2255 Kilometers, 7 Days, 15 Active Volcanoes and 3 Glaciers. It can only be Iceland! Part 2

Búðakirkja Church & Aurora, Iceland - Composite

Welcome back to my 2255 Kilometers, 7 Days, 15 Active Volcanoes and 3 Glaciers. It can only be Iceland! blog, Part 2.

If you missed part one you can read it here.

Day 3 Tuesday – Snæfellsjökull Peninsular

Tuesday was planned to be one of our longer days on the road. We were heading up to the Snæfellsjökull Peninsular. We were up and out of Reykjavik at about 4.30am for our two and a half hour drive. We had quite a few locations planned here, but the most well-known one here is Kirkjufell Mountain. Already iconic with landscape photographers, it is now also popular with Game Of Thrones fans. The weather on the way to Kirkjufell was a mixed bag, and just as we arrived on the peninsular the clouds moved in and so did the wet stuff. Was it going to be here all day, were we going to have another dud weather day?  Luckily for us, the answer was no, it was going to be changeable but overall a great day. Our first stop, mainly to stretch our legs, turned out to be a bit of fun too. Boys will be boys, and given that we had a 4×4 then why not use it.

River Crossing by Neil Nicklin
River Crossing by Neil Nicklin

After our little bit of fun, we moved onto Kirkjufell Mountain. People have said before that this is an impressive location, and they are not wrong. The moment you approach the town of Grundarfjörður you can’t help but be impressed by its unique and rather large backdrop. Kirkjufell is very imposing, its location and stature only enhance its wonderful shape and size. It looks so different from every side you look at it. We were plagued by consistent rain showers here and odd light but I still managed to capture this. It’s definitely a location I would love to revisit in different conditions. One word of advice here is that it is such a busy location. Be prepared to wait out the perfect moment. The view below is the classic one with Kirkjufellsfoss in the foreground.

Kirkjufell Mountain & Kirkjufellsfoss, Iceland
Kirkjufell Mountain & Kirkjufellsfoss, Iceland – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine 10 stop, .9 soft grad, and polarising filter.

After Kirkjufell it was time to find all the other great locations we had planned to visit. From here it is not too far to another great view of Iceland; one of the black churches. Iceland has some stunning churches, but this particular one at Búðakirkja has both quaint beauty and an excellent location. Right on the edge of a historic lava field, it sits on the coast. We arrived just as a couple were getting married and managed, as we were there, to speak with the vicar who told us that due to social media the church was seeing up to 3 weddings a day from travellers far and wide. You can see why you would choose here. We were treated to some great moody conditions as the mountains in the background held onto the clouds.

Búðakirkja the Little Black Church, Iceland
Búðakirkja the Little Black Church, Iceland – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine .9 soft grad, and polarising filter.

The day was rapidly becoming my favourite so far… So much to see, so much to capture. After a pit stop, it was time for a quick hop down the coast to Arnarstapi for its interesting coastal features. One of those being an arch of rock.

Gatklettur, Arnarstapi, Iceland.
Gatklettur, Arnarstapi, Iceland. – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine 10 stop, .9 soft grad, and polarising filter.

By now our excitement was growing for two reasons. Number 1; the weather forecast was suggesting it was going to be a clear(ish) night. Number 2; the Aurora was also being forecast for that evening. We were not going anywhere, we were staying in this area, we had a good chance of seeing what we had all dreamed we might get a glimpse of when in Iceland. With time to kill until it was dark, it was time to explore more. As we left Arnarstapi we travelled further down the peninsular until one of our eagle-eyed team spotted what looked like an abandoned house, would that be a good place to come back to later in the dark? We checked it out and yes it had good 360-degree views of the sky, this is where we would come back to after dark.

For now, let’s see more of this amazing place. Our next stop was just on the side of the road, and the reason why was Snæfellsjökull. Snæfellsjökull is the volcano that this whole area gets its name from. It is a huge volcano complete with a glacier of its own at the top. Our particular vantage point was interesting due to the patterns on the side, obviously caused by lava flows of past. Such amazing details to see and capture.

Snæfellsjökull Volcano, Snæfellsjökull, Iceland
Snæfellsjökull Volcano, Snæfellsjökull, Iceland

After Snæfellsjökull we continued heading around the bottom of the peninsular, stopping to admire the Icelandic horses.

Long Face, Icelandic Horse.
Long Face, Icelandic Horse. – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens.

It was now time to set up somewhere for sunset so we headed back to Kirkjufell Mountain, only to be completely shocked by the sheer amount of tourists and photographers still there.  So we instead headed for a waterfall we had passed earlier in the day, hoping that it would be nicely backlit. A stunning place but sadly it was not aligned perfectly for the sun.

Svödufoss, Iceland.
Svödufoss, Iceland. – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine 6 stop, 1.2 soft grad, and polarising filter.

We then started heading back to our abandoned house for nightfall. We had some time to kill so I suggested that we head back to the other side of Snæfellsjökull on an F-Road I had seen earlier that seemed to go over the mountains. I am not sure if ‘road’ had anything to do with this mud and ash track that for 20 kilometres took us up and over the mountain ridge. At one point we were level with the glacier, the views were spectacular as the day slipped away behind us. The last bit of the journey was spent driving over this track in almost dark conditions. I was behind the wheel and loved it.

Volcano Journey by Lee Gale
Snæfellsjökull Volcano Journey by Lee Gale

Having navigated a mud track over a volcano it was time to park up and wait until the light went completely. We parked up by our abandoned house, assured some camping Icelandic teenagers that we were not the police, nor there to murder them, and waited. Would we be lucky, would the Aurora Borealis show? The light was fading but it was still bright in the west, but when we looked to the darker east we instantly noticed something odd! Was that what we wanted to see, it was still lighter than full night and our eyes could be playing tricks on us. Only one way to find out… As we all know the camera can see better than us in the dark, so we all set about hurriedly setting up our cameras. Tom was the 1st to shout out, ‘its there, the green stuff is in the sky!’ You have never seen a bunch of grown men so excited as that moment. We were going to see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, and Iceland was delivering a dream we all had! The display that followed was amazing, it built and built for the next few hours into something that we all could not believe.

After what must have been 4hrs running around and shooting the lights, we decided that it was really time to get going. We still had over 2 Hrs drive back to base. We made it back for about 4am, we had spent 23hrs on the road. It was though very much worth it.

Búðakirkja Church & Aurora, Iceland - Composite
Búðakirkja Church & Aurora, Iceland – Composite

TOP TIPS = Allow plenty of time to explore Snæfellsjökull Peninsular, it is stunning. 

Day 4 WEDNESDAY – Rest DAY

On Wednesday we did not even surface until late morning, and we all caught up on backing up our shots so far, a bit of editing, and shopping. Batteries were charged, both ours and the cameras. It is here I leave you until part 3.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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