Lakes in Iceland: Names, Facts, and Features

Lakes in Iceland

Iceland has been widely shaped by glacial activity. The glaciers have been responsible for dips and fissures and carved areas through mountain ranges. These have given rise to the hundreds of Iceland crater lakes that dot themselves around Iceland’s moon-like geography.

There are over 20 lakes larger than 10 square kilometers in iceland. Beyond these larger lakes, at least 40 more vary in size between 2.5 to 10 square kilometers. 90% of the lakes in Iceland are smaller than 1 square kilometer.  Altogether, these lakes cover 2.7% of Iceland’s surface area.

The largest lake in all of Iceland is Þórisvatn. It is 88 square kilometers. It doesn’t only have a large surface area. It plunges to a depth of 109 meters. 

In general, lakes in Iceland tend to be a significant tourist attraction. That is because of the lake’s waters that their glacial origins have influenced. They range from turquoise to bright blue, unlike the murkier lakes located in many other parts of the world. They are treasures hidden throughout Iceland.

There are also lakes with unique characteristics, such as a hot lake in Iceland. We will talk about many of the most popular lakes of Iceland throughout this article and their features.

Here you can see the list of lakes in Iceland.

  1. Þórisvatn
  2. Þingvallavatn
  3. Hálslón
  4. Blöndulón
  5. Lagarfljót
  6. Hágöngulón
  7. Mývatn
  8. Hóp
  9. Hvítárvatn
  10. Langisjór
  11. Kvíslavatn
  12. Sultartangalón
  13. Jökulsárlón
  14. Grænalón
  15. Skorradalsvatn
  16. Sigöldulón
  17. Apavatn
  18. Heiðarlón
  19. Svínavatn
  20. Öskjuvatn
  21. Vesturhópsvatn
  22. Höfðavatn
  23. Grímsvötn
  24. Hestvatn

1. Þórisvatn

The first Iceland lake is Þórisvatn. Þórisvatn lake is the largest in Iceland. It sits in the southern half of Iceland in the highlands of Iceland. It is also the longest longitudinal lake in Iceland.

You can access this lake by using the highland road called Sprengisandur. It lies at the south end of this road. A hydroelectric reservoir runs along the lake’s surface that gains energy from the lake and the primary incoming river. Although the lake was originally formed glacially, it was enlarged by the construction of the reservoir. The river is the river Þjórsá which comes down from the glacier Hofsjökull.

2. Þingvallavatn

The Þingvallavatn is a lake caused by a rift in the valley of Iceland. It makes it one of Iceland’s many lake craters. Its anglicized name is Thingvallavatn. It is a lake in southwestern Iceland and the second largest lake in Iceland. It has a surface area of 84 square kilometers and is even deeper than Þórisvatn at 114 meters at its deepest.

This lake gets its name from the ancient Icelandic customers close to its shores. It was named because of the presence of the Alþingi, which is the world’s oldest national parliament. A portion of the lake also lies within Þingvellir National Park. That is the easiest part of the lake to get to. There are a lot of access points in the park. 

Due to the lake’s volcanic origins, there are faults and cracks all around its edges. The  Almannagjá is the largest since it lies where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates conjoin. 

This lake is also the site of one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Iceland, the Silfra fissure. It is very popular to scuba dive or snorkels there because of the crystalline blue waters. Another feature that makes it notable is the presence of four different morphs of Arctic charr, a large cold-water fish in the salmon family.

3. Hálslón

The Hálslón Reservoir started as a natural crater lake in Iceland but became much larger after working on the reservoir. The reservoir is in Eastern Iceland, located along the Jökulsá á Dal River. It stores water to produce hydroelectricity for the nearby Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, which supplies the energy for an aluminum smelter 75 kilometers to the east.

The reservoir has three different embankment dams that straddle the river and control water flow. These three dams are meant to optimize the hydroelectric power produced by the river. The dams were built between 2003 through 2006, and the reservoir was filled in September 2006.

Once the water runs through the reservoir, it gets discharged into the northeastern river Jökulsá í Fljótsdal. Before they even filled the reservoir, there was a vote in the Icelandic parliament to give the entire area park status. It was voted on positively, and the area is now protected, with a catchment area covering 1/10 of Iceland’s total surface area.

4. Blöndulón

The Blöndulón Lake is another of Iceland’s largest lakes. This was another primarily man-made lake created in 1984, unlike lakes such as Kerid crater lake in Iceland. Construction was finished on it in 1991 and thus formed the reservoir that powers the Blönduvirkjun power plant.

Compared to the larger volcanic and glacial lakes above, this lake only has a depth of 38 meters. You can get to it by taking the Kjölur road into the highlands of Iceland. Another popular geographic point is Hveravellir hot springs, located only 25 kilometers to the south. Both of these areas are in the northern half of Iceland.

