Iceland is one of those countries that has always attracted my attention. It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. So, some friends and I decided to go there, a group of 4 photographers/videographers, and started the journey on March 2019 to see what this island is all about. We’ll try to take you with us in this very article, so pack your imagination and hop on.
Our journey begins a cold night at the Keflavik airport. After getting our rental car we hit the road for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Three hours later, in pitch-black conditions, we check into our guesthouse and rush outside to see and photograph the northern lights.
We had no luck, the aurora activity was too low, but we still managed to enjoy our time in the cold. In the morning we opened the window and saw the alpic landscape for the very first time. Amazed as we were, we started our road trip early and begun our exploration, engaging with stunning scenery, beautiful horses and unique architecture. Some of the places we visited were Kirkjufell, Budir Church and Lóndrangar.
Having done all that,the night fell and found us at our hostel in Reykjavik. We did not spend any time in the city since the next morning we had to wake up early and explore the southern part of the island.
Perhaps you already wonder why I’ve not mentioned any interaction with the locals yet. That is because, basically, there were none. If you ever go there yourself, you’ll see more Chinese tourists than locals. It really is unbelievable; when it comes to Iceland, it’s basically you and the land itself.
Luckily, it was four of us that had engaged in this daring expedition. So, the morning light found us in the car, enjoying good music mildly destroyed by our terrible singing skills. The first stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Walking behind this waterfall was something to remember. We kept getting sprayed with water for so long, we decided one could call this almost… a breakfast.
Up next was the great Skógafoss. It’s hard to grasp how huge this waterfall is, and how mesmerizing is the water falling from the hill. And as if this place wasn’t blessed enough, there was this rainbow formed by all the drops dancing in the atmosphere. Hitting the road again we realized that, in this country, you can experience all four seasons in about an hour; suddenly it started snowing heavily and the landscape around us completely changed, but that didn’t stop us. Arriving at the Reynisfjara black sand beach in Vik, we started scouting all over the place in search of unique compositions.
Not as good an idea as it sounds, for the hail was so hard that our exposed body parts were literally hurting. Then we had an epiphany “ Let’s drift the car around the beach!”, and so we did (please don’t tell that to our car rental company). Everyone was hyped, the drone footage looked unreal and the weather was calming down, but that didn’t last for long.While driving over a big puddle, we heard a cracking sound under the car. A big protective part from the front of our jeep broke and fell apart… We decided to call it a day and headed back to our guesthouse.
The next morning we woke up super-early, before even the sun rose. There was a lot to do; our mission was to find a plane wreck from the 1970’s. Following the signed path, we reached this peculiar, yet impressive, sight. The fresh snow on the black soil, combined with this one of a kind attraction, made for one of the most unique mornings we’ve ever had.
Who would have thought that a US Navy plane wreck would turn into an important landmark and essential part of the travelers’ itinerary. Then, we continued our road trip to the Vatnajökull glacier, but not before grabbing a quick bite at the nearest supermarket . Allow me to take this chance and talk a little bit about our Icelandic diet. What did we eat during our stay? Well, the menu consisted of cookies, spaghetti and… spaghetti. The prices there are eye-wateringly high. If you’re planning to visit Iceland and you’re on a tight budget, then your options are limited. If not, expect to pay 3-5 times more the price you’re used to.
Moving on with our story though, after enjoying the Icelandic nature from the car, we arrived to a rather unprecedented landscape. A HUGE area of ice unveiled in front of us, reaching as far as the eye could see. Luckily we had booked a tour and we were able to hike on this glacier. During the tour, the guide informed us that Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe and reaches up to 1000 meters deep into the earth. We even had the opportunity to get into an ice cave. When inside, you couldn’t help but marvel at the deep blue tones of the interior, formed by the thousand-year-old ice. Finishing the hike by sunset, we saw that the sky was clear and maybe that day would be our chance to observe the northern lights. We got back into our car and started heading to our guesthouse.
As the light was fading and the night was greeting us, we noticed a pale green line in the sky. It was getting darker and darker, and the line was inviting her friends over, until the whole sky was covered in green and sporadically purple curtain-like lines. It is the best, most amazing thing I‘ve ever witnessed. We were literally screaming in astonishment, and we obviously ended up spending the whole night watching the show while sharing a bottle of smoked rum.
After a good night’s sleep, we got on the road with direction to the capital, stopping wherever the landscape caught our eye as particularly interesting. A noteworthy stop was a sheep and horse farm. Trust me, the Icelandic horses are so pretty that look like they just got a haircut. Remember when I told you that we broke a part of our rental car? Well, we tried to fake crashing with a rock on the street in order to avoid the penalty (because our insurance company didn’t cover damages that happened off-road), but since we had no luck with that (*spoiler alert*), we ended up paying a fine. Tired as we were, we got back to our hostel and slept in. In the morning there was time just for a short visit in Reykjavik and then we had to return to the airport. Our time in this extraordinary island was over, but the memories and experiences will stay with us forever.
- Rent a 4×4 car if visiting in winter, you ‘ll need it.
- Expect all kinds of weather, so pack accordingly.
- Don’t book only one place for the whole trip to stay, choose several guesthouses along your road trip, or you will end up driving all day.
- Make a plan of places to visit, but don’t be afraid to break it. Our best experiences weren’t planned at all.
- Enjoy and appreciate where you are, you‘ll miss it.