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mistybleu Jokulsarlon - A travel report by Amanda
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Jokulsarlon,  Iceland - flag Iceland -  Vestur-Skaftafellssysla
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mistybleu's travel reports

Finding Icebergs

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I had a few working titles - 'Seeking the Aurora Borealis', 'Sleeping Where the Sun Doesn't Set', ‘The Land of Fire and Ice', but as I didn't really experience much of these, the best title that described the weekend was Searching For Icebergs.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon
Jokulsarlon Lagoon
This report covers my trip to Iceland and highlights essentials for a short visit. My base was in Reykjavik but my sole aim was to see the Icebergs.

To do so, my journey took me along the beautiful south shores to the extraordinary glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon; but along the way there were so many sights that needed to be explored.

There is a ring road (Hringvegur) that takes you all the way around Iceland, so it is pretty much impossible to get lost.

Day 1 I explored the capital; found some nice eateries and bars, and saw the tourist highlights that included Hallgrimskirkja, City Hall, the old harbour and the Perlan. Also know as the Pearl it is a modern domed building with a swimming pool, revolving restaurant and other attractions.

Day 2 I experienced the Golden Circle (see Sights section below), day 3 was the road trip and day 4 I relaxed in the Blue Lagoon.

The road trip took me southwards out of the city; I drove along the circular Route 1 and passed the plateau of Hellsheidi to the greenhouse village of Hveragerdi where they use the thermal power to grow vegetables and fruits even bananas. I headed to the Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls where the way it was formed allows walking behind them. Then on to the Skogar museum, which is the best folklore museum in the country and of course I had to climb the Skogarfoss Falls.

I travelled onward for a pit stop in the picturesque village of Vik which is situated by the sea and has black sand beaches.

I was in awe when I arrived at the Skaftafell National Park and my first sights of a glacier. Knowingly I continued on pass Svarifoss Falls, Iceland’s biggest volcano (Askja), the Oraefajokull Glacier which has the highest peak (Hvannadalshnjukur, 2110m) and onto the lagoon.

Jokulsarlon started to form in the early 1920s and is getting bigger every year. I saw many blocks of ice that have broken off Europe’s largest glacier Vagtnajokull and was sailing slowly towards the ocean which is only a kilometre away.

Favourite spots:
The South Shores is an incredible scenic journey and happens to be the second most popular tour offered in Iceland. It is only available 3 times a week during winter by Iceland Excursions and is a 14 hours round trip.

I decided to rent a car and enjoy all the sights under my own steam, stopping where I wanted and staying as long as I could; the only drawback was to reach Jokulsarlon I would have to drive over 400km.

The landscapes as you leave Reykjavik changes quite dramatically and the lunar feeling of the lava fields returns, but the open road is alluring.

I started my journey at 7.30am watching the sunrise on the road but looked forward to seeing the main sights before arriving at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon where the icebergs were revealed.

This was the epitome of my trip that I would definitely do again and taking a boat tour between icebergs could only hence that feeling.

What's really great:
Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall
Jökulsárlón Lagoon is the best known and largest glacial lake in Iceland. I just watched the James Bond movie Die Another Day and the huge ice scene was filmed here as well as Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider and a few others films.

It is thought that originally the tongue of the glacier was about 20 km further north, but after a mini ice age the glacier moved closer to the coast, now it has started retreating. By the 1950s with heavy melting has caused the lake to grow and deepen and is approaching 200m.

Now Jökulsárlón is separated from the sea by only 1km and the combined action of the glacier, the Jokulsa River that empties from the lake and maybe even global warming, the ocean may eventually transform this lake into an inlet. The bridge and the Ring Road that stands may eventually be washed away.

However with all of this, seeing the icebergs floating in the lagoon is the best sight ever. It is a natural phenomenon and perfect after such a long drive.

Thingveller -the first democratic parliament
Thingveller -the first democratic parliament
The most popular tour is the Golden Circle; the main highlights are Geysir, Gullfoss Falls, Thingvellir National Park and it may also include a trip to the Blue Lagoon or Laugardalur.

Geysir – which means hot springs is home many little bubbling pools including Little Geysir as well as Strokkur the most active one. There is a faint smell of sulphur in the air and every 5 minutes the geyser goes off and shoots hot water some 25 meters into the air.

