Iceland: Part 1, Days 1-3

DAY 0-1
(KEF, Reykjavik, Snaefellsnes)

We left on the 23rd of December for BIA, where we had just enough time to get a handle – just kidding, our layover was twelve hours long. Luckily, Boston to KEF is a quick five hour flight and we arrived at six AM the following day. With a few hours to kill, we got our first Isey Skyr and decompressed. Around eight, we hopped onto the bus into town to pick up our rental van from CampEasy Iceland. By ten, the sky was still dark. We had wondered if we had made a mistake in coming in the winter despite our research.

Once in the van, we head off for Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Despite the rain en route, we managed to find a dry patch right above Landbrotalaug – a tiny, natural hot spring off the main road. After figuring out how to get there, we changed into our swimsuits and ran, only realizing we forgot towels once we arrived.

Being the only ones there, I quickly (and shamelessly) got in as I watched Dan brave the icy trail back to the van. After a soak, we began our run back to the car and I managed to only fall once. Only once I started running again did I realize I had lead us in on a ridiculous detour. Seriously, I think I went the longest possible way from the parking lot to the hot pot. When asked about it, Dan said I was too excited and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Lucky me.

After changing, we resumed our drive to Freezer Hostel, with a brief stop at Kirkjufellsfoss (literally “Kirkjufell’s waterfall”) and Kirkjufell. Despite our Georgia blood, we ventured towards the falls, then to Kirkjufell for some hiking.

Kirkjufellsfoss leading into the ocean.
Kirkjufellsfoss, but not Kirkjufell!
Kirkjufell, which we decided to partially climb and where I lost a lens cap. Sorry 🙁

We decided against grocery shopping and headed straight to the hostel. One benefit of having four hours of daylight (though there’s two hours of dusk on either side) is that it’s really easy to sleep for 14 hours if you’re tired enough. Granted, my bladder and my fear of the wind kept me up longer than I’d like to admit, but I think I still managed about twelve hours of sleep in our little van home.

(Snaefellsnes, Reykjavik, Golden Circle)

On Christmas Eve, we started our trip to see the southern part of Snafellsness — Arnarstapi, Budir, then a Bonus (Iceland’s affordable grocery like Aldi in the US). We stopped at an N1 to top off our tank and to score some Icelandic hotdogs.

Our hot dogs took some time to prepare, which was fine considering we were having issues with our credit card. Despite hearing mixed reviews, we thoroughly enjoyed them. I can’t remember the last time we had hot dogs in the states, I miss Icelandic hot dogs everyday…

After eventually giving up on using our credit card, we resumed our journey. First stop: Svortuloft Lighthouse. Dan had a blast driving on the curvy, windy roads to our destination and I had a blast pretending I wasn’t going to die on my second day in Iceland.

Before reaching the lighthouse, we encountered massive waves crashing on an empty beach and decided to pull over to check it out.

Dan taking extreme GoPro footage.

We arrived at Svortuloft around 10:00 and were greeted with bright oranges, pinks, and reds from the sun cresting the horizon. Svortuloft is a cute, bright orange, rectangular lighthouse on the corner of “holy crap that’s a huge cliff” and “oh my god it’s so windy,” and it was an awesome start to the day.

Svortuloft lighthouse.
The not-at-all small cliffs.

Next came Landrangar, which I secretly told myself translated to “Lone Ranger.”

I think this is where I realized just how badass Vikings must have been.

After Londrangar, we continued on to Arnarstapi, where we walked the winding trails that hug their coastline and admired their adorable houses.

Even though the clouds obstructing some views, they added a sense of desolation to our experience.
Hello, may I please move in?
Gatklettur arch.
Basalt cliffs.

Once we realized every coffee shop (I think there were two) in town was closed, we decided to continue to Budir and stop for groceries on the way to our next campsite.

Budir black church.
Shot from the side of the road, showing the colors of Iceland: blue-gray, purple-gray, and gray-gray.

Only upon arriving in Borganes did we consider Christmas Eve meant stores closed early. Oops. I suggested we try Reykjavik instead. As Dan drove, I began using my Google-fu, Facebook, and vague ability to read Icelandic (“opid” = “open”) to find any grocery store, gas station, or Asian market that would be open. I eventually found a 10-11 that we would arrive at within five minutes of closing.

We were the last customers out and pulled over to a nearby gas station to figure out our plans since we were ahead of schedule. We eventually decided on the Golden Circle, where we made our first van dinner (pesto pasta with sausage and pepper) and camped for the night.

(Golden Circle, Skogar)

We started our Christmas at Oxarafoss; when we arrived it was still dark and very few people were there.

Taken at dusk – 10 am, very little light.

Since we had extra time, we decided to make a stop at Laugarvatn Fontana and opted for the rye bread tour because bread and also because who wouldn’t want to see food cooked with geothermal heated sand?!

I MEAN, LOOK AT THAT. I quickly learned that I am addicted to Icelandic rye, which is dangerous because after the tour, they give you a huge chunk to take with you.
Full of rye & now warmed up from soaking for an hour. (iPhone)

After our shared bath (as Dan called it), we headed to Geysir, which was a “good to see,” but unsurprisingly anti-climactic. Still, here’s a picture for the curious:


Our next stop was Gullfoss, which was surreal (and windy and cold):

It was so windy that my lens was getting water droplets on it.

On our way to Skogar campsite/Skogafoss we pulled over to see some Icelandic horses. We fed them, pet them, and then Daniel got headbutt by one.

Is it bad that I ate horse later on?

We arrived at Skogar campsite in the dark, but decided to check out Skogafoss with our headlamps. Though it was hard to see the brilliance of the falls at night, it provided an opportunity to take photos without large crowds.

Illuminated only by our headlamps.
I am not a landscape photographer and normally don’t like black and white, but this was just begging for it.

Cold and tired and tempted by the “OPEN” sign at the Skogafoss Bistro, we opted for Christmas dinner. A reindeer burger, some pork belly, and copious amounts of their delicious bread made for the ideal Christmas in Iceland.


*Prints are available for purchase here!

Equipment used: D600, 24-70 f/2.8, 20 f/2.8, iPhone SE, GoPro Hero Black, CPL, AUKEY tripod

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