Friday, 25 October 2019 – Day 6 of Tour   – Skaftafell National Part & Vatnajokull Glacier

After breakfast, onto the coach and our first short stop was at the Foss a Sidu waterfall.

Foss a Sidu waterfall.
Foss a Sidu waterfall.

As we travelled along we came across twisted metal girders of all that remain of the Gigjukvisi Bridge.

When the bridge was built in 1974, it was the longest in the country at 880-metre-long (2,890 ft)   In 1996,   the volcano Grimsvotn on Vatnajokul  erupted and destroyed the bridge over the Skeioara river by floating ice boulders the size of houses.

This is an example of the effect that nature can have on seemingly immovable man- made structures.

In the distance are two glaciers: Skeiðarárjökull and Svinafellsjökull.

 We then continued onto the VRNAJOKULSPJPDDGARDUR NATIONAL PARK and heard about the National Park, a protected wilderness area in south Iceland centred around Vatnajökull glacier. Vatnajokull is Europe’s largest glacier, over 8100 km2. The glacier covers more than 8% of the country and the average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1000 m. Iceland’s highest mountain, Oraefajokull (2110 m) is located in the southern periphery of Vatnajokull.

The park covers over 12.000 square kilometers (4.600 square miles) and covers more area than just the glacier itself, making this the largest Natural Park in Europe. Within the National Park you will find massive glaciers, glacial lagoons, ice bergs, ice caves, volcanoes, snowy mountain peaks, active geothermal areas, hot springs, rivers, green and lush fields, lava fields and black sand deserts.

After hearing about the area, we travelled on to Svínafellsjökull, an outlet glacier tongue of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe. Svínafellsjökull is one of the few accessible glacier tongues of Vatnajökull and has gained fame as an attraction after Game of Thrones was shot there .We just took photos of the glacier and then headed north to Hof.

Near Svínafellsjökull waterfall

Hof, in Öræfi, is a cluster of farms in southeast Iceland, close to Vatnajokull glacier, and twenty two kilometres south of Skaftafell in  Vatnajokull National Park. It is on the Route 1 southwest of Hofn in the narrow strip between the sea coast and the glacier.

A notable building in Hof is the Hofskirkja turf church, Hofskirkja was originally constructed in 1884 though it was thoroughly restored in the 1950s and is the youngest turf church in Iceland. Since 1951, it belongs to the National Museum of Iceland. This fairytalelike building is the last turf church ever built in Iceland. Unlike some of the country’s other turf churches, this one is still a practicing parish.

Hof Turf Church

The church, built by carpenter Pall Palsson, is relatively small and is surrounded by a unique cemetery. Because the ground is volcanic with a thin layer of soil you can’t dig 6 feet down, so the graves sit above ground with a light covering of soil. Never seen anything quite like it.

It was interesting looking at the grave site signs and I saw a grave that belonged to a little person who was born on 8 September 1961 and died on 12 September 1961.

Little person born 8-9-1961 died 12-9-1961

There was an interesting sign about PORSTEINN AATOL GISSURARARSON born on 24 March 1768 in Gerdi, Sudursveit situated in the middle between Skaftafell National Park and the town Hofn in Hornafjordur. He died on 23 February 1844.  In 1840 he was a landowner of a farm.

He was a great writer and poet. At one time when he was ill he wrote a book called Misseraskiftaoffur. He was especially talented with wood, copper and iron and he was the maker of the hardware, lock and hinges of the church. Porsteinn’s tempering stone is a water tub just outside the church where Porsteinn used to cool his hot iron. Porsteinn was a well-known blacksmith from Hof and got his nickname “tool” because of his profession. He and his wife had 4 children and their descendants still live in Hof.

After our time at Hof, we continued on north for a stop at “Diamond Beach”.  The name of the glacier that these icebergs originate from is Breidaemerkurjokull and the beach is actually called Breidamerkursandur in Icelandic. It wasn’t until tourists started coming that the nick name, “The Diamond Beach” caught on.

The “diamonds” on Diamond Beach refer to pieces of 1,000 year old icebergs that calved off from the Breidaemerkurjokull glacier, which is an outlet glacier of the largest icecap in Europe – Vatnajokull.  These newly orphaned icebergs then float into the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon  and wash up on shore, creating a stark contrast with the volcanic black sand before ending up into the open Atlantic Ocean.

It was back on the coach again to Jökulsárlón – a large glacial lake in southern part of  Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland. Situated at the head of the Breidamerkurjokull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. In 2009 it was reported to be the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 284 m (932 ft). The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.

The lake is filled with a procession of magnificent luminous blue icebergs. The blue colour of glacial ice is the result of oxygen compression over many years. 

Beautiful blue icebergs

Jökulsárlón has been a setting for many Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill,  and Batman Begins.  In 2004, Vatnajokull Die Another DayLara Croft: Tomb Raider was one of several Icelandic settings visited on the first leg of the  reality TV series The Amazing Race. In November 2011, the glacier was used as a shooting location for the second season of the TV series Game of Thrones.

Back on the coach once more!  We travelled south approximately 125ks back to our Hotel Klaustur in Kirkjubaejarklauster.

After dinner, Erik gave a film presentation about the Northern Lights and offered help with setting cameras.

I did not have success.  Was another late night in this remote and quiet location – suitable for seeing the Lights, but they did not oblige once more.  We are running out of chances.

Was another very full fantastic day.  The “blue” icebergs were a stunning sight. The raised mounds in Hof were quite different to anything I have seen.

Travelled approximately 255 ks.


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