Thursday, June 19, 2008

Southeast Iceland: Seyðisfjörður → Skaftafell National Park 18 May

18th May 2008
Seyðisfjörður → Skaftafell National Park

Via: Route 93 - Route 1 - Route 939 - Route 1

Iceland weather is really unpredictable. It was a sunny and warm yesterday but this morning it is misty and cold, 4°C. After a nice and hearty breakfast, we ask the waiter to fill up our flasks with hot water to make green tea for long journey to Skaftafell National Park. Although it is warm enough in the car, it will be better to warm our guts as well. We have been doing this since we left Reykjavík. Despite everything about Hotel Aldan is good, they do not provide coffee-tea making facilities in the room. We set off at 930am and we expect to arrive at Skaftafell in the evening as it is nearly 400km away.

Breakfast at Hotel Aldan

Vistas of the Drive

Route 939

I love to see the valley from the top. It makes me feel that I'm on top of the world. How does this valley form? It is the craft of glacier from the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Beautiful.

Did you manage to spot the houses at the bottom of this mountain?

The terraces on the mountain are so uniformly layered

Route 1
Seeing the Atlantic Ocean means we have reached the eastern end of Iceland.

The terraces get more and more bizarre and hideous as we get nearer to the coastline. Guess it must be the result of the wind erosion. These eroded cliffs and pinnacles remind me of the scenes in Lord of the Rings. I'm wondering if I have walked into the fantasy world.

This is another my favourite picture. I really admire the cyclist couple. It's 4°C, freezing and windy outside.

This appears to be the most dangerous part of the journey. This stretch hugs the coastline and passes beneath some frightening rock and shale mountain faces that appear on the verge of a landslide. Look at the mist that envelopes the mountain. True enough, we notice there a couple of bulldozers by the roadside, guess some part of the road has just cleared of the landslide. Despite of the fear, we did stop a while and take some pictures.

Reindeers roaming in the wild!!! We are so excited upon seeing them. We try to get close and touch them, but they shy away whenever we get near.

It's 2pm. After travelling 297km, we finally glimpse the first sight of the Hoffellsjökull, one of the glacial tongue of Vatnajökull. We have arrived the region of Skaftafell National Park.

It is the largest glacier in Iceland, covering more than 8% of the country. With a size of 8,100 km², it is the largest glacier in Europe in volume (3,100 km³) and the second largest in area. The average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. Vatnajökull has been shrinking for some years now, possibly because of climatic changes and recent volcanic activity. Until 1930 it was growing. See map above.

Closer shot on Hoffellsjökull.

As we move on, the next 3 glacial tongues of Vatnajökull come into view. They are from right to left: Fláajökull, Heinabergsjökull and Skálafellsjökull. The glacier is so white that they reflect all the lights, that explains the glow at the sky over the glacier. Very ethereal indeed.

Driving another hour, at 3pm, upon seeing this suspension bridge and Jökulsárlón, my dream destination suddenly materialise.

Jökulsárlón is the largest glacial lakes in Iceland. It is situated at the south end of the glacier Vatnajökull. Appearing first only in 1934-1935, the lake grew from 7.9 km² in 1975 to at least 18 km² today because of heavy melting of the Icelandic glaciers. Approaching a depth of 200 m, Jökulsárlón is now probably the second deepest lake in Iceland. The lake is filled with icebergs, which are calving off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

The small seal colony in the lake

This is dream come true. The picturesque luminous floating icebergs floating right in front of me. This is as close as I can get to the Arctic.

Breiðamerkurjökull, one of the glacial tongue of Vatnajökull

Close up on Breiðamerkurjökull

The ice is black because as the glacier inches forward, it carries the soil beneath with them too. Once a chunk of ice break away from the glacier, the taints will be visible.

If one is close enough, one can hear the cracking sound of the icebergs. It's the same sound that the ice-cubes give in the glass, just louder by a thousand times.

The view of the shore, taken from the slope

As we drive to the other side of the river, this is taken on the bridge. The full view of the lagoon.

The opposite bank, where we come from

Views of the lagoon, taken on the other side of the river

This is a smaller glacial lake, about 5 minutes drive from Jökulsárlón. Unfortunately, there are no icebergs to be seen. The glacial tongue is still Breiðamerkurjökull.

Route 1

This is one of the last pictures I take on Route 1 before reaching our accommodation at Skaftafell National Park at 530pm.

Click to see next - Southeast Iceland: Skaftafell National Park 19 May


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