Exploring Iceland: Golden Circle, Kirkjufell and Northern Lights!

February 2, 2016

unique light painting in iceland

Oh exploring Iceland. Seldom have I visited the same country within less than 12 months but Iceland seems to win. I went to Iceland back in May for the first time and it was incredible. Exploring Iceland in the summer is fantastic for tourists as the weather is a bit more tame, and when exploring waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Gljufurarfoss the water coming off isn’t so cold that your heart stops (major key!). If you want to see the Northern Lights AKA the Aurora Borealis though, you need to go to Iceland in the winter.

I originally planned to come back to Iceland alone, because visiting in the winter seemed like the kind of idea where your friends would think you’re crazy. I also thought I’d be alone because photographing landscapes takes time, especially at night. But, with lots of planning and some folks who were very adventurous, we ended up with 12 people total, traveling via WOW Air from Baltimore to Reykjavik. Three SUVs, lots of gas station food, and crazy weather changes later, we were exploring Iceland in the winter.

Went spent three and a half days total in the beautiful country. We hit up the Golden Circle the first day which was a nice recap for me. It was like introducing my super cool friend at each stop because of how unique Iceland’s landscape is. Thingviller, Geysir, Gulfoss, Seljalandsfoss were all their standard beautiful stops. But one of the spots I had never visited was this more secret cave/waterfall I’d seen photos of on Instagram. Just a short walk from Seljalandsfoss was Gljufurarfoss which was a tad sketchy getting in (you walk downhill on slippery ice, or walk a longer distance straight in through the river). It was gorgeous, magical, and very wet. All of our lost energy over the first 4 stops was regained when we got here. Our clothes were soaked, and pieces of ice were falling from the top and hitting us as the waterfall came down, but we felt so adventurous!

Leaving Gljufurarfoss, we headed to what’s still my favorite location Seljavallalaug, a secret naturally-heated pool built in 1923 to help people learn how to swim. We couldn’t really get any great photos of it as it was night time when we were there and focused on swimming!

The second day we took on the southern coast of Iceland. First, we visited Sólheimasandur, a US Navy plane that crash landed in a storm in the 70s and was never retrieved. Everyone survived apparently. With the short daylight and long itinerary for each day, this was the hardest to find in the pitch black darkness. You basically look for a hole in a fence between a mountain and the black sand beaches of Vik (yes, that’s a real sentence!). Once we got there, we drove onto the black-sand beaches in our two Opel Mekkas and one Hyundai. No one got stuck (yet). Seeing the plane kept us occupied for a while. It’s  just so unique and beautiful. After that we visited the town of Vik (and drove up some very steep hills), Dyrholaey, ended at the glacier-lagoon: Jökulsárlón. This was a fantastic day except for when we had to make the 5 hour drive back to Reykjavik, it was in a snow storm. Our group got separated until my car went back to find the other two. It was more hilarious than scary but made for a long night.

The third day was supposed to be a bit more chill. We’d head out in the morning to Kirkjufell, a spot I’ve never been, then return around lunchtime to Reykjavik where we’d enjoy a walking tour, some calm exploring of the city, and head to a local heated waterpark that has a waterslide. To keep it basic, Kirkjufell was beautiful, one of our cars got stuck and we missed our tour but a nice guy named Johann pulled us out and when we should’ve played it safe and drove home, I said lets drive in between two mountains where there wasn’t a road and we could explore some more. It was great was our own adventure! We still got home to Reykjavik and enjoyed our Icelandic heated pool and waterslide.

The last day we spent walking on Reykjavik, getting breakfast and looking at the sights before heading to the airport. Overall a fantastic trip and I’m already planning on the next one back! I’ll have a vlog out soon too so you can see more of the adventures. But now, here’s some of my favorite images from my second trip to Iceland.


thingviller at sunrise in the winter tourist at thingviller 3-exploring-iceland exploring iceland seeing horses in iceland seeing horses in iceland icelandic horse gulfoss in the winter Seljalandsfoss frozen secret cave near Seljalandsfoss seeing Gljufurarfoss near Seljalandsfoss exploring iceland with Adam Mason find US navy plane crash Sólheimasandur in Iceland find US navy plane crash Sólheimasandur in Iceland columbia sportwear in Iceland vik dyrholaey iceland view icelandic portraits at vik icelandic portraits at vik icelandic portraits at vik exploring iceland opel mekka suv in Iceland 27-exploring-iceland 28-exploring-iceland 29-exploring-iceland iceland road iceland engagement iceland art handstand exploring iceland Jökulsárlón at dusk portrait at Jökulsárlón Jökulsárlón sunset Jökulsárlón at dusk kirkjufell at sunrise shot on iPhone 39-exploring-iceland town near kirkjufell 41-exploring-iceland kirkjufell in iceland 43-exploring-iceland 44-exploring-iceland 45-exploring-iceland 46-exploring-iceland 47-exploring-iceland 48-exploring-iceland 49-exploring-iceland 50-exploring-iceland 51-exploring-iceland 52-exploring-iceland 53-exploring-iceland tourists in iceland on hike tourists in iceland on hike tourists in iceland on hike northern lights in Reykjavik by Sun Voyager sun voyager in iceland starry night over thingviller starry night over thingviller starry night over thingviller hallgrimska in Reykjavik hallgrimska in downtown reykjavik cool view of downtown reykjavik from hallgrimska inside of hallgrimska