Day six we saw the most of Iceland of any day on our trip. We rented a car and drove along the southern coast, on Route 1, or The Ring Road, which circumnavigates the entire island. Our final destination was Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon at the southeastern tip of the island.
We had a bit of a hiccup getting started as I booked the cheapest car option but forgot to inform them that I can’t drive stick. Forty minutes and another visit to Subway later (we ate fresh a lot in Iceland) and we were on the road. The first part of our journey was a little repetitive as it was the same route we’d taken Sunday to get to Hveragerdi, but once we passed that the landscape began to become interesting once more.
Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, a 200 foot waterfall whose main attraction is a pathway that goes behind it. Iceland is very easy to navigate. The roads are marked extremely well (probably because there are not a lot of them) and a lot of the main tourist attractions are able to be spotted from the Ring Road.
We pulled up and parked by the waterfall and thankfully took heed of the “you well get wet” sign and threw on a windbreaker. I got absolutely soaked, The windbreaker kept my top dry, but I ended up having to change my jeans right there in the parking lot, which you can do in Europe without people getting upset. It was kind of nice.
Tuesday was a great day for waterfalls. Our second stop of the day was Skogafoss, another 200 foot behemoth that s much wider than Seljalandsfoss.
You can’t go behind Skogafoss but you can walk up a very steep staircase to a viewing platform near the top.
I was able to handle the staircase but the viewing platform made me nauseous and want to hold onto solid ground, so I only lasted out there a few seconds.
There’s a trail that continues on past the viewing platform and up the Skoga River valley. We hiked it a bit but turned around after not too long so that we could make it all the way to Jokulsarlon, which was a four hour ride. Looking back, I wish we had the time to take the trial to the end. It leads up and over a mountain pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers before descending back down. A sign with instructions warned that there was the distinct possibility of snow at the top. It would’ve been cool to start a hike in shorts, hit snow, and then go back down to warm weather.
Another half hour drive brought us to the town of Vik, a tiny village of only about 300 inhabitants situated right on the coast and our halfway point. We took a walk on the volcanic black sand beach and had lunch and at that point realized that we might be racing the weather a little as it looked like it was going to rain.
The drive from Vik to our next stop, the Skaftafell campsite and visitors center in Vatnajokull National Park was long and extremely desolate. Katelyn took over driving and I took a nap for part of the journey. On this part of the drive you’re not exactly on the coast, but it feels like you’re close. The road is essentially raised as you drive over a series of glacial rivers and runoffs heading to the ocean. They mostly originate from Vatnakjokull, Europe’s largest glacier.
It’s impressive and again something that can’t possibly be conveyed in words or photos. The glacier sits on top of what looks like an entire mountain range. It’s so massive it’s almost scary. When we first saw it, we had to stop the car to get out and just take it all in.
Skaftafell was another “I wish” location. I wish we got there in time to take a glacier walk and learn to ice climb (just thinking of the look-at-me-I’m-Jon-Snow-Facebook moment I could’ve had fills me with regret) and I wish we had more time and could’ve camped. Instead we took a short hike to where the glacier started. I wanted to climb the glacier, if only for a couple of feet (you’re really not supposed to go on them without a guide) but alas, there was a small glacial lagoon separated the trail from the ice.
Unfortunately Jorksarlon was sort of a bust because when we got there it was pouring. We managed to get out for a few pictures. It was still impressive but I could only imagine how gorgeous it would’ve been in the sunlight. Sidenote: we must have gotten there when something crazy was going on with the tide, because it was not as much a calm lagoon as swiftly flowing river, which killed my dreams of trying to wade out and get on an iceberg.
Another mistake we made was stopping at all the stops on our way to Jorksarlarlon. What didn’t seem like an excruciating ride on the out was very long on the way back. It was long, but uneventful. We stopped at Skogafoss again for dinner and got back to Reykjavik around eleven and passed out early so that we could go full force our last day in Iceland.