If I would have to choose one of my favorite places in Iceland it would probably be the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. At least, it made the biggest impression on me during our first visit to Iceland in 2014. There are so many processes happening to perceive at the same moment at the place that its beauty can be truly overwhelming.
Blue giant icebergs taking various shapes, being separated from the glacier’s forehead and moved by the streams in the glacial lagoon to finally end up in the ocean. Icebergs driven by the glacial currents immerse and emerge showing different sides of the ice to the visitors watching this amazing spectacle from the slope of the nearby hill.
Jökulsárlón is located approx. 380km from Reykjavik and it takes around 5 hours of a drive to get there according to the Google maps. In reality, it always takes longer. However, when traveling in Iceland you should always take into consideration that the weather here is really unpredictable, roads conditions can get worse anytime and a trip can take longer than planned. Every trip in Iceland should start with checking the weather conditions and the status of the road.
Now, we invite you to revive with us our last day trip Jökulsárlón during which you’ll get to know must-sees of the Icelandic South Coast and more.
Reykjavik – the city of cranes
Leave Reykjavik as early as possible so you will have a chance to arrive at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon on time to catch an amazing sunset. You will also have more time to enjoy your lunch, a coffee with a view on beautiful waterfalls and mountains and catch magical morning light on your travel photographs.
If you have more time to spend in Iceland, you can make this road trip in 2 days and spend more time at every location. Let’s leave the town early and embark on some adventure in Icelandic nature. As we were leaving Reykjavik and heading South the view on Mount Esja accompanied us until we took the road where the sign says direction to VIK. When you already drive out from the agglomeration of Reykjavik you realize the rapid drop in density of the buildings. Finally, open space and freedom.
And after we passed the little town of Hella – suddenly you can feel like one of the protagonists of Kerouac’s “On the Road”, from now on only you, sky, the road….and other cars.
Sightseeing in Iceland is quite effortless – most of the touristic attractions are visible from the popular Ring Road. And you will never know when you will be taken-aback by a view of an amazing waterfall or a volcano. So we were driving and driving and suddenly we spotted our first waterfall in Iceland – Seljalandsfoss. Yes, the one that you can walk under and make these epic Instagram photos. When our mouths stopped hanging open in shock and we managed to put ourselves together after finally seeing Seljalandsfoss – we made some photos, got wet while having a walk on the path under the waterfall, drunk a swiss mocha in the café nearby. Then, we were ready to head for the next awe-inspiring waterfall – the powerful Skogafoss.
We saw the Skogafoss on so many photographs before but still, it didn’t disappoint us. The wall of unstoppable water pressed in the slope of the hill looks like a moving tail and the closer you get the more powerful it seems. If you will be lucky enough to be there on a sunny day you can spot a rainbow in front of Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Actually, the best time to visit the waterfalls is in the afternoon when the rays of Sun shines through the water tail.
The 15 islands
During an enjoyable sunny day when the visibility is satisfying, you can spot rock formations in the distance that look like mountains or sea cliffs. In fact, these are Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands) – 15 islands formed by eruptions over the past 10,000–12,000 years from which the only one is inhabited – Heimaey and is a home of more than 4 000 people (Stay curious – we will take you there with us in another blog).
Black ash and blue ice
Now let’s see why this island is really known as a land of ice and fire! Just 12min drive after the Skogafoss lies on the most popular among hikers Icelandic glacier Solheimajokull – known also for its dark color as it is still covered in black volcanic ash accumulated on the surface after the last eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. If you will decide to go for a glacier hiking make sure you have your sunglasses with you and to put some sun cream on your nose. It might seem weird or funny as Iceland is known for its winds and rains, however being on top of a glacier on a sunny day it’s a different story.
Before we will visit the most popular town in the South Coast and we are sure – you know about which town we are talking about – we make a stop on a deadly beautiful Reynisfjara volcanic beach. The beach is known for black sand, lava columns and the volcanic cave where all the honeymooners go for not obvious romantic shots. There is a great view from Reynisfjara on the Reynisdrangar – the basalt sea stacks standing out of the sea near the town of Vik. We used the word deadly to describe Reynisfjara as it is known for the dangerous sneaky weaves, so while visiting Reynisfjara please pay attention to the signs, behave accordingly and never turn your back on the ocean.
