September 17 (Snow, rain, sun)
Today’s itinerary was epic in terms of the numbers of stops and the distance covered. I drove from northern Iceland all the way to the west which was estimated to take 7-9 hours by Google Maps (parts of which in terrible icy conditions). The reason why I decided to drive to the Snaefellsness Peninsula was because of favorable weather forecasts + decent aurora activity predicted = Another chance to see northern lights! Paying a little extra for a full-size 4×4 enabled us the flexibility to make last minute travel decisions because we weren’t dependent on accommodations. Sights along the way included Godafoss (Goðafoss) and Hvitserkur.
Woke up today to heavy snow and I even began worrying about the road conditions in the trusty Land Cruiser. As we approach Godafoss the snow slowly became rain (who would’ve predicted that we saw rain again at waterfalls?). This waterfall was by far the most anticipated for me since I poured many many hours researching and envisioning how I would capture its beauty. Godafoss (waterfalls of the gods) was no where near as grand when compared to Dettifoss or Gullfoss in terms of scale, but I found Godafoss by far the most intimate and picturesque. I was able to photograph this beauty up close without fearing for my life, and I must’ve spent a couple of hours there (took photos from both banks from different perspectives).
We proceeded westward passing through the largest town in the north called Akureyri. Akureyri was highly recommended by many visitors but we only stopped at the gas station for some Skyr due to the long drive ahead. We then took a 45 min (one way) detour from the main highway to see Hvitserkur: a spectacular rock formation favorited by many professional photographers. The road to Hvitserkur (if you could even call it a road… it was more like a dangerous rock trail) was by far one of the roughest we had driven in Iceland (even worst than the F-road to Landmannalauger). This detour could easily take ~2 hours one way if you are equipped with a low-clearance vehicle. I saw a couple travelers attempting to inch their way to the viewpoint with a Honda Civic and I also saw a few cars turned back half way through. When we reached the viewpoint it was extremely anti-climatic because I could hardly make out the shape of the rock due to the severe rain, and the weather simply did not permit us to hike down to the beach. [Tip #7 – Since the ring road is the main road where most tourists will travel on, signs to various tourist attractions are abundant (they are denoted by an icon before the name). Some attractions were spectacular while others were nothing but a hole in the rock (Sönghellir)… so please do some research before hand].
As we descended from higher elevations from the north snow gradually yielded to beautiful lush greeneries. We took numerous photos along the way (by this time we stopped pulling over to the side of the highway because we could see miles ahead/back and often all we saw were sheeps… no vehicles). We still had no idea where to stay for the night when we reached the peninsula. It was near dinner time so we decided to stop at the gas station for some surprisingly delicious fish-n-chips and to search for accommodations in the area. Since the only hotel in town was booked up and I was sick of driving, we decided to SUV-camp for another night at the closest campsite. We consumed our second bottle of wine that night and fell asleep in drunken laughter.
“Everybody loves kung-fu fighting, those kicks were fast as lighting…” I had intended to wake up around midnight to see if I was lucky enough to see the light show of the north. My heart sank a little when my phone read 3AM (I set 3 different alarms in case I snoozed my way out of the first alarms… the foresight was impeccable lol). When I got outside streaks of green lights were dancing above me with varying intensity. The light show extraordinaire was even more stunning than I had expected, and after an hour of photos the northern lights subsided and I was back asleep within minutes. I still wonder to this day what if I actually woke up at midnight as planned… would the Aurora Borealis be even more spectacular?