So that one time we went to the place that every photographer dreams about…. ICELAND!
We’re going to start this post with what we packed and what we learned right out the gate followed by all the fun imagery so if you want tips continue reading, if you just want pretty pictures and a bomb video, get your scroll on!
When booking a trip to Iceland we checked flight prices, weather and of course a place to stay. Flights are cheap cheap cheap… but that’s pretty much where that notion ends. There’s not a lot of hotels as you move out of the main cities so we looked into either a tour group or a camper van. The tour groups were about 3k-5k but they all mostly just hit the big tourist spots and we didn’t feel that was the way we wanted to do Iceland. So that left us with the camper van (which was admittedly my first choice anyway)! It was about $1500 through campervaniceland for our 8 day stay and we luckily ended up with what seemed like one of the only automatic transmission vans in all of the country. It had wifi, a fold out bed, cooking equipment and a little table and chairs… honestly adorable.
Before leaving, we checked the weather; 50s with random showers… better than Florida heat!! Both of us packed rain jackets, sweaters, 1 bathing suit, hiking pants/jeans and hiking sneakers. We quickly learned when we got there that it wasn’t enough. Being a volcanic island the weather changes constantly and is often wet and/or has a bone chilling wind. If we could pack again we’d add a puffer jacket, more socks (bc wet socks take like 2 days to dry in a campervan) & waterproof hiking boots. Also TOWELS!!!!! We totally didn’t even think about bringing those and of course you need them for hot springs or camp site showers. A lot of people seemed to have the water wicking kind which seemed smart for the same reason as extra socks. And don’t bring anything fancy.
Finally money. So the Icelandic krona threw us off at first… we’d go to lunch and a sandwich would be two thousand krona (read 2.000 ISK) and it always just felt like “crap what are we spending right now!?” At the time of our travels about 1000 krona was $9 so we figured out a kind of haphazard conversion method where we’d just drop two zeros and that’d get us in the ballpark of its dollar equivalent. After conversion everything is still pretty expensive in Iceland whether you’re in a city or the middle of nowhere. The average price of a beer was $13, a sandwich around $15, lunch meat at the grocery store was $9. That being said here’s a few things to definitely try and definitely not try… DO try the rye bread, DO try the hotdogs, DON’T try the fermented shark, DO check out Eimverk Distillery‘s (Reykjavik) Floki, Iceland’s only locally made whiskey, DO check out the local beer bars. While most days we were on the road eating from our grocery store stash our favorite actual restaurant we ate at was Grillmarkadurinn.
So on to the journey…We began in Reykjavik as most do. Landed on a foggy night in their itty bitty airport and spent the night in a hotel nearby. The next morning the real adventure began when we picked up our van and started wandering the city…
*Side note: in some frames you’ll see me and Mike and in some you’ll see a couple we photographed and spent the second half of our trip with. If you’d like to see their session you can find it here*
While the outside of Hallgrímskirkja, the gorgeous cathedral downtown, is a site to be seen we were completely enamored with the 5275 pipes that make up the organ inside. Hearing it play would be quite a spectacle! On that note there is a lot of heavy metal you’ll hear coming in the streets from bands practicing in lofts, that’s fun. And if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day you can get admission to 3 art museums for a total of around $15 or check out the super fun design of Harpa opera house shown below.
Some cell phone shots of all the really awesome wall art downtown.
And then we left the city, heading around the golden circle first…
In July the sun would rise at 3am and set around midnight so we drove, explored & hiked for about 12 hours each day and stopped often to take in the landscape that was constantly changing. If google maps said the drive was an hour it usually took us 3. Needless to say we’d pass out hard every night.
Steam valley hike in Reykjadulur
We swam Silfra which is a crack between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. It’s the clearest water in the world, there are no fish and you can drink it. The water is super cold, right above freezing year round so it requires a dry suit and the only thing left touching the water is your face and hands but those go numb pretty quickly so you don’t feel it for long. It’s worth every penny to swim in between tectonic plates!
If you get a chance walk out and touch these volcanic rocks – they’re actually super squishy and fluffy. Also the one below makes me feel like we were on the planet of the apes.Continuing our trek south east… Fjaðrárgljúfur Svartifoss
Black sand beach Vik where our misfit crew seemed to want to taunt the water but learned how quickly it could come back at you…
The next few frames are the gigantic Vatnajokull glacier which unfortunately you have to book a tour to go wander in/on/around. There is no cave hiking this guy on your own.
Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon – our last and probably most magical spot before turning around to head back.