Sunday, August 2, 2015

Iceland Part III: Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Skaftafell National Park, and some fun stuff in between!

This day had us driving more east to less traveled areas and emptier roads. It was going to be a long day of driving, but there were always areas to stop in order for us to take pictures or just gaze at the scenery. The landscape was incredible - we drove through mounds and mounds of moss covered lava with mountains, glaciers, and the ocean serving as the backdrop.

Seriously, doesn't this look like a painting?

Some of the many horses in the fields

Jon and his camera

A couple of days before we left for Iceland we saw a picture from National Geographic Magazine showing someone running on the moss covered lava of Eldhraun. We looked it up, and to our delight it was right where we would be driving through on this day. As it turns out we probably would have stopped on the side of the road anyway in order to take pictures of this, but we now knew that there was an area where we could turn onto and get slightly away from the main road.

There was just so much lava... everywhere. And to think of how long it had been there for all of the moss and lavender plants to grow on it was amazing.  Walking (and running... and jumping) in this special area where few people get to see was just incredible. There was only one other car in the turn off area. If you just do a little research, have flexibility to deviate from plans, and show interest, you can discover wonderful things about the world.

We drove on and went out to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, which was about two hours from where we took our lava break. This lagoon is thought to be one of the greatest natural wonders in Iceland, and though it's a relatively recent lagoon due to a warming climate, it is a spectacular and magnificent sight to see. Huge blocks of ice break of the glacier of Breiðamerkurjökull and large white and electric blue icebergs float on top.

The lagoon is right off of the main road and since we were coming from the west we had an advantage - we came across a small parking lot first, as opposed to the crowded big one across the river. This also meant that we could walk along the black sand beach away from people and see smaller pieces of ice wash up on shore. This sight is so impressive and amazing - we've never seen anything like it before. It was a kind of beauty that we both had never experienced in any of our travels.

Holding some old ice! 

After leaving the lagoon we turned around and headed towards Skaftafell National Park, which was on the way back to Vik. Before the park we stopped at Kviárjökull glacier, which was easily accessible from the road. It wasn't nearly as dramatic as Jökulsárlón, but due to the lack of people it was very appealing. 

About 30 minutes later we arrived at Skaftafell National Park. This park sits on the edge of the Vatnajökull glacier and has a network of trails ranging from taking an hour to a few days worth. It was about 3pm, and although we had no threat of daylight ending, we decided to keep our hike/walk on the shorter end since we had almost a two hour drive back to Vik. As this was a day of glaciers, we took a walk to Skaftafell Glacier, which started right from the visitor center, and ended about 2.5 km later. We ended on a gravel path which opened to a wide area with the glacier right in front of us.

Our path 

There are so many things to see in this park and a lot of different hikes that we could have taken. When (not if) we come back to Iceland, I would like to try out some longer hikes in the park in order to see mountain peaks and waterfalls.

We drove back making stops along the way for some perfect picture taking opportunities. We are so fortunate to have seen such amazing natural beauty on this day! Next up, our drive along the Golden Circle, with some detours along the way (of course)! Stay tuned! 

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