Today was another absurdly amazing adventure, Glacier Safari by 4-Wheel with Ice Cave Visit. We left the pier at 7:12am and boarded a Mercedes Bends monster super truck. The first stop was at UNESCO World Heritage Site Thingvellir where we walked a portion of the mid-Atlantic ridge. This was very impressive when you realize the magnitude of what has arisen on this spot of normally flat land. The overall size and vastness casts a stark reality on the magnitude of earthquakes and volcanoes. The Game of Thrones filmed nearby here in Pingvellir – episode: The path to the Eyrie.
Soon we were on our way again, this time over a bumpy dirt road headed for the glacier Stadreyndir. There was a convoy of four super trucks each with a capacity of 13. There were 42 paying guests on the tour. The driver had to stop on two occasions to let air out of the tires for more traction. First for the bumpy dirt roads, and then for the actual climb up the glacier. After a long drive we made it to the edge of the ice and stopped at the checkpoint. This is where passengers could pick up extra loner gear if they did not bring proper attire or shoes for the ice cave. As we began our decent up the glacier, I quickly realized this was much larger than what I had seen on our Alaskan cruise several years earlier. Our tour guide Helga told us this was the second largest glacier in Iceland and was 15 kilometers wide. The ride to the top was longer than I expected and it was spectacular! The top covering of snow was about a foot deep and the driver followed a path while making his own way up at the same time.
When we arrived at the top we got out and saw the entrance to the ice cave. It was a large metal cylinder pushed into the ice about twelve foot in diameter. A glacier tour guide, Thor, emerged from inside the glacier and took our group of 13. We entered the glacier and walked to an area where we first put on boot cleats or crampons which were designed to help with traction inside the cave. As we continued on the journey we became amazed at just how large this man-made system of underground tunnels was. Based on what I had read online, I expected something much smaller so I was pleasantly surprised. We walked along while learning some geological history about the ice and the tunnel system. We were led down many passageways and saw crevices in the glacier from below that were both open and closed. We were 25 meters below the surface with 200 meters of ice still under our feet. It was a phenomenal experience and did not require any special physical fitness unlike yesterday’s Lets Go Volcano tour.
What this tour does require is waterproof pants, a water proof jacket and good hiking boots. There is water everywhere and you are going to get soaked unless you have these items, including some kind of covering for your head.
After our Ice Cave tour nothing else could really have measured up for me. It was just too amazing to have taken this adventure. Now we headed back down the glacier and soon were at the Hotel Husafel where a buffet lunch was waiting for us. The buffet consisted of Salad items, Pasta, two types of soup and Pizza. The restaurant area had tables reserved for our group and we basically served ourselves.
This visit was quick as we were a bit pressed for time. After eating we were on our way to the Hraunfossar and Barnafossar Waterfalls which are a spring of clear water emerging from the lava fields of Hallmundarhraun. Again Iceland continues to impress as the numerous falls and clarity of the water was both impressive and refreshing. We even found an Alice in Wonderland mushroom growing in the grass. We had only 30 minutes at the falls but we could easily have stayed a couple of hours. There were countless paths and vantage points off in all directions and many photographic opportunities.
Our final stop was at the Deildartunguhver thermal spring. Here water, that is heated by steam below ground, rises to the surface and gushes continuously like a small geyser. There is a distinct smell of sulfur from the pits and you can easily watch steam rise from the water all over the area. We stayed just 15 minutes and then were on our way back to the pier.
During our exciting day we learned several interesting facts about Iceland, it’s people and lands. There are about 334,000 inhabitants of Iceland and the tallest mountain, which is ironically a Glacier, is about 6,000 feet high. Farmers in the area grow mainly Barley and Hay, however some farms do grow potatoes, beets and turnips. We also drove through a tunnel of about three and a half miles on our return to Reykjavik.
My last advice would be that if taking this tour sit on the right of the vehicle if possible as 95% of all of the photographic scenery will be on that side. We returned from the tour at 4:25pm.
Cruise Port: Reykjavik, Iceland
Tour Operator: Activity Iceland
Tour Guide: Anton
Steps logged: 8,205