Our plan for today was to drive east around the ring road and along Iceland’s southern coast to Jökulsárlón ()Icelandic for “glacial river lagoon”) where there is a large glacial lake on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean some decades ago . The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of the melting of the glaciers. It is now 1.5 km away from the ocean’s edge and covers an area of about 18 km2. It is reported to be the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 248 m. The size of the lake has increased four-fold since the 1970s. It is considered to be of the natural wonders of Iceland.
It took us nearly two hours to get there and being conscious of not wanting to be late for our zodiac trip at 11.00 am,. we didn’t stop at too many places along the way. We will travel this route again tomorrow so we will have more time for stopping and taking more photographs.
Following the coast, we first passed by a long line of high ancient sea cliffs. With deposits from river flooding and uplifting of the land, the ocean is now some kilometres away Every now and then we come across a farm with a house and multiple large barns in which the animals are kept during winter. Of course, these animals need food and it is now the hay making season. Everywhere we have been, farmers are cutting hay and transporting large round bales wrapped in various coloured plastic wrapping back to their barns for winter fodder.
For a long way, the road ran across a flat landscape covered in scree and gravel with the icecap visible in the background. I assume he gravel has come from rivers that have flooded and deposited their load of rocks that had been initially ground out by the glaciers from the ice cap. Iceland has three icecaps and the one near here, Vatnajökull, is the largest, It has a surface area of approximately 8,100 square kilometres (8% of Iceland’s land area) though it is rapidly shrinking due to climate change. It is up to a kilometre thick.
There were some quite spectacular sights along the way such as these cascades on one of the rivers we crossed.
Our zodiac trip on the lagoon lasted an hour, A part of it was cruising between icebergs that have broken off the glacier. They came in all shapes and colours from white to blue. Some had dark layers, or deposits, that originally came from deposits of volcanic ash from various eruptions over the thousands of years over which the ice has been formed. The face of the glacier was very rugged and perhaps a couple of kilometres wide.
The lagoon empties into the ocean and the nearby beach is known as Diamond Beach. It is here where icebergs finally meet their death. Small chunks of ice are washed up on the black sand and glitter like diamonds agains the dark background.
On the way back to our hotel, we had time to stop at a couple of interesting spots. One was at the foot of another glacier, just a kilometre or so from the main road. We learned two tihngs on this short deviation. One was just how rough non-major roads can be in Iceland. The second was something of the dangers that exist in this part of the world. This sign describes some of the safety rules.
We also stopped off at a little hamlet of a few houses that had a tiny church. Every little village or community has a church (Lutheran) but I suspect, like Australia, attendances have declined significantly. At Hof, there is a turf church. There has been a church at Hof for 700 years and the first written records of a church being on this site are from an old medieval document from 1343. The core of the current church was built in 1883-1885. Its walls are made of rock and the roof is made of stone slabs, covered with turf. There are only 6 turf churches like this remaining in Iceland and Hofskirkja is the last of the old churches to be built in this beautiful turf style.