Our children have always been very interested in visiting colder countries; ones with glaciers and snow and ice. Me, not so much. Seriously, why go somewhere colder than where you live, when you could go somewhere warmer? But they are growing up, and we don’t know how many more holidays we will have together as a family, so this year we decided to go for it and booked a week of adventuring in Iceland. In the winter. And what a week it was; we visited hot springs, watched geysers belch out hot water, tasted bread cooked in volcanic mud, drove through epic landscapes and horizontal snow, and visited many, MANY waterfalls (so many waterfalls).
But my favourite day of them all was when we travelled to the eastern-most destination of our trip; Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. We had spent the previous day driving to our guest-house near to the glacier, across vast empty plains that had been repeatedly wiped clean by floods triggered by volcanic eruptions.
The morning of our glacier hike started well as we woke to a stunning sunrise over fresh snow.
The glacier was even colder than the rest of the trip had been. And while we had invested in all the thermal and wool layers, it meant that I really had to be mindful if and when I decided to take a photo with my digital or film cameras, as it would involve removing at least one layer of glove. My iPhone, as a result, did most of the work on this particular day.
Our tour guide explained that the ice caves form under the glacier every year in different locations, as the glacier melts and moves. But they are essentially variations on the same shapes. We hiked to the ice caves wearing crampons and squeezed our way through twisted spirals of ice, looking at the colours of the frozen water above and around us. In one of the caves, water melted from the blue icy roof. In another we looked up to the sky through sharp sculptures of ice. We looked at the way the water froze in layers, forming different shades of blue and even green.
After an exhilarating morning of hiking we headed back to our guest-house, where we spent the afternoon reading and waited for the Northern Lights. There was finally a gap in the cloud coverage and we were treated to a stunning display of aurora which I captured again on my iPhone (this time using the long exposure setting). Cold countries, I have now decided, can have their moments.