Vik the house of a dormant volcano
While heading to the town of Vik – the compulsory stop of probably every tourist that comes to Iceland, through the car windows we admire the Icelandic landscape of the Mýrdalssandur glacial outwash plain, but the closer we get to the town of Vik our surroundings become more and more volcanic. At this moment our thoughts go around the most dangerous volcano in Iceland – Katla that is due to erupt and it can happen at any moment. One can have an impression that we humans rule on this planet and can transform its surface indefinitely, but in places like Vik, you realize that it is actually another way around.
Vik lies directly south of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which itself is on top of the Katla volcano. If now dormant Katla would erupt again probably nothing will be left from residential buildings hereabouts. Probably some people living or tourists passing by will not escape in time when all the area will be covered in volcanic dust and when the glacier on top of the volcano will melt by lava coming out of the caldera and all the area will be soon flooded. Katla is much more dangerous than Eyaflajjajokull that erupted in 2010, so just imagine what could be the repercussions of the eruption of a volcano as powerful as this. Vík seems to be a quiet little town, however, the danger of Katla is always present and the inhabitants use country’s emergency text message system that will alarm the inhabitants in case of a sudden eruption.
Finally, we made it to Vík, I always enjoy the moment when we drive on the hill and suddenly we see the familiar view of Icelandic houses scattered on the plain of Vík and it’s most recognizable landmark – charming Vikurkirkja church towering over Vík from the nearby hill. Sometimes in a gloomy day when the fogs come down to the valleys, it seems as the church is floating on clouds.
After having lunch and refueling the car – we make a short walk to the beach of Vík to observe powerful waves. For me, Iceland is not only the land of Ice and Fire but also of overwhelming, present everywhere water.
The canyon & damaged vegetation
As every year more and more visitors are arriving in Iceland the Icelandic hidden gems stop to be hidden. This is the case of Fjadrargljufur Canyon after Justin Bieber visited it and promoted all the forbidden things a tourist can even think of doing in this place – descending from designated paths, so nature could have at least a little chance to recover, taking a bath in the river etc.
The above photo was made in August 2017, currently, May 2018 the path to the canyon is completely closed to protect the vegetation. Fjadrargljufur is located 45 min drive after Vik in the direction to the Kirkjubaejarklaustur, where we always stop for a bowl of a local soup (vegetarian option available here the middle of nowhere in Iceland).
The field of greenish sponges
What was your first image of a lava field? Most of the people visiting Iceland for the first time are surprised that there is actually no ongoing eruption during their visit and that most of the lava fields are actually green, not black, hot and steamy. The last volcanic eruption in Iceland took place in 2015 and it was connected with the volcano Bardarbunga. After passing Kirkjubaejarklaustur you will drive literally between the lava fields. That’s one of my favorite roads in Iceland. The lava fields in Iceland are usually covered in enormous fluffy sponges in bright green color. There are some designated points when you can stop and have a closer look.
Vatnajokull National Park
Finally, we are getting closer to the Vatnajokull National Park which covers 8 % of the country and protects glaciers. It is a really overwhelming experience driving the spectacular Road nr 1 on the South in the Vatnajokull National Park. You will have a view on the nearby glacier tongues that come down from the mountains so close to the road that seems to nearly touch the road.
Svina is a pig, Fell is a mountain, Jokull is a glacier
If you have more time on your way back you can make a hike on the Svinafellsjokull or go for a hike in the national park to Svartifoss – a unique waterfall surrounded by lava columns.
The jewel in Iceland’s crown surrounded by black sand
We were driving approximately 1h after we left Svinafellsjokull and finally silhouette of the bridge next to the glacier lagoon started to arise in front of us.
We were here many times but every time it looks so different and breath-taking, especially when you arrive on time to catch sunset light.
Do not forget to go on the other side of the bridge and spend some time on the Diamond Beach where some of the icebergs from the lagoon land. If you will be lucky enough you can spot seals who will be as curious about your presence there as you are curious to watch them.
The gate to the East
Always when traveling to South we tend to stay overnight in the town of Hofn as there is a camping site overviewing the lake and Stokknes peninsula. So next day, we can always make some walk on the black sand beaches of Stokknes while taking photos of a remarkable Vestrahorn and than we can drive further East and enter the areas where not an average tourist will go.
We’ll take you there next time!