Vatnajökull Glacier – What a Sight

Vatnajökull – meaning ‘glacier of the lakes’- is in the southeast corner of Iceland and accounts for more than 8% of its landmass. There are several volcanoes beneath it. The last of these erupted violently in 1994 causing considerable flooding. Access is by snowmobile or boat. Intrepid travellers who visit are lost for words to describe shooting steam and water bubbling upwards from craters. It is an otherworldly experience as if you are on another planet.

Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland National Park
Vatnajökull Glacier National Park via Flickr by Andres Nieto Porras CC BY-SA 2.0

Getting To Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland

The glacier Is set within the boundaries of the Vatnajökull National Park. Much of this is highland area, and adventurers should take precautions in case weather delays them overnight. Visit the Safe Travel website if you are contemplating self-driving by hire car or motorhome rental. On second thoughts, forget the idea. Take a tour with a reputable operator; it is just not worth the risk going solo.

Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland in the distance
Vatnajökull Glacier via Flickr by Jonathan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once there, the Park has rules it asks you to respect like sticking to main roads. This is necessary because the surface of the volcanic soil is brittle. Ruts caused by thoughtless tyres can cause erosion, prompt unofficial routes and take decades to recover. Choose a tour guide who sticks to official tracks. This place is wild. Do not be fooled by seemingly placid photos in this post.

Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland
Vatnajökull Glacier via Flickr by JasonParis CC 2.0

Place of Giants

Vatnajökull Glacier is 8,100 square kilometres in extent (3,120 square miles) making it the second largest frozen mass in Europe. The ice is on average 400 meters (1,300 feet) thick (that’s equivalent to a 121-storey building). In stark contrast, Iceland’s tallest peak Hvannadalshnúkur is on its southern boundary and rises to 2,100 meters (6,900 feet). It is a great attraction for experienced mountaineers who are up to the challenge.

Lake at Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland
The Lake at Vatnajökull Glacier via Flickr by Tristan Ferne CC 2.0

In spring, Iceland thaws and Vatnajökull gives birth to streams, rivers and cataracts. The tundra perks up, rodents scurry around in the undergrowth. Reindeer males spar in preparation for the mating season. The Earth is refreshed, the tourist season begins. Vatnajökull Glacier is one place not to miss on the planet.

Vatnajökull Glacier Iceland
Vatnajökull Glacier via Flickr by Xabi Ezpeleta CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Vatnajokull Glacier Iceland: Map
Area Map Thanks to National Geographic

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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2 Responses

  1. Avatar for Richard Farrell

    Ticking the Bucketlist

    Great pictures. We were here during winters…and it looked so different… Pristine white!
    Are the seals around during summer as well?


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