Iceland Roadtrip Day 4: Vatnajökull National Park & the Glacier Lagoons
There was plenty of distress last night. We wanted to have a hot meal instead of the peanut butter sandwiches we’ve been eating 4 times a day, but the only food within 60km was the hotel restaurant, which was serving meat entrees for $80. Not even kidding. $80 for pork tenderloin. I’m sorry, but what world are you living in if you can spend $80 on pork?
So we slunk back to our room and ate peanut butter sandwiches. And some cup noodles. Luckily, we get to enjoy a delicious breakfast buffet in the morning and we dream of it all night.
After our breakfast, we are back in the room packing and moments from leaving for our ice cave tour when I check my email by chance and see that the tour has been cancelled due to flooding from yesterday’s rain. I’m devastated, since this was my number one thing to do in Iceland. However, one step outside and it’s hard to stay unhappy. The sunrise (1030am) is nearing and the whole sky is lit up like fairy floss (cotton candy, for my friends back home).
It’s the most beautiful lighting we’e seen thus far and, spoiler alert, we don’t get another sunrise quite like it for the remainder of the trip. Perhaps it was fate that the tour was cancelled and we get to spend the day going to the glacier lagoon.
We drive about 20 minutes east in the direction of Jökurlsárlón, the gorgeous and very popular glacier lagoon. Seeing as our day is no longer occupied by the tour, we do at least have some time to see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, and this is top on my list. As is always the case with Iceland, we get distracted by a million beautiful things along the way and end up making plenty of stops before we even arrive.
Today’s adventure takes us from Hof, 25km east, and then 100km back west to Kálfafell. This is the turn around point of our journey, but, despite Cal’s concern over backtracking so soon, there will be plenty of sites still to see when we veer off our old route and drive the Golden Circle.
Vatnajökull National Park
Technically, everything we see today is in the National Park, but a lot of our early morning stops are just alongside the road without any identifying signs. This is the first time we’ve been out and about for the sunrise, and it is spectacular. This is also the first time we’ve had anything approaching clear skies. Everywhere we turn, there is amazing scenery and I can hardly take photos fast enough.
The best of these random finds is Fjallsárlón, another glacier lagoon, but with not one single other person. I may go so far as to say it is the best surprise stop of the whole trip and probably produces the best photos as well.
On our way to the very popular Jökurlsárlón, we pull off the road and drive along gravel in search of a great sunrise shot near a glacier that has just become visible. It’s only a few minutes of driving and a few minutes of walking (ie. excited sprinting) to the edge of the glacier lagoon, which is made even more beautiful by the fact that we are totally alone in nature.
Finally, we reach the day’s main destination, the glacier lagoon. Unlike Fjallsárlón a few minutes to the west, which we had completely to ourselves, Jökurlsárlón has a few dozen people milling about. We’ve been so spoilt by low crowds in Iceland that this feels like being at the Louvre, so we edge away from the glacier and explore the chunks of ice floating out into the ocean along another beautiful black sand beach.
Another random drive along a gravel road leads us to a view of a glacier in the distance. Amazing Mother Nature!
Eldhraun lava field
On our way to the hotel in Kálfafell, a thick fog descends and we can hardly see in front of us, which does make the frequent one-lane bridges on the highway quite a worry. But we do see a vast field of green, apparently a lava field from an old volcanic eruption, completely grown over with thick moss. An interesting terrain that stretches for kilometres!
Due to our earlier than usual start and the small drive to the next hotel (since I had planned on being tired after our ice cave tour), we arrive in Kálfafell around 230pm and set off in search of that hot meal we’ve been craving. The nearest town of descent size is Kirkjubæjarklaustur, about 20km away, so we drive out there and are sorely disappointed to find that the only places serving food are a hotel (expensive) and a service station (slightly less expensive). We end up spending $40 on two burgers with fries at the servo, because we are hungry and feel like we have no choice. Dear future Brooke, when you come back to Iceland, please pack freeze-dried mountain food.