Despite our comfortable lodgings, we didn’t sleep too well after such a hair-raising experience on the roads the day before. We had an excellent breakfast to look forward to when we awoke though! Our AirBnB host had set out a classic European breakfast for us with bread, cheese, cold cuts, muesli, cereal, cookies, tea, and coffee. It was a lovely surprise! The Muu milk carton even had Christmas elves on it!
We left our cozy AirBnB at 8am. The moon shone bright behind the clouds and we saw two shooting stars over the mountain. It was a beautiful drive out to Jökulsárlón.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Ice Cave Tour and Glacier Hike with Ice and Mountain Trips
Our glacier and ice cave hike was booked with a husband and wife team, Ice and Mountain Trips. We had booked a 10am tour and arrived early at 9:15am. Our booking confirmation didn’t say where to meet, but we found a vehicle in the tour parking section with the company name on its side. I approached a cluster of guides chatting outside the cafe. They pointed out our guide, Birnir.
We were his only booking for the day, so we got a private tour! We climbed into his Toyota ‘super Jeep’ (not an actual Jeep) and headed towards the mountains bathed in moonlight.
We were part of a train of vehicles going off the road towards the glacier. The Arctic Adventures van in front of us got a flat tire part way there. We told him about the Arctic Adventure crash we saw yesterday. He said he’d heard about that and everyone was okay.
I was still quite on edge after yesterday’s drive. Matt was having a grand time in the back seat but my stomach clenched with every sharp drop we took in the off-road vehicle. I felt like I was on a roller coaster at times! However, our driver was very experienced and relaxed, bringing us safely across a frozen lake and up to the ice cave.
The Ice Cave
The Crystal Ice Cave is the easiest Ice Cave to reach in the Vatnajökull glacier. The others involve a long and difficult hike. Before dawn, it was already crawling with tour groups! Our guide gave us helmets to wear and crampons to slip over our boots, picked up his ice pick, and off we went!
The part of the ice cave available to tourists was very small. Staff were shoveling away snow above the cave to let light in. Apparently the ice glows bright blue during the daylight! It just started to get a little blue before we left. There was a ice covered lake inside that was roped off, which we could just see a little bit of in the darkness.
We walked to a small tunnel that let out to manmade steps cut out of the ice. Birnir then took us on a short hike on the glacier to a shallow crevasse in the glacier. It was made by water flow and smooth to the touch. In the Ice were streaks of black ash. Birnir told us it was from a volcano that erupted in 1362 and killed over 400 people! Matt touched some of the ash, describing it as compressed course black sand. The ice around it was dark blue.
Drive from the glacier
The place was getting so busy, we didn’t want to hang around, so our guide drove us back to the car park. We got chatting on the way. Birnir said he has been doing this for two years. He’s a fisherman in the summertime and has a small boat. He fishes mostly cod from the ocean and some herring. They don’t do fish farming in Hönf yet, but are starting salmon farming.
On our way out we saw another Arctic Adventures vehicle have trouble getting up the hill. Our guide was surprised the driver wasn’t using four wheel drive. The van had to come back down the hill and as we passed we noticed it was a young driver – maybe it was his first time doing this!
Apparently, Arctic Adventures is one of the largest tour companies in Iceland. This was the third time Matt and I had witnessed something going wrong with Arctic Adventures with our own two eyes in the last two days. We felt very fortunate we hadn’t booked with them!
We were very happy with our tour with Ice and Mountain Trips. After thanking Birnir, Matt and I headed down to the Glacier Lagoon to take pictures of the chunks of ice that had broken off the glacier towards the ocean. It is 250-300m deep! There were seals basking in the distance and birds fishing. It was all quite magical, even with all the tourists!
We drove across the road to Diamond Beach. It didn’t look like much from the highway, but once parked we saw the black sand beach littered in tiny icebergs!
Matt said I looked like a kid in a candy store. I literally ran around trying to photograph as much as possible. Unfortunately the cold was taking a real toll on my camera and iPhone batteries and both died despite having been fully charged that morning. The beach was such a sight to see – photos can’t do it full justice.
We sat in the car to at our sandwiches for lunch. We wanted to get to Vik before sundown, so we left the stunning lagoon a little after 1:00.
Skaftafell National Park
Skaftafell was just off the main highway. There were historic turf houses and a beautiful waterfall with tubular rock formations all around it. Unfortunately, Sel, where the turf houses were, was a 25 minutes hike into the park. The waterfall was 45 minute hike in on mostly ice. It would have taken the rest of our daylight.
Drive to Vik
The drive to Vik was sunny and clear – a sharp contrast from yesterday! We arrived just at he sun was setting at 3:30. Huge waves were crashing on the black sand beach below an epic landscape of mountains. In the distance were craggy rocks which I rushed to take a photo of before we lost the sun. There was a whole row of people lined up with their cameras and tripods – we were all thinking the same thing!
Vik HI Hostel
The hostel in Vik was much smaller than I expected. It sat on a hill behind the iconic Vik church. Our private room was cold and a bit drafty, but had a beautiful view of the town and mountain.
While Matt checked the Toronto Stock Exchange index for the day, I set about making dinner. We had picked up a baguette fresh out of the oven at the grocery store in Vik, some wine, and smoked hot dogs for protein. I made pasta with tomato sauce, setting the table in the alcove by the kitchen. It was a beautiful, thrown together dinner!
We had a short nap after dinner before going out for an evening walk. We walked up to the church then around to find some dark areas to watch the sky for norther lights. We watched as clouds rolled in with the high winds, stars twinkling above. We saw another shooting star over the mountain!
We headed back to the hostel to plan out our next day. I spread out our maps and reviewed our accommodation options. We found a cheap AirBnB in Arkanes just outside Reykjavik and booked it for tomorrow night.
Back in our room, we lay in bed listening to the water drip of the radiator and the occasional clang of pots and pans in the kitchen below. I have one last look out the window for Northern Lights, then went to sleep.