Myrdalsjökull Glacier

A Sea of Ice: Iceland’s Myrdalsjökull Glacier

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Perhaps one of my most memorable adventure travel experiences thus far has been my hike across a real live sea of ice. There is nothing quite like strapping on a pair of crampons and moving at a snail’s pace straight into unimaginable winds and icy cold rain across one of the world’s most beautiful and magical glaciers. Sure I’ve done plenty of amazing hikes around the world ranging to such far off places as Peru, Patagonia, The French Alps and Nepal. Yet nothing was quite like walking across a wide, moving sea of ice.

Myrdalsjökull Glacier

First steps onto the massive Myrdalsjökull Glacier. Unfortunately there was no way possible to show the enormity of it all. This is just the beginning.

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Entranced in Iceland: A visit to the remote Skaftafell National Park: Part I The Arrival

After a day of driving filled with natural wonders, I couldn’t wait to finally reach remote Skaftafell National Park.  Europe’s largest and perhaps grandest national park is a hiker’s delight filled with awe-inspiring glacial tongues, waterfalls, twisted birch trees, verdant grass, and the crème de la crème, the aquamarine Vatnajökull at it’s glory.

As you get further along in the drive, there is nothing but glaciers and the haunting dead, black sand deltas known as sandars juxtaposed against the brilliant green-covered hills and plains.  It is quite a sight to see!  Life against death could never be so sensationally beautiful. 

We pull into our lonely hotel, Hotel Skaftafell (the ONLY hotel for hours) close to dinner time.  The undistinguished hotel has 63 small, clean rooms.  There is nothing luxurious about this place.  However, unless you want to camp, it is the only option.

Here is a photo of Hotel Skaftafell which in my opinion looks a little more like a military base than a hotel.

A glimpse of the hotel from above.  Note there is nothing in the horizon except the sandars, the brownish, gray or sometimes black sand deltas.

Looking the other direction outside of our hotel room is a lovely view of what awaits….

As you walk a bit further behind the hotel, you are suddenly and surprisingly encountered by Svinafellsjokull, another gigantic glacier lurking off the immense ice cap:

Looking back again on the hotel, you can see and feel the remoteness of the place.  Lost in Iceland, is anybody out there?

After a fine dinner (nothing fancy, but wholesome good food and of course at a price, given our remoteness), we head out again for a short hike beyond the hotel.  For some reason, I love this picture of my dad walking off into the distance.  It is mysterious, magical and intimidating all at the same time.   Also, it is about 10:30 pm….and it is still light!

And this is what we find…..

The sun slowly dips behind the clouds and it is almost bedtime.  We have a big day ahead of us of hiking and exploring this unbelievable land.  I can hardly wait!

Goodnight glacier…we will see you tomorrow!

Stay tuned….next post will show the outrageously spectacular photos of our day hike in Skaftafell National Park.  A hike of a lifetime!

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Driving in search of glaciers in southeastern Iceland

Nothing prepared me for the drive along the Ring Road from Vik to Jökulsárlón.  Located at the southeastern tip of Iceland following the immense Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap outside of the poles, is a drive of some of the most spectacular glacial scenery on earth. 

At each slightly bending turn, one is rewarded with an enormous frozen valley of ice jetting off from the ice cap down into the black, hardened lava fields and dead gray sand.   It is such an impressive sight that the drive took us double the amount of time to account for each and every stop along the way to take photos of these mammoth glaciers.  The glacial tongues seemed to be everywhere and go as far as the eye could see.    I continually had to pinch myself to see if I was really here in such an unbelievable place, in a world that is still in the process of being created.

Following are some pictures from along the way…

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words. 

After leaving Vik, we soon encountered our first glacier off in the distance.  Initially we thought it was a cloud.  As we moved closer, we realized to our delight it was an enormous glacier sliding down off the mighty Vatnajökull ice cap.  Covering area of 8,100 km², the ice cap represents 8% of the total area of Iceland!  It is absolutely enormous and is loaded with frozen glacial rivers, lakes, and volcanoes.

A closer view of our “first” (of many) glaciers:

Driving along the Ring Road is a bit scary at points.  You are constantly awestruck and enthralled by the sightings of so many glaciers that it is hard to keep your eyes on the road.  Yet, you must pay attention!  One-lane bridges like this one pictured below tend to sneak up on you fast.

The eerie landscape reminds you that you are in one of the world’s newest countries.  Iceland is constantly forming and evolving every day.

Suddenly, we turn the corner and WOW!!!! We are shocked to see not one, not two, but four glaciers off in distance like clouds tumbling down a hill.   I have never seen anything like this before.

Somehow or another, we are able to remain on the road (though it is really difficult to concentrate on driving!) and head off in the distance, in search of the glaciers.

Rivers are common in this part of Iceland.  As the glaciers melt and flow down off the ice cap, rivers form bringing in glacial gray sand, rock and dirt.  The sun tries to peek out from under the clouds, uncovering just the tip of the ice cap that goes beyond one’s imagination.

Another long, one-lane bridge brings us closer to our destination.  This time we see a car!  But thankfully they saw us too and waited on the other side until we passed safely.

At times the clouds are so dark and threatening that we are certain it will rain.  But only a few drops trickle out.  The heavens are not quite ready to release a downpour.

Then it suddenly and magically clears up, letting the sun cast a brilliant sparkling glow across the ice.

When we finally reach the parking lot of Jökulsárlón, the clouds dispersed, releasing the jubilant, glorious sun.  Judging by what we had seen along the way, we knew we were in for a real treat.

As we walked up the dark mass of sand and rock, we had no idea whatsoever what awaited us behind those gray walls:

My heart raced in excitement and anticipation.  I had never seen pictures of Jökulsárlón.  All I knew was that glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón was supposed to be a photographer’s paradise.    I had heard about the brilliant diamond blue icebergs that floated gracefully across the lagoon.  But nothing prepared me for my first sight of this slice of heaven.

Off in the distance as far as the eye could see, the glacier tumbled down off the ice cap and into the aquamarine lagoon, leaving icebergs the size of buildings drifting slowly and peacefully across the water.

The magical sculptured icebergs bewitched my soul.  They glistened like diamonds in the brilliant sun.

I’m not really a religious person.  But if there is a God, he must have cast a spell on Iceland:  There is no place quite like this on earth.

Stay tuned….next post will continue to follow my adventure with a stop-over in surreal Skaftafell Park.  About as far out there and “lost in Iceland” as you can get.