More from our recent adventures in Iceland today.
After our stay at the wonderful Ion Hotel, we headed southeast towards the little coastal town of Vík. Our journey began in crisp sunshine, and we meandered slowly along Route 1 (the ring road which encircles the entire country), past snow-covered plains and farmsteads which resembled dolls’ houses against the towering peaks.
Along the way we stopped to admire the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Each of these thundering columns is visible from miles away and truly spectacular close up, with rocky pathways that take you above and behind the tumbling water. We got as near as we dared before being soaked by spray, and darted back to safety to giggle at fellow visitors attempting to take selfies without getting drenched.
We also popped into the Eyjafjallajökull Visitor Centre, which was established by a local family in one of their farm’s outbuildings. The volcano is of course infamous because of the widespread air-travel disruption it caused in 2010, but I’d never really given much thought to the devastation suffered by those who live in its shadow. I left with huge admiration for the family, who turned near-disaster into a brand-new venture and who reflect the resilience and creativity which seem to be permeate Icelandic society.
By mid-afternoon, another blizzard had descended, and the last 20km of the drive were a little hair-raising (well, for us; I should imagine the average Icelander would have barely flickered an eyelid). I was very glad to reach the comfort of our next base, Icelandair Hotel Vík, whose sleek interior mixes Nordic minimalism with a palette of cool blues, greens and greys that echo the colours of the surrounding landscape.
After settling into our bright sea-view room, we braved the ferocious wind for a stroll along the velvety black-sand beaches which surround Vík, admiring the monochrome seascape and jagged off-shore rock formations (said to be the spirits of drowned trolls). We also headed up to the pretty little church perched on a ridge above town, before warming up with Icelandic G&Ts on sheepskin-covered armchairs in the hotel’s beautiful bar, followed by delicious lamb, char and skyr in its restaurant.
The next day we pressed on, past glacial tongues snaking down from the vast Vatnajökull ice cap, their blue surfaces streaked with fissures and cracks.
Our destination was Jökulsárlón, a lagoon filled with icebergs which have broken off the glacier and which float around in a slow, serene dance before making their way out to sea. We spent a while spotting seals in the water, before heading down to the nearby beach, which is littered with chunks of ice that have washed backed to shore. They made a beautiful sight, sparkling like diamonds in the wintry light as the waves crashed beyond.
It was at Jökulsárlón that Chris sprung a huge surprise on me and, after 13 years together, asked me to marry him. I’ll spare you the details – and to be honest, I can’t actually remember his exact words or my exact response (though I know ‘yes’ featured in there somewhere!) – but it was a wonderful end to our time in the south east, and he couldn’t have picked a more perfect spot.
The final installments from Iceland to follow next week…
Icelandair Hotels provided a discounted stay for the purpose of this post, but all words and opinions are my own.
All photography by Abi Dare