Cruising on a Glacial Lagoon


Cruising on a Glacial Lagoon

Narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos by Christina Gehres.The sun rises late in October.

Two German tourists have embarked on a journey to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in Southeast Iceland, approximately five hours from Reykjavík. The first rays of the morning sun emerge on Hellisheiði mountain pass, revealing an extraordinary lava landscape and steam coming out of the ground.

Suddenly the town of Hveragerði appears, nestled beneath Mt. Kambar. With easy access to geothermal energy, the town’s economy is based on horticulture. Vegetables are grown inside greenhouses; the first was built shortly after the town was founded in 1929.

Horses graze outside a lone farm between Hveragerði and Selfoss. The green of the summer is long gone; the grass is yellow and withered.

The next stop is the rainbow-kissed Skógafoss waterfall. Sixty meters high, it is one of the most impressive in the country and the final in a series of 20 waterfalls on Skógaá river from its source at Fimmvörðuháls on the mountains overlooking the area. According to legend, the first settler at Skógar, Þrasi, hid a chest of treasure in a cave beneath the waterfall.

The next natural phenomenon worth seeing is just around the next bend: Dyrhólaey promontory, the southernmost point of the Icelandic mainland and home to rich bird life. Dyrhólaey is thought to have been formed during a later interglacial period in a submarine eruption. Off the promontory are several rock stacks, the highest of which is Háidrangur at 56 meters.

After what seems like an endless drive through plains of sands, the tourists enter the Kingdom of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. At the foot of one of its sub-glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, lies Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

Jökulsárlón first began to form with warming temperatures after the 1920s. Large icebergs broke off the glacier and now float in the 100-meter deep lagoon, offering a spectacular sight. Tourists are able to cruise among the icebergs, which is one of the most popular tourist activities in Iceland.

This unique lagoon has been used as a location for a few Hollywood films, including two James Bond movies A View to a Kill (1985) and Die Another Day (2002), Tomb Raider (2001) and Batman Begins (2005).

Night falls early in October. On the way back the tourists watch the sun set and darkness engulf the amazing landscape of south Iceland.

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