Sunday, 27 March 2016


Day eleven and our last full day in Iceland was definitely one of the best on our trip. We crammed A LOT of things in and even though we were a bit zombie like the next morning it was worth if for the sheer volume of awesome things we saw. After breakfast at our hotel in Höfn we hit the ring road and continued driving south west. We didn't have much driving to do that day as our accommodation in Vík was only a couple of hours away, however we had a ton of incredible places to stop en route making for a fun filled day.

Our first stop, less than an hour from Höfn was the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. I had been looking forward to visiting the beautiful destination for our entire trip and I was not disappointed. Found right next to the ring road the lagoon is impossible to miss. Big chunks of ice fall from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier where they can spend up to five years floating in the lagoon before reaching the Atlantic ocean. Whilst the glistening luminous blue icebergs are an impressive sight to behold, their presence in this lagoon tells a sadder story. Up until the 1930s the glacier reached the ocean and the lagoon did not exist but thanks to global warming the glacier has retreated thus creating the lagoon and the array of icebergs. Not to dwell on the irony behind this beautiful landscape, we spent an hour or so walking around the side of the lagoon, taking pictures and following Iceland's shortest river out to the sea where the icebergs end their journey. There are boat tours available here but they seem almost redundant as you can get close to the ice by walking around the lagoon. Despite this being one of Iceland's greatest tourist spots it didn't feel overrun with people and the time we spent here were some of my fondest memories from the trip.

Another short drive and we reached our second big stop of the day, Skaftafell, the southern part of Vatnajökull National Park. Skaftafell is a gem in terms of outdoor pursuits and this is evident by the sheer number of visitors that come to the area. From hiking and glacier expeditions this is the place where you can feel at one with nature and enjoy the incredible outdoors of Iceland. Skaftafell is the place to experience a glacier hike and that's exactly what we did.

We booked ourselves an afternoon Blue Ice tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides which promised two hours of hiking on Svínafellsjökull. This tour is great for the entire family, it's easy going but the uneven terrain of the glacier mean it's still an exciting experience. We arrived at the lodge where we were fitted with crampons and given an ice pick to help balance ourselves when waking over the glacier (and also for photo opportunities). The group was driven to the base of the glacier where we fastened our crampons and made our way slowly over the edge.

The 2 hours we were on the ice was incredible. I'm not much of a hiker but I really did feel like this was once in a lifetime sort of opportunity. Our guide was excellent and told us all about the glacier's history and how it's slowly retreating each year. Game of Thrones was filmed here and the only reason there is a road that leads up to the glacier base is because one was built by the Batman Begins film crew. Surprisingly it isn't THAT COLD on the glacier. I was just wearing jeans and a thick coat which was plenty of layers. If you're wondering why the glacier looks so grey and dirty it's due to the volcanic ash from recent eruptions becoming trapped amongst layers of ice.

On the hike we made friends with a lovely Canadian girl called Catherine who we ended up meeting up with in London a few weeks later whist she travelled around the UK. Yay for making friends on holiday.

After the hike we grabbed ourselves a bite of very late lunch from the food van in the Skaftafell car park. It was raining by this stage so we huddled underneath the umbrella eating fish n chips and some soup. Had this not been our last full day in Iceland and we didn't have a ton of other stuff to visit that afternoon / evening I would have liked to have spent a few hours at the park exploring the surrounding area a little more. A 45 minute walk from the car park is the magnificent Svartifoss (Black Falls) but alas we had other waterfalls to visit.

After the hike it didn't take long to drive to Vík and our final accommodation stop. We stayed at Gardar, a lovely collection of little cottages on the famous black sand beach of Vík. As you can see our cottage was absolutely tiny, in fact there wasn't even a shower (or wifi) which would have been fine if we hadn't gone swimming that evening. This little cottage was absolutely precious and despite it's lack of facilities it really was the perfect place to stay for our final evening. Apart from a little bathroom the cottage is one room which includes a rather large kitchen and a fold out bed. You wouldn't want to spend more than one night here but the fact that it's location was meters away from the beach I really did feel like this was a special place. The other cottages are slightly bigger and include showers and wifi (we could steal their wifi if we stood outside). We spoke to the owner for a good while the following day and he was one of the most wonderful people we'd met during our time in Iceland. I'd love to explore more of this area another time as I felt we were quite rushed and I would without a doubt stay at Gardar again, but maybe in a larger cottage if it was for a few days.

Once we dropped our bags it was back on the road for a bit more sightseeing. In retrospect I am so glad we decided to do these things that evening instead of stopping en route to the airport the next day as we would have been seriously rushed.

Our first stop was Sólheimajökull, a glacier found just along the ring road west of Vík. From the car park it's a 800m walk to the glacier base but you'd be advised not to walk onto the glacier yourself.

We then drove to Solheimasandur, a black sand beach where a US Navy plane crash landed on 21 November 1973. We ended up giving a lift to 2 travellers who weren't able to make the journey across the beach in their 2 wheel drive so we had a nice chat to them. They had just started their road trip around Iceland so we gave them lots of tips and were secretly jealous that they had everything to look forward to and we had to return home the following day. The drive to the crash site was certainly experience. We had to drive across black sand and because it was so cloudy every direction looked the same, this was not helped by the fact that there were no marking on the ground for where you were supposed to drive. You could sort of make out tyre tracks so we hoped for the best and made it there without a problem. You can walk around the wreckage and because of the setting it's a really eerie experience but something I'm glad we made the effort to visit.

Once we'd driven our new friends back to their car we headed on driving west towards to town of Skógar. I wanted to visit the folk museum but it was around 10pm by this stage so of course it was closed and we really didn't have time to stop when we passed through the town again the following day. On the outskirts of town you'll find the 62m high Skógafoss. I believe there's a staircase that allows you to walk to the top of the falls but we just stayed at the base which is covered in mist.

Further along the road west is the mighty Seljalandsfoss where a slippery path takes you behind the beautiful waterfall. This was probably my favourite waterfall of all the ones we visited as you can get up close to the actual falls. You'll end up getting a bit wet but it's definitely worth it.

Just along the path from Seljalandsfoss is the much smaller Gljúfrabúi which is a much smaller, but still pretty, waterfall hidden in a canyon.

Our final stop that evening was one of out most memorable experiencing of the trip and it's not necessarily for good reasons. We wanted to squeeze in another hot pool visit as it had been a few days since our previous one. Seljavallalaug was the closest as it's situated just outside Skógar. To reach the actual pool is an adventure in itself, we parked the car and then hiked for 15 minutes through shallow rivers and rocky mounds. We will eventually found Iceland's oldest swimming pool, built in the 1920s and situated amongst a mountainous valley. We visited at midnight which was probably a mistake as the place was super eerie, so much in fact we only stayed for about 20 minutes. The pool was originally built to teach the locals to swim but in 1990 a new pool was built nearby and this old one became almost deserted. It's still used but it's only cleaned out once a year so it's a bit murky. The changing rooms are crumbling shells so forget any sort of shower. Despite the dodgy vibe I'm glad we visited as it was most definitely an experience I won't forget.

We made it back to our little cottage super late that evening but being summer in Iceland it never got pitch black. I went to bed feeling sad that it was our last night in Iceland but with a sense of great fondness for the country as we had experienced so many wonderful things.

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  1. I'm so jealous right now. It almost doesn't look real. That's how incredible it looks!

    - Elodie x

  2. What amazing picture - agree with Elodie, it almost looks like you're on a crazy film set! X

  3. These pictures are amazing, it definitely does look like something from a sci-fi! What an amazing adventure x


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