This is part 3 in a series of posts recapping our trip to Iceland in October 2014.
We woke up early on Tuesday (early for vacation anyway – 6 am!) because we had booked a 9 am glacier hike at Skaftafell National Park, 1.5 hours from the hotel. The staff at the Volcano Hotel made us sandwiches and cookies for the road since we had to leave before breakfast. We were glad to have the fuel before the hike.
There are several options for tour lengths, and we picked the 4 hour tour through Icelandic Mountain Guides (I think the other options they offered were 2 and 7 hours). The tour cabin was easy to find, and after renting boots and getting fitted for crampons, we got into the van for the short trip to the edge of the glacier.
Our guide for the hike was Thor, and I was delighted when he introduced himself and asked if we were familiar with his films :) Gotta love a guide with a sense of humor! Before we started hiking, he told us a little about the glacier we would be exploring, which was named Svínafellsjökull, or “swine mountain glacier”. It was interesting to hear just how much the glacier changes from day to day – a small crack can turn into a deep crevasse in just a few weeks, and trickles of water can burrow into the glacier and turn into streams as the ice melts.
I definitely geeked out as we began walking on the glacier; I did a project on glaciers in middle school and used to know some interesting facts about glaciers once upon a time. One fun fact I remember: the water at the base of the glacier is so heavily compressed by the weight of all the ice above that it turns to liquid form – at well below “normal” freezing temperatures! That thin layer of liquid at the bottom of the glacier is the reason why glaciers travel (slowly) over time.
Once we learned how to walk with the crampons on our feet (like a duck, with high knees), the hike was not very strenuous; we only used our ice picks to chip off the ice near crevasses to hear how deep they went.
The picks also made a great prop!
During the tour, Thor continued to tell us interesting facts about the glacier and its history. We learned that glacial ice is actually denser than regular ice, and therefore melts slower. Thor then told us with a straight face that we should take some ice home with us because it wouldn’t melt for at least a month and we could show it to our friends ;)
Our favorite part of the tour was when we came across a tunnel in the ice! We squeezed our way through the tunnel, marveling at the intricate pattern of the walls.
After the tour, we took advantage of the water boiler in the tour cabin to make some ramen for lunch before getting back on the road.Our next stop was the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, used as a setting for several films, including Die Another Day. We had planned to take a boat ride on the lagoon, but after discovering the wait for the next available one was two hours, we decided to just walk along the lake shore instead. It’s hard to believe that this place exists for real.
We took a small piece of ice to test Thor’s theory :) It did last two days in the car before melting completely, so not quite a month…
We arrived in Hofn around 4 pm, and checked into our room at Dynjandi Guesthouse, part of a working farm! This was definitely the least “fancy” place we stayed in – the bathrooms were in the building next door, and the walls of the farmhouse were thin – but Step and Inga were wonderful hosts and we thought this stay was the best value of the trip. Inga even did our laundry, which was fantastic since we had worn mostly the same outfit for the past three days.
We grabbed dinner in town at the reasonably priced Kaffi Hornið on their recommendation, and decided that we had to order some langoustine (Icelandic lobster) – this region of Iceland is known for it! A reindeer burger for me, langoustine (Icelandic lobster) pasta for Mike, and a langoustine soup to share. The soup and pasta were delicious, and the reindeer burger was uniquely flavored with cinnamon. Not my favorite, but I’m glad I tried it!
I’ll be taking a quick break from the Iceland posts – I have an “October Favorites” post for tomorrow, and probably a weekend recap on Monday, so Days 4 and 5 (Myvatn) will be up on Tuesday!