Iceland- Snaefellsnes Peninsula

In the early fall of 2018 I put together a trip to Iceland. I know Iceland has become incredibly popular over the last few years but it is a country I have long wanted to visit.  In 2018 new routes between Reykjavik and DFW made a trip to Iceland much cheaper and easier than ever before, so I got a ticket and flew solo to the land of fire and ice.

Most people either just do the Golden Circle or they do the entire Ring Road, moving every day.  Neither of those appealed to me and after some research decided to do a similar strategy I took in Scotland and visit just three areas, staying in each 3-4 nights.  My hope was that rather than seeing everything I would have several chances at good light with time to explore more than just a few tourist spots.

First stop on my list was the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  It is under three hours from Reyjkavik and I hoped after an overnight flight, I could get my car, get food and make the drive before sunset.

The flight in was great, we even flew over Greenland right at dawn and I got to see some of the Greenland Icecap!!  Picked up the car and went for groceries.  Groceries was the biggest stumbling block in the trip.  Since I was camping I was hoping for camping type food- soups, oatmeal and other easy to heat and eat type foods.  These are sadly lacking in the local grocery stores and must not be part of the local diet.  After three different stores, I found some ramen noodle cups, got some bread/PB and J and loaded up on almonds and tomatos and the like at Costco (bring that Costco card!).  Luckily I found some Scottish porridge in Grundarfjorder so I was finally set on food.
Snaefellsjokul Volcano

The drive to Snaefellsnes was quick and scenic, Iceland is a beautiful country.  I arrived in Grundarfjorder and put up my tent.

The highlight of the area is Kirkjufell and its waterfall.  This is the most famous mountain in Iceland and it certainly earns its iconic status.  There is only a small unpaved parking lot.  It is full.  It is appears to always be full, even at night.  There are always people here.  I park down the road and make my way to the falls.  There are a couple of dozen people here.  It is raining.  I stay for a sunset that does not happen before making my way back to camp.

Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge
The next morning I am back for a nice sunrise.  Then I am off to explore the area.  I drive over a pass and head for the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge.  I had seen a few images online and it marked on Google Maps.  It is a narrow green slot canyon.  I got there early but already a couple of cars were there.  

I brought Wellies with me and wear them up into the gorge.  It is narrow and neat.  Everyone seems to stop at the entrance as you get wet feet if you try to go farther.  Wellies for the win!!  I am able to go up into the gorge and have it to myself.  After an hour or so I come out of the gorge to find the parking lot full and many people there.

I make my way to the nearby town of Arnastapi.  It is crowded with tour buses and many people walking along the coast.  I spend a couple of hours there and make my way around the tip of the peninsula through the national park.  The center of the area is the volcano Snaefellsjokul.  It is the one in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.  I hear there is a snow cat ride to the top but I do not take it.  Late in the day I make my way back to Kirkjufell.  Wanting to avoid the crowds at Kirkjufellfoss, I explore an area with small streams, the light gets golden and I catch some great light.  

The clouds and breaking up and I have high hopes for the aurora borealis.  Sunset is at 8:30pm but it is almost 11:30pm before it is dark enough to see the stars.  I begin to see green in the sky.  Now I do go back to Kirkjufellfoss to see if I can get the iconic shot of the waterfall, mountain and aurora.  I find many people there.  The lights intensify as it gets dark and I make images.  I say "Wow!!" a lot that night.  Soon the falls are packed and there must be 40 people up there.

After an hour I think I have my shot and leave the crowd.  I go back to the place I had watched sunset.  The little streams and the aurora work great!  I am able to catch more images of the northern lights.  The entire sky goes green.  It is amazing to see.

Finally at 2:45am I am exhausted and make my way back to camp.  The shot night is almost over and sunrise is around 6:00am.  I get a few hours of sleep and am back out to catch the sunrise.

I then spend the day driving around the peninsula again, stopping at beaches, walking, and exploring.  It is very clear.  Late in the day I decide to walk to a waterfall I have seen.  I start the walk and am approached by some 20 horses.  They are quite interested in me.  I never make it to the falls, spending the sunset photographing the horses.  

Since it is clear, I go park up on a cliff overlooking the ocean and wait for dark hoping for the aurora.  It is a long wait but they happen again.  It is not as good as the first night but I still stay up photographing them from different locations.  Again getting to bed very late.

After just a few hours of sleep again, I am up for another nice sunrise.  It is my last morning in the area and I am headed east.  After sunrise I take a short nap and then start the drive.  I make make a few stops for photos and I am off to discover a new location.


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