Iceland 2015: Glacier Hike

This is the 8th post on our trip to Iceland. Find more here.

Day 8: Climbing the Ice

All this is glacier The next day we continued our glacial adventures by taking a trip up the Falljökull glacier near Skaftafell. We bought our tickets for the half-day hike the morning of, but the other guide company had already sold out so it’s clearly best to buy in advance. We arranged our tour through Glacier Guides, and had a great time.

After a 15 minute school bus ride we arrived near the base of the glacier. We were divided up into groups of six (us and two pairs of Canadians) plus a guide (Magnus, half Icelandic, half Mexican). Magnus led us through the black lava sand riverbed towards the glacier. In fact, the gravel we were walking on was only a few inches deep, and underneath lay the “dead ice”, more glacier that is insulated, keeping it from fully melting away. That section can actually be quite dangerous because you can’t tell whether the ice beneath you is solid or if it might crack open!

Ice tunnelCrampons and Ice AxeAll geared upIcelandic drinking fountain

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Iceland 2015: Glacial Lagoon

This is the 7th post on our trip to Iceland. Find more here.

Day 7 Part 2: Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

After visiting the puffins, we continued our drive eastward to Jökulsárlón, an iceberg filled lake where the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier meets the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived just in time to hop on a boat for a tour. Floating through the lagoon are massive pieces of ice, many 20-30 feet tall and 50 feet or more wide. For the most part they are stationary, but slowly metling ice in a tidal lake is a dynamic system, and occasionally the balance will shift causing one of the icebergs to flip over onto its back.

The color of the ice was amazing, a mix of snowy white and a surprisingly deep blue. Before visiting Iceland I had always thought that blue slushies were an unnatural thing, but now I see they have their basis in nature!


Our boat tour included getting to taste a chunk of ice (cold!) and some interesting information on how the lake formed. The coloring of the ice is due to the densely packed water molecules that freeze together in the salty lake, squeezing out the air bubbles. Without the air, the water reveals its true blue color. When the top of an iceberg has set exposed for too long, the ice melts, letting air in and slowly changing the color to white. Of course the blue color of the ice is only visible because you are looking into so much ice (water)—when you hack off a chunk of the ice it is perfectly clear because there isn’t enough frozen water to make it blue.

IceIceThe ice manThe glacier reaching the lake

The lagoon was very cool, and such an incredible contrast to the sunny cliffs and black sands we had been walking in earlier in the day. It is amazing how an hour drive in Iceland can give you an incredibly different experience. The lagoon is a worthwhile site to visit, although we could have had a similar experience by just walking around the lake instead of paying for the boat tour.

Another boat tour

Running total:

Waterfalls: 68
Roundabouts: 37
Arctic Foxes: 1!
Rainbows: 4

This is the 7th post on our trip to Iceland. See Day 8 next, and find more here.

Iceland 2015: Puffins!

This is the 6th post on our trip to Iceland. Find more here.

Day 7 Part 1: Puffins

SkaftafellAfter spending the night at Hotel Katla (hotel was fine, but the dinner buffet was way overpriced ~$54 per person!), we drove further east. We caught our first glimpse of a “glacier tongue” as we headed past Skaftafell (more on that tomorrow). After a quick gas station lunch we headed to Ingólfshöfdi, an Icelandic nature preserve where you can take a guided puffin watching tour. Puffins are perhaps the most adorable little birds in existence, and the tour “almost guaranteed” that we would get to see some!

The trip started with a tractor ride through a wide black sand estuary. Between the haze and the sand blowing in the wind, it felt like we were on an entirely different planet.


On the tractor.Ingolfshofdi

Eventually we reached the coast, where a promontory rose up with steep cliffs on three sides. At the top, the black sand changed to rock and grass, and some large birds immediately made us aware that we were “trespassing” on their nesting grounds. The birds, Great Skau which are about the size of a hawk, would aggressively swoop around the areas where they lay their eggs, loudly screeching for us to stay away. Since they seem to lay their brown, well camouflaged eggs at random spots on the ground, it was helpful that they would keep us from accidentally stepping on them!

