“I like coming to work. Every day the lagoon is completely different. I work in a different setting every day,” Hanna Dís, our young transplanted former Reykjavík bartender guide tells us as we ride through Jökulsárlón in a large amphibious vehicle.
Jökulsárlón is one of the key sites, like Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss, that tourists feel are musts in visiting Iceland. Somehow, because these sites are so impressive, it is not uncommon for locals and even people who move to Iceland to avoid the place.
In fact, our guide had never been here before she started working here. “Somehow you don’t have time. I really don’t know why I didn’t come out,” she tells me and then turns back to look at the perfect cube of an iceberg floating by and gives a can-you-believe-my-luck smile.
I would consider boasting about going to Jökulsárlón four times in the two years I’ve lived in Iceland, except until my recent visit, I never bothered to get on a boat and truly tour the lagoon. The boat tours aren’t pushed on you. Every time I visited in the past, I joined the other backpackers and stared out at the boats in the water, and then tried to convince myself that I was saving money by staying on shore and probably getting a more authentic experience.
Not quite true.
As nice as a shoreline visit is at Jökulsárlón, a boat tour definitely raises the experience a few notches. Driven by a captain with more depth-finding and radar equipment than you’ve ever seen in your life, and led by a man in a rubber boat who taps at icebergs to check their depth (remember your Titanic wisdom, 9/10ths of icebergs are below the surface), the boat is safe but depends on the skill of its driver.
The formations of ice boggle the mind. The icebergs, as our guide explained, are typically aged more than 1000 years old, and the fact that these monumental pieces of the landscape are headed out to sea to simply dissolve adds poignancy to the experience.
The Glacier Lagoon group play their cards right, too. The guide says nothing at all as you head into the lagoon, circling glaciers according to the driver’s interest. After twenty minutes of saying “No this one’s more beautiful” about the passing icebergs, which pass in the most bizarre of colourings and shapes, the boat is stopped for a brief discussion of the lagoon, followed by a brief taste test of 1000-year-old ice.
There is nothing wanting in the forty-minute tour. The time is just long enough to take in the sites, but not too long to get… cold. And the quiet of the tour, with only a brief discussion, is tasteful and appropriate. Followed up with a cup of coffee and another look-over from the shore, Jökulárlón qualifies as the most rewarding gallery experience in the world.
Rental car provided by Hertz.
Phone: 50 50 600.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon,
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