5. Lagarfljót

Another name for lake Lagarfljót is Fljótið. It lies in the Eastern portion of Iceland, closest to the town of Egilsstaðir. It has a surface area that measures 53 square kilometers. It is quite a long lake with a total length of 25 kilometers with a width of only 2.5 kilometers at the most.

As a natural lake like Lake Myvatn in Iceland, it gets quite deep. Its greatest depth is 112 meters. It also has the Lagarfoss Virkjun hydropower station located at its bottom since the River Lagarfljót flows through the lake.

The lake is a draw for quite a few tourists since it is also closest to one of the largest forests in Iceland, the Hallormsstaðaskógur forest and the Hengifoss waterfall. The waterfall is 128 meters high, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, and is accessible by taking the Ring Road around Iceland.

There is also a myth about a cryptid serpent called Lagarfljótsormurinn that locals believe lives in the depths of this lake.

6. Hágöngulón

Hágöngulón Lake is in the Icelandic Highlands. It is another one of the twenty larger blue water lakes in Iceland, with an area of 37 square kilometers. It is only 10 kilometers to the east of Sprengisandur road. The road is one of the highland tracks that crosses Iceland from north to south. 

It is also only about 10 kilometers from one of the largest glaciers in Iceland, the glacier  Vatnajökull. It is meltwater from this glacier that feeds into the lake. It then drains out the  Kaldakvísl tributary into the river Þjórsá towards the southwest coast.

7. Mývatn

Lake Mývatn is a shallow lake but still natural. It was formed during volcanic activity about 2,300 years ago when a basaltic lava eruption occurred. It is only a short distance from the Krafla volcano.

Due to the minerals that come from the volcanic rocks, this lake sees a large amount of biological activity. It is also due to the fact that this is a hot lake in Iceland. As a result, it provides a thriving ecosystem to waterbirds. In addition, the nearby effluent river Laxá is known for the rich fishing of Atlantic salmon and brown trout. 

The surrounding wetlands in and around this area are known as the Mývatn-Laxá Nature Conservation Area, which comprises 4,400 square kilometers.

8. Hóp

Hóp is a lake in northern Iceland near Blönduós. It is shallow and small, with depths and a surface area that depends on the tides. That makes it more of a lagoon than a lake. However, it is regarded as one of the frozen Icelandic lakes during the winter. Its greatest depth goes up to 9 meters. Its area fluctuates between 29 and 44 square kilometers.

9. Hvítárvatn

The Hvítárvatn Lake is also called the ‘white river lake’ in English. It lies in the Highlands of Iceland and serves as the source of the Hvita, a glacial river. It is a glacial lake instead of a volcanic one like the Kerid volcanic lake in Iceland. It lies 45 kilometers to the northeast of the Gullfoss waterfall, which the Hvita river feeds.

10. Langisjór

The Langisjór Lake lies on the western edge of Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland. It is a long lake at 20 kilometers long and only up to 2 kilometers wide. The total surface area of the lake is 26 square kilometers. It gets up to 75 meters deep at the most. 

This lake is beautiful, and some think of it as a blue lagoon lake in Iceland. However, it is far from civilization in the park. Its altitude of 670 meters above sea level also makes it difficult to reach.

11. Kvíslavatn

This is another lake in the Highlands of Iceland. It is one of the smaller lakes in Iceland, with a surface area of only 20 square kilometers. It lies just to the west of Sprengisandur, a highland road that runs to the southeast of the Hofsjökull glacier. This is a glacier lake in Iceland, fed by the Hofsjökull.

12. Sultartangalón

Sultartangalón Lake is in the Highlands of Iceland to the north of the Hekla volcano. It makes up another reservoir for the Þjórsá river. The lake has a total area of 20 square kilometers. The Þjórsá river and Tungnaá rivers are the primary inflows for the lake, and the Tungnaá river ends in the lake.

13. Jökulsárlón

The Jökulsárlón translates literally to glacial river lagoon. It is a glacial lake in Iceland located in the southern portion of Vatnajökull National Park. The lake formed once the Breiðamerkurjökull began to recede from the Atlantic Ocean. 

It is because of this that the lake continues to grow. It has also been reported to be the deepest lake in Iceland at 284 meters. It is a lake over the ocean since it borders the Atlantic without falling into it. You can reach the lake when you take Route 1 from Höfn towards Skaftafell.

This movie has been seen in four Hollywood movies, including Batman Begins. Various parts of this lake form a major tourist attraction as it has been described as a ‘ghostly procession of blue icebergs.’

14. Grænalón

Grænalón translates into English to mean Green Lagoon. It is another of the glacial lakes in Iceland fed by the Vatnajökull glacier. It is in the south of Iceland, steadily getting smaller due to the receding of the glacier Skeiðarájökull. 

