Day 3 – Falljokull Glacier Hiking in Skaftafell National Park

During the planning of our trip, we decided we absolutely had to go on a glacier hike because 1) we’ve never seen a glacier 2) we’ve never hiked on a glacier, 3) because it seemed like a really cool thing to do!

There were two main companies offering glacier hiking, and each company gives you a different glacier to hike on. The first glacier, Svínafellsjökull, was where where Batman Begins and Interstellar filmed, to name a few. This is offered by Extreme Iceland. The second option was  Falljökull Glacier, offered by Arctic Adventures.

We went ahead with Arctic Adventures on their five hours-long Glacier Explorer tour because they offered a longer time on the ice, about 2x as long compared to Extreme Iceland. They take you to a higher viewpoint where the views are, for a lack of a better word, better. They have a wonderland tour that’s 2 hours-long as well, but we’re young and able, so we decided, go big or go home, am I right?!

We got up early, had a heavy breakfast, and headed to the meeting point in Skaftafell National Park. We got suited up; harness, crampons, helmet, ice picks – got in a bus and drove 20minutes to the starting point.

Here’s a funny story(or not), I’ll tell it anyway! I bought waterproof pants specifically for the hikes before we left, and when I tried it on back home, it fit. However, I don’t handle cold weather well, and I’m used to layering, which I had forgotten to take into consideration when I bought the pants, so surprise surprise, the pants didn’t fit. You know how when you’re walking normally you can take a pretty comfortable step? Cut that step down to a third – that was what I was dealing with for the next five hours. I’ll admit, it was pretty uncomfortable but I didn’t care,(also I didn’t have a choice) – but that also explains why in most of the pictures you’ll see me at the back – we were made to walk in a line and I did not want to slow anyone down! LPT on waterproof pants; always buy two sizes larger!

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Off the bus and onwards we go!

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Start of the “actual” glacier hike

Ash and sand storms are very common here in South Iceland, and these storms are the reason you see the black stuff(ash) on the glaciers. Silly me, I thought it was because we were trampling on them everyday. The ash also causes the glaciers to melt faster, as they absorb heat. Sadly, our guide Charles informed us that geology experts have predicted that this beautiful glacier would be no more in the next five years due the glacier melting faster than they’re able to replenish in the winter. It’s hard to imagine that reality when you look at the vastness of it.

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Views from the first tier, overlooking the inlet the melted glacier water flows through

We stopped midway through for a short break, and drank spring water directly from the glacier. Ummm, BEST WATER EVER. If you do the hike, please do yourself a favour and drink. The cool glacier water flowing down your throat – refreshing, rejuvenation, satisfying, oh so good – I never thought water could taste so good. I wish we brought more bottles!

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Refilling our bottles with refreshing glacier water!

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Notice the different shades of blue peeking through the ice? Pure water/ice that hasn’t been touched by sunlight remain blue, so depending on the amount of sunlight that has touched the surface, the shades of blue differ in different parts of the ice.

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As high as we could go, with the cliffs now beside us. Can’t believe we made it this far!
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Starting our descent

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Being up on that glacier was magical, and it’s an experience we’ll never forget.Thumbs up to Arctic Adventures too, the guides were informative, friendly and helpful – we would totally recommend them!

Now, after 5 hours you would think that we’d be done walking. NOPE. Back at Skaftafell National park, we came across a path to another waterfall – Skaftafell Waterfall, and decided we’d go have a look. It was supposed to be a 3-45min walk up, and we thought, hey that sounds alright. Unfortunately, after climbing for 20 mins, we were told the main route up was closed for repairs, and we were advised to take another route up. “It’ll be 20 mins up, it’s easy”, the kind stranger said. Rejuvenated, we proceeded into the bushes. This route had no proper roads, it was a little dirt track up, with greenery all around you. We took another 45 mins and got to a vantage point. At this point, I was pretty exhausted. We hadn’t had lunch (not very smart) although we had been snacking on protein bars and the like. And it was already past 6pm. The funny thing is, we couldn’t see the waterfall, even after the hike up. I am not ashamed to say I was starving and struggling, and supplies were running low. We saw a group of hikers coming up behind us led by a leader, and asked the lady where the waterfall was. “Oh it’s at least another half hour, you have to go round the canyon to get to it.”

You see, the normal route lets you go directly up a shortcut to the waterfall on paved roads. This route was the “uncut” version. You know how sometimes when you’re driving on a mountain and you’re driving in circles around it to get to the top? This was basically what we were doing since the main route was closed. We had about 30-40% to go.

A decision had to be made, and I made it. Down we went, we’ll leave the waterfall for our next trip. We could have made it I’m sure, but we were both hungry, tired and all we could think of was having a big dinner after all that exercise. Going on meant we’d be exhausted, and more importantly, HANGRY(yes, my mood goes down as my hunger increases!).

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Back at the hotel, we had the Arctic char and soup, and yes, we deserved it.
Thinking back, do I regret it? Absolutely not. That char was delicious and the bed was divine!

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