Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Chasing the Northern Lights

One place we had read quite a bit about before heading to Iceland is the infamous Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Located on the southeastern coast of Iceland (the edge of Vatnajokull National Park), this glacial lagoon is the gateway between a gigantic glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull, and the Atlantic Ocean. All day (and night!), chunks of glacier ranging from tiny baseball-sized pieces up to car and even house-sized chunks of ice break off of the head of Breiðamerkurjökull and make their way through Jokulsarlon and on out to the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these ice chunks are carried out to the deep Ocean, while others just wash up on beach (right across the road from Jokulsarlon). Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is known as a large tourist location because of its gorgeous lighting, peaceful surroundings, and varied textures and patterns. If you’re driving from Reykjavik, here are the directions:

When we arrived at Jokulsarlon, there were quite a few tourists hanging around taking photos…so we grabbed our gear, made our way over, and just started snapping photos. The day was absolutely gorgeous… freezing but blue skies and a bright sun. The reflections of rays of sunlight on the ice chunks was indescribable.


Jokulsarlon Lagoon


Glacial Chunks


Ice chunks of all shapes and sizes


We spent perhaps 2 hours taking photos. We captured the sunset right over the nearby hill with the lagoon in front. There were a multitude of photographers lined up with their tripods, not even paying attention to the sunset… clearly they come here often. They had their cameras set to take photos every few seconds for maximum effect. Honestly, I hope I never get to a point where I take something like Jokulsarlon for granted… to the point where my camera is just snapping photos. It was just too gorgeous and I probably wouldn’t even have moved if Andrew hadn’t suggested warming up a bit before coming back out.


Jokulsarlon is just gorgeous


A sea otter enjoying the water


Great textures


Mesmerizing, isn’t it?


We bought some hot chocolate in the little stand that was jus closing for the day. We sat in our car and warmed up a bit before we decided that we would try to move a bit down the road to look for another spot where we could set up shop and hopefully catch the Northern Lights. At this point in the trip, we had seen them a handful of times, but we hadn’t spent a solid night sitting out in nature and darkness watching… so we pulled down the road a few hundred feet. There were pull offs every so often and we selected one and pulled in. The parking area backed up against a hill and we hoped on the other side, we would see the lagoon. We ran up and scouted it out and to our happy surprise, you could actually hike down the other side of the hill to a small stone beach right on the shores of the glacial lagoon. A perfect little nook where no one else was yet set-up. Away from the main parking area of the lagoon, away from the cars, away from the talking… just the glacier, the lagoon, the sky, the mountains, and us. Perfect.


A beautiful sunset


Jokulsarlon at sunset


View from our little beach


We grabbed a little disposable grill that we picked up in one of the towns we drove through, along with our little cooking bowls, some ramen, some bread, some cheese, some beer and Brennavin, our sleeping bags, our tripods, and our cameras. We bundled up a bit more with gloves and hats and sweatshirts and then made our way up, over the hill, and back down the other side to our secluded mini beach. Over the next hour, we laid a sleeping bag out to sit on and used the other as a blanket. We set up our tripods and cameras and adjusted the settings. We cooked ramen and grilled cheese on a tiny grill, and we reveled in how perfect the night was…


Andrew setting up camp


This is my dream


A little while later, we noticed something in a faded green color that started to dance across the sky. There they were; the Northern Lights. So unique and completely mesmerizing. They were perfectly imperfect. We snapped 100s of photos of the Northern Lights, the glowing red of Bardarbunga, the volcano erupting at that time in Iceland, and the stars. So many stars. Living in DC, we don’t get a lot of chances to watch the stars. Sure, we still see some here and there, but it’s nothing like being out in the middle of nowhere. We took as many pictures as we could and just soaked up the sights and sounds. It was absolutely beautiful and the perfect night.


The Northern lights, Bardarbunga (red glow of an active volcano), and the stars


So many stars


Dancing lights across the sky


When we eventually grew too cold to stay on our little beach, we packed up and head back up to our car, where we unloaded, crawled into our sleeping bags, and immediately fell asleep. What a perfect day! If you have the time, make sure you get out to Jokulsarlon. It is definitely worth the drive. There is no cost to “enter” and take pictures. They do run boat tours if you are interested in going out into the middle of the lagoon, but honestly it’s not necessary. There are a ton of vantage points to take pictures from or to just sit back and relax. I highly recommend that you venture beyond the main parking lot. Hike on up one of the hills and down the other side; you will be all alone and so happy that you did it!

