Take: 2. Winter edition.
This was our second trip to this extraordinary country. We absolutely loved our round trip in the summer 2015 and we heard plenty about Iceland being special and just as beautiful in the winter. That we had to see. We spent a week around the capital and the south.
Wizz Air is offering cheap direct flights from Budapest, which is cool, but the flight itself was a bit off. We had to take a detour in Norway and didn't even know if we were going to make it to Keflavik or simply turn around and end up in Scotland. Kind of confusing. But we made it fine, just 2 hours late.
Arrival. Baggage claim. Geysir car rental. Always Geysir. They fixed us up with an awesome upgrade again. Renault Clio, diesel, automatic, cruise control, heated seats. That felt good. Thanks Vala! :)
We were situated very close to the centre, next to Klambratún park. Agusta's lovely Airbnb flat was just a 10-minute walk from Hallgrímskirkja and a Bonus store was close by which was great, since we cooked most of our meals ourselves.
We spent day 1 exploring the local neighbourhood, circling around Hallgrímskirkja, Laugavegur and visiting the Sun Voyager at the waterfront.
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
We couldn't waste a beautiful day in the city so we hit the Golden Circle. Or not the whole circle anyway. That 10am morning light gave us a nice welcome and a taste of what's to come during daytime in this winter wonderland. We admired the snow capped mountains just out of Reykjavík and drove on to Þingvellir for another classic sight of the church from the viewpoint.
It's definitely more fun to experience something new than repeat the previous sights. So we drove to Öxarárfoss, the National park's very own waterfall. It flows nicely between the tectonic plates.
We continued east towards the Geysir, waited for a few bursts and then returned to Laugarvatn. We got two free passes to Laugarvatn Fontana, geothermal baths in the middle of the golden circle. They have hot pools, steam rooms, sauna and naturally an exit to one very cold lake Laugarvatn itself.
Our day ended at Resto. This was the only time we ate outside - might as well do it big. We had a five course dinner a la chef - one with fish, the other with lamb. Delicious!
I feel like many people skip this peninsula while it's actually one of my favorite places. It's never crowded and the barren landscape is just so peaceful and relaxing, even more so when covered in snow. This was our most wintery experience as the roads were covered in white. Still I was surprised by how little snow there was in Iceland at the time.
We drove on Krýsuvíkvegur, over the small mountain pass as the purple sunrise crashed over the white hills. The constant "golden hour" never ceased to amaze me. We stopped at Kleifarvatn and Seltún once again. This geothermal area with mud pots and hot springs was nicer in the summer and the colors were much more vibrant.
Our next stop was Selatangar, an old fishing outfit. We somehow missed the remaining ruins. We did however spend quite some time enjoying the sun and playing around the beach like a couple of kids.
It was time to return to the city and get ready for New Year's Eve. We were thinking about going to Perlan for the countdown but everyone seemed to favor Hallgrímskirkja. It was a clear night and the aurora forecast was looking promising. We headed out to Seltjarnarnes to escape the city lights and the show was on! Quite a number of people gathered at the western tip of Reykjavík to enjoy the green lights dancing in the sky. That was one of my biggest wishes and the perfect birthday-to-come present.
Aurora borealis: Check!
As the northern lights got weaker we went home to put on some more layers and got in front of Hallgrímskirkja for a crazy fireworks show. Fireworks basically started mid-day and continued for a full 1st of January. But it was especially mental around midnight. Everywhere you looked, there were explosions on the horizon. Everywhere! And Reykjavík isn't all that small. Hallgrímskirkja seemed to be the absolute epicentre. Icelanders kept bringing and lighting batteries non-stop. Amazing experience, they really go all in for New Year's.
We slept in on the 1st, had some breakfast and hit the town again. Our route lead us down Skólavörðustígur and Laugavegur, two of the main streets. We arrived at the already known Austurvöllur square afterwards. Then we continued west to a nearby cathedral and down Ægisgata towards the Reykjavík Old Harbour.
Next: a closer look at Harpa, a concert hall and conference centre. The architecture and design is remarkable - inside and out. We hit some shops on the way back and marvelled at Reykjavík's amazing street art.
South Iceland was probably our favorite area in our summer trip so we wouldn't miss it now either. We left Reykjavík still in the dark. Our plan was to visit four waterfalls on the way south: Urridafoss - Seljalandsfoss - Skógafoss - Kvernufoss. We did not see Urridafoss and Kvernufoss yet so this should've been fun, however the weather prevented us from seeing much. It was windy, humid and foggy. The worst kind. So we just drove through, stopped for some snapshots and moved on towards Vík. Good thing we had plenty of extra time the next two days.
I started my day early with a sunrise hike to Reynisfjall. The cliff gives a nice bird's perspective all over Vík and calm waves hitting the black beach. I just loved the surrounding mountains with the massive Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in the back.
We then headed past Eyjafjallajökull and its infamous volcano towards Skógar and Skógafoss. It was packed as usual. After that we reparked our car next to Skógar Museum and entered the nearby canyon. We reached Kvernufoss soon enough. And it was considerably less crowded that Skógafoss. No one was there but us. It's an awesome waterfall!
The day was ending quickly so our final stop was Sólheimajökull, one of Mýrdalsjökull glacier tongues that is very accessible. It's a really nice spot! The icy blue glacier shines in front of majestic green-moss-covered-glacier-shaped rock formations.
We ended our daytrip on a black beach in Vík with a beautiful sunset behind Reynisdrangar. Cheesy.
Forecast once again lit up in the evening so I ran out with my camera and tripod. I ascended the church hill and got behind the graveyard up top. The camera picked up some activity but to be honest I couldn't see much with my eyes. Aurora is tricky like that.
Our final day. Time to leave the south and catch our plane. But not before a few stops we missed on the way down. First: Dyrhólaey, black beaches and long exposures. It was cloudy but it cleared up soon as the sun rose.
We stopped at Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Urridafoss on our way.
This concluded our week in the north. Damn, Iceland could just be my favorite place.