Glacier Lagoon and Glacier Hiking

Our second day in Iceland was our longest, yet probably best and most memorable day. Maddie and I woke up bright and early and headed to the main shopping street for breakfast at a little café called Kaffitár (where I made a fool of myself by not being able to open the door because I kept pulling on a push door…). After breakfast, Maddie, Andrew, Amanda and I all boarded the Arctic Adventures bus, setting out on our glacial adventure tour. Our bus driver, Mike from Germany, was one of the nicest people I’ve met in a long time – so friendly and cheerful and funny even at 8am. 

As we started to drive through the countryside,  I became acutely aware of how vast – and breathtakingly beautiful – the little island country of Iceland truly is. Huge rolling hills and mountains reminded me of a fantasy landscape straight out of something like Legend of Zelda. We drove past wild horses and sheep roaming free through the countryside, dozens upon dozens of waterfalls, and moss so fluffy and soft it looked as if the fields of moss covered rocks were all dormant sheep in a deep slumber. 

After a two hour drive to a meeting point, we said goodbye to Mike and met our new driver, Martin, who would drive us the rest of the day to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, and Vatnajökull Glacier, the biggest glacier in Europe, where we would have our main adventure of the day: a three hour trek up the glacier. On the bus ride, we learned a few fun facts from Martin:

  • Vikings arrived in Iceland from Norway in the 7th or 8th century 
  • Icelandic is a Germanic language, very similar to Norwegian 
  • Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world 
  • A volcanic eruption in Iceland could be so severe that the ash could spread as far as North America and Africa, and it would affect the world climate

As we drove through the south shore of Iceland (which we are touring on Day 4 of our trip), “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran (my longtime favorite artist) came on and it was a perfect coincidence to go with such a perfect day and perfect view. We stopped for lunch at this picturesque spot near the national park entrance in Skaftafell at the foot of one of the glacial tongues. 

We got back on the road, driving down the only road in the middle of this vast expanse of beauty stretching on for miles. One moment we were driving through lava fields created by the last volcanic explosion, the next moment we were rounding the corner to uncover sprawling fields of the greenest green. I can hardly find the words to accurately describe the beauty of simply driving along the Icelandic countryside. 

Our first stop was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach – the prettiest place I’ve ever seen in my life (check out the linked blog post for a full recap!). 

glacier lagoon

After an awe-filled hour at the glacier lagoon and diamond beach, we headed onward to Vatnajökull Glacier (check out the linked post for the full glacier hiking experience!) and enjoyed an incredible hike up the glacier, soaking in the stunning views from the top while also feeling a bit sad as our guide explained how fast the glacier was melting (even though some people say global warming isn’t real…). The trek up the glacier was absolutely breathtaking and a memory none of us will ever forget. 

glacier hiking

At around 8pm, we boarded our bus to head back to Reykjavik – a four hour journey. We stopped at a small gas station along the way and I tried some blueberry flavored ice cream – called Bláberja in Icelandic. As we continued our trip back, we stared out the window with hope, as our guide had indicated that people had started seeing the Northern Lights a few days ago, which is early and abnormal for this time of year. A song called Aurora Borealis by The Griswolds came on shuffle and I felt like that might have been a good sign… but to no avail. All the more reason to come back to Iceland to see the Northern Lights another time!

icelandic ice cream

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