Back in July of this year, I drunkenly purchased a round trip ticket to Iceland for the first week of December. This was right after telling my friend I didn't have enough money to join his brewery's mug club. Yes, the plane ticket was more expensive than a year of mug club. I still joined a few months later, but that's a different story.
This story is about the trip, primarily the first few days when it was just me, my rental car, camera, and my Spotify account.
I primarily booked this trip so I could chase aurora borealis. And wouldn't you know it, it was cloudy every night I had my car. The best showing of lights that I got was on the plane ride in to Keflavik. And the sky danced for us in this beautiful showing. These pictures are just blurry cell phone pictures, but it is what it is.
The first day of this road adventure was an absolute whirlwind. The morning started at 8AM - in pitch black - picking up my rental and beginning my journey towards Vik. There were MULTIPLE stops along the way that I desperately wanted to see. But, in Iceland, there are no signs giving you warning ahead of time that you're coming upon a landmark or area to stop and sight see. That meant I did a LOT of turning around and driving back the opposite direction because I had missed something that wasn't on my official plan.
The first couple of stops were Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, and this little ancient cave that I did a u-turn to visit.
From there, the journey continued on towards Vik. First stopping at Reynisfjara Beach and then backtracking 25 minutes because I missed this really cool, less popular, spot - Dyrhólaey. Reynisfjara is terrifying. The sound of the ocean is guttural and the waves can end your life in an instant. But, it's also the second filming location from Game of Thrones that I stopped at that day. So that's cool. I've now been to two places that Jon Snow has been to.
One of the coolest things about Iceland in the winter is that the sun doesn't really get much higher than the horizon. That means it's ALWAYS golden hour and every photo is lit beautifully. With so much of my day being spent photographing sights that throw a ton of mist both my camera and I were soaked. After leaving Dyrhólaey, it was finally time to head to Vik and settle in. Vik's a quiet little village, but it had a great brewery in it. Also, the sunsets are breathtaking.
The following morning the plan was to head straight to Flúðir to go eat lunch at Friðheimar, a greenhouse where the entire menu is tomato based. The way to Flúðir involves backtracking the way I came, so I made one pit-stop at Skogafoss again. This time, it was right as the sun was cresting the horizon and there was no one else there. I got to soak it all in and capture one of my favorite photos of the trip.
After this, it was time to make my way to my next two destinations - Geysir and Gulfoss.
After doing some sightseeing, it was time - finally after months of anticipation - to head to Friðheimar. They produce 40% of Iceland's tomatoes and 20% of its overall produce. And you go there to eat tomato soup. It's all you can eat. I had three bowls, a tomato beer, and tomato cheesecake. Plus - tiny horses.
After this, I decided to head to the hotel and call it a day because the roads started getting SUPER sketchy. Basically sheets of ice. So I settled in for a long evening, chatted with some other tourists, and had a spot of clear skies. There was the faintest of light shows.
The next morning was another super early one. But, it was the start of my favorite adventure of the weekend - snorkeling the Silfra fissure at Þingvellir National Park, once Iceland's political capital - now a UNESCO world heritage site. The Silfra fissure is where the North American and European continental plates meet and they're slowly drifting apart. Snorkeling here was an experience, as you're snorkeling in glacial water looking into a cathedral with a different continent on each side of you. The following photos were taken by our tour guide with a GoPro.
Getting out of this water felt like coming out of a cold shower and walking into a sauna. So, I decided to explore the park a little bit and see the former location of the Prime Minister's home and learn about the history of the park and how it was the political center of Iceland.
And on to Kirkjufell and the Snaefellsnes Penninsula. But first, a lesson. When planning you driving in Iceland gas stations are VERY skant on a journey. Plan where you're going to get gas during your drive so you don't red-line like I did.
Kirkjufell was a sight to behold, and now the fourth Game of Thrones filming location I've visited.
My last stop in the Snaefellsnes, before beginning the long drive to return my rental, was the Budir Black Church. This place was swarming with "influencers" taking eighty photos of themselves in front of the Church. So, I snuck a couple pictures, read up on the place, and bailed.
The rest of the trip was a bit more mellow, enjoying the sights of Reykjavik without my camera, spending time at the Sky Lagoon and Secret Lagoon, visiting museums, and getting my arm stabbed repeatedly to commemorate the trip.
Already scheming on my next trip there to see some Puffins and the country in the summer. And maybe one last trip to exclusively chase the Northern Lights.