Magical Iceland...our favourite spot so far.
It has been more than a year since we visited Iceland but it still feels as if it was yesterday.
I don't think there's ever a month that goes by without one of us bringing up some memories or expressing the desire to go back.
On our first trip, we visited most of the southern part. Next time we hope to explore the highlands and the entire ringroad, including everything we already saw that first time. And if there's one place that we really want to revisit, it's Jökulsárlón.
Jökulsárlón is a glacier lake created by the movements of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier, and its retreating ice tongue, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.
Initially, these glaciers reached all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. Then, in the 1940's, they slowly started to melt due to higher temperatures, causing them to retreat further inland. Doing so, they created deep gorges, filled with melted water and big chunks of ice. Jökulsárlón (literally meaning 'glacial river lagoon') was born.
Visiting the lagoon is easy. The route 1 Highway between Höfn and Skaftafell literally bridges the point where Jökulsárlón merges into the Atlantic Ocean. You can't miss it.
We got our first glimpse when we were driving up to an ice cave (read 'Visiting an ice cave!'). It looked so beautiful that we decided to head back there that same evening, after the excursion.
We got there just in time for the sunset to paint the sky bright purple. We had to choose between photographing the sunset at either the lake or the beach, where the drifting ice cubes wash ashore. I picked the beach...
and I still believe I made the right choice...
I remember thinking it was a pretty crazy sight, those huge ice blocks lying there on a beach.
That was until I saw a few men in a wetsuit. They picked up their surfboards and marched right up to the Atlantic. Compared to that, the icy beach suddenly didn't seem that crazy anymore.
While they were out there on the water (freezing their butt off no doubt), I got mesmerized by the magical sunset Iceland decided to show us.
Postcard worthy wouldn't you say?
We returned the next day to admire the other amazing part: the famous lake full of icebergs.
But Iceland being Iceland...we just had to make some unforeseen stops on the way and take pictures!
Our second stop was at the Breiðárlón. The sun was now up, setting the mountains in the background on fire.
But do you know what the best part was? For more than an hour, we were the only two people there....enjoying the silence, the view, the ice, the cold, ... ;)
Then suddenly these two women arrived. One with a camera and the other with a large white box on her back. We watched them unfold the box and turn it into...a kayak! We had never seen a folding kayak before. Curious as always, we looked it up and found out it's an Oru kayak. If you click the link, you can find out all about it. Pretty cool if you ask me!
She didn't stay in the water very long...I think she spent more time getting the kayak ready than actually paddling. But hey, who are we to judge! After all, we got some nice shots thanks to this brave lady.
Once she got out of the water, we decided it was time for us to head over to Jökulsárlón. We observed the small pieces of ice that get picked up by the current, float by slowly and create a constant subtle change to the scenery. The perfect spot for a time lapse. You can check out the effect in the Iceland movie that Bernd made from our trip.
Although it really is a quiet and serene environment, there is also a lot of activity going on. Animal activity that is. For example, there's a lot of fish that, with the tide, swim up to the lake. Getting out is a bit tougher though. If they succeed to dodge the birds who swoop the surface (did you notice them on the second picture?), then they still have to make it passed the seals.
Every other minute you see their little heads surface somewhere. They look around and when you finally got your zoom and focus right, they disappear under water. All to surface again about 5 minutes later at a different spot. They sure know how to turn it into a challenging game of hide and seek. But in the end, we won...
Although it involved a lot of patience! It might have been easier on one of the boatrides they offer on the lake. But these are only organised during summer.
Jökulsárlón is one of Icelands true highlights. Luckily the Icelanders have a lot of respect for their country and its nature. Therefore they keep the human interferance and facilities at each tourist location very small (we love them for it). You won't find a fancy hotel, nor a five star restaurant right next to the lake.
You can however get a nice cup of coffee (which we did of course) or some hot soup at the cute wooden cabins down at the parking lot. Cosy and comfy with a small gift shop inside. We bought a lovely postcard there that ended up on the front page of our photoalbum!
We didn't have the time to spend more days at Jökulsárlón, but it's definitely a place that we will revisit the first chance we get!