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glaciers, Iceland, Jokulsarlon, Ring Road, Skaftafell, Svartifoss, Vik, WOW Airlines

Eastern Iceland: Jokulsarlon, Skaftafell & Svartifoss


Breakfast at Kálfafellsstadur

Despite a late night, we are up super early and get ready and packed up for the day. We head upstairs and Thora has prepared a full homemade breakfast, complete with waffles and homemade jams! We enjoy what is becoming our only sit down meal of the day, thank Thora for her hospitality and head out for Jokulsarlon.



At 8:30, there is already light on the horizon, and it looks like the day will dawn clear. Unfortunately, my camera is not working, but Bill has lent me his spare camera body which is compatible with my lenses. (I can’t imagine how depressing the rest of the trip would be without a camera, and I’m so thankful to be able to continue to shoot!)



As we drive west along the ring road back to the lagoon, the sun is rising to our left and the moon is setting to our right. It is the last few days of the “super moon” and we watch as a huge giant white ball drops behind the fjords. We park up at the lagoon but immediately walk over to the black sand beach, where chunks of icebergs are being lashed by water in the wave break. Sunrise is continuing behind, making the ice glow various shades of gold, violet, pink and blue.



Sunrise at Jokulsarlon

We spend well over two hours shooting stills and video here – we just can’t get enough of this natural, unique beauty!

We head back over to the lagoon and grab a hot chocolate at the little cafe and then inquire about a boat ride for later in the afternoon. Our plan is to head to Skaftafell National park to photograph Svartifoss and then head back to Jokulsarlon for a boat tour and sunset. Unfortunately, we find out that boats aren’t operating today due to too much ice debris in the lagoon.



We make our way to Skaftafell National Park. which is about a 45-minute drive. Skaftafell, or rather Vatnajökull National Park is home to the Vatnajökull Glacier, but we have come to photograph Svartifoss, a waterfall that sits 1.8km into the park. We begin the hike up and arrive around 2:00. The waterfall is surrounded by basalt rock columns that give me the feeling we’re peering into the center of the earth. Surrounding rocks and shrubbery are covered in a layer of white, frozen mist.

We spend about 1 1/2 hours shooting here, playing with long exposure and neutral density, and we don’t realize how much time has passed. We need to hurry if we want to make it back to Jokulsarlon for sunset. On the hike back down, the light is perfect though, and I want to stop and savor it and take more pictures. Behind us Vatnajökull glacier is brilliant white against an intense blue afternoon sky. To our right are fjords in the distance and bare birch trees, and below us the land is flat and white, and little rivulets lead out to the ocean ahead.


Jokulsarlon – just after sunset

By 3:45, we are back in the car and heading to Jokulsarlon, but we know we’ve missed the best of the light. We kick ourselves for not leaving earlier, and from the car, we watch as the sun sets to our right. At the lagoon, it’s still a pretty picture, and we decide to head on to Vik with the goal of getting there in time to have a relaxing evening, and maybe even dinner!


Foss á Siðu

We begin the two-hour drive, making one stop at Foss á Siðu to photograph the falls at night. Tonight is the clearest we’ve seen the skies since arriving, and we’re able to catch a few shooting stars.  Temps are dropping, so we head back to the car and continue on to Vik, arriving at Carina Guesthouse around 8pm.


Dinner at Suður-Vík

We get checked in and decide as we haven’t had a proper dinner since arriving in Iceland, we should treat ourselves. We head over to Suður-Vík Restaurant for a traditional dinner of Arctic Char and Rib Eye, accompanied with a cauliflower soup and homemade bread. After standing out in the cold all day, the food is warming us through, but making us sleepy!  We pay up and head back to the guesthouse, and as we leave the restaurant, we get a view of another almost supermoon rising above Vik’s church on the hilltop in the distance.

glaciers, Hofn, Iceland, Jokulsarlon, Seyoisfjordur

Jokulsarlon and the Glacial Lagoon

After our late night last night chasing the elusive northern lights, we are slow to get moving, but we are in no rush today. Our only plans are to explore Jokulsarlon and the glacial lagoon and then continue driving northeast into the land of fjords.