The view from our secluded beach

The view from our secluded beach

Categories: Iceland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arnarfjordur Pool and Hot Spring: Westfjords, Iceland

So far, I’ve posted about two other hot springs and pools in Iceland. One in Snaefellsnes and one in the Southeastern Westfjords. Today’s post is about a pool and hot spring in the southwest Westfjords region. We happened upon it completely by accident. We were simply making our way from Snaefellsnes peninsula, up and around the Westfjords before moving on into central Iceland. The Westfjords are simply gorgeous. never ending coastline and deep curves of land with rivers and tributaries and deltas. It’s a water-person’s dream. I took so many pictures! Anyway, towards the beginning of our journey around the Westfjords, we hit a bend in the road with water to our left and a few small buildings to our right; imagine our delight when we saw a big swimming pool right next to the road. We just had to pull in and check it out!

Arnarfjord Pool

Arnarfjord Pool

Once we learned that it was a free public swimming pool all was right in the world. It may have looked slightly algae-covered, but it was naturally heated and looked so relaxing. Plus, the sign noted that there was a small natural hot spring up the bank a bit. This spring was what fed the pool, so naturally, the pool was cooler than the spring. Well, we just had to check out both spots and it was completely worth it! The pool and springs were completely free to use and there was a small building next to the pool to change and hang up your clothing. Although we were racing a setting sun and a driving destination for the day, we just could not pass up some time in some geothermal water. Nothing better to relieve aches and pains!

What a fantastic place for a pool!

What a fantastic place for a pool!

Hot spring just up the hill from the pool

Hot spring just up the hill from the pool

As far as how to get here, to be honest, it took us about 30-40 minutes to figure out just where on the map it is when I was typing up this blog post. If you google pools in the Westfjords, one site states that this pool is located Reykjafjordur on the northeastern portion of the Westfjords. While it is located along “Reykjaforjdur”, if you simply type that location into Google Maps, you will be taken to the wrong location. This pool is actually in the southeastern portion of the Westfjords. The best way to find it is to set up directions to the following GPS points (65.623635, -23.473685). This will take you to a point about 100 yards up the street from these pools. Alternatively, you can use the location “Bildudalsvegur” and that should also get you very close to the pools.  Additionally, it’s worth noting that although our experience with pool was swimming in a bit of algae, I have read a multitude of posts and have seen a ton of pictures of the pool algae-free. It could be that because we visited in the more off-season, upkeep on the pool was not at 100%, but either way, I just wanted to be honest. If you have some irrational fear of algae in pools, you may not like this one!

Below is a map with driving directions from Reykjavik. Per usual, I will again note the importance of getting out of Reykjavik to explore more of Iceland. Reykjavik is so awesome, but it is such a small part of Iceland. Rent a car!

Categories: Iceland | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drangsnes Hot Tubs: Drangsnes, Iceland

As I sit on my computer researching National Geographic trips to Antarctica, it dawns on me that I really need to update the blog for all of the trips that we’ve been on… I love writing don’t get me wrong… but, dreaming [sic: drooling] over new adventures and far off places is sooooo much more fun :0). But alas, the next best thing- Hot Tubs that are outdoors, naturally heated, and free. If you haven’t already, check out my post on the Landbrotalaug Hot Pot.

But for today, on to Drangsnes, Iceland and its glorious trio of geothermal hot tubs. First, where is this place? It’s located on the eastern most fjord of the Westfjords region. Yet another reason to get away from Reykjavik. Again, Reykjavik is awesome, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve driven around the Westfjords, slept in a Jeep on the side of the road, lived off baguettes, Icelandic butter, and Brennivin (a vodka-gin taste), and visited Dragsnes. Seriously.

So it’s a good distance from Reykjavik but so so worth it– just for the tubs.

The town of Dragsnes is a thriving metropolis of 67 people (according to the 2011 census and wikipedia). It’s located along a curvy cliff. It’s a sleepy little town with not much else to boast (besides a great view of the water and their tubs). When you enter Drangsnes, you almost immediately see a light post on the left side of the road with the all too familiar sign indicating a public pool or hot tub (a drawing of a person’s head, some waves, and a thermometer if it’s heated).  There are two small white buildings and a little gravel parking area in front of them. Again, we lucked out and there was no one else around when we arrived. We pulled in and read the sign hanging on one of the buildings.

Parking, Showers, Pool Sign in Drangsnes, Iceland

Parking, Showers, Pool Sign in Drangsnes, Iceland

We pulled in and read the sign that was hanging by the hot tubs.

