(cont. on from Part One)
On our third evening in Iceland we stayed at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – a beautiful hotel about a 25 minute drive from Jökulsárlón Glacier where we were to meet our Ice Cave Tour the next morning.
On Christmas Eve we enjoyed a lovely (but expensive!) dinner at the hotel then ventured out in our car to hunt out the unpredictable and elusive Northern Lights. We slid into this car park and kept second guessing ourselves that we had actually parked on a lake – the ice was that thick! We stood in the freezing wind casting our eyes to the sky while Matt played around with some long exposure shots on his camera. The sky wasn’t entirely clear that night but the longer we stared up at the murky darkness we realised there was a whitish arc above us. It wasn’t really until we saw Matt’s photo below that confirmed we were indeed looking at the Aurora Borealis!
We were pretty stoked but I was left wanting more. I wanted to see them as they are so beautifully captured in all the photos I’ve seen – full of colour, greens and pinks, and dancing across the sky. We had two more nights up our sleeve to try hunt them out again so after an hour or so in the cold we called it a night. When we returned to the hotel a number of hotel guests were out on the hills behind the hotel with their expensive equipment capturing the lights – perhaps we could’ve stayed put and enjoyed the show from the warmth of our rooms!
Christmas Day was definitely a highlight of our trip. We met our Guide To Iceland tour at Jökulsárlón Glacier nearing 10am (still completely dark at this point). It was about -7° that morning and there was a bitter wind which burnt my cheeks red. Once all of our group arrived we hopped into the giant monster truck and drove to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe which covers about 10% of Iceland. The drive itself was pretty exciting, we ploughed through the snowy roads and up and down some near vertical slopes.
Being Christmas Day I didn’t expect the tours to be very busy but unfortunately for us the ice cave was absolutely rammed which was actually really disappointing. Our guide explained that because we were a bit early in the season the ice cave hadn’t opened up as much as previous years. The ice caves form naturally so the locations can change from year to year so every cave is unique. She also explained how they actually had to give this one a bit of a helping hand to start the season by cutting into the ice creating a channel to help drain the cave which was filled with water.
The cave was still a beautiful spectacle, with bright blue ice and a crazy icy whirlpool at the back. This was a completely unique feature of this particular cave and would only be there for a matter of days so I counted ourselves pretty lucky in that sense. After 30mins of pushing through the crowds in the cave and trying (quite unsuccessfully) to get some good pictures we headed back into the blasting wind and back into the warmth of our monster truck.
When we returned to Jökulsárlón, now in the daylight, we were able to see the incredible glacier lagoon filled with icebergs of all shapes, sizes and colours. We wandered down to the ocean, meeting a seal along the way, to check out Diamond Beach. The coastline is scattered with the clear melting chunks of ice which looked so pretty in the low light of winter. No wonder people often pop the question on this very fitting beach!
Again we found ourselves racing against the sun and drove back west towards Vik stopping along the way to trek up to Svartifoss Waterfall. By this stage it was late afternoon and we only had about 1.5 hours left of light which was about the length of the walk. Once we hit the path heading up we realised we had made a bit of a judgement error. The path was covered in thick ice and quite treacherous. I later saw in the Visitor Center that crampons were required – whoops! We powered to the top and down to discover Svartifoss waterfall which is surrounded by basalt columns.
On our mission down the sun was setting over the Skeiðarársandur (glacier sand dunes) and the light was just too pretty for words! Abbey and I both decided instead of constantly slipping over and being cautious that it would be easier to scoot down the icy paths on our arses – best decision ever. This was definitely one of those “the destination is the journey” situations and topped off our awesome Christmas Day adventures.
Don’t miss the highlights of our day tripping around the Golden Circle.