Hoffellsjökull Glacier Lagoon – A Hidden Beauty

Hoffellsjökull Glacier Lagoon is located on the south eastern end of the Vatnajökull Ice Cap in Iceland and is a little more difficult to reach. This means that this small glacial lagoon is quiet and peaceful. In some ways the proximity of the glacier to the shoreline of the lagoon and the narrow valley makes it feel all the more intense.

Hoffellsjokull glacier in Iceland

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The UNESCO listed Vatnajökull ice cap dominates the skyline of the south of Iceland producing more meltwater than any other glacier in the world. There are a number of lagoons where the meltwater collects before tumbling away to the ocean in a brown mass of energy. One small lagoon, at the base of a glacial outlet called Hoffellsjökull is tucked away from the mass of tourism that the more famous Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach sees each day.

The track from the main Route 1 is rough, just a dust track heading inland. The glacier is not visible, it is a journey of faith and belief that the signs are right. Small incline after small incline leaves you wondering if the next will show you the glacier. Eventually the road ends and you have to walk over the final rise.

Below is the most beautiful glacial lake. Even in the half light of a grey summers evening the beauty of this area is undeniable. The ice breaking away from the glacier is a deep blue with streaks of black ash, contrasting with the murky brown meltwater flowing from the glacier in a continual stream. All that can be heard is the distant flow of water, nothing more as the sunlight dances across the curve of the glacier tongue in the distance. No bustling tourists, no buses or convoys of cars. Just natural calm and beauty.

Photographing Hoffellsjökull Glacial Lagoon

As this glacier is south facing it can be photographed throughout the day. From the final rise in the path the glacier and lagoon can be seen stretching out into the distance. This is quite wide and so the best option is for a panoramic image to show the whole area.

There is a path that takes you down to the shore line and ensures that you are at eye level with the ice. However care should be taken and the ice can be seen at a better angle from the top of the slope and photographed with a long lens.

The ice from this portion of the glacier is quite ‘dirty’ with lots of black stripes which form interesting patterns and contrasts.

The drive in is also worth some photographs. The valley is fertile with rocks composed of gabbro rather than the more common basalt. Wild flowers flourish with unusual species thriving in this area as well as possible sightings of mountain foxes and reindeer.

How To Get To Hoffellsjökull Glacier

The glacier can be reached by taking a rough signposted road from Route 1. This passes the village of Hoffell and the Hoffell Hot Tubs before crossing a cattle grid.

In Hoffell there are a number of small places to stay including chalets that are cosy but basic, but provide a great start for exploring the area.

Once the cattle grid has been crossed the road becomes a track. This is an easy drive in good weather in a 4WD but can become difficult in a 2WD vehicle and should not be attempted in the winter months without experience.

The road ends in a small car park with an information board and a clear track to follow to view the glacier.

Other Glacial Lagoons to Explore in South East Iceland

  • Svínafellsjökull – Another hidden lagoon that brings you close to the glacier
  • Skaftafellsjökull – Close to the Skaftafell Visitors Centre and is one of the main glaciers for ice hiking
  • Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon – Busier with boat tours but less visited than nearby Jökulsárlón
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon – The most well known of the glacial lagoons on the south coast and is extremely busy
  • The Diamond Beach – Not part of the glacial lagoon but is where all the icebergs washed out from Jökulsárlón end up
  • Fláajökull – Tucked away and perfect for an evening hike from Haukafell Campsite