Gullfoss Falls (or Golden Falls) – is an awesome waterfall, which crashes down a crevice some 32 meters over two steps into the narrow canyon of the Hvita River. The great thing is you can get up really close to see the power of the water.

Thingvellir – is the site for the first democratic parliament; men would travel from all over for an annual meeting. It sits on the site where the Eurasia and North American tectonic plates are pulling apart the country 2cm a year.

Skogafoss Waterfall
Skogafoss Waterfall
One of the main tourist destinations in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja; a church that was completed in 1974 and took 30 years to build. Its huge concrete pillars are made to resemble the hexagonal volcanic columns which are seen across the island. From the top of its tower, it provides wonderful panoramic views of the city. It stands at the top of Solavordustigur and offer a landmark for identifying where you are or to get back to your hotel as in my case.

I stayed in the Leifur Eiriksson Hotel a small three star, family run hotel; they have two buildings and offers rooms for single people without a single person supplement. Named after Leifur Eiriksson, the son of Viking Erik the Red, is widely credited with the title of being the earliest European to discover North American, and his statue greets you ever morning as you leave the hotel.

They offer a good service for booking tours, car rental and general information on the city as well as offering free wifi.

The Viking Ship
The Viking Ship
In Reykjavik, the night doesn't seem to start until nearly 12am. A local said that it is because alcohol is so expensive; most people tend to start the party at home.

A quiet café during the day can easily turn into a night club/bar by night. There are a lot of clubs/bars in the main thoroughfare Hafnarstraeti including: The Battery (that plays a lot of 80s and 90s music), Belly’s (a cool sports bar). Balthazar (on weekends it quite a happening place), Café Amsterdam (also on weekends live music), Dubliner (Irish themed pub) etc.

Also on Austurstraeti there is Café Paris (cocktails on evenings) and the English Pub.

Apotek on Posthusstraeti by day a café, but by night it is one of the largest clubs in Iceland.

Picture perfect lunch
Picture perfect lunch
There are so many really great restaurants, starting with one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the capital – Laekjarbrekka. It's located near the tourist information centre and bureau de change. The average 3 course meal is around £35. It is set in a traditional building which sort of enhances the ambience.

Then there is the Fish Market also serving traditional Icelandic food but they offer a fish buffet. Just around the corner is the Fish Company, which is located in the cellar city’s oldest building. This is a new restaurant so the evenings are really busy.

I nearly eat in the Lobster House but decided that it looked a little too posh for what I required. So I ended up eating onboard the Lobster Ship, a little less stuffy and served up a wonderful dinner of lobster; then there is Caruso, Solon, Café Babalu and Grillhusio to name a few.

But by far the best place I ate was at Jokulsarlon Lagoon where the views were great and the sandwiches yummy!

Other recommendations:
Blue Lagoon – this is a huge milky blue-green geothermal spa lake that is formed from the seawater used by the power station when producing electricity and hot water. The spa is a wonderful 34-36 degrees and on a cold day it is by far the best way to spend a couple of hours. It is located 20mins from the airport and 45mins from Reykjavik.

Whale watching – this region is well renowned for whaling but now the amount of tourist who wants to see whales makes it more profitable for them to offer tours. Iceland has been rated as one of the top ten places to see whales as there so many different varieties in their coastal waters; including Killer, Humpback, Blue whales etc. On the tour you also get a chance to visit Puffin Island.

Westmann Island – is located off the south west coast; it came to prominence in 1973 when volcano erupted. The villagers achieved a great feat, for five months they pumped seawater on the lava and turned to flow whereby saving the village.

Published on Saturday September 26th, 2009

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Thu, Oct 01 2009 - 09:24 PM rating by bineba

Great report. Iceland is definitely on my list of places I still want to go to!

Wed, Sep 30 2009 - 11:36 PM rating by louis

Your report Amanda is as always top class. I haven't been yet in Iceland but I saw a lot of the pictures from this country and now your report which is extremly interesting... I think that this country might be my next destination...

Sun, Sep 27 2009 - 06:29 AM rating by krisek

Great and comprehensive report, Amanda. Thank you for sharing. Your photographs and narrative brought some great memories of mine. I went on whale watching tour on the Moby Dick, but it was not successful...

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