Day Three: Skaftafell, Svartifoss, and Jökulsárlón

We woke up and headed towards Vík to continue our journey on Ring Road. Justin made us some eggs for breakfast, and I had some skyr yogurt, as well. Then, we filled up the car and headed towards our next destination, Skaftafell, which used to be its own national park, but later became a part of Vatnajökull National Park.

The weather was pretty sunny and beautiful when we were in Vík, but it got very gray and rainy as we got closer to Skaftafell. There was also no grass surrounding the road, and instead, we were surrounded by lava fields.

Skaftafell is a part of the Vatnajökull glacier. Vatnajökull is the largest and biggest glacier in Iceland. It is also the second-largest glacier in all of Europe. It covers about 8% of the country. As we drove close to the park, you could see the glacier.  The average thickness of the ice of the glacier is 1250 feet. It was huge. We pulled over on Ring Road to get a better view of it, and they had a little roadside stop with some information about en route to the park. It was pouring rain, and the sky was dark and gray when we pulled over.

[both taken with the DSLR]

We learned at the stop that some random facts were that under the ice cap of the glacier are several volcanoes. When the volcanoes erupt, pockets of water that are beneath the ice cause glacier floods of water. The water is what destroyed the land around the area. Even now, the volcanoes continue to erupt under the ice and cause many floods and subglacial eruptions. The most current eruption was in May 2011.

We arrived at Skaftafell and parked the car. They had a kiosk where you had to register your car’s license plate and pay for parking. I think parking was about twelve dollars if I recall. There was a nice visitor center there with bathrooms and also a gift shop. They also had a really nice camping area there, and there were several tents set up and RVs parked. Our main goal at Skaftafell was to hike to Svartifoss.

Svartifoss is one of Iceland’s more popular waterfalls. It’s surrounded by black lava columns, which is what gave it its name since Svartifoss literally translates to “black waterfall.” And unlike other waterfalls in Iceland, as far as I can tell, this one was never featured in either a Justin Bieber music video or Game of Thrones episode.
The hike to Svartifoss took us about 1.5 hours round trip. It’s a little under a mile one way, but be warned that it is entirely uphill for the most part. Compared to Glymur, which we did around Day 7 or so, the uphill really wasn’t that bad. But at the time, it was a semi-steep incline. The park also covered the entire trail in rubber walking mats, but I think that actually made the hike harder. Still, it probably helps make it accessible to more people, and it did widen the trail, which was immensely popular. I complained the entire way up to the waterfall because I really really really hate uphill hiking because of how much it makes my shins hurt. We were also sweating like crazy from the hike. It was in the low 40s at the base, and I’m sure it was still cold during the ascent, but we were sweating from all the uphill hiking and ended up stripping down layers. By the end of the hike, my coats were tied around my waist, and I was in a tee-shirt and still sweating like crazy.
We passed two other waterfalls en route to Svartifoss: Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss, but the viewing points aren’t the best from the trail.
[taken with the DSLR]
[phone pics, you can vaguely see Svartifoss in the background from some of the pics]
We made it to Svartifoss and took some pictures. Unfortunately, there were many obnoxious assholes with drones making videos of the waterfall, and the buzzing/whirring noise was really annoying.
The trail does loop down in front of the falls and then uphill some more until it loops back to the main trail, but we had a lot of driving to do that day, so we just turned around and took the same trail back. I enjoyed the downhill hike more than the uphill hike, even if some of it seemed a bit steep.
We stopped by the visitor’s center on our way out. Justin bought some posters to add to his national park poster collection. Then we got in the car and started heading towards Skálafell, where we were spending the night.
This was one of our longest driving days, so there was a lot of driving and listening to music. However, about thirty or so minutes away from Skálafell was Jökulsárlón, which was one my list of things we must see in Iceland, so we stopped there next.
Jökulsárlón is a large glacial lake. It sat at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and turned into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has gotten bigger every single year because of the varying rates as the glaciers are melting. It is about a mile away from the ocean’s edge and covers about 6.9 square miles. It is reported to be the deepest lake in Iceland at 932 feet deep. From the Jökulsárlón lake, you can see the ice cap, which is about 3000 feet tall. In the summer months, icebergs gather at the lake’s exit, melt into small ice blocks, and drift into the sea.
It has been featured in four movies: A View to Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Batman Begins. I have seen 1 out of those 4 movies. It was also in The Amazing Race season 6.
The lagoon was stunning. The sky was dark and gray when we got there, and I was pretty sure it was going to start pouring at any second, but luckily it didn’t. There weren’t a lot of people there when we went either. I think we saw more people on the hike to Svartifoss. The glacier ice was the most beautiful blue color. We saw a glacier when we were in Alaska back in 2016, but it had nothing on the beauty of Jökulsárlón. I even saw a seal swimming in the water at one point, but unfortunately, I didn’t get it on film, and it didn’t surface again after I saw it.
But I’ll just let the pictures do the talking for me.


[phone selfie]

After spending time at Jökulsárlón, we headed back on the road towards Skálafell.

Our lodging for the night was a small farm called Guesthouse Skálafell. It was simple and comfortable. We had a small room with two double beds and a bathroom. When we first got there, I had a tiny freak out because my name wasn’t anywhere in their reservation, but we figured out I had put it in Justin’s name and not mine, so it all worked out in the end.

We spent most of the “night” just chilling. However, we were pretty far away from anywhere, and we were hungry. We ended up making breakfast scramble in the can using the water from a hot water pitcher and using Justin’s camping utensil he had brought to eat with, and it all worked out in the end. I spent most of the night reading, and Justin chilled.

The next morning it was off to Egilsstaðir.



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