Fire and Ice: Our Iceland Experience
Obviously the beauty of Iceland is one of a kind. After seeing many images from the country I knew it was somewhere I needed to visit, it was only a matter of making it happen. The contrasting landscape is simply stunning. I booked a trip with my friend Leanne a few weeks ago and this is what we found, captured and brought back as memories.
We arrived in Reykjavik early our firs day, the sun hadn't even risen. Our car rental experience was flawless in Iceland, they were waiting to shuttle us as soon as we arrived. Lagoon Car rental was our choice. I have heard so many positive things about them from friends that we didn’t look further. We rented a 4 x 4 truck with a camper in the truck bed, knowing we could save some money by camping.
We were already exhausted by the 30+ hours of travel but we had a full day so we drove straight to the highlands before more intimidating weather rolled in. Starting at Lanmanager, I was worried about the road into this area. I’ve heard there are many river crossings and hard to handle terrain. We drove in on the F208 which we were told was the ‘easiest’ and it wasn’t too bad. A small car or 2 wheel drive would have problems but a 4 x 4 high axle handled the road great. There were hundreds of nasty potholes so we took it easy and only one river at the very end which was quite easy to navigate as well.
What a place this was. The colors of the hills were so beautiful, yellows and reds with orange and green moss. It was an incredible spot. Sadly we only had that afternoon before the weather was to turn to snow so we did a short loop on the lava fields. I wanted to climb blue mountain but I was so completely exhausted we decided to try in the morning.
The wind in Iceland is no joke and to be honest, it kept me up most nights as it rocked our vehicle. I remember it being so cold, a wet cold. Leanne and I would stay curled into our sleeping bags on these mornings where the wind was rocking the car and the clouds masking the sky. October weather is not the greatest in Iceland, or maybe it was just our two weeks. I knew we would get rain but we had rain most of the day every day for the entire 12 days. I don’t actually mind the rain it was the wind that was hard to take. The wind was cold and brutal and never let up. It was okay for the first few days and then started to be more difficult to get used to as the week went on.
Sadly the weather was too brutal to continue on in the highlands. Snow wasn't the problem so much as the high winds. We moved on the the ring road to do some of the touristy stops.
We started at Seljalandsfoss. Oh my goodness I have never been to a place with more people. At least five buses were there at 4pm and over 200 people. As a photographer I really struggled to get images without a hundred people in them or a unique perspective. It was like being at Moraine lake at 12pm. The other waterfalls off the road were no better. I really had a tough time with this. They are stunning beautiful stops not to miss however going really early is your best bet. Even at sunrise there were 30-40 people around. Be prepared to be surrounded by tourists, this wasn’t actually tourist season either, so I really wouldn’t want to be around in summer. I think winter or 5 years ago would be the best time to go to these spots, I feel because I am a photographer I struggled. These spots are must see however, and I managed to get some images.
Leanne and I played a lot of cribbage in our camper. With the wind blowing constantly and the light being very flat we probably played over 100 games of cribbage! I really enjoyed this part. I loved making lunch and supper at our stove and hanging out with my friend waiting for better light. We actually never even saw the Northern lights until our 10th night. I’m so glad we did too, because that was something I was really looking forward to. We got extremely lucky actually when we went to Kirkjufell , we were about to go to bed and noticed the clouds had cleared. You could see them dancing in the sky and that's when I told Leanne we needed to go back to the Kirkjufell spot. As soon as we got there, of course us and 50 other photographers (no exaggeration), the lights were dancing behind the mountain. It was simply stunning.
My favorite spot during our trip was probably the Glacier Lagoon. The amount of Ice breaking up and floating away was incredible. I have never seen such a beautiful scene. Then diamond beach was so extraordinary, beautifully polished ice chucks sitting on black beautiful sand. The wind was brutal but it was worth the beauty of it.
Before we left Iceland we tried to go to in the highlands again. We took the F35 to get out there and it was another incredible 4 x 4 road with nobody around. Unfortunately for us we couldn't get into the area we were hoping because the snow was way to heavy and we didn't have chains. The contrast between the snow and black volcanic rock was so contrasted. It was exceptional.
I am glad we went to Iceland because it is an incredibly gorgeous country. I think I would prefer to go back in winter or if we planned a trip to the highlands. Personally there are just way too many tourists. I like finding myself off the beaten path which I know there are many to find in Iceland but the ring road is a bit crowded for my liking. It is definitely a place worth seeing though!
If you are wondering what to pack for Iceland here are some of my recommendations:
I had a heavy down jacket that was handy in the wind. A windbreaker that is waterproof is also a good idea. We were using Merrell rain jackets that were light and waterproof. I also have a pair of skinny belay pants from Merrell that are water resistant and wind resistant. They are my favorite for any trip. Pack a good pair of wind proof gloves and heavy waterproof boots. Make sure you have a beanie to cover your ears. I also had some great wool sweaters and a Merrell fleece to wear as a base layer. Even a nice merino base layer works well.