I know I've been saying this about every day on the Ring Road trip so far, but Day 3 held some of the top mesmerizing sights.
- Skaftafell National Park (Svartifoss) (highlight)
- Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (highlight)
- Diamond Beach (highlight)
- Vestrahorn (highlight)
STOP #1: Skeiðarársandur - largest sandur in the world
In the most western region of the Vatnajökull region is 1000 square km Skeiðarársandur, which is the hugest black glacier sand area in the world.
It is an almost desert plain that mainly comprises volcanic sands, and is crossed by a glacial river– the Skeiðará. There’s no village in this region, only a few farms.
When we were there, we experienced fierce scouring winds and fast-flowing grey-brown rivers.
STOP #2: Skaftafell National Park - Svartifoss
Writing Credits: Iceland Moon Itineraries
Skaftafell National Park is well-known as the jewel in the crown of Vatnajökull National Park. It is one of East Iceland's most stunning places, where visitors are treated to striking white glaciers against a backdrop of green fields and black sands. It is ideal for day hikes and longer hikes through wilderness regions.
We chose to hike the spectacular Svartifoss (Black Falls) waterfall. Located just 1.5 km from the visitors center, the trail is clearly marked. Svartifoss cannot be seen from the road, and the hike is about 90 minutes back and forth at a leisurely pace. The hike is easy and it may be a surprise that you're going upwards.
At the very end, you will be rewarded with the spectacular Svartifoss (Black Falls) waterfall. Hikers are treated to mesmerizing sights of thundering white water casading over the most striking black basalt rock columns.
Star of innumerable postcards, this moody-looking waterfall flanked by geometric columns.
STOP #3: Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon - ghostly luminous blue icebergs drift in an ethereal lagoon, reflected like mirrors
Writing Credits: Iceland Moon Itineraries
Tip: Book way in advance the guided boat trip (Zodiac - 9500 ISK for Adults 13+ more expensive but it enables you to go almost all the way up to the glacier or Amphibian - 5500 ISK for Adults 13+ less expensive and enables you to sail among huge icebergs in the glacier lagoon)
Fun Fact: It served as the natural film set for Batman Begins and Die Another Day.
Renowned as the crown jewel of Iceland, ghostly procession of luminous-blue icebergs drift in tranquility through the 25 square km Jökulsárlón lagoon before floating out to sea. Ice calves come from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an offshoot of the Vatnajökull ice cap. Interestingly enough, the glacial lagoon which is not very wide runs up to 250m deep, and is the lowest point of Iceland.
The ethereal and mindblowing natural beauty (where else do you see icebergs floating around in lagoons?!) is one of my personal favorites and emphasizes the ICE in Iceland. Here, you can enjoy glacial landscapes up close with various scattered chunks of ice jutting up from the sea. It was truly one of the most spectacular sights I have EVER seen. Huge blocks of ice constantly break off the glacier, with icebergs of varying sizes drifting in tranquility in the luminous blue water.
The guided Amphibian boat trip, which enabled us to have a closer look at the icebergs, was an awesome expedition. During the excursion, we sailed right among the huge icebergs, and were able to taste & lick the 1,000 year old ice. It took about 40 minutes and included a humorous English-speaking guide who explains the geology of the lagoon. As mentioned above, book your trip way in advance!
STOP #4: Diamond Beach - diamonds are forever
Perfectly named, Diamond Beach holds an otherworldly level of magnificent beauty. It is located just across the road from Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon.
The black sand was teeming with glistening icebergs, washed ashore as offshoots from glaciers. The contrast between the diamond-esque ice and lava sand is striking and for me conjured the quote "keep your heart on fire and your mind on ice". The icebergs vary in shapes and sizes; while some are crystal clear, some are white & some are a more luminscent blue. The amazing thing is that these icebergs are constantly changing, thus, the scenery here is ever-changing.
Amusingly enough, I even spotted a wedding photoshoot taking place, in which the very glamorously done up lady was lying (precariously) on the iceberg. Oh, the things women do for vanity...
I can only imagine how magical this place would look at sunrise and sunset.
STOP #5: Vestrahorn - foreboding and desolate hidden gem
To get here, drive west on the Ring Road, passing the town of Hofn. After 7km, turn right onto an unmarked dirt road just before the tunnel and follow the road for over 5 km.
Vestrahorn is a lesser known but outstandingly stunning mountain. Just gazing at the foreboding cliffs with jagged edges filled me with a devastating sense of awe. I swear, the isolation of the place left me with a contradictory sense of emptiness and magnitude that was inexplicable but only truly understandable by those explorers who have ventured to such an incredible place. I felt like I was transported to a period piece, a Gothic novel, an enigmatic mystery.
Vestrahorn is a 454m high mountain extending into the Atlantic Ocean and part of the headland of Stokksnes. This place is very popular among photographers as the scene changes constantly. The sun, fog, waves and moss-covered black dunes create the most dramatic view. Wild and untamed, wet sand and the stormy waters mirror reflections of the jagged mountain range, creating a varied and diverse snapshot which will forever be etched in your mind.
I ventured to Beautiful Beach and tread through the black sand, closed my eyes and listened to the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. As the wind tossed my hair and the waves lapped at the rocks at the edge of the beach, the sun illuminated the mighty Vestrahorn mountain and surrounding peaks in the distance. At that moment, I knew that my soul belongs to the mountains.
For the admission price of 800 ISK at the small little Viking cafe, we were able to explore a remote and uninhabited Viking Village that looked straight out of a film set of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. I did some research and it was constructed and left behind by a film company. Even though our itinerary very efficient, jam-packed and well-planned, visiting this village reminded me that sometimes the best travel memories are unplanned.
That's a wrap for an incredibly mind-blowing day of beauty on Day 3, feel free to comment to share experiences or provide feedback.