Iceland: Morsarlon Glacial Lake & The Northern Lights

Because the sunrise was so late in the morning (~8am), it would take quite a few hours before we knew whether or not we were going to have beautiful weather. Fortunately, the sun cracked the horizon and exposed a crystal blue sky for our last full day in Iceland. It was time to go hiking!

We headed into Vatnajokull National Park and focused our attention on the portion known as Skaftafell. After a quick trip to the miniscule visitor center, we decided to forgo the traditional hikes and focused on the 20km round-trip hike to the Morsarlon glacial lake. Will had seen photos in various books and was really hoping to spy more scenery like we had found the day before at Jokulsarlon. As for me? I just wanted to go hiking and knew it would be incredible regardless of where we went!

We parked our Golf at the deserted trailhead and immediately noticed this bizarre sight:

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What in the world?!

We began hiking across the black volcanic sand and initially, I thought it was so cool. The trail was completely flat and truly unique; you definitely don’t hike in that type of terrain in Colorado! It almost felt like we were walking on the moon, and I enjoyed it for a bit, despite the 30mph wind gusts. However, after 90 minutes of this same flat, relentless and semi-boring terrain, I was starting to question our decision. Was there ever going to be anything on this trail besides sand?!

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We kept trudging along, battling the absurd headwind by making jokes about how no one would ever find us if we died out there. {Sick sense of humor, I know!} We couldn’t help it; we were in the middle of nowhere and there was absolutely no one else on this trail!

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Finally, I did a little jig of enjoyment: the trail took a hard right, headed up a hillside and straight towards a spectacular vista of mountains, snow and water. We had conquered the volcanic wasteland!

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Ironically, the “extreme” portion of the hike had just begun, but at the time, I was psyched just to be off the volcanic sand. However, I quickly realized I was in for some spills: the entire trail was a frozen ribbon of ice that was insanely slippery! Of course, Will managed to navigate the slick footing like a champ, but I felt like a newborn deer with all sorts of awkward limbs. I can’t even tell you guys how many times I ate it on the ice, and Will heard my curse words echo up through the shrubs even when he couldn’t see me. Oops!

This little step-slide-grab a tree branch-slide-step pattern continued for another hour or so until we crested the final ridge and took in the view of Morsarlon lake:

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Was it as stunning as Jokulsarlon the day before? Not in the slightest and Will was kind of kicking himself for not choosing a different trail. I didn’t mind though, and the scenery was still absolutely beautiful. The wind was still horrific though, so we ate a snack, snagged some photos, and began the long trek back to the car!

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Know what else happened that night? WE GOT TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! This has been on my bucket list for years and I continually checked the sky during our hike to clarify that there weren’t any clouds blowing in. Once nightfall passed, we knew it was prime viewing for the aurora borealis. Unfortunately, we were an hour from our hotel and didn’t want to head back since that area was socked in with heavy clouds, so we got creative: we drove our rental car down a dirt road, parked it, and stared at the sky, hoping we’d see something happen. We barely had to wait 20 minutes before the first flickers of color began to spread across the sky.

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I can’t even tell you guys how excited I was too see this natural light show! The green continued to shoot across the sky and I just stared, absolutely mesmerized. It was so beautiful and the absolutely perfect way to cap off the end of our trip.

{And just for good measure, I wanted to show you guys this photo of some turf houses we saw on our drive back to the airport the following morning. I was so obsessed with the turf roofs and made Will pull over every time we saw one on the side of the road.}

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If you could pick your #1 bucket list item right now, what would it be?

9 Comments

  • Reply Christy@ My Dirt Road Anthem at

    those turf houses are cool! I want to see them. My bucket list hmm, I think number one would get me to Ireland.

  • Reply Carla at

    GO TO BALI.
    STAT.

  • Reply Kate at

    Amazing pic of the Northern Lights! Someday I will see them too! 🙂

  • Reply Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie at

    The Northern Lights look beautiful!

  • Reply Katie at

    WOW!!! Those pictures are amazing! What a great hike!

  • Reply Krysten (@darwinianfail) at

    These pictures are AMAZING!!! So jealous of your travels!

  • Reply Kayla @ kpLOVINGit at

    OMG, that house looks crazy!! Like the straw house from the 3 little pigs story.

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf at

    The Northern Lights!! So glad that you got to see them! Right now, my #1 bucket list item is to go to New Zealand.

  • Reply Alyssa at

    So cool that he included one of your bucket list items after the proposal! I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids in Egypt, I think that would be cool!

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