Heading northeast on Iceland’s famous Ring Road instantly reminded me why I had always dreamed of visiting….
Ok…I lied. I was initially going to write my next post about intimate, eccentric Reykjavik, a city of only 120,000 or so hearty souls, yet on a whim I changed my mind. I took one look at my pictures from my first Icelandic adventure, ice trekking on a real, live glacier, that I felt I couldn’t contain my desire and thrill to write about this adventure first. So, lovely, playful Reykjavik will have to wait. Prepare yourself for a real glimpse at why Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, and why the wild, stark dramatic beauty of this amazing country enraptures one’s heart and soul and makes any visitor immediately promise to come back again. Hold on tight…..and hope you enjoy the ride!
The geography of Iceland is absolutely amazing. Despite its long history of Vikings and Sagas, it is actually a geographically young country that is still forming. It contains some of the largest glaciers in the world (glaciers cover about 10.9% of Iceland’s total landmass. There are over 4,328 square miles of active glaciers). Three enormous glaciers represent 11% of the entire ice mass: Vatnajökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. These glaciers are so incredibly huge, that in the winter time Icelanders get out their Land Cruisers and actually drive across them for fun!
Iceland also has over some of the most active, turbulent volcanoes in the world. There are over 200 post-glacial volcanoes (over 30 of them have erupted since the country was settled in the 9th century AD, per Volcano Discovery (for more information, check out their volcano website. Recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland have caused airport closings and chaos throughout Europe. On May 25th, The mighty Grímsvötn volcano erupted and wreaked havoc, just a little over a year after the powerful eruptions of the now world-famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano.
Besides volcanoes and glaciers, Iceland also prides herself in having the richest source of hot springs and geo-thermal activity in the world. There are steam holes, geysers, bubbling mud holes and sulphuric precipitation. Many Icelanders are known to hike to the top of a dormant volcano, swimsuit on and towel in hand, to take a dip in the hot, natural spring pool at the top of the mountain! There is also the infamous “Blue Lagoon”, probably one of the largest, geothermal pools in the world where Icelanders and tourists alike bathe ensemble, coated in mud masks, drink beer and watch the world go by.
Iceland’s interior is uninhabitable; it is covered with glaciers, mountains and high plateaus which makes the support of any life impossible. Therefore, all Icelanders live along or within easy reach of the coast. A long, curvey group of roads circles the island. Although we didn’t make it all the way around, I was amazed and surprised by how much the topography and geography change. There are endless amounts of things to see and do in Iceland, especially for the adventurous souls, which leads me to the topic of this post: A Day of Ice Trekking in Myrdalsjökull Glacier.
The Myrdalsjökull Glacier is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland and is located about 96 miles southeast of Reykjavik. Several adventure outfitters take the curious, adventurous and willing traveler on a full-day trip from Reykjavik which is pricey, but in my opinion, the best way to experience Iceland’s ice in the raw.
Here are some pictures from this epic, adventurous day. Hope you enjoy!
Setting off early morning with the tour operator who of course drives a Land Cruiser, Iceland’s favorite vehicle! I chose Icelandic Mountain Guides and they were terrific.
En route following the Ring Road northeast towards Skogar, the magical Seljalandfoss waterfall, which can be seen from the highway:
Up close and personal with the Seljalandfoss waterfall, one of Iceland’s many incredible waterfalls:
As you get close, you can hear the water roar as it tumbles down and sprays all those who stand near:
As the drive continues, the scenery never ceases to amaze me. It is God’s Country, a land so green and so beautiful that it almost hurts your eyes. You pass through many small towns by the sea, farms loaded with white fluffy sheep, horses and hay, and nothing but green. It is absolutely spectacular. The beauty is stark, raw, mystical and unique. Iceland is like no place I’d ever seen. It is like no place on earth.
As we approached the glacier, I was curious about when I’d first be able to see it as the size and mass of Iceland’s glaciers is literally incomprehensible. They are that big. Unfortunately the weather began to change. The clouds set in like a giant blanket overhead and rain began to fall lightly across the greening grass. We arrived at the Myrdalsjökull Glacier shortly after our visit to the waterfall, just as the rain began to change from a drizzle to a downright pour. Thankfully I was prepared. I packed all my Gortex watergear which would definitely come in handy as we hiked the massive Myrdalsjökull Glacier.
The tongue of the glacier…there is no way possible to show the enormity of it!
The entrance to no man’s land…..
It goes on forever….
We get on our crampons in the pouring rain and set foot onto the glacier. I’ve never walked on crampons before and we get a brief instruction on the techniques. I felt like a penguin, it was hilarious, but once I got used to it, it was actually quite fun and such an amazing way to see the glacier.
Here is a photo from on top of the glacier: The terminus of the glacier ends in a tiny pool of water and a river.
We see our first 100 foot crevasse. Wouldn’t want to fall in there! But the colors of blues are so intensely beautiful….
The clouds and rain set in and then the wind picks up speed and it was FREEZING, WET and MISERABLE! But we were walking on a glacier so what could one expect?
A larger crevasse….
The stark beauty of the place felt like no place on Earth….
And the ice formations were unbelievable…
The rain still is pouring and I am freezing cold…yet the thrill of walking on ice from before mankind felt surreal.
And the colors of contrast between the dirty, ancient ice juxtaposed against the verdant green fields was spectacular in itself.
After 90 minutes of walking in severe wind and rain, we headed back to the terminus of the glacier and thankfully climbed into the warm, dry bus that will take us back to town.
It was an experience I’ll never forget….to be completely lost in Iceland and wandering….”Is Anybody Out There?” (A popular quote sold on t-shirts, mugs and postcards from Iceland). After being there, I understood what this quote was all about!
If you go:
I chose Icelandic Mountain Guides who have a ton of cool tours. Check them out here. Be sure to pack waterproof clothing and lots of warm layers! It was freezing cold out there on the ice!
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