If you follow my blog and my Instagram page you will know that I recently went on a 4 week European vacation. The first country was Norway which you can read about here. After leaving Norway we flew to Iceland for six days of adventure and got to see this amazing country from the comfort of a camper van thanks to the awesome guys at Campervans Iceland. The benefits of having a camper van in Winter was first and foremost – the northern lights. I planned on chasing those babies every night and the thought of being able to lie in the back of the camper van with the heater pumping and wait for the lights to come out was the best part. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t being very nice while we were in Iceland and we only saw the lights once, but once was so worth it and I’m thankful that I even saw them at all! So what else did we get up to in Iceland? Come with me on a little adventure…….
That was our little camper van in the picture above! Cute right? After landing in Reykjavik we picked up the camper van from rent.is near the airport. The camper was setup with a comfy bed in the back with sleeping bags, a heater that runs off a battery so we didn’t need to leave the car running to use it. Underneath the bed was the storage area that contained a table, two camp chairs, a gas cooker, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. Basically everything you need to go camping. It also came with free wifi and a gps which is so handy when you are driving around a foreign country especially with the crazy weather that you get in Iceland. We were able to check if there were road closures on the road.is website and up to the minute weather updates on the weather website. Oh, and you cant forget about the Aurora forecast website to make sure you are ready to capture the magic that is the Aurora Borealis.
Once we got out onto the open road I was really surprised to see how much snow was still around. There was hardly any snow in Reykjavik so I thought maybe that was going to be the case for all of Iceland but boy was I wrong! We started heading towards Kirkjufell which is where we were staying for the first night because I wanted to photograph the famous waterfall and mountain there. The further we drove the thicker the snow got.
It really was beautiful to see the mountains and landscape covered in snow. The first time I came to Iceland was in summer 8 years earlier so it looked completely different to what I was seeing this time and as the snow melts in creates these beautiful pools of blue water.
The further we drove towards Kirkjufell the worse the weather got. Apparently there were some big storms rolling through and we seemed to be driving right into them! We parked in the parking lot near the base of Kirkjufell mountain and the wind was so strong it was blowing the car from side to side. The snow and rain was falling sideways. The wind was so strong we could hardly get the doors of the car open. By this stage it was late afternoon (sunset actually although you wouldn’t know it from the thick grey sky) and I was completely wrecked from 5 days of non stop exploring in Norway and very little sleep plus my pet peeve with weather: wind. I can handle any kind of weather but wind just annoys the crap out of me! And it was WINDY!! So I jumped in the back of the van, turned the heater on and curled up for a sleep. Did I mention it was also freezing cold?
Hubby was brave enough to get out of the car and head up the mountain to where the famous waterfall is and snap off a few photographs. Luckily I gave him some lessons before we left Australia. This photo below was perfectly composed by him! Not the typical beautiful pictures you see of this mountain but still quite impressive even with grey skies.
He was obviously enjoying himself out there and didn’t end up coming back until it was dark. Before we left Reykjavik we stopped in at the hardware store called Byko that is the equivalent to Bunnings here in Australia and bought two pairs of gumboots. Our lovely friend and fellow photographer Tony Irving gave me the hot tip to buy gumboots when you get to Iceland because its a very wet place. After an afternoon out in the rain and snow they had already paid for themselves and if you end up going to Iceland in Winter I highly recommend doing the same thing! Hubby basically lived in the them the whole time we were there and they saved me from getting wet shoes when I got hit by a rogue wave on the beach a few days later.
Luckily we had booked accommodation at the nearest town from Kirkjufell called Hotel Olafsvik which was pretty basic accommodation but it did the job. Although it would have been cosy sleeping in the camper van with the storm bellowing outside, I don’t think we would have gotten much sleep and we had a big day of driving the next day. We got dinner at the Hotel which was cooked by the owner who looked like a big Viking! He was such a character and so friendly!
The next day the weather was even worse so there were no hopes of getting a nice picture of Kirkjufell at sunrise. We packed up and headed for our next destination which was Vik down on the South Coast of Iceland. We forgot to check the road closures before we left and the road that we needed to go down was closed from the storm but luckily there was a different way that we could go thanks to our trusty wi-fi giving us the goods on the weather website and away we went.
Around lunch time we stopped for a break on the side of the road where there were some Icelandic horses. I went over to the fence to give them a pat and this gorgeous girl came bounding over to me. She loved having her nose scratched and was very obliging with me taking photos of here. I fell in love immediately and wanted to put her in the back of the van to come around Iceland with me but hubby didn’t think that was the best idea!
Back in the van we headed towards Seljalandsfoss waterfall. The wind was still really strong and the rain had turned into snow that was blowing sideways again. We got to Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the afternoon and as with every tourist attraction there was a tonne of people everywhere so it was really hard to shoot plus because it was so windy, the water was being blown everywhere and all over my camera. It was quite difficult to shoot, and this was about the best I could do!
The weather changes literally ever ten minutes in Iceland. I have never come across anything like it before. It goes from light, fluffy snow, to tiny little bits of snow that are more like hail and they sting your face when they hit you, to rain and wind. They sky goes from dark grey to almost white and then you get these windows of beautiful light that then turn into sunshine and blue skies. Its completely nuts!
Once the blue sky disappeared into grey and rain again we hit the road. The next stop was Skogafoss waterfall. After driving down the road for a bit we noticed some beautiful light coming through the clouds right ahead of us. It was about 4:30pm so nowhere near time for sunset but after being in Iceland and Norway I started to notice that beautiful colours can appear in the sky a good two hours before sunset and if you get the right conditions like we did in Norway, the colour hangs around until just after sunset. Its not like in Australia where you are lucky to get 5 minutes of colour most of the time.
So naturally we pulled over on the side of the road and started snapping away!
We then continued on to Skogafoss which was just down the road and again was filled with tourists. The wind was blowing the water everywhere so I stayed back and shot it from a fair distance away. I somehow managed to capture a shot with only one person in it! Skogafoss probably rivals Gullfoss as Iceland’s most famous waterfall. The water drops 60 metres with a width of 25 metres. I guess the ease of accessing this waterfall makes it so popular too. You literally drive up to the car park and walk along a flat rock ground 200 metres and you are right in front of it.
I was told that if you are here at midday and the sun is shining, you can catch a rainbow shining right in front of it. You can also access the top of the falls by a walking track to the right of the falls and apparently there a some more waterfalls up there if you follow the Skogar river. Next time I go back to Iceland I plan on exploring this area a lot more!
After the colour had died down a bit we ventured about 20km down the road to the sea cliffs of Dyrholaey. Another storm was rolling in off the coast and the sea was pounding against the cliffs and the shore. It was so unusual to see black sand instead of white sand like I’m used to seeing but it was really beautiful in a dark and moody way.
I met a spanish photographer who was shooting the sunset here and he told me about the secret cave waterfall back at Seljalandsfoss which I had seen pictures of but wasn’t sure where it was so I was excited to add that to the list and go and find it the next day! The wind was so wild on this cliff face that I had to stand a good two metres from the edge so that I didn’t get blown into the ocean. After having enough of the weather we jumped back in the camper van and headed to the town of Vik for the night.
Have you explored Iceland before? I would love to know what your experience was like so leave a comment below and let me know.
You can continue reading about my Iceland adventures right here: Campervan Adventures Iceland Part 2