Skaftafell National Park & Jökulsárlón

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The easternmost point on our itinerary was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the trip out there was full of adventure. I had heard that it's possible to experience all four seasons in one day in Iceland, but I never really thought it was true until we experienced it on our drive to Jökulsárlón. From a warm and sunny morning to a windy and hail-filled afternoon, we weathered it all. It seems that the further east we got, the more wintry the landscape became, but I have to say that the constant rotations of precipitation and sun made for some of the prettiest rainbows.

When we got to the lagoon, which was about two hours from Vik, it was still raining a bit and pretty crowded with a few tour buses, so we decided to take our time and grab some hot chocolate in the cafe before exploring.

Jökulsárlón is most famous for it's stunning lagoon full of icebergs which, as Mike was stoked to learn, has been featured in several Bond movies. The lake is actually the deepest on the island and sits at the foot of Iceland's highest mountain range. Extending from the peaks down into the lake is a giant glacier, thousands of years old. The icebergs are actually pieces of this glacier that have broken off and fallen into the water.

The ice in these photos may look exceptionally blue, but it's nothing compared to the real thing. In person, the color is so dramatic that the icebergs almost look fake. The whole lagoon is quite the sight to behold, with dozens of bobbing pieces of ice all sparkling and practically glowing in the water. After about half an hour of exploring on our own, we decided to do the boat tour because without it, you really can't see very much. You can walk around the shore and take photos from a distance, but the boat is really the best way to see the lagoon and the icebergs up close. Plus, you get to learn about the history and science behind icebergs, which of course was my favorite part. Well, maybe second favorite...

Just before we were about to leave, they grey clouds that had been hanging over the lake parted and through the mist, the sun emerged. We were about to get in the car when suddenly everyone around us started sprinting up the little hill to one side of the lagoon. There, on the opposite side of the lake, the most stunning rainbow I have ever seen spread wide across the sky, creating the most beautiful backdrop behind the icebergs.

Cue the goosebumps.

It took us about three seconds to realize what was happening, grab the camera, and then join in sprinting. I'll never forget standing there with Mike, giggling like an idiot from the sheer joy at seeing something so beautiful. It was one of those "pinch me" moments and I think everyone there that day felt it too.

After that, it was off to Skaftafell National Park to set up camp. Out of all the places we camped in Iceland, this was by far our favorite. First, since it was part of a large national park, it was the most modern, with nice bathrooms, shower facilities, and a shop for supplies. Second, they had a food truck. I didn't even know Iceland had food trucks, but this park did and it was the perfect post-hike meal. Third, the view. 

Waking up with a view of the Vatnajökull glacier was pretty unreal. Although, watching the sunset over top of it from the summit of the Skaftafellsheiði hiking loop was the real showstopper. I can definitely recommend doing the hike clockwise since the views just get better as you go and you get a chance to see a few waterfalls including Svartifoss along the way. I still smile every time I watch this little video I made the night we hiked the loop. Iceland is pretty rad, ya'll. You've gotta get there to see it for yourself. 

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