Nothing prepares you for Jökulsárlón. Our capacity for appreciating the spectacular has been evolutionarily dampened to prevent our poor monkey brains from exploding with sensory overload, and so, standing at the shore of the lagoon, hulking, wind and water hewn sculptures of dazzling multi-shaded blue and white ice, floating like a flock of giant swans before you, it can all be a little too much.
We visited the lagoon twice during our trip. The first time was on our way east towards Höfn. We rose purposefully early from the previous night’s campsite, arriving shortly after 8am. The drive had been tense. The day before a haar, or sea mist, had rolled in along the coast, caused as the cold sea met the rapidly warming land which was experiencing balmy and unprecedented 20 degree plus temperatures. We had spent a gloriously warm evening at our inland campsite, watching the soft clouds roll on the distant horizon like one continuous white horse wave, with niggling anxiety; would the haar have lifted by the morning?
As we neared the sea, wisps of mist fingered their way between the hills and hung along the rivers and creek. I began to prepare myself for disappointment. I didn’t need to. We reached a lagoon bathed in sunshine that danced on the many faceted surfaces of the ice.
The haar was burning away but traces of it still remained as we walked away from the lagoon and down to the beach where the icebergs meet their salty end. If anything, the mist added to the ethereal, otherworldly, experience of walking right up to these pure vessels of light as they lay, ever so slowly melting, on the black lava beach. A beautiful meeting of Iceland’s famed fire and ice. If you visit, do make sure to stop at the beach as well as the lagoon.
The second visit was on our return journey west. We were slightly later in the day and the sky was darker, a few clouds looming. I wondered whether the changing light would take anything away from the experience and was surprised to find that the tempered sun actually enhanced the colours. There was less glint, less glare, less refracted white and more depth, more texture, more blue, so many wondrous blues.
You can pay to take boat trips on the lagoon but really, there is no need. Particularly around the river mouth the icebergs are so close to the shore a boat is not necessary. Everyone can marvel at the majesty of these ancient giants’ last journey and for free.
For more things to do for free in Iceland see here