Jökulsárlón or The Glacier Lagoon


On June 21, the day of the summer soltice, I embarked on a 667 mile round trip journey that ultimately took me and the 15 other folks I traveled with to Jökulsárlón or the Glacier Lagoon.  In between we would stop and I would walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, look at the picturestic waterfall Skógarfoss, visit Skaftafell National Park and finally the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  The day was cloudy to start and the weather changed about 15 minutes so so from cloudy, to drizzle, to rain, to fog, to breaking clouds with spots of sunshine.  The only weather events we didn’t have were snow, sleet freezing rain and hail. 

Let me start by saying this was a long trip.  It started for me at 7:30 AM and I did not get back to The Blue House B&B till 11:15 PM.  I felt wasted by the time we returned.  To be clear, the tour company was just fine and the tour guide was very knowledgeable.  However, you know Big Lou does not like tours.  So why you might ask why I took one.  The answer is that rental cars are very expensive here and the fuel is just as expensive.  My thought was this small group tour would meet my expectations of lower cost without feeling lost in the crowd.  In the end it met my expectation in a lower cost and the goup I traveled with was very nice.  However, do not do this trip in one day.  It’s way too much ground to cover in one day and you really are not given enough time to take in each spot on the tour let alone to just stop because you see something you might want to take a few minutes to really enjoy.  My advice, and I will certaintly do this the next time I travel to Iceland, is forget about the cost of a rental car.  Rent it and take these trips in your own car in yourand allow at least two full days in order to take your own sweet time.  This country is way too spectacular to take in at 60 MPH.

One other complaint is the rest areas where we stopped for lunch and dinner.  Not good when the menu consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, fried fish or fried chicken along with a few other deep fried items.  I’m sure there are many better choices for food along this route.  However, these places are made for tour buses in order to get you fed quickly and back on the road as fast as possible.

So what did we see.  This trip took us on Iceland’s Ring Road.  It is the only major highway on the island and the only way to get from North to South and visa versa.  There is no so called direct route between North and South or East To West.  The Ring Road was completed in 1974 and is 828 miles long.  That means we covered about 40% of the highway in  one day.

 The first stop was the picturestic waterfall Skógarfoss.  The 62m-high waterfall of Skógarfoss topples over a rocky cliff at the western edge of Skógar in dramatic style.  Many folks climb the steep staircase alongside for views downwards, or walk to the foot of the falls, that is shrouded in sheets of mist and if the sun shines, rainbows. Legend has it that a settler named Þrasi hid a chest of gold behind Skógarfoss and sometimes you can almost see it glittering.  

Our next stop was for lunch.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

After lunch we drove, and drove and drove until at about 2:00 PM we arrived at  Jökulsárlón or the Glacier Lagoon.  There are a lot of spectacular, luminous-blue icebergs thatdrift through Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is right beside the Ring Road between Höfn and Skaftafell. Even though I was in a tour and had heard about this place I wasn't expecting this. You need to spend at least a couple of hours here (I would suggest three hours minimum), so you can admire the wondrous natural ice sculptures (some of them striped with ash layers from volcanic eruptions)  I took a 45 minutes boat trip in an amphibious vehicle into the lagoon.  We were told we might see seals during the boat trip.  However, our amphibious vehicle did not encounter any.

The icebergs in Jökulsárlón calve from Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, an offshoot of Vatnajökull Glacier, crashing down into the water and drifting inexorably towards the Atlantic Ocean. They can spend up to five years floating in the 18-sq-km-plus, 820 foot-deep lagoon, melting, refreezing and occasionally toppling over with a mighty splash, startling the birds. They then move on via Jökulsá, Iceland’s shortest river, out to sea.  You will actually see a picture of this river in the photo’s section.

Although it looks as though it’s been here since the last ice age, the lagoon is only about 80 years old. Until the mid-1930s Breiðamerkurjökull reached the Ring Road; it’s now retreating rapidly (a staggering 650 to almost 900 feet per year), and the lagoon is consequently growing.  Our tour guide said that some day the Ring Road will be washed away and the North and South sides of the island will once again be separated. 

When we arrived there was a heavy mist and by the time I got on the amphibious vehicle it was raining.  When you come to Iceland make sure you bring a rain coat, rain pants, rain hat, and waterproof shoes. Even in the rain the Jökulsárlón are breath taking.

Returning to the bus we next stopped at Seljalandsfoss falls.  Notice how all the names of the waterfalls end in “foss”?  Well “foss” means waterfall.  There is not much I can tell you about this very cool falls except you can walk behind the falls.  I got quite wet but shot a video with my iPhone that’s not bad considering I was holding the iPhone in my left hand trying to hold it steady, while looking ahead to make sure I didn’t slip and kill myself.  In the end I the video is not bad  and I made it behind the waterfall and to the other side without incident.  You will be able to find the video in Big Lou’s videos.

Next we went to Skaftafell National Park in order to have some photo opportunities and to see a short video about the 2010 eruption of  Eyjafjallajökull was considered small for a volcanic eruption, still managed to cause enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe over an initial period of six days in April 2010. Additional localised disruption continued into May 2010. The eruption was declared officially over in October 2010, when snow on the glacier did not melt. From 14–20 April, ash covered large areas of northern Europe when the volcano erupted. About 20 countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected about 10 million travellers.  We stopped at the site after viewing the video and although the picture I took at the base of the volcano is almost covered in the clouds you can see the farm that was untouched by the eruption.

Our next stop was dinner.  Enough said.

Our last stop before the final push home was the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  We stopped for a couple of minutes to walk on the beach and fell the silky soft black sand and of course take some pictures. 

I’m using The Lonely Planet. “Iceland Travel Guide” for facts.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014