This summer, we saw some troubling news about our Earth. We learned that July 2019 was both the hottest July and the hottest month ever recorded and that Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons of ice in one single day - something that was not forecasted to happen until 2070. Earth’s climate is changing at an alarmingly fast pace, and along with it, we are starting to see some of nature’s most spectacular phenomenons begin to disappear. One such disappearing beauty are glaciers. Formed over hundreds and thousands of years, these dense packed ice masses are melting away with the climate change that we are experiencing.
About 10% of Iceland’s land mass is covered with glaciers. Some may think that since Iceland has a reputation for being cold, its glaciers would be safe from melting. Unfortunately that is not the case. In fact, in August 2019, a plaque was put up to commemorate Okjokull, the first Icelandic glacier to formally lose its glacial status.
If you’re hoping to see glaciers when you visit Iceland, there are a couple of ways to see these disappearing beauties. If you’re wanting to get up close to one, there are many glacier walking tours that will take you onto the glacier themselves. I didn’t opt for this so I don’t have any opinions or feedback to provide, but if you’re looking for ways to see glaciers for free, here are some ways that I chanced upon!
Fjallsjökull is an outlet glacier of Öræfajökull, and one place you can view this stunning glacier is at the glacier lagoon Fjallsárlón. This spot wasn’t actually on our itinerary, but as we were driving to our hotel after visiting the famous Jökulsárlón, from a distance we saw sunlight streaming down through the clouds, highlighting the grandeur of Fjallsjökull. As we looked for a place to safely park the car to admire the view, we saw a turnoff on the road into a parking lot. It just so happened that this was the parking lot to Fjallsárlón.
As we walked closer to the lagoon, I couldn’t take my eyes off what was in front of me. I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. We were lucky in that the lagoon was not that busy when we visited, so we were able to just sit by the water’s edge and admire the breathtaking view in front of us. One that we sadly knew in the back of our minds future generations may not be able to enjoy.
If the unique looking Svartifoss is on your list of waterfalls to visit and you have some time to spare, within the same area, you can walk towards the Skaftafellsjökull, one of the glacial tongues of Vatnajökull (the largest glacier in Iceland). Starting from the Skaftafell Visitor Centre, there is flat, 3.7 km round trip trail that takes you towards the glacier. It won’t take you right up to it, but you can still see the crevices in the glacier, and see how far the glacier snakes back into the mountain.
I know that writing a post about where you can see glaciers in Iceland while pointing out that they are disappearing might seem counterintuitive. I know the act of traveling itself can leave a large carbon footprint, and it’s something that I have my own internal struggle with. But after seeing these beautiful glaciers in person, I felt like the I had a deeper connection with them. Glaciers were no longer just some sheets of ice somewhere far, far away that aren’t my problem. I felt like I had to try harder to do my part to conserve them. So if you do have the chance to visit Iceland, I do encourage you to go see them.
I’m definitely not saying that I’m now an environmentalist. I have so much to learn when it comes to how I can do my part to preserve the planet that we live on. But I do try my best to live by the three R’s - reduce, reuse, and recycle. I think even if we are able to do one thing a day - if everyone on this planet did just one small act of reducing, reusing, or recycling - there would be a positive impact!
This post is linked up on Our World Tuesday and…