This 1000 year old glacial tongue is the classic glacier. With caves and crevasses and a magical blue colour it is a favourite in Iceland for filming including Game of Thrones ‘North of the Wall’ in season 2 and Batman Begins. It is a tongue from the massive Vatnajökull Ice Cap, a large area covering 14% of Iceland and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you leave Ring Road 1 behind and bump along the track, Svínafell - pig mountain can be seen. This mountain gives the glacier part of its name - Svína is Icelandic for pig, fell is Icelandic for mountain and jökull means glacier. Joined together Svínafellsjökull describes all of the elements of the glaciers location.
At the end of the road the lagoon is bright against an angry sky. A rainbow appears as heavy black clouds fill the sky. The stormy sunlight reflects off the huge pieces of ice that break away from the front edge of the glacier, their cold blue shimmering surfaces reflecting in the sunlight. The water of the lagoon is a muddy brown caused by the ash within the ice dissolving into the water as the ice melts. A stark murky contrast to the vibrant blues of the ice.
And “yes” that rain did arrive!
Svínafellsjökull Glacier Lagoon is best visited in the morning. The sun will be behind you reflecting the light off the ice and enhancing the colours. The ice can be seen just a short, flat walk from the parking space on a clearly marked path. This continues uphill to the left of the parking and from here you can see the glacier extending into the distance.
The glacier is ridged with deep crevasse between each ridge of ice. When viewed from the side at the lagoon or along the path this gives a jumbled appearance to the layers of ice. The only way to show the length of the ridges is to be taken onto the glacier as part of a tour.
The ice is large here and detailed photographs really show the ash and debris layers through the passing of time. The viewing point is close to the edge of the lagoon and so without needing a long lens you can achieve beautiful details within the ice. Focus on the patterns and lines. Every piece of ice is different so it is easy to get lost in a spin of colours.
Getting to Svínafellsjökull
This glacier lagoon is easy to reach from Ring Road 1 and is just a short distance from Skaftafell and just under 150km east of Vík. The small side road away from Route 1 is rough with deep potholes so it needs to be driven slowly with caution. There is a good sized parking space at the start of the trails and the viewing point.
The mountain and glacier are unstable and limited visits staying on marked paths are advised to ensure safety.
This is much quieter than Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Fjallsárlón but worth the detour and pause.