PHOTO GALLERY: A Walk on the Ice(land) Side

For many tourists, Greenland is the add-on to Iceland because they see the combination tour advertised in their travel agent’s portfolio or something. But for me, it is the opposite! Iceland is the “add-on” or “necessary evil” in order to get to Greenland.

Coming from Washington DC, the most direct way for me to get to Greenland is through Keflavik, (Reykjavik, Iceland’s international airport). From there, I have choices for how to get to Greenland, and where. Depending on the time of year, I can fly direct Keflavik to Nuuk, Keflavik to Narsarsuaq, Reykjavik to Nuuk, Reykjavik to Ilulissat, Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq, or Reykjavik to Kulusuk.

Long story short, Iceland is in my life because Greenland is in my life. Thanks to this, I am currently on my 9th visit to Reykjavik. 7 out of 9 times I just spend some hours or one weekday night, so I stay within the city limits and just sightsee and eat good food.

But this time I have 3 weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and a bit more freedom! So I bought the Reykjavik Excursions tour called “A Walk on the Ice Side”. Reykjavik Excursions provided the bus transportation, and Icelandic Mountain Guides provided the guiding on the glacier. We walked on Sólheimajökull Glacier and we stopped very briefly (like 15 minutes) at two waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

Here are some of my pictures:

Toward Sólheimajökull GlacierIMG_6160

Sun over Sólheimajökull Glacier (white in the foreground and blue in the middle-ground are the glacier; dark in the background is land).P1020596

Guide, Ana, teaching proper positioning to peer down into a glacial moulin.IMG_6168

More guiding. It is snow weather now!P1020586

Cool tunnel on the glacier. Formed by gallons upon gallons of melt water rushing through here. Hard to imagine, huh?P1020610

Inside the tunnel. Not quite tall enough to stand in. Approximately 1.5 meters (4 feet) high.P1020612

A crevasse in the glacier. Looks a bit like a Georgia O’Keefe painting if you ask me!P1020577

We were in the shadows (or snow weather) most of the day, so this sun was a welcome sight!P1020597

Measurement equipment. This device reveals that Sólheimajökull Glacier depressed (melted downward) 8 meters (26 feet) since May 2013 (6 months time). For more information about glacial retreat, especially on THIS VERY GLACIER, see the movie Chasing Ice!P1020601

It is getting late in the day. P1020603

Between the many certified guides and this Search and Rescue Team practicing drills, there was a lot of safety on the glacier!P1020581

On the way out, we passed another group doing ice climbing with belayers.   P1020627


Seljalandsfoss – neat because you can walk behind the fall P1020649

Now the practical info… (Keep in mind that the date is 17 November.)

What clothing did I wear?
– Thermal pants
– Heavyweight dry-fit thermal shirt
– Water resistant pants
– Fleece layer
– Down jacket
– Breathable wool socks
– Waterproof hiking boots
– Wool hat
– Glove liners w/ touchscreen finger tips
– Gloves

What extra clothing/accessories did I have in my daypack?
– Extra socks
– Wool sweater
– Extra dry-fit shirt
– Waterproof rain pants
– Waterproof rain jacket

Did I need these extra items?
Regardless of whether I needed the extra items or not, it is always better to be prepared! So if you’re reading this, still bring the items!

I did break out the waterproof pants and jacket when we visited the waterfalls, but that was to protect against fierce spray! On the glacier, I did not need these items. And I was plenty warm with my layers, so the extra shirt and wool stayed in my pack.

What other items did I have in my daypack?
– Lunch (ham&cheese sandwich, piece of fruit, chocolate bar, juice)
– Plenty of water
– Sunglasses (see Tips below)
– Sunscreen (see Tips below)
– Camera, extra memory card(s), etc. (See Tips below)
– Pen & paper
– Lip balm

Last but not least… Don’t forget your adrenaline and sense of adventure !!!

Other tips/info:
– It sounds counterintuitive to need sunglasses and sun cream during the Arctic autumn/winter, but the sun does rise all year round in Iceland. And it’s reflection off the snow can be powerful! Do yourself a favor and protect your eyes and skin.

– If I can recommend one single item to splurge on, it is quality boots. Of course, you must consider your budget, how many times you will use them, etc. but in general, DO NOT skimp on footwear. Get something that is tall/supportive for the ankle, waterproof, and warm. Nothing is more uncomfortable than cold toes, but it is also a safety risk. If you can’t feel your feet, you could take missteps and injure yourself. Today, all the guides were wearing Scarpa boots.

– Colder temperatures can typically affect the performance of electronics, so keep them as close to your body as possible to help extend their life! For example, on this tour my iPhone 4S turned off with 16% battery remaining. And in Greenland in March, my SD card completely froze.

– RE always does a communal pickup at the hotels, takes you to their home base – BSÍ Terminal, and from there you meet your exact tour group. Look for the name of the tour in the front window of the bus.

– The bus ride to the starting point of this tour (and probably others) is quite long (2 hours). There was no guiding or information during transport on this tour, so you may want to bring reading material, music, etc. for the ride to and fro.