Seeing the icebergs in Antartica is definitely one of the things I want to do. However, it will require a bit more saving up before I get there. So, Jökulsárlón was a bit of a teaser for me. It is the next closest thing. On top of that, it was also on the must visit list right from the get go when we started reading up on Iceland. As such, this was going to be the last stop of our Iceland driving holiday. Since leaving Reykjavik three days ago, we have seen some beautiful spots and spoilt silly by this perfect weather. Still, we knew Jökulsárlón will be pretty special.
Driving along though, you don’t suspect it as Jökulsárlón and the whole lagoon is hidden from view by a series of small mounds or hills. So you do not even know it is to your left the whole time. At a couple of sections, we did wonder about cars parked by the side of the road. And people standing at the top of the rise taking photos. We had seen enough of Iceland to know that we were missing out on something here! But then when you come to the bridge, you definitely can’t miss it anymore as Jökulsárlón lagoon comes into view. (Not surprisingly, there aren’t any signs!)
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a celebrity when it comes to Iceland’s attractions. It has starred in blockbuster movies like Batman Begins, A View to a Kill, Die another Day and Tombraider. Its status however is justified. With luminous-blue icebergs floating serenely on the lake, it is captivatingly beautiful. And it is only about 80 years old! Situated at the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, the lagoon formed around 1934 when the glacial tongue retreated forming icebergs of various sizes which then melts.
When they melt enough, the icebergs eventually escape out towards the sea via the river connecting Jökulsárlón and the Atlantic Ocean. This is a slow process though as these giant chunks of ice are massive. Interestingly, the lagoon does not freeze over in winter as the mixture of salt water from the ocean actually makes it salty enough to prevent the water from freezing. (I can faintly remember a chemistry lesson in there somewhere). But if you have a blockbuster budget and you want to film a car chase scene on a frozen over Jökulsárlón lagoon, what do you do? Simple. You block off the river at the mouth! Which is exactly what the crew did for Die Another Day. With still fresh water and floating icebergs, the lagoon eventually froze over which made for the perfect James Bond setting.
Opposite from the lagoon, is another black beach which some people refer to as Diamond beach. On this black sand beach, you will find fragments of ice washed up onto the sand. Made up of various shapes and sizes, they dot the beach as far as the eye can see. And looking like jewels, you can quite understand how this natural occurrence got its name. It is a striking view and naturally we could hardly stop taking photo after photo. All the while of course dodging the incoming waves.
And to finally top of our day, that night the locals at the Hali Country Hotel told us that the rating for the aurora was good. They had a computer that was tracking the aurora forecast. However, we also found out that there was only going to be a short window of clear skies before heavy clouds set in. Quite a number of guests seemed to be aware of that at the hotel where we stayed. So immediately after dinner (which was delicious as they prepare the Arctic Char here which they farm splendidly), quite a few groups of visitors set off quickly to Jökulsárlón to see if they could view the aurora.
We of course hurried along and did the same, passing by a group of ladies playing cards. (They actually wondered what the fuss was about and where everyone was going!) When we arrived at the lagoon, there were already a group of people there and it was near pitch black. Peter could barely work his tripod as it was so dark. He eventually managed to set it up and it was just in time too. The clouds from the south were rolling in quicker than we wanted it too. Then between the dark clouds and the mountains above the lagoon, we saw the northern lights form its trail across the sky. We hoped that the clouds would hold back giving us more time but to no avail. Soon, like curtains descending at the end of a play, the clouds veiled the entire sky.
We however felt pleased that we had seen the lights again. Even though, this was our third time, we still can’t get over how enchanting and magical it can be. As it turns out, this would be the last we would see the lights on this trip. After this night, he weather finally turned and we didn’t have another blue sky day again for the rest of our stay in Iceland.
(Returning back to our rooms, the ladies playing cards asked what was going on. Some people told them that the aurora was on over Jökulsárlón lagoon and that you had to be quick. I think it was then that they realised what they had missed and regretted not coming out that night. There’s a lot that can be said for talking to the locals and keeping your ear to the ground! )