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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

12 September 2021

Glaciers in the sun

16 August 2021


Just to defy our expectations, today dawned a faultless blue and stayed warm and sunny through the entire day. We hiked in T-shirts up to Svartifoss waterfall and then up to the glacier viewpoint at Sjónarnípa, which was magnificent. We even got hot enough to want a cooling paddle in a stream on the way back. For some slightly mad reason I decided to strip off (not quite all the way!) and immerse myself in the icy waters. Very refreshing!

Skaftajokull glacier

Skaftajokull glacier

I’m getting ahead though. Our first stop was the black sand beach of Reynisfjara where the best bit wasn’t the tangled basalt columns supporting the base of the cliffs, but the colony of fluttering puffins that lived on the grassy bits of the cliff. Such ungainly fliers! They flutter about almost more like moths than birds. After seeing dozens on the cliffs we trained our binoculars seaward and saw hundreds more bobbing on the water or plunging into the waves for fish.

Next stop was a lame cafe in Vik for breakfast and then the long drive between towering mountains and blue seas until the great glacial rivers of ice running down from the Vatnajokull ice cap began to appear on our left. Skaftafell is the main NP visitor centre. Here you can hike up to Svartifoss where a thin gush of water tumbles over a vertical wall of organpipe-like black basalt columns. There are other hikes but that seems by far the most popular. It was great, though not in the same league as the Waterfall Way.

At the glacier's snout

At the glacier’s snout

In the afternoon it was time for glacier lagoons; the lakes that form at the end of retreating glaciers. Or I might say the evening, since we left Skaftafell after 5pm and it was past 8:30 pm before we got to our accommodation in Hofn. Fjallsárlón was the one we liked best, smaller than Jokullsárlón but the glacier felt much closer and the sun on the ice was dazzling.

There was still one more addition to the eccentric wonders of Iceland, though. The black sand beach on the shore below Jokullsarlon, where chunks of ice simple wash up along the shore. And when they shatter, tiny nuggets of pure clear ice remain scattered on the jet black sand, for all the world like diamonds in a jeweller’s shop display.

So, yeah, 8:30 check-in and 9:15 dinner. Every single restaurant in Hofn (okay, about five) has langoustines on the menu. And they are huge and delicious chargrilled at restaurant Birki (birch).



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