I woke up early the next day to see heavy mist through the window. I set off for the short walk to the Svartifoss, or Black Waterfall, in the national park. The Svartifoss is smaller than the other waterfalls I had seen in Iceland but had an interesting setting – it tumbled down over hexagonal black basalt columns.
I took some photos and then continued my walk, with views over the mountains and out to the glaciers.
The park is huge, with hiking trails that over 20km long, but although the mist had lifted, the tops of the mountains were still hidden in clouds, so I decided to head back to the visitor centre and continue my drive down Route 1. I drove past many more “arms” of the mighty Vatnajokull glacier; the sun had now emerged, making the view much more impressive.
After an hour’s driving I found one of Iceland’s highlights – the Jokulsarlon lagoon. In the early 20th century, the glacier here used to stretch all the way to the sea, but over the years it retreated up the mountainside leaving behind a large lake, connected to the sea by a short river. Mini-icebergs break off the glacier and float in the freezing water, slowly melting and all the time drifting slowly seaward. The larger icebergs would get stuck in the shallows of the river, and would sit there, with the water rushing past them. Eventually they would lose enough bulk to float onwards and out to sea, where the salt water would speed up their disappearance. Some icebergs ended up washed back onto the black sand of the beach – nicked the Diamond Beach by locals. There, the waves would play with them, washing them one way and another, rolling and shrinking them. It was a splendid and unique sight, unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I spent an hour watching the spectacle and trying to film the seals that live in the lake. I was really lucky that the clouds had lifted a bit, allowing the sun to occasionally bring out the wonderful colours.
When I had had enough of simply standing and watching, I took a trip by amphibious truck to see the icebergs from close up.
The guide explained that the water in the icebergs had been trapped in the glacier for a thousand years, and that the black strips you could see in some icebergs was layers of volcanic ash from eruptions hundreds of years ago during the ice’s long journey to the sea. The bright blue areas of the icebergs were made of ice that had been underwater until recently, but which had flipped to the surface as the iceberg melted and became unstable. Once exposed to the air and sun, the ice turns to snow and turns white.
After the boat trip I continued my drive to my next hotel, in the village of Hofn. I stopped off briefly for a soak in some geothermal hot tubs. It was relaxing to sit in the hot water, with nothing to do but admire the mountains in the distance.
Hofn looked like it could have been a pretty, small fishing village, but by the time I arrived the rain had returned, and everything was a dull grey colour. I checked in and this time was very pleased with my hotel. It I had a large communal sitting room with a view of the sea, which inspired me to sit and write my blog. After an hour’s writing I decided that I deserved to eat out for change – the speciality of the town was freshly-caught langoustine, which sounded very tempting. Unfortunately, I set out rather late by Iceland standards (7.30pm) and each restaurant had a queue of hungry, wet, tourists outside, who were being informed that they would need to wait an hour for a table. I returned to the hotel and ate the last of the food I had bought in the supermarket back near Reykjavik. I would have preferred to have eaten out, but at least I had a change from smoked fish……smoked lamb! Although it was very good, I resolved to book a table in a restaurant in advance at my next destination.
A poster in my hotel – rather appropriate for this holiday