My husband and I started to plan a trip to Iceland June 2018. Our plan was to navigate Iceland’s legendary and scenic “Ring Road” and the magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We did our research and in the early morning of October 2nd, 2018, we landed in Keflavík, Iceland.
The clear dark sky, and the cold wind hitting our faces gave us a sense that we were definitely in the far north. We got our rental, a small Kia, packed our luggage and camera equipment in the small trunk and headed toward Reykjavik, for a good place to have coffee and breakfast.
Our first day was to simply get oriented with our new surroundings; visit a few « must see attractions » in and around Reykjavik. Our GPS on our phone was proving to be dependable, reassuring us that we will find our booked hotels, gas stations and restaurants easily as we travelled around Iceland.
After breakfast, we spent the day touring Reykjavik and the northern part of Pingvellir National Park. Some of the places that we got to photograph were the famous churches, Hllgrimskirkja in Reykjavik and Thingvellir in the National Park. We also got to photograph Oxarafoss Falls that is very close to Thingvellir. This was also the site of the first parliament of Iceland dating back to the 10th century.
Hallgrimskirkia Church, Reykjavik Iceland Thingvellir Church in Pingvellir National Park Oxararfoss, Pingvellir National Park
On October 3rd, we start to navigate around the island. Our first stop was the Golden Circle where we found the Geysir geothermal; a rare phenomenon located 116 kilometers from Reykjavik. This was our first glimpse of how important and successful tourism is to Iceland. Finding a spot to put my tripod and camera where I would have limited number of tourists in the picture was not evident; however, the Geysirs did not disappoint, a successful photo shoot indeed.
The Great Geysir
In the same area we ventured in the rain and sleet to the Gullfoss Falls. Gullfoss is one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland. My spirits were crushed because I was unable to capture the size, force and beauty of these grandiose falls due to bad weather. I decided then and there that we would be returning at a later date. In fact, I cancelled our trip to the Blue Lagoon that had been previously scheduled for one of the last two days in Iceland, opting instead to return to these falls for a second photo opportunity.
Gullfoss Falls Selijalandsfoss Falls Skógafoss Falls
As you travel south on route 1 you begin to notice that you see less and less tourists. The opportunities to photograph the flat natural environment, lighthouses, barns, ocean waves, rivers, ponies and sheep with little interference of tourists are endless. What should have taken us two to three hours to drive to our next destination is taking full days, as the urge to stop and take photographs of these magnificent sceneries is overwhelming.
You always have things that if you could “redo” you would. Well the one thing that we would do differently is rent a Jeep. As you travel further east you begin to see signs that say, “Studded Tires” next 250 kilometers, remember we had a small Kia. When we got to Egilsstadir, we quickly understood why we should have studded tires. The next 400 kilometers were nail biting to say the least. However, it did not stop us from enjoying the beauty Iceland’s landscape had to offer. Each kilometer brought more exuberant vistas that I could not stop photographing.
We travelled form Egilsstadir to Akureyri at an average speed of 40 kilometer per hour. The snow, the sleet and the rain tested our nerves to say the least. Coming from Canada, we should have known that there was the possibility of snowstorms in October. Before arriving at Akureyri we stopped at the Godafoss Falls. This falls is easily accessible from the road and depending on the time of the year you visit could be a little busy.
Godafoss Falls, Iceland
Akureyri the second largest city in Iceland with a population of 18,860 and it is just as beautiful as Reykjavik, if not more beautiful. It is an important port and fishing center for Iceland. It is surrounded by mountains but because of the fjord, Pollurinn, (the pool) it is known for calm winds and a good natural harbor. In the center of the town there is this beautiful church that is illuminated at night with a beautiful red color. We only got to stay one night but would definitely stay at least two nights the next time we travel to the area.
In and around Akureyri, Iceland
The next day, early in the morning we are heading toward Snaefellsnes Peninsula, to a town call Grundarfjordur. This part of the country was my favourite, so magical; it is where we got to experience our first Northern Lights. Grundarfjordur is a small town, situated north of the Snaefellsness Peninsula. The famous mountain Kirkjufell is located there and it is one of the most photograph mountains in Iceland. We stayed two nights to give us a chance to visit the Snaefellsnes National Park and hopefully capture the Northern Lights. This area is known for its beautiful and dramatic landscapes and lava fields.
As you drive round the peninsula, you come across this “little black church” Budir Church located in Budakirkja. This church is well known to photographers for good reasons. It is beautifully sitting in a field without any other building near it. It is located in the rough nature of Iceland where the black color makes a beautiful contrast to the often-cloudy sky and the snow-covered mountains in the background.
Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss, Grundarfjordur, Iceland - Tiny Black Church
The evening is upon us and the big decision is where to set the camera and tripod in order to capture the Northern Lights. We decided that we would focus on Kirkjufell, the famous mountain. The evening sky cleared and we started to see the Aurora Borealis right in front of us as if they were dancing in mid air. Green is the most common color but I was able capture a bit of the purple waves. To the naked eye, you can see them In shades of gray and white. The DSLR camera sensors don’t have that limitation. We were successful both nights in seeing the Northern Lights.
My husband and I would strongly recommend each and every one of you, if you have a chance to visit Iceland in search of the Northern Lights and its beautiful landscapes to go. You will not be disappointed.
All photography ©Stella d'Entremont