My Icelandic Summer Part 2: Through Glaciers, Fjords, and Lunar Landscapes

We continue our journey around Iceland; this time we had to take a stroll through a glacier and a trip around all the fjords of the east and north.

In the previous article I told you about the illusion that I was sleeping next to a glacier. Well, it’s nice, it piques your curiosity, and you can take some stunning pictures but it’s very cold! Of course, another one of the good things about Iceland is that they don’t have much of a problem with hot water, so after a good breakfast, we were strong enough to take a walk on the ice.

The tour of the Vatnajökul is a bit “touristy”. I must explain: you get some crampons and an ice ax (the latter recognized by the guide, is so that it looks nice in the photos), they teach you practical words in Icelandic (Vatn = water), give you a short walk so you can take lots of pictures and you have the typical “funny facts”. For example: do you remember that “other volcano” in May, which threatened European airspace? Well it was there, under that glacier which, incidentally, in the photos looks gray and homely and beautifully white because out of it precisely came the ashes of the volcano. Anyway, however touristy, it is worth it. Just look at these photos.

After our adventure as explorers of the North Pole and all wedged in the car (yes, I said “wedged”, it’s how we rode in the car for an entire article) we went to Lake Jökulsárlón (lón = lagoon), which we knew was a lake with floating icebergs that had been used as a backdrop for a film, like a couple of James Bond films and Tomb Raider (freaky fact: now they are filming the second season of Game of Thrones!). But nothing we had seen or read had prepared us for what we found. Jökulsárlón is an impressive site and nothing you say or photos that you see can ever do it justice. It’s something that you must see for yourself. Plus there are seals!

Now here’s a little trick when you want to find the best view: we made the trip from west to east and east of the lake is where you can find the visitor center and the departure point for the amphibious vehicle rides. Well, not there! It is very expensive and not worth it (well, take some hot chocolate at the visitor center itself). Follow the road to the lagoon, you must be vigilant and before reaching the center, where you see many cars parked to the left of the road with nothing to call for attention; that is where you stop, although it seems that there is nothing. Just up a small slope, you’ll find the stunning scenery of the lake with little tourists (and they are very nice people), no noise, now that’s special.

But if this isn’t enough for you, in the evening we went to the Jokulsarlon Beach. A river connects the lagoon with the sea and icebergs of all sizes and colors (transparent, white, and blue) floating down the river to the beach. The white ice contrasts with the black sand. The loneliness and tranquility are unparalleled.

That night we slept in Höfn, a coastal town just at the beginning of the east coast, where we enjoyed the great Icelandic soups and warmth that come just before getting in the sack.

The next day, although it bothered us to recognize it, it was not so special. We dedicated ourselves to skirting the thing through the western fjords (inside the fjord, outside the fjord, inside the fjord) en route to Egilsstadir. Let’s see, it’s a beautiful area, you just have to see the photos, but we still had the Jökulsárlón “hangover.” What got us excited that day was that the sun finally came out! And like most things, Iceland became much more beautiful; the hills were greener, the sea bluer, and the sheep, whiter.

We arrived at Egilsstadir, already inside, on a mountain road. It is a city that has nothing special, but turned into a great base camp. Once we found the campsite, tourist office, petrol station, and supermarket, we returned to go down the mountain’s narrow road towards Seydisfjördur, of course, stopping for many photos.

According to Lonely Planet (or our bible during the trip), if you have time to see more fjords, choose Seydisfjördur, with its Norwegian-style village and the chance to see puffins getting closer to the open sea. Well, I would not know how other places are, but we loved Seydisfjördur: the people are so cute and although we did not see puffins, the way that we walked allowed us the time to see a few half-abandoned towns, a little spooky…but very photogenic.

The next day, we went around Lagarfljot Lake and went up to Hengifoss, the third highest waterfall in Iceland (yes, I do not know how they do it, but all the waterfalls in Iceland are “the most” of something…). The ascent is “interesting” and seems to never end, but the arrival at the waterfall, surrounded by basalt columns, is impressive. Also, we took the opportunity to prove our theory that the sheep, besides being everywhere…fly!

In the afternoon, we had stayed to wait to see puffins before deciding to move towards Myvatn Hafnarholmi pass, an area where these birds nested so nicely. In case anyone wants to know, the puffin is one of the cutest animals in existence. They are like small penguins who fly and land rather awkwardly, but are fantastic swimmers and fishers, they make their nests on the ground and are matched for life, and we saw so many! It’s a pity not having any zoom features on any of my cameras.

Happy with our sightseeing, we continued to Myvatn, our next stop. A little rushed, since we did not pitch the tents in the dark. However we could not avoid stopping on the road to take pictures of everything that we found, like a soda machine stuck in a bright green house in the middle of nowhere or a beautiful church for Vikings. It’s just that we had no choice.

In the surroundings of Myvant, we could not avoid stopping in the geothermal area of Hverir. Although we had planned to see it the next day. The landscape had changed completely from green to more snow to something more deserted, almost lunar. This area is full of fumaroles, craters, cracks, and bubbling mud, which smells horrible of course. While there, you feel like you’re in another world especially if you see it like we did, with such a rare light from dusk.

I will end this article from another thermal pool. In this case that of Myvatn, or the “Blue Lagoon of the North”, where we took advantage of the fact that it was open until 12 at night for a night swim or you can do everything possible, which can be done at 11pm in Iceland, which is not much. At the end, we were half exhausted by the heat and steam and had to plant the tents at night but we enjoyed a good sleep.

For now I’ll have to say goodbye until the third installment, where there will be volcanoes, whales, and trolls…many trolls!

written by mochilis on 2011-12-24 in #world #locations

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