Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iceland 2008 - Skaftafell, Vatnajökull, Jökulsárlón, South central route

Although many of Iceland's main tourist attractions are crammed in the southwestern corner of the country, within a hundred kilometer radius of the capital city, Reykjavik - to come all of the way to this fascinating country and only stick to the tourist hotspots of Reykjavik, the Golden Triangle and the Blue Lagoon would be a real shame. Although Iceland is by no means a large country, going from place to place can take a little longer than it may look on map given that most of the highways are located along the parameter. For this reason, given my time limit, which was about a week - I chose to stick to two main bases. The first of course being Reykjavik, the second being Skaftafell National Park - Iceland's largest and most popular national park. The Skaftafell base-camp is located on the southern edge of the Vatnajökull ice cap - the largest glacier in Europe by volume. Skaftafell is an excellent place for hiking within the mountains piercing the glacier. Walking on or through the glacier itself with crampons and ice-axe is another activity that can be arranged at the Skaftafell Visitor's Center. Longer hikes deep into the heart of the glacier can also be arranged.
One fascinating and easily accessible day trip from the Skaftafell National Park is the mystic Jökulsárlón Lagoon. Due to ice breaking off the Vatnajökull glacier, the glacial lake is packed with luminous blue icebergs creating one the most picturesque places in Iceland. Scenes from the James Bond films, A View to a Kill & Die Another Day were filmed here and one feels just like agent 007 riding the monstrous boat / 4WD truck through the lake.
Skaftafell is accessible from Reykjavik by Flybus, Iceland's premier public transport carrier. Even though a return ticket costs a whopping 150 Euros, one has to remember the buses do run off of some the world's most expensive petrol. Also, the bus ride is an adventure itself. Flybus allows tourists to make the return trip in alternative routes, one along the southern coast road via the picturesque coastal town of Vik as well as making several waterfall stops, including Sellfoss. The return bus-ride goes through tranquil inland landscape of Iceland's southern countryside via the thermal pools of Landmanlauger and the aptly named town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur, near the striking Systrafoss waterfall. These various stops certainly added an extra dimension to my Iceland experience.
As always the full photos/write up can be accessed at my main site:

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