Iceland is magical.
No. I’m not just talking about the elves and other mythical creatures.
The landscape is incredible. It’s just mouth-dropping gorgeous.
We only had a few days in Iceland, but we certainly made the most of it. Instead of opting for expensive tours Hilary and I decided to rent a car through SADcars. We also picked up our German friend, Bjorn, who I met through Couchsurfing. He was a great addition to our little travel family.
Our mission on Saturday – Jokulsarlon Lagoon.
The one thing that I really wanted to see in Iceland.
Jokulsarlon Lagoon is located about 5 hours from Reykjavik on Route 1 between the towns of Höfn and Skaftafell. You’ve probably seen the glacial lagoon before as it has been featured in Hollywood movies like Batman Begins and James Bond.
Thankfully the 5+ hour drive to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon along the south coast wasn’t boring. Like I said above, Iceland is magical. Everywhere you look you’ll be in awe of the ever-changing landscape. From the infamous Icelandic horses to the powerful waterfalls to the moon-like rock fields, every turn of the head will yield a different view.
After picking up Robert Benjamin Sputnik, our trustily SADcar steed for the next 3 days, we headed south along Route 1. Along the way, we stopped to visit a herd of friendly Icelandic horses just lazing around and grazing in a roadside field.
Our first big South Coast Iceland stop was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. I dare you to try to say that 3x fast. Or just at all! If you’ve seen any pictures of Iceland then you’ve probably seen this waterfall. It’s the one you can walk behind. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is the result of the river Seljalandsa falling over 60 meters off a cliff. It’s a pretty awesome result if you ask me. Just remember to bring your rain jacket or poncho as you will get wet, but the short hike behind the waterfall is worth it.
Just a short drive away from Seljalandsfoss is the famed volcano – Eyjafjallajökull. Now I seriously dare you to pronounce that word! You might remember this super hard to pronounce name from a few years ago when it erupted and stopped air traffic around Europe.
You won’t recognize the volcano as a volcano because it’s covered by a glacier. The glacier is one of Iceland’s smaller ice caps measuring only 100 square kilometers. While access to the actual glacier is quite tough, you can see much of it from Route 1. Sitting squarely in front of the massive glacier is a working farm belonging to the same Icelandic family for centuries. During the most recent eruption in 2010 much of the farm was covered with ash and nearby families had to evacuated for safety. Today, Eyjafjallajökull sits peacefully awaiting her next eruption. Perhaps you’ll be there for the next show?
Once we snacked and took in the views of Eyjafjallajökull we hopped back into Sputnik and headed towards the horizon. Just kidding. We headed down the road to one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls. Skógafoss has a width of 25 meters and drops more than 60 meters. Due to its powerful splashes you can often see multiple rainbows. And we did see multiples!
If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb all 527 steps to the top, which I definitely recommend. It’s totally worth the huffing and puffing to reach the top. If you’re really daring you can take the narrow, muddy path to a small cliff where you can look down into the falls. If not, head right to the top and hop the pasture fence for the best views.
With every stop we this much closer to reaching our final destination – Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Our final stop before the long drive to the lagoon was the island of Dyrhólaey and the black sand beaches of Reynisdrangar. Dyrhólaey is a small peninsula that jets out of the southern coastline not far from the village of Vik. It’s a popular puffin nesting spot during the summer months so if you want to see puffins go here!
Just around the corner from Dyrhólaey is the famed black sand beaches of Reynisdrangar with the large basalt columns rise from the sea to the heavens. Coming from Maine where we have only white sandy beaches or rocky beaches it was awesome to see black sand beaches. Despite the cold we all splashed around in the surf before climbing the pillars to take your typical tourist photos.
The afternoon was wearing on and we were still about 2 hours west of our final destination. We hopped back into Sputnik and we prayed that he would carry us onwards to the lagoon. We passed through the small town of Vik and out to the to the wide open road where the only things were saw were mossy black volcanic rocks and the occasional passing car. For a minute I thought we drove from Iceland to the moon as the landscape is something I’ve never seen before. Pictures just don’t do it justice. Seriously… just book a ticket to Iceland now. You won’t regret it one bit!
Finally as dusk was about the fall and Sputnik was maxing out his RPMs we made it Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Excited was an understatement. I immediately hopped out of the car and begin running and squealing to the top of the hill. As soon as I laid my eyes on it, I knew the long drive was worth it.
While I wish we had more time to spend at the lagoon, arriving at the lagoon just before the sunset was incredible. As the sun begin to set behind the glacier the light created a prism effect over the mini icebergs. Pinks. Purples. Turquoise blue. I don’t think I could speak for a few minutes as I ran around the edges of the lagoon trying to take in what was in front of my eyes.
Eventually the sun fell behind the glacier and the clouds left us nothing but impending darkness. It was time to begin our long 5 hour drive back to Reykjavik. Someday in the near future I will be back to Iceland. It’s a place that you can visit a million times and still never see everything this beautiful country has to offer. While Iceland is expensive, you can certainly do it on a budget. Start saving your pennies and just go. Forget Mexico. Forget Florida. Iceland is only a 5 hour flight from the East Coast.
And if you go, promise me that you will go to Jokulsarlon Lagoon. It is worth the trip. Trust me.