When it’s cheaper to go to Iceland than California during Thanksgiving week, it was a no brainer! I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights on our first trip to Iceland last year (Labor’s Day week) so it was another motivation to go back. Since we have been to Iceland, I knew exactly where I want to photograph the Aurora with: Jökulsárlón for sure and Skógafoss. We had one week this time instead of 4 days so we had more opportunities to try our luck. Also, we had time to see a new place – I chose the Snæfellsnes peninsula to see the famous Kirkjufell.
Arrived at 4:35 am, going through immigration was a breeze and within half an hour, we claimed our baggage and at the arrival hall waiting to meet with my friend – Zach from Germany. We followed the sign to the car rental shuttle and it was a long walk out in the cold gosh; I thought the shuttle should be right outside the entrance! We waited but no sight of the shuttle bus! We could’ve walked to the car rental office – Blue Car Rental instead! Alright, we decided to walk over! We picked up our Kia Sportage with winter tires, one week rental is $735.10 with second driver and full insurance (except for the ash and sand protection), car rental in Iceland is expensive 🙁 Off we go driving in the darkness. Did I mention that sunrise is not until 10:00 am? We couldn’t start sightseeing right away LOL so we drove directly to the Snæfellsnes peninsula with a stop at the gas station for a quick “breakfast” and arrived just on time to catch the sunrise! Our GPS – HERE Map nor Google map couldn’t locate the way to Kirkjufellfoss so I typed in Grundarfjordur; a little town where I booked an apartment for our first night. Right pass Grundarfjordur, we continued on the road for another 5 minutes or so and saw a parking lot on the left side; that must be it! We parked and walked up a little hill to get to the other side of the waterfalls for the postcard view of Kirkjufell. The hiking trail up was very slippery and it was still dark so I was holding on to the rope!
The sky started to lit up and we started to see the mountains surrounding us, wow winter wonderland! I never been to the western peninsula so had no idea how it looked, it was a surprise!
There were a few photographers having their tripods there but we had no issue finding spots for our tripods. The postcard view of Kirkjufell!
The start of our Icelandic winter adventure!!!
The slippery trail:
We walked down for a different perspective of the waterfalls:
Sunrise, although the mountains were blocking the sun!
This was how we took the photo above LOL!
And a panorama, love the colors of the sky!
It was only 11 am so we can’t check into our apartment yet; we decided to drive along the peninsula, the road condition was surprisingly clear 🙂 We kept driving and admiring the amazing landscape of the peninsula, we passed a little fishing village – Hellissandur.
It was so weird that even after 1.5 hours after sunrise, it looked like just sunrise. Winter in Iceland, although only 6 hours of daylight but all 6 hours are golden hours because of the extreme long angle of the sun, no harsh lighting – an absolute photographers’ dream! The village felt like desserted with no one out even at 11:30 am, where are the people?
The whole day looked like this, it was that amazing!
Finally some golden sun ray lighting up those yellow grasses with the snow covered mountain on the back – huge contrast!
We saw a light house and decided to check it out….no idea the name of it.
Continued onto Hellnar…
It was too bad that they didn’t plow the parking lot so it was completely covered with ice; no way for us to step out of the car to photograph the cliffs and rocks. We tried to be as close as we could for the photo of this church:
And headed back to Grundarfjordur to check into our apartment – H5 Apartments. The owner was there when we arrived so saved us a call! The apartment was clean, have a washer and dryer, a full kitchen to cook our own meal (eating out in Iceland is extremely expensive), and two bedrooms for only $159 per night. A market is few steps away so it was convenient to buy our groceries and breakfast items. We bought pork and shrimps (to make wontons, we brought wonton skin with us to Iceland LOL and the soup bases knowing that we’ll do most of the cooking), bread, lettuce, peanut butter, eggs, tomatoes, and small items…..oh my, I don’t even remember my last time where I bought over $90 of groceries!
Poor Jason chopped pork with a fruit cutting knife. We made wonton noodle soup with roasted pork (we bought 2 lbs of roasted pork for our flight as dinner but didn’t eat so was super glad we had some roasted pork with noodle). We quickly finished eating our…hum…lunch or dinner? LOL! And drove to Kirkjufellfoss again for sunset. Can you tell the difference from sunrise? haha! I loved the pink and blue colors, I have never seen sunset like this color!
We went back to our apartment, I told the guys go sleep now and set the alarm to wake up at 11:30 pm….it was only 5:30 pm LOL! We didn’t have trouble falling asleep at 5:30 pm since we were tired from our flight. The alarm went off at 11:30, we dressed warmly and headed out with our tripods and cameras! We went back Kirkjufellfoss again, for the third time in one day haha! When we arrived, there were only 3 other photographers there. We set up at the same spot and waited….hum…where’s the Northern Lights? It was sure partially cloudy sky but we saw some “white puffs” that were lit, I was thinking…the moon is very low over on the right side horizon, how could those “clouds” be lit? I took a long exposure of 15 seconds and when the screen popped up with the preview photo, the “white puffs” are green OMG they are the Northern Lights!!!
We were super surprised OMG OMG OMG, the Northern Lights in our bucket list are there, right in front of our eyes! We waited and waited hoping for the clouds to clear up but not much luck, although the forecast said supposed to be cleared up!
The Aurora faded and came back and faded but not strong. We waited over an hour and decided to leave…on our way walking down to the parking lot, Zach was already reached our car, Jason said look up! It looked like an arch of “white puffs”, let me take a shot…..OMG!
I screamed, Zach, Zach, come back! Jason went down to get him while I walked back toward the waterfalls. We saw the Aurora started from the left and the right, and it split into to arches, too bad the clouds darn the clouds!
We claimed success! Our bucket list checked! Although I was thinking….are the Northern Lights only looked green in photos and not with the naked eyes? Anyways, we were super excited and dancing to our Aurora dance….Aurora, Aurora, I finally get to see you!