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Vatnajökull Glacier

Within the territory of Vatnajokull Glacier there are three major active volcanoes. Among those is Öræfajökull the highest mountain in Iceland. Around 30 outlet glaciers or glacier tongues stretch out from the main ice cap. Then there is also the most amazing glacier lagoon in Iceland Jökulsárlón.  The Vatnajokull national park is also the largest national park in Iceland stretching from Skaftafell in the south, across the glacier and all along the banks of Lagarfljót River flowing from the glacier to the northern coastline. 

Vatnajökull has been featured in various films such as James Bond both A View To A Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, as well as Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Also the tv series Game of Thrones where it was used as a backdrop for various scenes. This has of course boosted tourism in the area and there are various tours and services offered here. Among those the Glacier Lagoon is probably the most popular. 

Distant view of a glacier tongue of the glacier Vatnajökull
Distant view of a glacier tongue of the glacier Vatnajökull

The Glacier Lagoon Jökulsárlón is a highlight in the Vatnajökull National Park. The lagoon has been forming in the last 75 years or so since the glacier started receding from the coastline exposing what is essentially a fiord cutting into the land and is now regarded as one of the largest lakes or fiords in Iceland depending on definition. It has a depth of over 240 meters and is around 18 km2, the outlet is a short river leading straight out into the North Atlantic. At the estuary is the Diamond beach thus named do to the clear icebergs usually stranded in the black sand, it has become a special side attraction and a must stop when visiting the lagoon. There is quite a bit of wildlife here including large nesting grounds of the arctic tern which is the farthest flying migrating bird in the world, nesting in Iceland and then flying all the way to Antarctica around ten thousand miles to the south. Also the arctic skua nests in the sand here and during nesting season it is wise not to disturb them since their attack has been described to be like that of a B-52 bomber. Seals regularly swim into the lagoon chasing the various fish coming from the sea into the sweetwater.

Iceland´s highest peak lies roughly between Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell National Park reaching a height of 2010,9 meters. This it is also a volcano whose eruptions in the past have been absolutely devastating and when the next one starts it will easily take out a large portion of the ring road and it is estimated that another volcanic eruption in 1362  wiped out anywhere between 20 and 40 farms in the area. The readings from seismic activity in the past few years suggest that the volcano might be stirring, but volcanologists are saying that an eruption should not be imminent for decades even centuries.

Vatnajökull Glacier is popular for super jeep tours and there are a few destinations along known routes on the glacier itself. There are also hiking tours offered from a few locations and ice caving has become more and more popular in the last few years. All these should be under strict surveillance since the glacier can change quickly and crevasses form without warning.

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