This February I fulfilled a long-awaited dream. For many years I have wanted to experience the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis), which I only knew from pictures and videos, live and with my own eyes. I decided to try my luck in Iceland.
Sarah, a good friend of mine, accompanied me on my journey. She, too, was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of experiencing the beautiful island, wrapped in a white blanket of snow, under a green shimmering starry sky.
We booked some accommodation, bought two plane tickets and reserved a rental car at Keflavík Airport.
On the morning of the second day of our trip, we visited on of Reykjavík’s famous landmarks and took a look at the city’s rooftops before taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon’s hot springs and getting impressed by the breaking waves at the south coast.
In the morning of the next day we headed north to Snæfellsjökull National Park. We were lucky to experience a wonderful sunrise, we passed a herd of Icelandic horses and drove to the probably most photographed church in Iceland (outside of Reykjavík) the Buoakirkja Black Church in Búdir. After that we continued to Arnarstapi, Lóndrangar, the Kirkjufell Mountain and Stykkishólmur, where we arrived just after sunset. After checking into the hotel, we headed to the northernmost point of the small port town at the Súgandisey Island lighthouse hoping to see our first northern lights there. And indeed, after an hour of patient waiting, the first green shimmer appeared in the distance, which developed more and more into a gently dancing green curtain. We stood on the cliffs of the peninsula for about three hours and watched the play of lights in the sky in amazement until we made our way to the hotel, almost frozen to death.
The next day the “golden circle” was on the agenda, where we visited the big geyser and the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall. After sunset, our patient waiting was rewarded again with a fantastically glowing night sky.
The next morning we continued to the south coast of Iceland. On the way we stopped at the two waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and did a short hike through the snow-covered landscape. A special highlight was Reynisfjara, a black pebble beach near Vik where we took a long walk.
We spent the night in the rather inconspicuous village of Klaustur, where we were able to marvel at the northern lights for the third night in a row.
We spent the next day at the glacial lagoon Jökulsárló, one of the most impressive and most popular places in Iceland. Huge icebergs break here from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and fill the lagoon. But certainly a few more in summer than in winter, because the lagoon was only sparsely filled.
Also on Diamond Beach, where some of the fragments are washed up, only a few ice sculptures were found.
We had already booked an ice cave visit online before we started our journey. A huge off-roader brought us to a very small, inconspicuous cave, in which we spent a few minutes, quite disappointed. Snowmelt and glacier movements keep creating new caves, while existing ones become impassable. Unfortunately, it had rained heavily during the night, which meant that (according to our guide) some quite attractive caves could not be visited.
In the afternoon we went along the beautiful south coast back to Reykjavík.
What has not been mentioned in my previous description are the small and large adversities that we were confronted on our trip from time to time. A small piece of metal that had no relevance in my life before became immensely important in Iceland, namely spikes. Before we left, I bought a pair of non-slip spikes for Sarah’s and myself shoes. I was more than happy about this small investment in countless situations. But as important as they were for the shoes, they were essential for the tires. There were situations where we drove in heavy rain and strong winds on sloping roads over centimeters thick, bare ice. With normal winter tires we would be hopelessly lost here.
Unfortunately, I made a silly mistake in this context. When I picked up the vehicle, I checked whether it was equipped with spikes, but I didn’t check how many were actually still there. On two of the tires, most of the spikes were no longer there and one was almost completely bare. I would definitely not accept such a car again.
In general, driving in Iceland in winter is a very special adventure. You never know which roads will still be passable in a few hours or even the next day. Luckily there is an online road map that is always kept up to date.
All images were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 and the following lenses: Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4, Fujinon XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, Samyang 12mm f/2.0 and Samyang Fisheye 8mm f/2.8 II