We are now on the south coast of Iceland, the most visited and crowded portion of the island.
We are staying in a hotel outside the town of Hofn, where we can see two glacier tongues, grazing horses and blooming liriope set off against the dramatic mountain landscape. It’s easy to want to just sit here and stare out the windows.
It was a glorious, sunny morning as we drove through beautiful green pastures with grazing horses and sheep, all post-card (or now I guess we say Instagram) perfect. It’s a breathtaking moment to come around a bend in the road and see the stunning sight of the glacial lake and floating icebergs.
But the Diamond Beach was calling. Just over the bridge from Jokulsarlon, the famous iceberg-filled glacial lake, a very short gravel road leads to a black beach on the Atlantic. Bits and pieces of the icebergs wash up here and after getting tossed in the surf, sparkle on the beach like diamonds. Of course, you need sun and ice to make this work and we hit it right this day. I’ve read that often in the summer no ice can be found on the beach. It was very windy and cold, but seeing the ice glinting along the shore warmed us up fast. Even the fine black sand was sparkly in the bright sunlight.
We returned to the Glacier Lagoon where we had a reservation for a Zodiac ride. Where do I start . . . first of all, just getting hiking boots off in order to struggle into the waterproof jumpsuits you put on over your other clothing was exhausting – lol. And then, there were confusing and difficult life jackets to add. Seven other travelers joined us as we trudged on a rocky path about 1/3 of a mile to board. I drew the straw for the last seat in the back and we took off, fast. For the next hour I held on for dear life using all glute muscles and core control I had to not slip off (thanks, Mariana).
I chose the Zodiac tour because it would get us close to the glacial wall and it did. We slowed down to see a small chunk calve and did get very close to lots of the icebergs and recently revealed islands hosting sleepy harbor seals. Our guide shared how fast the glacier was retreating during the five years he had worked there. He estimated in 40 years the glacier will be gone and a fjord in its place. Then we did the entire thing in reverse, holding on for our lives, walking back on the rocks, and getting out of all the gear. Whew.
In retrospect, the normal boat tour would’ve been just fine.
During our boat experience, the wind had picked up even stronger and clouds had begun to roll in. Even so, we did go check out the smaller glacial lake at Fjallsarion, which looked very silty and wasn’t very enticing at that point, probably due to the weather.
As we headed back to our hotel, across the brown, barren landscape that’s near the glacier and back across lush green fields, the sun began to shine again (for real). For dinner we headed into the tidy, modern-looking harbor town of Hofn, and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Pakkhus, trying out the local specialty, langoustine (humar). Simply delicious.