Iceland (Part 4): Waterfalls and Glaciers in the South

From our Golden Circle tour we continue along the south side of Iceland. It’s really spring now, the snow from last week is melting and the sun is accompanying us. The south of Iceland is stunningly beautiful, many highlights in the form of waterfalls and glaciers.

Waterfalls

The water in Iceland comes from the hills everywhere, from the ground and from the glaciers. Waterfalls are everywhere, in the mountain streams and in the big rivers. This is a small selection of the waterfalls we have seen.

Urriðafoss (the salmon waterfall)

We see this huge waterfall twice, the first time when it rains and a few days later when the sun is shining. Look for the differences.

Merkjárfoss or Gluggafoss

This waterfall has dug tunnels into the rocks it runs through.

IJsland watervallen gletsjers zuiden

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. Not only because it is often depicted, but also because you can walk behind the waterfall. The weather isn’t great and we don’t have our rain gear to hand, so we stay at the front.

Skógafoss

We spend the night at the campsite at the bottom of the Skógafoss. The thundering violence of the waterfall acts like a lullaby for our night. Still, I can’t resist getting up at night and taking some special night photos.

But the waterfall is also beautiful during the day.

The great glaciers

Many of Iceland’s waterfalls originate on the great glaciers of the south.

Bottom left, the Mýrdalsjökull and further east, the largest glacier, the Vatnajökull.

Mýrdalsjökull

We take a dirt road from the ring road 1 towards the interior. On the map it is indicated as the Mýrdalsjökullvegur, or the road to the Mýrdalsjökull. After about a kilometer the road gets rougher and there is a sign “impassable”. We see the large glacier trucks at the guide’s accommodation, they go up the glacier along this road. We can, with our Land Rover Defender, too, you might think.

It is a tough climb to above 700 meters, but we make it, just like the truck that comes up later with tourists to snowmobile.

On top of the glacier there is hardly any wind, we enjoy the sun and eat our lunch outside for the first time this year.

Vatnajökull

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland. The ring road is located on the south side of this glacier along the many glacier tongues. Below the glacier are several active volcanoes hidden under up to 1000m thick ice. The beaches along the sea are therefore composed of black volcanic sand and pebbles with characteristic basalt rocks.

In various places you can see the glacier up close and you can walk to the glacial lakes and view the icebergs and glacier tips.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon

An iceberg lagoon has formed at the glacier tip of Jökulsárlón. Icebergs are also formed in the other glacial lakes, but this lagoon is directly accessible from the Ring Road. This lagoon is also in open connection with the sea, which means that more life can be spotted in the lagoon.

Diamond Beach

Due to the connection with the sea of the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, the icebergs float out to sea. They disintegrate on the black beach resulting in the many “ice diamonds” on this Diamond Beach. This is an attraction for many tourists and photographers.

Glacier walk

We book a glacier walk at the Skaftafel campsite where we will stay for a few nights. With guide Alex, a young Californian man, we are taken to the Fjallsjökull glacier by driver Caro (Caroline, French, bus driver in London). We have a private walk, there are no more registrations this afternoon.

We have a fantastic trip on the glacier. Sometimes it’s exciting, but with our crampons, climbing harnesses, ice picks and helmets we are completely protected. Under the professional care of Alex, we ascend the glacier through deep crevasses. It’s so quiet and serene here, yet so grand and raw, just overwhelming.

The sapphire ice cave

At the glacier ends, underground streams are formed by the meltwater from the glacier. Sometimes, under special circumstances, these streams form an ice cave. We walk with Kasja, our Polish guide for the walk, over the moraines of the glacier to the sapphire ice cave. At first it just looks like a cold dripping ice cave with a river running through it. Until you look at the details… (feel free to click on the photos for a larger image on your screen).

This was certainly one of the most impressive experiences during our trip in Iceland.

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