Vatnajökull Glacier at Skaftafell National Park South Territory
Day 2 of the Highlights of Iceland road trip was all about glaciers. Actually, it was just one giant glacier, Vatnajökull.
We made several stops to check out different views of this massive glacier, two of which involved some walking around, being cold, and getting wet. Don’t worry, the sights were totally worth it.
First stop: Skaftafell National Park South Territory
Just driving up to the glacier site was incredible. As you drive on the gravel road, you’ll see the black and blue ice looming in the distance, resembling a mountain range made completely of ice.
The site has a small parking lot, but no facilities. The parking lot provides a pretty amazing view.
Take a walk
There are different hiking tours you can take, outlined on the Skaftafell National Park Website. But if you know me, you know I hate hiking so I went for the simple walk. If you continue past the parking lot, you’ll find an appropriately rickety looking gate that you can pass through to venture out onto the cliffs surrounding the Vatnajökull glacier.
Don’t die trying to snapchat
Iceland is known for not putting up warning signs, barriers, or protective fences. Their philosophy is that these things tarnish the beautiful scenery, and that visitors should be smart enough not to get too close the edge and tumble into the abyss. That being said, try not to slip on some loose rocks and gravel while trying to get a sweet snapchat like I did. Or, if you are going to try, at least have a good travel friend like Dani, who will film it and promise to at least give you a good “she was a great adventurer til the end” memorial video.
No but for real, it’s a little slippery and sketchy
There were a few points on this “simple walk” when I thought “this really doesn’t seem safe at all” or “I wonder if anyone ever checks these trails for erosion and potential hazards? Probably not.” Also “trail” is a pretty generous term, it’s more like a footpath created by other people who are too pumped about seeing the badass glaciers to care about their personal safety.
On the day I visited, it was raining steadily and pretty windy, so each time I had to climb a rock or do anything that required balance, I had to wait for the wind to take a break. I saw more than one person stumble because a gust of wind hit them a bit harder than they expected. It’s not to say that it’s outrageously dangerous. I mean, I am generally a clumsy mess and I was only wearing running shoes, so it’s certainly not an experts-only situation. Just go slow and watch your footing.
Thank you, heated car.
While it was lightly raining the entire time we were walking around, as soon as we got to the edge of the parking lot, it started raining a lot harder. Of course, who could leave this site without being in a photo?! Dani and I sprinted to the edge to get some photos, then ran to the car where we sat, defrosting in the heat, for at least 5 minutes.
Worth it? Totally. Next stop: Jökulsarlón Glacial Lagoon.