Day 5 began with a drive to þingvellir national park. Þingvellir was where the Icelandic Parliament was founded and was (unsurprisingly) another place of beauty in Iceland!
It began to snow as we arrived, which made for a very slippery hike around, but we were able to walk up the main route to see the views and were lucky enough to be one of the only people at the waterfall!
It was interesting to learn all about the history of Þingvellir. Thousands of Icelanders made the journey to this location for a 2 week stay during the commonwealth period, where they would mingle, sell goods, and make plans and laws.
After an icy walk back to the car, we made the scenic drive north where we drove through the longest tunnel I’ve ever been in!
We stopped at the Settlement Center once we reached Borgarnes. I highly recommend this stop to anyone who is visiting the area! It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was all indoors (bonus if it’s cold outside!) and we took an audio tour that taught us all about the first settlements of Iceland and one of the first Vikings, Egill Skalla-Grimsson. It was incredibly informative and I loved the sculptures and artwork that explained the stories!
Next on our list for the day was the lesser known stop, Fossatun. This spot has accommodations for guests exploring West Iceland, but we came because we had heard about the Troll Trail! Right behind the guest houses is a trail that has several sculptures of trolls and follows the Icelandic book, Tryggdatröll (The Last Troll). So cool! We couldn’t explore the whole trail because the ground was wet and our feet started sinking, but there were also games and a longer hike to explore if conditions are good.
I loved the story about the rock pile. In the story, if you put your hand on the outline, close your eyes, and think about all the good things that have befallen you on your path, the rock will absorb your worries and negative thoughts.
We had a reservation for a glacier tour that night, so we jumped in the car to head to our hotel beforehand. After we checked in, we bundled up and made one last stop at Hraunfossar. It was an impressive sight and I wish we had more than 10 minutes to explore! I loved the uniqueness of the water pouring out of the lava rocks.
We raced to meet our tour group and checked in. I was so excited for this tour! Because we were exploring Iceland in the winter, the highlands were usually closed off to any vehicle that wasn’t a 4×4, so this was one of our only chances to see it.
We walked up to the vehicle we were taking to the glacier and was met with a GIANT vehicle. We later learned it was a converted NATO missile launcher!
We piled into the vehicle and began our ascent to the top of the glacier (a 40min drive). We had the opportunity to stop and take photos halfway up as we waited for a second tour guide to catch up. The views were astonishing.
We reached the entrance and split into two groups to explore the inside of the glacier. As we descended into the tunnel, it suddenly felt warmer and I couldn’t stop putting my hand against the dense ice wall.
We learned that we were descending into the Langjokull glacier (the second largest in Iceland). The tunnel we entered opened up into a large room with boxes of crampons to allow us to walk around without slipping. Our guide told us that every year, they have to keep redoing the entrance and making it longer because as snow piles on top of the glacier, the man-made ice caves keep getting buried and lower into the glacier.
One of my favorite pieces of information from the tour was the different layers you could see in the snow. There was a black line across the wall that our guide said was ash from the volcano eruption in 2010!
We continued exploring the caves with our group and it became obvious that this place was huge! It even had an ice chapel for weddings! We learned that it took over 4 years for the ice caves to be made and that the ice around us was 30-35 years old.
When our tour came to an end, it became emotional as our guide explained the impact of global warming on the glaciers around the country. I feel very lucky that we got to experience this glacier trip, because who knows if it will be around in a few years.
We made our way back to our hotel in the dark, where I promptly took a shower and laid down. Danny grabbed his camera to try his luck with the Northern Lights one more time and was met with the best light show from our trip! He said that the sky just lit up to the point where he could see everything around him! I’m a little jealous I missed it, but the photos are phenomenal!
Up next: Arnarstapi