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I wanted to see glaciers. I wanted to see icebergs. I really wanted to see an ice cave. There was no way to see all of that on a day trip so I juggled my itinerary, added a couple of days and dropped other activities to make the time to get to the glaciers.
It. Was. Worth. It.
On Day 3 I drove straight through to Hofn, a small fishing village about 450 kilometers south of Reikjavik. I made a few stops along the way: Seljalandfoss and the black sand beach. The drive took about 10 hours. I spent the night at Hotel Hofn, which offers wake-up calls in case the northern lights make an appearance. Sadly, that didn’t happen on any night of my stay there. But that does give me another reason to visit Iceland again.
My ice adventures began Day 4 with a drive to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon about an hour north on the Ring Road.
This photo was taken at about 9 a.m. There was a dreamlike quality to my time on the Diamond Beach. The weak sunlight was a huge part of that. The icebergs break off from the glacier, float in the lagoon and down to the ocean via a river. Pieces of various sizes wash up on this black sand beach. The reason the ice is clear is because the weight of the glacier squeezes out the oxygen in the ice.
The ice cave was on the edges of Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest glacier. If you redistribute Vatnajökull throughout all of Iceland, it would be 30 meters deep, according to the guide. So we just saw a tiny part at the very edges of that glacier. But wow was it beautiful. The guide said every year caves melt in the summer and form in the winters. Guides don’t even know where the caves will form until early on in the winter season. He mentioned that the cave last year had no color: it was black. The cave I visited had black ice, green ice, blue ice and crystal clear ice.
This is a moulin, a nearly vertical shaft within a glacier.
As the glacier retreats, it reveals a rocky landscape. Land closest to the glacier is devoid of plant life. Our guide, who grew up on a farm in the area, said the base camp where we left the truck had been covered by the glacier 23 years. It has receded 1.5 miles since then. The farther you get away from the glacier, the more vegetation you see. This is the sort of plant life that calls that rocky landscape home. The rocks look like they are painted. Maybe someone on here can help identify these plants.
At the lagoon, I hopped on a Zodiak boat ride. I was outfitted with a full-body insulated suit that also served as a flotation device. We saw this little guy chilling on an ice floe.
This is Fjallsárlón, a smaller glacial lagoon just north of Jökulsárlón. You could see the rolling glacier from the Ring Road so of course I had to stop.
Good thing I stopped because I got to visit with this duck!