On both of my trips to Iceland (in 2001 and 2013), I stopped by the glacial lagoon at Jökulárlón to see the strangely-shaped and colored little icebergs. The second time, I even took a boat ride around the lagoon.
The lagoon is a must-see on the road between Höfn and Kirkjubæjarklaustur, neither of which could be correctly pronounced by visiting tourists. It is an outlet to the biggest glacier in Europe, Vatnajókull, which occupies approximately 8% of the total land area of Iceland.
Fanciful Shapes Abound, Like This Duck
Never mind that the sun doesn’t seem to shine much at Jökulárlón, the sight of all those odd ice shapes tinted electric blue catches and holds your attention. All the buses in South Iceland make a point of stopping there for a half hour on their way either east or west.
I even had a taste of glacial ice from our guide, who fractured a pane of ice and passed it around among the tourists. It was delicious, having been frozen for millennia.
Although the Vatnajókull glacier is, like most glaciers, receding, it still occupies a large chunk of real estate. While I was staying at Hófn, I even played around on the glacier’s surface on a Ski-Doo snowmobile.
Atop the Glacier
I have been atop two glaciers in my lifetime, Vatnajókull and the Athabasca Glacier in Canada’s Jasper National Park. Something tells me that this is an activity that future generations will not be able to enjoy.
Looking South from the Island of Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar
These are my oldest image files. They were converted from my Kodachrome slides from a trip I took to Iceland in 2001. Before I went to Iceland, there were parts of Europe that fascinated me. After Iceland, I was fascinated only by Iceland. Was it that I have an inborn need for wastelands like Patagonia or the Southwestern Deserts of the United States or the Peruvian Altiplano? I think so.
With the above photo, I was trying to see if I could find Surtsey, the island that was created by a recent volcanic upheaval beneath the sea. (The island still exists, but it is gradually getting smaller.)
The Ice in Iceland
The Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon Near Skaftafell
One of the most incredible sights in South Iceland is the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon visible from the Ring Road on the way to Höfn in Hornstrandir. On one side of the road are these incredible chunks broken off from the giant glacier Vatnajökull; on the other, is a black sand beach dotted with tiny chunks of transparent ice like diamonds in a black satin setting.
The lagoon and beach are so spectacular that it is almost impossible to just pass on by. Even the bus to and from Höfn stops for a half hour or so. It’s not long enough for a boat ride on the lagoon—but it makes you want to come back, as I did in 2013.
Ice like Diamonds on a Black Sand Beach (Breiðamerkursandur) 2013
Why I Want To Return
My two visits to Iceland have merely whetted my appetite. I have read all the major Medieval Icelandic sagas, most of the novels of Iceland’s lone winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (Halldor Laxness), and the superb books by Jesse L. Byock on Medieval Iceland. Plus there are parts of Iceland I have not seen, such as the Eastfjords, the stretch between Bru and Akureyri, Siglufjörður, and the Sprengisandur route through the middle of the island.