

Jökulsárlón has been a setting for a few Hollywood movies.
Jökulsárlón has been a setting for a few Hollywood movies.

 

Tip: Other than the main carpark (where the tour company is and most tourist parks), there are other carparks nearby that give access to some exceptional (and less crowded) viewpoints. Driving out from the main carpark, turn right onto the Ring Road and cross the bridge. Right after the bridge, there are a few smaller carparks on the right (all in close proximity). Drive further down the road till you come to the last of these carparks and park there. There’s a slight upslope in front of the carpark, climb it and you’ll find another panoramic view of the lagoon.

 

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