Wild Places

The Art of Landscape and Travel Photography

Iceland – Sixth Time’s a Charm?

Last summer I was traveling for the sixth time to Iceland. Besides that I really love this island my main reason for another trip was my long-term project of making a coffee table book of Iceland.

My intention was to really show the diversity of Iceland in this book and I was still missing some good images of the more remote highland areas. To be able to reach these areas you need a well prepared SUV. Therefore I bought a used Nissan Patrol from the German military, added a snorkel and some large MT tyres and decided to take the ferry again from Denmark to Iceland instead of a plane and rental car.

After a very rough and uncomfortable ferry ride with 7 m waves and wind velocities around 100 km/h we finally reached Seyðisfjörður on the east coast of Iceland. Our first destination were the waterfalls Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss close to Egilsstaðir.

We spent the night at the campground in Hallormsstaður and then entered the eastern highlands via the 910. After some side trips to Snæfell (F909), the Hafrahvammagljufur canyon and to Hvannalindir (F903) we finally reached the Kverkfjöll campground at the F902.

On the next day we were visiting the Holuhraun lava field (F910) and the spectacular Víti crater lake at Askja.

After a night at the Askja campground we visited the beautiful nature at Herðubreið and continued via the F88 to the Jökulsárgljúfur NP.

Although I’ve visited this NP several times in the past it’s still one of my favorite places in Iceland and never ceases to amaze me.

Both the canyon itself and its several waterfalls are extremely spectacular.

After two nights at the Ásbyrgi campground we took the F862 and 843 to the Sprengisandur (F26). Since we had been many times at Mývatn and Goðafoss we didn’t stop there this time but instead went directly to the Aldeyjarfoss to shoot it from both sides of the river at sunset. Afterwards we spent the night at the always very windy and cold Nýidalur campground on the Sprengisandur.

After a quick visit of the Þjófafoss and a longer stop at the Háifoss we drove directly to the Hveravellir campground on the Kjölur (35), skipping again some main attractions like the Gullfoss and Geysir this time.

We stayed two nights in Hveravellir and used the time to visit the beautiful Kerlingarfjöll, take a bath at the hot pool at Hveravellir and explore the surroundings of the campground.

Since we were in August in Iceland we had to visit again the really great Menningarnótt (Reykjavik Culture Night). It always takes place on the third weekend in August. Therefore our next stop was Reykjavik, were we spent two nights on the city campground. After 2008, 2010 and 2014, this was our fourth visit of the Reykjavik Culture Night. There were again countless of great musicians and street artists throughout the city of Reykjavik. The following video gives a short impression of the Menningarnótt 2016:

After the short urban interrupt we went back to the highlands. First stop was at Rauðufossar, the red waterfall. It’s surrounding is also very beautiful with small streams and green moss.

Our next destination was Landmannalaugar. We visited this place already in 2008. But last time the weather was so bad that we had to leave after a very short hike. Knowing the beauty of this place from several travel reports on the internet I always wanted to return.

In order to get to the campground of Landmannalaugar you have to cross a ford. It’s not one of the deepest in Iceland but depending on the water level it can sometimes be a problem for smaller rental cars. We had a water depth of about 60-70 cm which was no problem for our Patrol as you can see in the following video:

Even if it looks very easy in this video please bear in mind that the Patrol has rather large tires with a diameter of 85cm. A Suzuki Jimny with standard tires would likely get water on its bonnet and up to the windscreen on the same ford.

The deepest ford we had to cross on our trip was the Linda on the F88 behind Herðubreið. It had a water depth of about 80-90 cm, still ok for our Patrol with its snorkel, but definitely too much for most rental cars.

The campground at Landmannalaugar is often very crowded and consists mostly of sand and lava rocks. The nice natural hot pool is often full of people. But with the right timing you can be pretty much alone there. The best time for a pool visit seems to be the late morning, when most people have either left the campground for their next destination or went on a hiking tour and the new guests haven’t arrived yet. Late afternoon is probably the worst time to visit the pool.

The weather at Landmannalaugar was again a bit difficult, but luckily this time it changed pretty quickly between storm, rain and sunshine.

We spent three nights on the Landmannalaugar campground and besides exploring some of the nice hiking trails starting directly at the campground we did a day trip to Langisjör and the Eldgjá canyon.

After three nights we left Landmannalaugar and drove the F208, F233 and F210 to the Axlarfoss and finally to the campground at Kirkjubæjarklaustur were we spent the next three nights.

In Kirkjubæjarklaustur we visited the Stjórnarfoss, did a day trip to the spectacular Laki fissure (F206), went to the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and did a day-trip to Þakgil (F214) and the cape Dyrholey (218), were we had the chance to see lots of Puffins around sunset.

From Kirkjubæjarklaustur we went to the campground in Höfn. On the way to Höfn we stopped at the Skaftafell NP and did the hike to the Svartifoss. The weather was similar to our last visit in 2008: pouring rain during the whole hike. With the help of an umbrella I was nevertheless able to capture some nice images of this interesting waterfall.

Before we had to catch the ferry in Seyðisfjörður again we spent our last two days on Iceland in the area of Höfn, visiting the beautiful Lonsöraefi valley and Vestrahorn.

Although still photography was my main focus on this trip I shot some timelapse sequences at cape Dyrholaey and Vestrahorn:

 

Altogether it was another great trip to Iceland, but some things have significantly changed during the last years. Iceland is at the moment extremely popular and at the well-known and easy to reach places, like Geysir, Seljalandsfoss or Jökulsarlon, it can get really crowded, similar to US national parks during high season. Compared to a couple of years ago there are about ten times as many people now at the hot-spots. Getting good images is now nearly impossible at certain places. And enjoying the nature is even more difficult.

But if you leave the ring road and enter the remote areas of the highlands Iceland can still be a paradise.

As I’ve written recently in a comment on DearSusan you have to adjust your strategy:

1. Switch to places that can’t easily be reached (but are still spectacular). If you have to hike a longer distance to reach a spot nearly nobody is shooting there. If you have to use a serious 4WD car and need to cross several  deep rivers only few people will do this.

2. Visit the iconic places during really bad weather. Most tourists just move to the next hotel or restaurant in this kind of situation.

3. Shoot at a different time. If most people visit a place in summer go in winter. Or get up very early or stay there long enough.

 

The best images of this trip were again added to my Iceland gallery.

As written above my goal was to make a really good coffee table book of Iceland which covers the great diversity of this island. After this sixth trip to Iceland I have now enough great images to finally realize this long-term project.

My book Wild Places of Iceland is now available both on Amazon.com and on Blurb.

The following link to Blurb gives you a free preview of all 200 pages:

I know it’s rather expensive, but I’ve deliberately chosen to print it only in the largest available format and on the best available paper. This, combined with 200 pages, 165 images and the small print run of a POD book sadly leads to the rather high price. But I can assure you, the quality of the book (and of the images in this book) is really very good.

3 Responses to “Iceland – Sixth Time’s a Charm?”

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