Day 9 & 10: The Magic of the Glaciers

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We had spent 8 days in the land of fire and ice already yet the sights that we encountered each day never ceased to surprise us. I can’t remember the number of times me and Pari told each other that we couldn’t believe we were in Iceland.

Perhaps it’s because the country is more than 11,000 km away from our homeland, or that not many of our fellow countrymen have visited Iceland before, or that it’s simply so beautiful that we were more often than not, at a loss for words.

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We had a wonderful homemade breakfast before leaving the guesthouse, as our host whipped up the best fried eggs and pancakes I’ve had. I can’t recommend Seljavellir Guesthouse enough-it has such a nice, homely atmosphere and the food reminded me of what my mum would have prepared for me back home.

There was a little rain to start the morning but we were soon greeted by beautiful rainbows and stunning views on our drive to Jokusarlon Glacial Lagoon.

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It took us slightly over an hour to reach Jokusarlon, and while we were slightly disappointed to see the large number of cars and tourists (from this point on you can expect to see more and more crowds), excitement overwhelmed us the moment we laid our eyes on the incredible view in front of us.

Quite simply, it took our breath away.IMG_0798.JPG

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Despite the large number of crowds, you can actually find some solitude if you walk all the way to the right of the beach. We had read that there could be seal sightings during winter and we lucky enough to see one twice pop out of the water for a good ten seconds while it was partaking in a casual swim.

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Jokusarlon is simply an amazing place to just sit down and marvel at nature’s creations. Don’t be in a rush to finish this sight. You won’t be seeing anything as magnificent anytime soon.

Our next stop was Skaftafell National Park, and the drive there presented views of stunning glaciers. We found a small turn off  Route 1 and that was where we found the glacier Svínafellsjökull.

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Undeniably there was a slight unease and sadness as we stood there, having read a sign we encountered earlier, built in memory of 2 missing hikers who were last seen at the glacier and were never found.

Glaciers, while stunning and beautiful, can be deadly if one lets down his guard. Falling in a crevasse can mean certain death, since it’s almost impossible without proper equipment to haul yourself back up. Never climb onto a glacier without a guide, no matter how tempting it is.

From Svínafellsjökull, it was a short drive to Skaftafell National Park where we took a hike to Svartifoss Waterfall. The hike took about an hour and a half back and forth, so do give yourself sufficient time so that it doesn’t turn dark before you reach back to the Skaftafell Visitor Centre.IMG_5338.JPGI have to admit that we were a bit underwhelmed by the experience. While we were fascinated by the basalt columns, the waterfall itself wasn’t as spectacular as we thought. Perhaps not worth the effort just to see it, though the walk itself did present some pretty views along the way.

We stayed the night at Fosshotel Nupar, an interesting container-like lodging that was practically in the middle of nowhere. If you do stay here, be prepared for zero dining options other than the hotel restaurant, which was rather pricey judging by my quick glimpse at the menu. Our instant noodles came in handy that night.

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While the hotel doesn’t exactly have the best reviews on tripadvisor, we both enjoyed our stay. The room itself was clean and comfortable, with a major plus in that there was a door leading right out of your room to the plains surrounding the hotel. Certainly a great spot to put out a chair with a glass of wine while waiting for the Northern Lights (assuming it isn’t too cold).

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We woke up to a beautiful sunrise the next morning, and followed our usual routine of breakfast at the hotel before setting off early to visit the different sights.

The breakfast at the hotel was nothing to shout about, though I did snuck some coffee into my thermos flask secretly for our road trip.

Our first stop was Fjaðrárgljúfur, a short half an hour drive away from the hotel, to view the canyons. It was supposed to be one of the highlights of the day, but we both weren’t too impressed. I would probably recommend to skip it if you are short on time.

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We did manage to interact with some Icelandic horses though.

Once we were done we proceeded to Vik, to see the black sand beaches and Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar.

We read that this particular beach has one of the stronger undercurrents in the world, so we were on high alert not to stray too far away from the point of safety. It seemed we were the only ones doing so though, and it was quite amusing to see unsuspecting tourists scurrying for their lives whenever the tides came in.

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It was a rarity to see the sun on our trip, but on this day it did appear, giving new light to our pictures.

From Vik we moved to one of the highlights of our trip, Solheimajokull. This was one where you could practically go right up to the glacier tongue.IMG_1255.JPG

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Quite simply, it was an amazing experience just to witness the glacier up close, and even come into contact with it. It’s not something that can be easily described, and was one of the many moments in Iceland where you just gaze and marvel at the wonders of nature.

From Solheimajokull, it was then a short drive to two other popular tourist sights, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

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Skogafoss was one of my personal favorites, since you can go really close to the cascading waterfall and admire the water tumbling down.

It can get busy with tourists so getting a decent shot of the falls may be a challenge at times.

Seljalandfoss was a 30 minutes drive away, and we heard that there was a stall selling some decent hot dogs, so that pretty determined that we were going there for a look.

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Seljalandfoss itself might not be as impressive compared to Dettifoss and Skogafoss, but it’s unique in the sense that you can actually walk behind the falls if you wish, giving you an alternate experience.

Our last night on the ring road, before heading back to Reykjavik, was spent at Hvolsvollur, a sleepy town 22km away from Seljalandfoss.

We found a nice apartment called Borg Apartments, though difficult to find at first, was probably the biggest place we had stayed in Iceland, and extremely comfortable as well.

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It did however have the smallest sink I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Dinner options were once again pretty limited, but we did find a pizza joint, Gallery Pizza. The fish and chips were surprisingly decent for a place selling pizza.

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♦Gallery Pizza, Hvolsvegur 29, 860 Hvolsvöllur, Iceland♦

While the meal may seem ordinary, it’s nice being able to eat with Pari while reminiscing about our journey so far. One of the little pleasures of life.

One more night on the Ring Road before we headed back to Reykjavik, where we would meet the famous Golden Circle of Iceland.

 Next – ► The Finale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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