Fjallsarlon-Iceland’s Other Glacier Lagoon
Black volcanic sand beaches, massive glaciers and pristine waterfalls; when it comes to natural beauty Iceland is unsurpassed. On my first day in Iceland, with a ferocious wind and biting rain outside, I sought warmth in a small cafe outside of Iceland’s famous Geyser. It was here I met a couple who was just finishing a two week trip around the Ring Road and over bowls of lamb stew we got to chatting. I asked what their most memorable stop of their trip was; they looked at each other and in near unison replied “Fjallsarlon”.
No doubt you’ve seen the stunning images of glass-like lakes filled with icebergs fed by massive glaciers. Many of these images come from Jokusarlon, a popular tour stop from Reykjavik or Vik. Intrigued by my conversation at the cafe I looked into Fjallsarlon. Promises of spectacular views with zero crowds, and on my birthday no less? I was in.
Leaving the working farmhouse that served as our home near Vik we set out for Fjallsarlon, roughly a 4 hour drive one way. Our trip was slowed a bit by pulling over to photograph the lunar landscapes and hidden waterfalls of South Iceland en route, as well as a quick stop for lunch and a hike at Vantajokull National Park we made it to Fjallsarlon about 7 hours later. We hadn’t passed another car for at least an hour when we turn off the Ring Road, slowed not only by the gravel but in sheer awe of the landscape spreading out before us. Huge expanses of glacial ice, some hundreds if not thousands of years old, crept down the sides of volcanic snow-capped peaks. Iceland’s famously temperamental weather provided wind and some of the most dynamic clouds I’ve seen. Anywhere else this would be a major tourist attraction, I shared this view with less than ten other people.
Now I didn’t come all this way just to stand and marvel at the lagoon’s shores, I wanted to head out on the water and get up close to the icebergs. Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours , run by a few friends with an immense love for Iceland’s ruggedly beautiful outdoors, offers zodiac boat rides throughout this isolated lagoon. We met our guide Dae, suited up in gear that would make the Michellin Man proud and walked down the rocky slopes towards the water.Gliding past icebergs large and small, our boat providing the only disturbance in the water, we learned of how the glacial and volcanic ecosystems have shaped Iceland’s landscapes as well as the people who call this island home. We learned why glacial ice is that unmistakable shade of blue and discussed the impact of climate change. But mostly, I just took in the enormity of the world around me.
While out on the water the clouds parted and we got the first glimpse of sun I’d seen in the past three days. The air in Iceland is so pristine it creates the most purely blue sky that immediately transforms the landscape, giving an ethereal brilliance to everything the sun touches. There are places that leave you speechless, in awe, wonderstruck. This is one of those places.
Shortly before returning to shore, Dae stopped the boat and said he had a birthday gift for me. Turning towards the side of the boat and plunging his bare hands into the frigid water he presented me with the most unique present I’ve ever received.
My very own mini-iceberg.