That glacier originally acted as a natural dam for the lake. However, once the glacier shortened considerably, the lake began draining until it was little more than a pond at this point. As of the measurement taken in the late 20th century, this lake measured 18 square kilometers. It has dissipated even further at this point.

15. Skorradalsvatn

Skorradalsvatn lake in western Iceland is in a narrow valley between Hvalfjörður and Reykholt Salur. It is about 15 kilometers long and bordered by mountains, making this lake extremely picturesque as though it were located in a region of the Alps. The lake has also been recently turned into a reservoir, causing the surface level of the water to rise.

16. Sigöldulón

Sigöldulón Lake is another reservoir in Iceland. The reservoir can also be called Krókslón. It is in the north of the country. It is 14 square kilometers in total. You get a good look at the Hekla volcano in the background of the lake, which helped form the lake long ago. Now, it primarily provides hydroelectric power to the nearby power station.

17. Apavatn

The Apavatn lake is in southwest Iceland, close to Reykjavik. It is likely the closest to the city to provide you with good fishing. It has a reputation for excellent trout fishing. It has a surface area of approximately 13 square kilometers and sits in the shadow of the nearby Mount Hekla.

18. Heiðarlón

This lake is a man-made lake to further take advantage of the potential hydroelectric power that the Þjórsá river can produce. It takes up 13.5 square kilometers and doesn’t function as a tourist destination of a great ecosystem yet because of its recent artificial creation.

19. Svínavatn

Svínavatn is the name of three lakes in Iceland. Two of them are very small. The primary lake that is most well-known as Svínavatn is in the northern half of Iceland. It is only 12 square kilometers and reaches a maximum depth of 39 meters.

20. Öskjuvatn

Öskjuvatn Lake, or Askja Lake, is in the Highlands of Iceland. It has a surface area of about 11 square kilometers, making it slightly smaller than Svínavatn. However, it is a crater lake in Iceland, situated in the dormant volcano’s crater called Askja. 

A massive volcanic eruption created the crater in 1875. It lies just to the northeast of the Vatnajökull glacier. In 1907, two German scientists disappeared while exploring the crater and its lake in a boat. They were never found, but scientists suppose that seismic disturbances caused landslides or water disturbances.

21. Vesturhópsvatn

Vesturhópsvatn has a total area of 10.3 square kilometers. It is 7 kilometers long and only 2.3 kilometers wide since it lies in a valley. As a result, it is largely overshadowed by the larger Hóp lake close by in Northern Iceland.

22. Höfðavatn

Höfðavatn Lake is another one of the lakes in the medium-sized category. It is only 10 square kilometers and is located very close to the ocean in northern Iceland. Some call it more of a lagoon than a lake since it is close to the ocean, and tides can change based on ocean movements. 

It is in Skagafjörður fjord, only 7 kilometers north of Hofsós, a small northern village that has functioned as a northern tradepost for as long as people have lived up north.

23. Grímsvötn

Grímsvötn is not a straightforward lake like many others on our list. The lake lies within a volcano that goes by the same name but is actually a subglacial lake. It never freezes due to the continuous volcanic activity and volcanic heat. There have been bacteria found in the lake’s waters, which some scientists theorize can be an example of how life can effectively live on Mars.

24. Hestvatn

Hestvatn is a small reservoir in southwest Iceland. It is the smallest on our list with only an area of 6 square kilometers. The name translates to ‘horse lake’ in English.

What are the Facts about Lakes in Iceland?

Lakes in Iceland make up an important part of Iceland’s tourist and fishing economies. They also serve as a geographical history text since their shapes and locations signify ancient glacial movements and volcanic activity.

Lakes aren’t the only water body that has significance in Iceland. There are also many rivers that shape the country. There are also very popular lagoons scattered around the country.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a lake and a lagoon in Iceland. A lagoon is typically a saltwater lake. It has salty water because of the tides from the ocean impacting the lagoon’s borders. Thus, they tend to be close to the ocean.

Lakes, on the other hand, are often freshwater bodies that are farther away from the ocean. Around Iceland, even if a body of water is distinctly salt or freshwater, it can still be called a lagoon or lake interchangeably. 

The size of a lake or lagoon is also vague. For example, some ecologists say a body of water needs to be at least 2 hectares to be a lake instead of a pond. However, other ecologists say it needs to be closer to 40 hectares.

How many lakes are there in Iceland?

There are only about 20 lakes larger than 10 square kilometers in Iceland. However, there are hundreds of lakes since Iceland is full of craters, glaciers, and volcanic activity that regularly change the face of the country. 

What is the biggest Lake in Iceland?

Þórisvatn is the largest lake in Iceland. At 88 square kilometers of surface area, it can provide quite a bit of hydroelectric power to local power stations. It reaches 109 meters deep and is fed by the Þjórsá river.