Drangsnes, Iceland Public Hot Tub Sign

Drangsnes, Iceland Public Hot Tub Sign

So, we hopped into the bathroom/shower combos (the two white buildings), took our showers, dawned our suits, and headed across the road to the tubs. There are three of them: three different temperatures. There are benches by them as well as trash cans. It would be an absolutely perfect place to spend the whole day, the whole night, heck, you’re whole life.


Drangsnes Hot Tubs, Iceland


Drangsnes Hot Tubs, Iceland


If you’d like to read more about the tubs, check out Atlas Obscura. I’ve pointed to this site on other posts as well– if you haven’t checked it out, please do. It’s fantastical. It’s made up of a number of off the beaten path/wanky/completely absurd/one-of-a-kind spots all over the world. We’ve found quite a few spots through that site on our travels… every one was worth it for the story :0).

Until next time, stay warm friends.

Drangsnes, Iceland (Pop. 67)

Drangsnes, Iceland (Pop. 67)




Categories: Iceland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Landbrotalaug Hot Pot: Hidden in Snaefellsnes, Iceland

I know I know. I’m way behind on so many posts and so many stories and so many pictures. I’m just going to jump around. One of Andrew’s parents’ friends (I know, irrelevant) is heading to Iceland in a few weeks so they asked us if we had any recommendations on where to go. My response— all the recommendations! Seriously, Iceland is up there as one of the best trips I’ve been on… I can’t wait to go back. Today’s story is about Landbrotalaug. This is a hot pot that is in a random field by a little pond behind an abandoned farm that I happened to find when googling “natural hot pots in Snaefellsnes.” Seriously, that’s how I find most of my cool spots… that and Atlas Obscura. If you haven’t checked out that website yet, do it. It’s awesome. Anyway, I digress.

First, geography. Snaefellsnes is the peninsula north of Reykjavik.  By car, it’s about 2 hours to the center of Snaefellsnes Peninsula. To the hot pot, it’s probably more like an hour. Rent a car if you go to Iceland. Don’t stay in Reykjavik. See the country. It’s beautiful. It’s remote. It’s beautifully remote.

Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes takes about 2 hours.

Reykjavik to Snaefellsnes takes about 2 hours.

So, the great thing about Landbrotalaug Hot Pot is that I found a website that has the GPS coordinates posted (GPS: N64°49.933 W22°19.110). The not so great thing is that I didn’t find those GPS points until after we got back to the states. Oh well, the thrill of the hunt made it totally worth it. Basically, if you are driving from Reykjavik towards Snaefellsnes, you will pass Eldborg Crater (on your left). There is literally one main road, so you won’t get lost. After you’ve passed the crater, you’ll see an abandoned farm house up on a hill (Skalg). There’s a road/driveway right before Skalg. Turn left onto that road. You’ll follow the road up and around, past the farm and back into the middle of a field. Once you get a few minutes back into the middle of nowhere, you will see a small sign indicating “Heit Laug Hot Spring”. If you’re lucky, you will be the only car there. Go ahead and park and walk on out to the small pond.

Hot Pot Sign

Hot Pot Sign

There are two “hot pots” at the pond. Both are on the other side of the pond, so you will either have to walk all the way around or across. One of the hot pots is fed by a pipe where warm water shoots down into a very shallow but larger pool. You could probably cram a bunch of people in there but you wouldn’t be very covered. If you look towards one end of the pond, you will see a few rocks that look like a makeshift walkway across the pond. If you follow the rocks with your eyes, you’ll see a makeshift rock wall. Behind that rock wall is the mother-load hot pot. It’s small and can just fit two people (maybe 3 if you push it). It’s deeper though and you will be in water up to your neck. It’s also the warmer of the two hot pots here.

Large and Shallow Hot Pot

Large and Shallow Hot Pot

Please take caution when crossing the pond. The rock walkway is slippery and moss covered, so you could easily slip and cut yourself. Walking around is probably smarter… but not as much fun :0). Enjoy the hot pot. We were lucky in that no one was there when we were hanging out. In fact, no one showed up until we were leaving. I also read somewhere that this is a great spot to watch the northern lights with a cold beer. We did not stick around for that (we arrived earlier in the day and had big plans for the day). More on our epic northern lights spotting locations later.

The rocks are dangerous!

The rocks are dangerous!


Rock Wall Hiding the Hot Pot


The Most Awesome Hot Pot


Enjoy the hotpot and the fact that you’re in the middle of nowhere behind an abandoned farm. Awesome. Don’t worry if you can’t find this hot pot or you don’t have time to go to Snaefellsnes, there are plenty more fish in the sea!

Until next time, a toast to cold beers, warm waters, and remote locations!

Categories: Iceland | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

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