Iceland: Jökulsárlón Lagoon, Vatnajökull Glacier, and (no) Ice Cave

The Curse of the Troll

I overshot my destination by about an hour because I couldn’t find a safe, comfy spot to pull into for my night’s rest in the camper. The campsite by Svartifoss waterfall was too dark, abandoned, and I’m nearly certain I saw a troll as I was peeing outside by a rock (give me a break, the bathrooms were locked). I finally gave up looking for a campsite and pulled into a truck stop along the road with no amenities. iceland-211

It started to rain. I was tired of being cold, tired of being scared of the dark, (why did I watch The Shining before I left for this trip?!), tired of being alone in the cold and dark.

When I woke in the morning, there were three 18-wheeler trucks parked around me, and frost on the windshield. My face was puffy from consuming vast amounts of salami for dinner, and I mourned the wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, as if Fraggles had dug canyons into my skin while I slept. I “washed” my face with baby wipes and changed clothes in the back of the camper, curtains drawn. It was four days before my 35th birthday.

Jökulsárlón lagoon

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I drove the hour back to Jökulsárlón lagoon for my 1pm ice cave tour with Guide to Iceland.  Walking into a 900-year-old ice cave, just one section of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier was the activity that I most looked forward to during my trip.

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Ash and silt get swept up into the ice as it moves down the glacier and slides into the Jökulsárlón lagoon.
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5pm sunset at Jökulsárlón lagoon.
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Jökulsárlón lagoon: Ice, Ice baby, too cold, too cold.

Our group of 20 piled into a massive SUV, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. We hiked to the entrance of the cave  and marveled at Vatnajökull’s magnificence, the glacier’s bizarre curves and colors.

The Vatnajökull glacier

Alas, global warming ruined the fun. The rain (which should have been snow this time of year) was dripping down through the cave, melting the ice, and rendering it too dangerous to enter for fear of taking an ice block to the dome.

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I stood at the entrance of the ice cave, royal blues like I’ve never seen before shimmering off the caves crevices. It was torture, forbidden love, a no trespassing sign, apple pie on the windowsill, the smell wafting into my nostrils, an ensuing smack on the hand as I reached for it. Now I know how Romeo felt. Vatnajökull by any other name…

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Looking back, it was still gorgeous to see the glacier, if not the ice cave and I couldn’t have crossed the hardened lava without Guide to Iceland’s volcanic-rock-traversing SUV. Still, I emailed them to ask for a 5,000 krona refund ($45 off the original $187) refund to match other company’s prices for a glacier walkabout. They acquiesced and I felt better about spending so much, if not less disappointed.


That night, as I joined three other camper cars in a deep shoulder on the side of the road, the Northern Lights lit up the sky. I laid in the camper, in my sleeping bag and layers upon layers of clothing, the window curtain pulled back, gazing at the spirits in the sky. The lights were so bright, so violent in their flighty movements that every time I began to doze off, I jerked awake, afraid I was missing the magic. It was real life FOMO. After an hour of their dancing, I closed the curtain, put on my eye mask, and once again cherished traveling alone.

Up next on The Noble Bee: Flúðir, harnessing the heat of the Earth for hot pots and greenhouses


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