I was yet again, apprehensive about the drive from Vik to Jökulsárlón. The day promised to be sunny, yet my 2WD did not inspire enough confidence. So, I again started scouting for co-travelers on Couchsurfing, but with no luck. Woke up early morning, stuffed myself with the usual breakfast of eggs, bread, milk and bananas and started gearing up (layering up) for the day. Just when I was about to leave, this girl named Belinda from Singapore who was finishing her breakfast, asked where am I headed. Told her about my plan and she jumped in (because glaciers). 🙂 So, I had Belinda following me in her car through the way.
The drive itself was one of the most gorgeous ones I had done so far! I can’t even begin to explain it. Winters in Iceland lead to some really mind-blowing views. 45 minutes into the drive, you cross these volcanic lava fields which are completely moss covered. In this case, they were also snow covered. There was no spot to pause and click, but you have to see it. It belongs to some other planet altogether. Then about 2 hours into the drive, Skaftafell glacier becomes visible. This HUGE mass of ice just sitting there, like someone just froze a flowing river. This was my snow pants day and I kid you not, those pants and the toe warmers were life saving material. Temperature was negative something, and clicking pictures had become imperative and intimidating at the same time.
I had seen Jökulsárlón in pictures, but you really need to see it to believe it. That glacier lake is the deepest lake in Iceland, at 250 m. Very blue with big chunks of ice floating around. This sits on the edge of the Vatnajökull glacier, one of the biggest in Europe. Parked my car at the lagoon and went to get a few pics. Cannot explain how cold, windy and slippery it was! Made a quick pitstop and went ahead to my hostel.
The Vagnsstaðir HI hostel was the best I had stayed in Iceland. And one of the best I have ever stayed in. In the middle of nowhere, with an amazing glass-paneled dining hall. Promised myself two days here and settled down. Met Axel and Ruddy, the chef couple who would cook fancy meals in hostels. Also, met Éva and Juan. Éva, whose dream was to see the Northern Lights and who became a great partner for chasing the lights! She did see her first in Jökulsárlón and it was as amazing as she thought it would be. 🙂 That night we had gone all the way to the lagoon to see the lights, and waited in the freezing cold. Just when we gave up and started driving back, the night sky lit up. Waves after waves of northern lights. It was a good night. 🙂
Went to the ice caves the next day. Sort of a disappointing day for me, because I had paid a LOT of money to go here, and the ice cave was super crowded and not even close to the pictures I had seen earlier. Heard later from Éva that the ice caves in Skaftafell were better. Nonetheless, walking on the Vatnajökull glacier was pretty impressive. Met Marion and Cécile here, the twin sisters from France, and we collectively brooded over the money lost and the crowd that was the ice cave! Solo travel has this huge advantage of meeting some really great people. Not that I don’t like traveling with my usual set, but I was fast realizing how easy (and nice) it is to meet travelers and exchange stories.
Came back to the glacier lagoon and a hot mushroom soup later, went to the Diamond Beach, which is one of my favorite parts of the trip! It is a black sand beach where ice crystals can be seen all over, in some very cool shapes. I spent hours here! Sun rays through these crystals looked beautiful.
There were a couple more hours of sunlight remaining, and I had become comfortable driving around. So, started driving towards the Viking village near Höfn. About an hour’s drive one way. Sunset was in progress as I drove. Resulting in ridiculously good views. The Viking Village is a movie set, but the movie was never shot there. Now the person who owns the place charges about $9 to see the place. I wasn’t extremely keen on the movie set, but the place is quite pretty. So, bought myself a hot chocolate at the cafe and just walked around a bit.
That night we again went back to the lagoon to see the northern lights. And yet again, we saw it once we started driving back. Luck had been pretty blessed all along the trip! Till the next morning, when this happened. I think I check for my car keys even in my sleep now! As I started driving back to Vik, realized that the apprehension about driving in Iceland had vanished. 🙂