Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon – East Iceland

Fjallsárlón is a glacier lagoon just West of Jökulsárlón. Unlike Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón has no direct access to the ocean, so there are no seals or tides, this also means that the water is not as fresh and reflects the soft brown of the lagoon floor as it is scraped by the massive icebergs.

The glacier lagoon is fairly small so you are close to the glacier shelf. The jagged edge of the glacier is a place where you might witness ice calving in the Summer months. Zodiac boat tours run in the Summer months (April-October) and take visitors really close to the ice shelf.

Summer dusk at Fjallsarlon.

Öræfi Volcano

Above the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon sits Iceland’s largest (Europe’s second largest) volcano Öræfi. The caldera can’t be seen because the top of the mountain is quite flat. This land mass includes Hvannadalshnjúkur, the highest peak in Iceland, which can be seen from the Skaftafell side.

The glacier has to come down some steep slopes before it reaches the lagoon. There are a few rivers that take the melt water to the North Atlantic ocean.

Fjallsárlón has a few tracks leading into it from the #1 ring road. The main access track has a large sign post and in the Summer you will see the Zodiac Tours advertised as well.

This Location can be the windiest place in Iceland. The wind can turn a bus over.  If FjallsárlónGlacier Lagoon is still, it has some of the best ice reflections.

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon with 50mm prime lens.

Ice Photos on Canvas

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Photo Location

Fjallsárlón works very well in both Winter and Summer.  It is easier to see the glacier when the mountains are free of snow, but a light dusting of snow can make a dynamic scene.   Fjallsárlón tends to have less icebergs in the Winter because the calving slows, but the icebergs can remain enormous for some time.   Access around the lagoon is easier in freezing conditions.  The rivers become small streams and the ground hardens.  Sometimes there are smaller icebergs on the banks of the Glacier Lagoon.

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Recommended Lenses

There are good opportunities for all focal lengths.  If there are icebergs close to the shore, then a wide angle can be useful to capture the depth and textures of the ice.  There are many icebergs further from the shore that can be brought closer with a telephoto.  A long telephoto lens can pick out details on the glacier ice-shelf.  I often visit the lagoon with just a 50mm prime and combine shapes and texture of the icebergs with the glacier background.

The surrounding area is also quite scenic.  The land is a mixture of Terminal Moraine and Kettle Holes.  In the Autumn the green mossy landscape is rich with the red of the Blueberry leaves.  It is worth exploring the landscape away from the lagoon for a variety of unique foreground texture and colours.

Fjallsarlon Blueberries
Blueberries with Moss and lichen Rock. Fjallsárlón in the background.
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Panorama Photos

Fjallsárlón is a great place for Panorama photography.  I recommend shooting from a high point and using 50mm in vertical orientation.  Just follow the glacier shelf and mountain range.

Fjallsárlón Panorama Photo
Panorama Photo taken at Fjallsárlón Glacer Lagoon

Glacier Auroras

The Glacier Lagoon works well for Northern Lights, if you can find it in the dark.  Sometimes, Fjallsárlón is a better alternative to Jökulsárlón.  If Jökulsárlón is windy, then is could be still at Fjallsárlón and vice-versa.   

Being so close to the ice shelf means that the Northern horizon is blocked, so it is not ideal for weak northern lights.  If you plan to photograph Auroras at Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon, be sure to check it out during the day.  This way you can establish the safer footpaths down to the lagoon.

Fjallsárlón Northern Lights
Northern Lights at Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Sunburst over Fjallsarlon lagoon.

Fjallsárlón has been used as a “Game of Thrones” film set – North of the Wall.  Jon Snow walks on the frozen lagoon among the icebergs in Season one.

Fjallsárlón has something to offer the photographer in every season. Check out my article about how this location can change its appearance on a daily basis.

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By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.