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Take a [Glacial] Hike

March 1, 2018
- By Edge of Wonder Travels Unlimited

Visiting Skaftafell National Park in the south of Iceland provides a seemingly limitless amount of activities.  There are mountains to climb, views to be gawked at, icebergs aplenty, and glaciers to be hiked!

My third day in Iceland found me waking up in my room at Fosshótel Skaftafell – the closest accommodation to Skaftafell National Park, but pretty basic in every way (except when it comes to the views!) My room had an outside door, two twin beds, and a shower that I couldn’t get above skin temperature. Now, to be fair, it’s somewhat of a sprawling hotel with rooms in the main building as well as spread out across several other buildings and standalones on the property, so I didn’t personally experience ALL of the options available. But as far as a place to sleep, shower, and stay warm, it works. The staff is great and it’s a good place to meet other travelers as well.

So that morning, I was up early, spent some time catching up on email, took a short hike over a hill of moss so soft it was like walking on pillows, and then headed to the park for my scheduled Glacier Adventure.

And so I went on a 4-hour glacier hike across Svínafellsjökull…and it was worth every heavy, crampon-laiden step.

Located in the parking lot of the Skaftafell NP Visitor’s Center, there are a couple of main guide options available and they’re both great, although I went with Icelandic Mountain Guides.

It was amazing. We drove through a landscape that looked almost alien until the road ended and we walked a short way until we met the river of ice. There we crampon-ed up, were given some basic walking-on-glacier instructions and safety tips, and led out onto the ice. We saw crevasses with torrents of water pouring through them, ice so blue I don’t even think there’s a word for it, and drank water from glacial run-off that was over 2,000 years old. We were also blessed with what our guides said was the first sunny day on the glacier in at least a week.

Like I said…totally worth it.

My primary tip, go early. Get yourself on one of the morning trips when the glacier is empty. As the day wears on, more groups can be seen across the glacier and it’s just a little more fun when it seems like you’re alone on this river of ice.

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