While day 2 and 3 were officially called waterfall days, day 4 has been dubbed ice day! We started the day off by visiting the Vatnajokull National Park. This is the largest national park in all of Europe and covers 12% of Iceland, so you can imagine there are several entry points and we chose the Skaftafell entrance. There are several hikes to do, but we knew exactly what we want to accomplish and lucky for us the easiest hike (flat and 3km round trip) provided it for us. We wanted to see a glacier and get as close as we could to it. Turns out the hike has lots of information and you really see how the glacier impacts the landscape. You also see how quickly it has receded in the last 10 years and I have trouble understanding how anyone can argue we are in the midst of climate change seeing evidence like this, but I digress.
Once we reached the base of the glacier we were blocked by a lagoon of melt water, but the glacier could not have been more than 300 yards away. We walked around the lagoon to the edge of the glacier and were able to walk out onto the glacier. I know it is unsafe and we were supposed to join a tour (for a couple $100….yikes!!!!!), but it was an absolute RUSH for both of us. We only went out 300 feet at most and the ice was covered in dirt and rocks, but we were out there and the ice was slippery. It was so much fun I am getting chills thinking about it now. So glad we did it!
With that experience how could it get any better? The answer is by visiting Jokulsarlon, which is a large lagoon at the base of a different glacier and it is filled with icebergs. The best spot is the east side of the bridge. You can pay for a boat ride among the icebergs, but why would you do that when the big ones are literally right there? As magical as the icebergs are, it gets better. You see the lagoon is open to the ocean via a narrow creek and seals come in and swim. We watch three of them 200 feet off the shore playing with the icebergs as their backdrop. Wow, I did not expect that. So cool!
It seems that the amount of tourist drops by 75% as soon as we left the iceberg lagoon, because this is as far east as a lot go. Too bad for them because we were still having fun. We drove all the way to Egilsstadir on the Ring Road, but had to take Road 939 as a short cut to knock off 1.5-2 hours from the trip. Man I wish all short cuts were this spectacular as we drove up and over the hills with a dozen waterfalls coming down the cliffs on either side of us. We both emerged from this 40 minute drive at a loss for words, plus we got to eat dinner in a small cute fishing village. Does it get any better than this? Find out when I write about Day 5. 😉