Monday, 19 August 2013

We had an ice time in South Iceland

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that the South of Iceland is an exciting place. It’s home to the largest glacier in the country, Vatnajökull. It´s where the Eyjafjallajökull (easy for us to say) eruption that stranded flight passengers all over the world in 2010 took place. And it’s even possible to see the newest island in the world. We decided to take a trip there and do some adventuring of our own.

We’re getting quite used to seeing amazing sights, but were once again wowed when we visited Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

We took a zodiac boat trip out to the edge of the glacier where we were lucky to see some ice fall into the lagoon and become one of the many icebergs that float around providing nice resting spots for the seals.

One of the most beautiful sights was on the opposite side of the road, where the icebergs wash up on a black beach after the tide pulls them out to sea.

And a smaller lagoon nearby was pretty special too.

Icelandic Mountain Guides gave us some crampons and took us on a guided walk on the Vatnajökull glacier.  

During an incredible hike from Skógar to Þórsmörk, we saw a few more waterfalls.  

We walked between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps and over the new craters Magni and Móði, which were formed during the 2010 eruption and are still steaming. We heard that some hikers, who stood still for too long last year, set their boots on fire with the heat. Luckily the lava has cooled down a bit since then and we managed to complete the 25km hike fully clothed.

We got a little taste of Iceland´s Highlands with some spectacular views on the way into Þórsmðrk and particularly enjoyed making it across Heljarkambur, a narrow 50m traverse with a vertical rock face rising on one side and a steep snowfield dropping 75m on the other.

The hike took us about 10 hours including a dinner stop between the glaciers at Fimmvörðuháls, where there is a hut that hikers can use to take a break or even stay the night in. We completed the hike, camping at Húsadalur in Þórsmðrk, adding a couple of kilometers and river crossings to the route. The next morning we took the bus back to Skógar and enjoyed some more river crossings that were a bit more fun without the cold wet feet.

Having learned all about the Vestmannaeyjar at the Volcano House cinema in Reykjavik we were really looking forward to visiting it’s only populated island, Heimaey, especially Louise who didn´t have a nap during the films.

Vestmannaeyjar came to international attention in 1973 with the eruption of Eldfell volcano, which is considered the largest natural disaster in Iceland’s recent history. The eruption destroyed many buildings, and forced the evacuation of the entire population to mainland Iceland. It is possible to climb to the top of the crater, which is still hot, and walk over the lava that has covered over 400 houses.

Before and after, a photo of a photo of the eruption

Signs above the lava, remember the streets below

We camped in an extinct crater, which we later found out on a boat trip around the island was also next to a giant elephant…

The boat trip also gave us the opportunity to see the newest island in the world, Surtsey, which was created in a volcanic eruption in 1963. Tourists will never get to visit Surtsey, so this is probably the best view we’ll get.

Surtsey is the island in the distance on the right

On our first night, and continuing our midnight adventure theme, we climbed to the top of Stóra-klif assisted by some ropes and chains that definitely wouldn’t pass the health and safety regulations back home. The views were amazing and we even met a puffin.

That wasn’t the only puffin we met on Heimaey. At the island’s Aquarium and Museum of Natural History we got introduced to Toti, a two year old rescue puffin, who was taking a bath in the back of the museum. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, when Rob went to collect his backpack, kindly kept in the staff office for us, he was startled by a baby puffin hiding behind it – very cute.

We´re not sure if it´s the nicest beach in the world as stated by our Lonely Planet, but another highlight of our trip was walking barefoot on a beautiful black beach in Vic.

Bless bless, xxx