On my recent trip to Boston I needed to make an extra leg through Munich. Initially nothing to be happy about, but it turned out that the flight took an unusual route way north of the general course. It took us above Iceland and Greenland, a course generally only followed by flights to the US west coast.
Pretty exciting for everyone having a window seat on the righthand (northern) side of the plane including me. Instead of a several hour lasting sunset we were accompanied by the spectacular aurora borealis for about four hours. Inflight entertainment deluxe.
The photo quality isn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I needed to shoot with high ISO since I had only one hand available; with the other one I held a blanket to diminish the cabin light and thus the reflections in the airplane window.
Iceland in winter! Ridiculous, right? Not at all! Iceland is very charming in winter and offers a unique scenery. And a very long night just in case you want to be a northern lights spectator! The low sun also sets the perfect canvas for every photographer: golden hour all day long!
Since we’ve only been for few days and due to the road conditions in combination with our car we stayed in the Reykjavík area. You can easily spend a day at the Blue Lagoon, especially if you care for some relaxation time. With a much tighter schedule you could still do Þingvellir (including Almannagjá), Geysir and Gullfoss (a.k.a. the golden circle) even on a short winter’s day. One easy day in Reykjavík and another one driving around Hvalfjörður completed our brief Iceland endeavor:
The Blue Lagoon is a popular destination for arriving or departing guests because of its proximity to the airport. Undoubtedly a mandatory item on your itinerary but be prepared for an exorbitant charge. Whereas the water itself, heated up by a lava stream and rich in minerals is a natural wonder, the Blue Lagoon is not–it’s manmade.
Reykjavík is a lovely little northern city with tons of bars and cafés that serve excellent freshly brewed coffee. The major landmarks are Akrafjall and Esja, two mountains north of the city that paint a wonderful panorama, especially when covered with snow. Other must-sees are the Lutheran church Hallgrimskirkja and the little bit over four year old concert hall Harpa, home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately the church was closed though otherwise announced.
Watching northern lights can be as convenient as looking out of the window or walking in front of your hotel. We were lucky two times and got an easy view! It pretty much comes down to sun activity and whether or not the sky is overcast but of course there is a more scientific approach to that as well. The good thing is you easily find out both: I’m sure you have a trusted weather site or app and concerning sun activity I point you towards aurora-service.eu. We sighted impressive northern lights every single clear night! Besides the easy view we also went for the classy experience and got out in the dark for the spectacular! Dress really warm and bring a blanket.
We only saw relatively little of the island but I still would say that the golden circle represents Iceland in a nutshell. Within a day you will easily be able to enjoy three highlights: Þingvellir national park is a place of historical, cultural and geological relevance; due to the shortness of daylight hours we focused solely on the geological aspect and walked through Almannagjá, the rift valley where Europe and North America part with a celerity of 2.5 centimeters per year.
Secondly, we went to see a few eruptions of Strokkur, a smaller geyser which is located right next to its eponym Geysir. Whereas Geysir is active only every now and then, Strokkur erupts approximately every ten minutes. Iceland is also known for its waterfalls so lastly we drove to the nearby Gullfoss. We only stayed for a few minutes because of the biting cold.
On our last day we were looking for an unhurried short trip and just decided to drive around Hvalfjörður, a fjord right north of Reykjavík. In Akranes, which we reached on scenic route 47, we wanted to hang out at a café for a while but even on the second day of Christmas everything was closed but a gas station. Going back to our hotel was a quick drive below the sea through Hvalfjörður tunnel.
If you plan a once in your lifetime trip, early October and late March are probably the best choices because you have an ample amount of dark hours for observing the aurora borealis and enough daylight to enjoy the land. Also the weather is supposed to be quite stable and it’s not that crowded. Plus driving is a lot easier on ice-free roads. Anyway, experiencing long nights and days is an experience on its own. So if you have the chance, go twice!
Originally our plan for today was to hike to the Birnbachloch (DE), a fairly easy and scenic route. Unfortunately it was raining so much we alternatively visited the Lamprechtshöhle which probably was as scenic. Enjoy the photos!
Afterwards we enjoyed late lunch at Bergdorf Priesteregg. That place offers a sophisticated ambience, considerate staff and wonderful food.
Overall I’m not much of an adrenalin junkie. Just a rollercoaster ride once in a while and today, the flying fox. If you didn’t know, screaming is part of the game! Here’s a short impression of the ride.
So we just witnessed the reelection of Obama. Funny, that I lived in the US as well when he was elected the first time. This time I actually followed the election night online. So exciting! I’m still mad at myself for paying to less attention to the campaigns four years ago. Anyway, the inauguration day was pretty cool back then…