We head down to the lagoon and sign up for a 30-minute boat tour. We have an hour to kill, so we venture over to the black sand beach and see the pieces of ice that have broken off the larger icebergs and washed up on the beach. In the distance waves crash, washing more pieces of ice ashore. It’s a sight I’ve only ever seen on the Discovery Channel.

I realize that the use of the words, “awesome,” “amazing” and “gorgeous” are no longer doing these sights justice, and I’m starting to feel like a broken record. Carolyn suggests a thesaurus. We are just speechless from the stark beauty of this sight.

We leave the beach and head over to the shop where we are meeting up for the boat trip. The young lady greets us and tells us we’re very lucky, as it’s only the two of us, so instead of taking the amphibious boat, we get to go out in an inflatable motorboat. But first we must get kitted up. She leads us to a small trailer behind the shop and selects two of the sexiest outfits I’ve ever seen. We climb into these arctic suits and look better suited for a space mission than a glacial boat tour.

Willy, pronounced Villy, is our guide and he leads us out to the boat. We climb in and venture out into the lagoon. The boat lurches forward, and we can hear the crackle of ice breaking around us as we make our way toward the glacier. Jokulsarlon, (the name of the glacier), also called “the king,” sits majestically before us.
On the way, we dodge icebergs and watch seals lazing in the sun on small pieces of ice. The icebergs that have recently flipped over, glow a soft blue. The ones that have already absorbed enough sunlight have lost their blue hue. This is a beautiful sight. As we make our way, Willy informs us that the glacier is receding 100 meters every year. It makes me wonder how many years into the future this sight will be here for others to enjoy.
We loop around a huge iceberg and Willy explains that we can see only 15% of it, the remaining 85% is underwater. It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer size of these things. I imagine scuba diving in the lagoon and what a sight that would be. Willy explains that it is indeed possible with the right equipment. (This is for another trip!)
As we circle back to shore, we stop and Willy cracks a huge piece of ice off the side of a berg, and we are able to taste it. He tells us this ice is approximately 1,000 years old!! The trip ends too quickly and I tell Carolyn that this is by far one of the most amazing things I have ever seen or done.
We thank Willy and reluctantly give back our arctic suits and head to the small shop for a hot chocolate. It would be easy to stay here for hours and just savor the sight, but it’s already early afternoon and we have a drive ahead of us. We make a pit stop in Hofn, pronounced Hup, grab some lunch and gas up and then begin cruising through the eastern part of the country, which is known as fjordland. We have the road to ourselves, which is a good thing, as at times we are taking hairpin turns. We are nestled between the fjords on our left and the ocean on our right. Needless to say, it’s a beautiful drive.

We then begin the ascent into the highlands, literally up over a fjord. At this point in time, it is starting to get a bit dark and cloudy, and just as we hit an unpaved road, the sleet begins. We hope our little compact can handle the conditions.

The conditions worsen – it is now snowing, and the wind is so strong it’s challenging our small silver compact. We decide instead of trying to make it to Myvatn tonight that we should stay in Seyoisfjordur. We return to paved roads, but now they are slick with ice and snow. It is mid-October and I can only imagine how bad conditions would be in the dead of winter. When we finally begin the descent from Eskifjordur to Seyoisfjordur, we both let out a little sigh of relief.
After driving in circles for a bit, we find a little hostel in Seyoisfjordur. It’s called Farfuglaheimilio. The building used to function as a home for women who worked in the herring industry. No one is home but the door is open and a note directs us to pick any vacant room we want. There is an interesting vibe here. Animal skins adorn the walls, and a note in the bathroom instructs us to keep the toilet lids down, to “prevent the unnecessary escape of chi.” I think we’re surrounded by hippies!
We dump our bags and head to the local cafe, Skaftafell. This seems to be the life of this little fishing village. I momentarily feel like we’ve been transported back to a hip cafe in Reykjavik, yet we are as far from the capital as we can get. Still, Arcade Fire plays blares from the speakers, and the lovely host offers us a bottle of his favorite Chilean wine. Fresh pizzas are coming out of the kitchen, and the special of the night is a steaming lamb stew.
We cozy up here for the evening, recounting the events from the day, feeling the warmth from the good food and embracing the Icelandic hospitality of this charming little fjord town.