Great SkauGreat SkauShipwreck ShelterMonument to Ingólfur, Iceland's first settler

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Iceland 2015: Vestmannaeyjar Islands

This is the 5th post on our trip to Iceland. Find more here.

Day 6: Vestmannaeyjar Islands and East to Vik

rainbow!In the morning we had a rental car delivered to our hotel from Route 1 Cars. We got a bit worried that it wasn’t coming, only to discover the rental car people were sitting across from us in the hotel lobby the whole time. Oops!

This was the first time either of us had driven outside of the United States, but fortunately Iceland is pretty “normal”. The road signs are all quite clear, and since the island is basically uninhabited, there isn’t any real traffic to deal with.

We left the capitol and merged onto Route 1, the “Ring Road” that circles the entire island. The first part of the trip was a repeat of the drive to our horse farm from a few days earlier, but before long were headed off into new territory, discovering new mountains, sheep, waterfalls, and roundabouts.

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Iceland 2015: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

This is post #4 on our trip to Iceland. Find the others here.

Day 5: The Snaefellsnes Peninsula

At this point we had explored the city reasonably well, so we took a tour run by Iceland Excursions to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a long piece of land that juts out north and west of Reykjavik. Our guide was DeeDee who was excellent and extremely energetic. She drove our small bus (holding 7 tourists) and gave us historical and cultural tidbits about the sights we passed. Our first stop was at Gerduberg, a long wall of basalt columns.


Megan and yet another volcano
From there we headed on to a beach with distant views of the Snaefellsjökull glacier (resting on top a dormant volcano). Apparently if we’d walked the other direction on the beach we would have seen seals. Oops! Instead we focused our attention on the gleaming white glacier rising over the mountains in the distance.

Snæfellsjökull in the distance
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Iceland 2015: Conference Days

This is post #3 on our trip to Iceland. Find the others here. This post is mainly my notes, check the others for more pretty pictures!

Days 3-4: In Reykjavik

This was the first day of Megan’s conference, so we took a taxi to Reykjavik University on the south side of town in the morning. The entire university fits inside one building, which is quite cute. The university also has excellent foosball facilities!

World Class foosball

While Megan spent the day at conference sessions, I took a walk back up to our hotel (about 40 minutes away). The weather was fantastically sunny, and I was able to take off my down jacket and hat, leaving on nothing but a long-sleeve shirt topped with a sweater… Now that is summer weather!

In general, the weather has tended to be quite chilly–highs in the low 50s and lows in the high 30s. However, the wind is the biggest factor and it is often blowing hard. We tend to dress in layers: a sweater over a long sleeve shirt, a lightweight down jacket, and then a midweight wind/rain jacket for particularly windy or rainy days. And of course a winter hat.

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Iceland 2015: Golden Circle

If you missed day one in Iceland, see it here. I also apologize to anyone with slow internet… lots of media on this page!

Day 2: Outside Reykjavik

Our second day began with a typical European breakfast of rolls, cheeses, and meats. Then we were picked up by Eld Hestar and driven to their horse farm east of the city. Along the way we caught our first glimpse of a distant glacier–a wall of white that dwarfed the mountains before it.

That isn't a band of white clouds, it's a wall of ice.

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Iceland 2015: Reykjavik

This is the first post on our trip to Iceland. See Day 2 next.

Day 1, May 30: Reykjavik

Icelandic flag at ThingvellirWe arrived in the early morning in Iceland and took a shuttle to Hotel Fron in Reykjavik. Before our flight, I had heard someone warn that the area around the airport is a bit disappointing compared to the rest of Iceland–that it is like “being on the moon”. That turned out to be pretty accurate. The landscape was rocky and barren, with bulbous outcroppings from the lava flows. A short scrub grass grew in some areas, but there were very few trees.

We reached the city around 7am, so not too surprisingly there was not a room ready for us yet at the hotel. We left our luggage and wandered out in the cool, gray day. The thermometer on the bus had said 8′ C, and with the wind blowing it got quite chilly at times.

Deserted streets before 7AM on a Saturday morning

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