The last time we met, we were heading north on Iceland's Ring Road (Route 1). The wind had picked up and it was getting dark so we decided to pull over and hunker down for the night. We pulled over in a small town on the edge of Mývatn which in non-winter months is a gorgeous lake. The area is also famous for its geothermal activity, hot springs, mud pots etc. We weren't really here for a spa day this time so we skipped that stuff and since it was winter the lake was less than evident. When we woke up, we did drive around the lake and took in some views of the obvious volcanic activity.
After our quick jaunt, we hit the road and head towards one of the more famous waterfalls not on the southern coast, Godafoss. The story goes that in the year 999 or 1000 the people of Iceland decided to convert to Christianity. One of the prominent elders of the island, while traveling home from the congress, stopped at the falls and tossed his statues of the Norse gods into the falls. Hence, Godafoss or god falls.
After our stop at the falls the next stop was the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri, also known as the capital of the north. While I didn't take many photos in the town, we did a good amount of exploring. We ate some good hot dogs (Icelandic hotdogs are awesome), had some beers at a bowling alley and then ate some great fish in one of the more eclectic art gallery/restaurants I've ever been in Noa Seafood. We hadn't budgeted a stop in such a metropolis, so after a great afternoon exploring and eating it was back on the road.
Now, we didn't really know where we were going, and we didn't really have anywhere to be so we decided to make a detour, north. We checked the road conditions using this hand-dandy website that also happens to have a pretty good mobile site and decided the road was passable so we would do it. We drove about as far north as we could, driving through some pretty cool tunnels and along the edge of the sea as the winds started to pick up. Then, all of a sudden around the town of Ólafsfjörður we saw something in the sky.
This last one I played a bit with the white balance (because I'm an artist and I can do what I want) and I liked the effect. So here you go...
After watching one of the most magical displays nature can provide for nearly an hour we needed to find some place to hunker down for the night. We chose behind the hospital in the next town down the road, Siglufjörður, mostly because it provided some protection from the wind. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the sleeping was very good that night. The one thing about driving a 12 pound van around a place like Iceland is that when the wind picks up the car notices. So the van rocked a bit, we woke up fairly frequently and that was that. Fortunately, as a photographer, the nights tend to be pretty short, especially when you are staying up well past midnight watching the aurora.
On the way between Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður there are two very long tunnels broken by about a 1000 foot gap between two mountains. The small fjord there is called Héðinsfjörður and I decided that's where I wanted to be for sunrise.
I stuck around for a bit in the crazy wind (my estimate is 30 mph with 40-50 mph gusts; check out a little video I took on my phone HERE) before heading back and capturing this show of Siglufjörður also during sunrise.
Fun fact, I lost one of my mittens that morning and I am sad about it.
After sunrise we stopped in at the local gas station for our customary coffee and breakfast before hitting the road and finally heading south once again. Tthe views along the road outside of Siglufjörður and on the road in general were spectacular.
A boat making its way toward Siglufjörður
The Greenland Sea whipped up by the wind
Hey, check out that awesome camper!
The road south past more amazing mountains
Small buildings dot the baren, frozen landscape...
...in black and white
The sun shines down through the clouds and illuminates the valley
As the day progressed the wind only got stronger. In fact at one point we were forced to pull over with about 1000 of our closest friends at a gas station because the road was closed due to blowing snow. We ended up having to head all the way back to Reykjavik that day and stay in something called a hotel. Although we had to cut the last couple of days short due to hurricane strength winds we were able to have one last adventure. We were hungry, the guide book mentioned a great little restaurant in a small town, we pointed the sails in that direction and then drove down this hill.
The thing about driving down a hill like this in a 7 horsepower van is that getting back up can be problematic. Fortunately the local fire station had a truck and some sand and after about an hour and a half of driving, sliding, driving, sliding, sliding, sliding...we made it back to the top of the hill. Oh, and the kicker, the restaurant was closed because it was winter and what crazy jackholes visit that town in the winter (Answer: Ian and Tali).
Well so ends the saga of Ian and Tali's trip around Iceland's Ring Road on the tail end of winter. If there is one thing I can say about the trip it is that Iceland definitely did not disappoint. I will absolutely be making more trips to this unbelievably beautiful country. I want to give a huge shoutout to KuKu Campers. I know I have sort of made fun of our van a bit this post, but there is absolutely no other way I would rather travel through Iceland. The freedom and mobility of the camper was amazing and 100% recommended.
As always, until the next time,
If you happened to miss any of the other parts in this series, you can find them all HERE.
Also, don't forget, most of the photos in this post and others can be purchased on my website HERE. And with the holidays coming up nothing makes a better gift than art. Am I right?
Lastly, don't forget to sign up below for emails when my newest blog posts come out. I am currently working on a series from my trip to Cambodia in 2014 as well as an amazing trip through Washington, Oregon and Northern California this past summer.