What is the smallest Lake in Iceland?

There are lots of small lakes in Iceland. For this reason, there is no clear answer about the smallest lake in Iceland since the definition of the minimum size of a lake is vague. 

What is the deepest Lake in Iceland?

The deepest lake in Iceland is Lagarfjót lake or the Monster lake. It is also the country’s third-largest lake. 

What is the shallowest Lake in Iceland?

Again, the shallowest lake in Iceland cannot be pinpointed since certain small, shallow lakes might just be considered ponds. However, lake Mývatn is a shallow lake even though it is one of the largest water bodies in Iceland. This is because it only extends to a depth of 8.2 meters. 

What Creatures live in Lakes in Iceland?

Many of Iceland’s lakes are rife with life. Some of them are even full of myth and legend. Many of them have stocks of salmon and trout, depending on the rivers that feed into them. They are also homes to many water birds, such as a variety of duck species.

Although there are various myths and legends having to do with mythical creatures around Iceland, there is only one prominently centered around a lake. The Lagarfljótsormur or Lagarfljót worm lives in the lake of the same name. It is similar to the legend of Loch Ness in Scotland.

What is the prominence of Lakes in Iceland Geography?

There are many lakes all over Iceland. That is why they have impacted Iceland culture. Lakes and water systems are integral in Iceland, whether it is because of myths and legends or their prominence for nearby communities.

For example, Iceland gets about 73% of its total energy from hydropower. Therefore, they work hard to optimize the placement and use of dams and reservoirs around the country. However, there is some concern about the impact on wildlife surrounding the reservoirs and the power stations.

What are the Rivers that Feed the Lakes in Iceland?

The Þjórsá river of Iceland feeds into many of Iceland’s larger lakes and smaller water bodies. It is the country’s longest river. It spans 230 kilometers along the southern half of the island. The next largest river by volume is the Ölfusá. 

What is the situation of the Lakes in Iceland?

The lakes in Iceland have more to do with the country’s highly active volcanic and glacial activity. Many glacial lakes form as a glacier recedes. It often leaves large, sunken expanses of earth behind, filling the steadily melting water. 

Some of these in the coldest areas that aren’t very shallow become frozen lakes during the winter. This glacial melting and receding have also caused the formation of an iceberg lake in Iceland.

Another way that lakes can form in Iceland is through volcanic activity. Seismic disturbances and eruptions often cause the formation of craters. A crater lake is one where water has steadily collected in the hollow and hasn’t been able to soak into the ground because of the rock underneath. In some cases, Iceland’s rivers will end up draining these lakes, but not always.

What are the Volcanic Crater Lakes in Iceland?

Many of Iceland’s volcanoes are pretty active. Some of their past activity has formed volcanic craters lakes. These are often quite popular tourist destinations because of their location and beauty.

The Kerid crater lake is Iceland’s oldest and most well-known crater lake. It is estimated to be more than 3,000 years old. It is generally not very deep, although it depends on rainfall. It typically measures between 7 and 14 meters deep.

What are the Glacier Lakes in Iceland?

You can often find glacial lakes around all of Iceland’s glaciers. However, the most active glacial lake in the country is Jökulsárlón. It is a glacial lake formed from the receding nature of the Vatnajökull glacier. It is up to 300 meters deep at its mouth and is currently 25 kilometers long.

What are the Economic Activities on Lakes in Iceland?

There are plenty of economic activities that center around the lakes in Iceland. Fishing is one of the primary economic activities in Iceland. It accounts for more than 50% of foreign currency that comes into the country. Approximately 11.8% of Iceland’s population works in the fishing industry to support it.

What are the Lake Tours in Iceland?

There are many Iceland tours based around the lakes in the country. You can take a boat tour of glacial lakes lagoons, along rivers, and in the ocean around the island. Some offer special focuses, such as a Northern Lights Cruise on a river or lake.

What are the Fishing Activities in Iceland?

Fishing in Iceland is quite popular, particularly on well-stocked lakes and rivers. You can only fish for a maximum of 12 hours each day during the fishing season. Rod fishing is only legal from 7 AM until sunset on any given day. The most common fish in lakes and rivers are brown trout, sea trout, and arctic char.

What are the Laws about Swimming in Iceland’s lakes?

Swimming in Iceland’s beautiful lakes or geothermal pools is very popular. There are very few rules and regulations for those who enjoy wild swimming. Swimming in pools is one of the top pastimes for people in Iceland, both local and tourist.

However, be aware that it can be pretty dangerous. The geothermal heat can get up to 36 degrees Celsius, making them dangerously hot. It is also not good to spend too much time in the hot waters, or you will overheat. Depending on the heat of the pool, there will likely be guidance posted about how long you should spend in the pool before taking a break.