We checked out of Fosshotel Reykjavik, and stared down a roughly 250-mile road trip to the southeastern part of the island. We were traveling so far east because we wanted to experience Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and Diamond Beach. But also, because we wanted to hike on the Vatnajökull glacier. We wanted to see up close, and stamp our feet into ice that could very well be a thousand years old or more.

Admittedly, I was exhausted, and hungry. I wasn’t looking forward to spending another full day driving, jumping in and out of the van to see sights, and skipping meals because there simply wasn’t enough time to eat. My legs ached from all the walking we had done during the previous three days. The hikes to Brúarfoss and the Iceland plane wreckage left their mark. But this is traveling. This is adventure. This trip was testing me in ways I wanted to be tested, proving to myself that I still had a life of my own. So, I sucked it up, knowing that I would be happy and proud I did, later. That I would be creating memories to last a lifetime.

Iceland
Iceland
After fueling up we hit the same stretch of road we had covered the day before, only this time we were going much further east. There were many small stops along the way to the Hali Country Hotel, our ultimate destination. Breathtaking scenery was at every turn, Icelandic sheep and horses were everywhere. We stopped to see a beautiful house and barn nestled at the foot of a snow-topped mountain, a lonely church in the town of Vik, a moss-covered lava field, and, of course, there were more waterfalls.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

When the sun began to fall, and we were still ways away from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, the two main attractions, a tension was felt throughout our van. Everyone was a little on edge, and our attempts at hurrying were futile. The one lane bridges held us back.

As it turned out though, luck was on our side, as it had been for most of the trip. We arrived at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon before the sun was down, threw the van in park, and eagerly piled out. We walked up a small black hill and down below was the most beautiful sight any of us had ever seen: a monumental glacier feeding a silvery blue body of water. Large chunks of ice were calving off the glacier into the water. Icebergs were drifting through the lagoon, into a channel, and out to sea. The sounds of the ice cracking put us over the top.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

“This is AMAZING!” is all I heard behind me as I ventured off to explore. The booming voice, coming from one of my travel companions at the top of the hill, echoed and radiated throughout the valley. A few minutes later, another travel companion caught up to me and we took photographs holding pieces of ice that had washed ashore.

“That was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” I said to no one in particular when we were all back in the van.

“Sam, you do realize you have said that at every place we have been, right?” someone replied.

Diamond Beach, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs calf off the glacier, float through the lagoon, and into a channel that opens to the ocean. Strong winds and changing tides then wash the large chunks of ice onto the black sands of the beaches nearby.

It was a short distance to Diamond Beach. When we arrived, we were greeted by a devastating view of large and small diamonds of ice embedded into the fine black sand. By this time, the sun was nearly set, and a fog was drifting in.

Diamond Beach, Iceland
When we left Diamond Beach, it was only a short distance to Hali Country Hotel. After unpacking, we went straight for the dining hall. We sat around a table trading stories as we ate the most luxurious meal of the trip – bread, salad, lamb soup, lamb balls with potatoes and pumpernickel. Iceland was proving to be the trip of a lifetime. With one day left, a hike on a glacier, we were all looking forward to a good night’s sleep.