While many Iceland travelers do not make it farther than Vík, the stretch of the Ring Road between Vík and Jökulsárlón is unbelievably beautiful and probably our favorite drive in the whole country. Because we were not able to spend the night in Vík, we had one incredibly long day on our second day in Iceland traveling from Seljalandfoss to Höfn. It was definitely a day packed with incredible beauty and very different landscapes, but we would have preferred to spend more time taking in each sight. We took full advantage of an early morning start and 24 hours of daylight during our June visit. Our host in Höfn said we needed to arrive before 10 pm, and we made it there with not too much time to spare. Here are a few of our favorite parts of Southeast Iceland.
Eldhraun is a lava field between Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur that is absolutely other worldly.
- Kid Facts: This Lava field was created in 1783 to 1784 by the lava flow during the eruption of Lakagígar. The eruption that caused this lava field caused disease, crop failure and famine that lead to the death of approximately 20% of all people living in Iceland caused by the eruption.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon near Kirkjubæjarklaustur and not far off the Ring Road. The recommended rim hike is not strenuous and takes about 60 minutes, but we were short on time and enjoyed a quick visit hiking into the canyon only a few minutes from the parking lot. 63°46′16.5″N 18°10′19″W
- Kid Facts: The bedrock of Fjaðrárgljúfur was believed to be formed when a glacier retreated 9,000 years ago during the Ice Age.
- Kid Moment: It is a quick walk from the parking lot to the river’s edge even for small children but truly an impressive view to see.
Vatnajökull is the largest icecap between Arctic and Antarctic and covers 8% of Iceland. The views from the Ring Road are unbelievably beautiful. While many tourists do not travel father east than Vík, we believe Vatnajökull should not be missed. You can arrange tours of Vatnajökull National Park, the largest European protected area, through the Höfn’s Tourist Information Centre.
- Kid Facts: The ice is between 1,300 and 3,100 feet thick and covers active volcanos, mountains and valleys.
- Kid Moment: Several stops are required along as you pass Vatnajökull to get a proper view.
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lake that an absolute highlight of our trip. This lake is full of icebergs broken off a Breiðamerkurjökull (an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull). There are several parking lots on the North side of the Ring Road to view the lake that are each worth a stop. Make sure to cross the road to find the ice washed up on the black sand beach. 64°04′13″N 16°12′42″W
- Kid Facts: Jökulsárlón means “glacial river lagoon” Because glacial ice melts so slowly, icebergs can stay in Jökulsárlón for up to five years. Breiðamerkurjökull reached almost to the ocean only 75 years ago, so Jökulsárlón is a relatively new lake.
- Kid Moments: Try to identify what each iceberg looks like. Look for moving icebergs seals, particularly by the dam in the water. Make sure to go to the South side of the Ring Road to check out the icebergs that wash up on the beach.
Höfn is a fishing town known for lobster located just off the Ring Road on a peninsula. From Höfn, there are beautiful views of Vatnajökull. With a population over 2,000, Höfn is the second largest town in Southeast Iceland and offers a number of options for accommodations.
- Kid Facts: Höfn, which is surrounded by water on three sides, means “harbor.” Scenes from Die Another Day, A View to a Kill, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins were all filmed nearby.
- Kid Moment: This is a great location for a short hike to view Vatnajökull. The Tourist Information Centre had several suggestions for routes.
Southeast Iceland was absolutely beautiful. We wish we made it to Laki Crater, which was about 40 km off the Ring Road on an unpaved road near Fjaðrárgljúfur. Unfortunately, we did not have time to make it, and it gives us a reason to come back!
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