Iceland’s Reynisfjara Beach And Vatnajökull Glacier

beach photo

Day four of our Iceland Adventure Nick had us up bright and early to grab breakfast and depart from the hotel by 8 am. Being an excellent guide, he had a perfect reason to get us on the road because our first stop was Reynisfjara Beach, which proved to be one of our favorite spots of the trip. This magnificent black sand beach, which we found is also the setting of “The Wall” in our favorite show, is full of incredible basalt pillars called Reynisdrangar, dangerous wild waves, and surreal lava rocks, eerily reflected in the water. Nick gave us the same advice that I have given my children hundreds of times, NEVER turn your back to the ocean. Reynisfjara Beach Reviews. As incredible as this beach appears, it has been the site of several tragic drownings, immortalized on the entrance plaque. We tried to be careful, but the rocks beckoned us to climb and the ocean mesmerized us and left us giddily running up to the edges taunting the waves and fate. Thankfully, the most adverse event of the morning was that two of the girls were hit by the infamous “sneaker waves” and got their pants, boots, and feet sopping wet. Remember, we told you to bring waterproof clothes & shoes and keep an extra pair of socks in your bag.

 

We spent at least an hour on that glorious beach before Nick had quite literally to drag us away. Our next spot was Skaftarhreppur, another fairytale-like site where volcanic lava once flowed into the ocean, taking so many years to cool off that magical moss grew on top of the lava covering it in various shades of emerald greens. The small hills and crevices look like the perfect setting for hobbit homes or filming another Lord of The Rings movie.

 

This stop only required around 30 minutes but was well worth whatever detour Nick took to get us there. We made another quick stop at Skaftarhreppur, which, as you may guess, is a waterfall, but this one was only long enough to snap a photo. It was after 11, and our crew was ready for lunch! I don’t remember where we stopped for lunch, but there are several areas with rest stops along the way, and we were in a hurry to make our appointment time for hiking on the glacier.

 

The itinerary had plans for us to visit an ice cave, but unfortunately, it had flooded and was closed for the season. We arrived in Skaftafell visitors center, which serves as the base for venturing into the park. Vatnajökull glacier is the largest in Europe and covers 8% of Iceland. Its average thickness is 400 m/1312 ft of ice. We started our tour by getting fitted for crampons, being handed a small ice ax, which was mostly for show and having to rent proper hiking boots for $10, because our snow boots did not provide adequate ankle support. Fuly outfitted with the proper gear, we took a large jeep for the 20-minute ride up to the base of the glacier. Skaftafell Vatnajokul.

 

The actual Vatnajökull glacier tour was around 2 hours, and we made our way rather slowly, as some of the tourists in our group were not prepared to hike in crampons up the glacier. Claire, our guide, was very structured and knowledgeable. As there have been accidents, falls, and several deaths on the glacier, the tours take extreme precautions to keep everyone safe, including walking in a slow single file line. For those of us accustomed to more vigorous activity, this was rather painful. I would have preferred to pay extra for a smaller group so that we had more time to explore the area around Vatnajökull glacier of waiting for all the people in the group. The glacier itself was magnificent and yet heart-breaking, fully showing the effects of global warming on the rapidly melting ice. Sadly, the area where we hiked will vanish entirely in 3-5 years as the earth continues to warm.

We had a fantastic learning experience as our guide Claire explained why the glacier appears covered in rocks, the shifting and moving plates, the melting water, and many other interesting tidbits. Our final stop on the hike was the highly anticipated ice cave, a highlight of any glacier trek.

ice cave

We made our way down and had time to snap some photos as well as take in the beautiful blue colors unique to these formations. We ended the tour with another 20-minute ride back to the visitor’s center before making the drive to a different “Country Hotel.” We enjoyed a fun and relaxed dinner with Nick and our three new friends, after which he was kind enough to give me a short interview on his favorite things about Iceland. We fell asleep just as quickly as the previous night and felt incredibly grateful to have experienced another magical day in Iceland.

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