Iceland Part 2 - Jökulsárlón and the Hoffell hot pots

A few more photos from our Iceland trip back in April. Unsurprisingly I took

alot

of photos and so there are quite a few here - sorry in advance! It was very difficult to stop myself snapping at everything like a crazy person - every turn and twist in the road revealed another incredible sight, another spectacular formation of the land or sea or wide billowing skies.

One of the things we knew we wanted to see while we were in Iceland was the glacier lake Jökulsárlón, on the south eastern coast of Iceland. We had read about floating luminous icebergs on still waters and a nearby beach scattered with shards of ice, which sounded too wonderful to miss. 

We woke early to another crisp and dazzlingly bright morning, and fuelled ourselves with strong coffee. 

Jökulsárlón was a 3 hour drive from where we were staying but as usual we saw very few cars on the road. What we did see was the most incredible changing landscape opening up on either side of us, great hulking mountains and glaciers looming in the distance, flanked below by vast and desolate plains of volcanic sand. 

We stopped to take pictures of the 

the mangled remains of the 

Skeiðará Bridge, destroyed in 1996 when the 

Vatnajökull volcano erupted, melting the glacier and causing widespread floods carrying chunks of ice the size of houses to flow across the plains.

And finally we arrived at the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón, with its mirror-like surface that reflects the glaciers and sky that enclose it on all sides. 

We got out of the car and walked along its shore, marvelling at its cold quietness and perfectly still veneer. Ice-blue slabs glided gently and every now and again a seal popped its head above the water and eyed us, before descending to its chilly depths again. 

Flocks of skuas and terns circled above and swooped down to land on the hulks of ice, or skimmed the surface like dancing black spots in the distance.

After much gazing we crossed the road and made our way down onto the black sand beach where the broken up lumps of glacier make their way slowly from the lake and out to sea, some washing up onto the shore like beached ice creatures. 

I think the beach was actually more breathtaking than the lake, and more other-worldly, especially as the sun re-emerged and illuminated the vast expanse of black sand so that it shone, scattered with brilliant white boulders of ice that caught the light and almost glowed. 

Up close the lumps of ice were complex and absolutely beautiful, honeycombed and subtly ridged, refracting the sand and the sky in a thousand shades of blue and grey. 

Some of the blocks of ice were the size of boats, others small enough to pick up. Some looked as though they had been artfully carved into intricate shapes, elegant swans and rippling waves of ice, glinting in the sunshine.

Our fellow tourists appeared like tiny moving ants on the horizon, little insignificant blobs of flesh and warmth against the overwhelming majesty of the elements. 

After a walk along the beach and a picnic lunch in the car, we headed further south towards the fishing town of 

Höfn

on the South coast. We had read about some natural hot pools near there and we were eager to fit in a dip before starting the long journey home. 

After another hour's drive we eventually approached the remote village of Hoffell, about 15km west of 

Höfn

, home to a small selection of hot pots carved into the foot of a nearby rocky outcrop, with views out across the plains. 

The pots were unmanned but we had to pay a small fee and take a shower before dipping. There were five pots, three of which were a bit too hot and one of which was a bit chilly but the final one was absolutely perfect!

Experiencing a natural hot pool was one of the things that we really wanted to do in Iceland. They are such an important and central part of Icelandic community and culture that we knew we had to find some. I am so glad that we made the effort to seek out these lovely pools. It really was such a unique experience to be bobbing around in steaming hot water, totally on our own in the middle of nowhere with the most incredible views surrounding us. 

After an hour or so's soak (during which time we were joined by a rather amorous French couple) we decided we should probably start our long journey home.

We spotted some sort of deer in the distance but I couldn't identify it!

The journey home was extraordinary, the road stretching out blackly ahead of us, and the skies and land changing dramatically, sun bursting through and then disappearing again, streaks of fluid light replaced by dark brooding clouds.

We passed through lava fields of pockmarked rock, felted in soft green and purple like ancient moss with deep, cold craters still home to thick snow. 

And mirror images of mountains in still pools of glassy water.

As we drove, the skies would enclose us like a heavy cloak descending from above, but then, a moment later, suddenly lift, revealing golden waves of light on the horizon.

The colours were absolutely beautiful - like nothing I had ever seen before. Every tone of blue and grey, every soft charcoal and deepest navy, every lavender and pigeon grey and midnight blue-black.

As the sun began to set the colours became even more brilliant, filling the sky with pink, orange and yellow, turning the clouds the most beautiful powder-blue. 

Of course the pictures don't properly do it justice, but believe me when I say that it was the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. Perhaps they are just run of the mill in Iceland, but for us it was a novel experience, made even wonderful by the fact that we were surrounded by the most extraordinary

scenery, and we were witnessing it from our tiny little car, completely on our own in the middle of nowhere! 

We eventually got home at about 9pm, exhilarated but exhausted. We cooked something simple, watched the light finally fade, read until our eyes were began to close, and slept deeply in our little cabin, night falling silently outside.