WIT Agent’s Insider Look: Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón

This week we’re taking a close look at WIT Agent Wailana’s trip to Iceland early October. Today we continue along the Ring Road from Vik to Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón.  

Vatnajökull

Some of Iceland’s most spectacular natural phenomenon is centered in the SE of the country, to Vatnajökull National Park. Known for its gorgeous glaciers, ice caves, dark textured waterfalls, you can easily spend a few days exploring the park.

At 2884 square miles—about 12% of the country’s surface—Vatnajökull is the largest national park in Europe. It incorporates Kristinartindar mountain, Morsárdalur valley, and the area around Svartifoss. The park was founded in 2008 as a combination of former Skaftafell and Jokulsargljufur National Parks—and is home to Iceland’s highest mountain (Hvannadalshnúkur), largest glacier (Vatnajökull), and Europe’s most powerful waterfall (Dettifoss).

The Crystal Cave of Svínafellsjökull ice dates back centuries, with brilliant colors. A 22-foot entrance, height tapers down only to 4 feet at the far end. The cave is known for its popping sounds, buffered blue ice.

(c) BTCV, Creative Commons

The area known as Skaftafell was once inhabited, but due to volcano eruptions under the Vatnajokull ice-cap, severe floods forced many farmers to move to higher ground. Now the region is federally protected, and remains Icelanders’ so-called summer playground. Hikers can enjoy glimpses of birch wood, endemic birds and arctic foxes. Not far from the trailhead is the waterfall Svartifoss—the black falls—which cascades down 20 meters over black basalt columns. Travelers have likened the polygonal shapes of these columns to honeycombs or Islamic muqarnas designs.

(c) Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

Jökulsárlón

If you see one natural sight in Iceland, see Jökulsárlón. This inland lagoon is littered with icebergs—a ghostly landscape of stark blues, whites, grays, and blacks. It’s like standing in the middle of Antarctica, or some prehistoric fairy tale. You may even catch glimpses of seals. The lagoon flows out to the ocean, and glacier bits collect on the shore like beached whales.

The glacier tongue that created the lagoon is an outlet of Vatnajökull, which advanced until about 1890 during Europe’s “Little Ice Age.” Around the turn of the century, the pressure of the glacier eroded the earth, creating a deep basin. Warming climate then melted the ice over a matter of decades, resulting in the lagoon we know today.

IMAG0928

Best time to go? October through May for ice climbing and other winter activities. May to mid-September for summer trekking, and rock climbing.

Only in Reykjavik for a night? You can still see Jökulsárlón! Check out these day trips from the capital.

Stay Tuned for Friday and the East Fjords!

Thinking about a trip to Iceland next summer 2014? Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to chat with one our agents! Wailana would love to share with you more insider tips about traveling to Iceland!

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Filed under Europe, Iceland, Icelandair, Our Travel Agents, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

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