Iceland Revealed 2017 Trip Report

By Jeff Vanuga on Sep 01, 2017

When I travel to Iceland it seems like the shortest overseas trip I make.  Flying from my connection in Minneapolis to Reykjavik takes approximately six hours.  Since many of my trips run 10 to 12 hours from the US, this seems like a commuter flight by comparison.  One advantage of visiting Iceland is that it is a relatively short flight from either North America or Europe.  From New York, Iceland is a short 5-hour flight and via London the journey takes approximately 3 hours.  It seems that after I do a little reading and watch a movie, the wheels are already touching the ground.  
After landing early in the morning I arrive at my Reykjavik hotel, and after a short night, I hit the city to walk off the flight.  The center of Reykjavik is filled with wonderful shops and restaurants, and after an hour of window shopping, I hit my favorite little wood-fired pizza place, the Eldsmidjan.  Located just one block from our hotel, the pizza here is tasty and well prepared.  I overheard a kid from the US shout, “Look Ma, real cheese!”
The next evening our group gets together at the Hotel Reykjavik for our meet and greet and we head off to another great restaurant, the Hereford Steikhus, where they serve the standard menu of steak, lamb and seafood along with some unusual Icelandic dishes.  It is considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the city and the food is great. 
Iceland Photo Tour 2017The following morning we pack up and load into our custom-built Mercedes Sprinter 4x4.  This is no ordinary Sprinter.  It includes a $100,000.00 upgraded off-road package with massive 48” tires and is built for driving across deep rivers and glaciers in the winter.  Not even a thought about getting stuck anywhere in this monster truck!  After driving for a few hours we take a break and begin photographing Háifoss waterfall in southern Iceland.  Here, the River Fossá drops a total of 122 meters making Háifoss the third tallest waterfall in Iceland.  From our overlook into the deep gorge we were treated to some rainbow activity, and although I rarely use a filter I mounted a Singh-Ray Warm Polarizer to enhance the colors of the rainbow and reduce shutter speed.  After a couple of hours break and some waterfall photography we are on the road again heading to our remote hotel on the west side of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. 
For the next three days we explore this region of Iceland, making forays into the Veidivotn Lakes and Fjallabak Nature Reserve.  Veidivotn Lakes include roughly 50 crater lakes fed by groundwater due to the lava fields and porous scoria.  Very little, if any, water in the lakes comes from runoff.  These lakes have impressive brown trout weighing 8 to 10 pounds, so the only other people we see in this region are the occasional fishermen.  Fjallabak Nature Reserve is a mountainous region sculpted by volcanoes, lava flows and rivers and is covered with lava and sand.  Because of the cold climate and short 2-month growing season the formation of soil is slow and vegetation is sparse.  Colorful mosses cover the area in hues of green where established.  The area is best known for being the largest rhyolite area in the country and is surrounded by deeply incised mountains.  Landmannalauger is where we find the vibrantly colored hillsides unique to the Southern Highlands.  A 3-mile hike to Mount Brennisteinsalda volcano provides some spectacular views of the region for those who choose to make the trek.  
Columnar basalt IcelandAfter we bid our good byes to the Southern Highlands we head north to the Lake Mývatn region.  Along the way we bisect the Central and Northern Highlands through a rocky ash-colored lunarscape where almost no vegetation exists.  For several hours we drive through a landscape that more closely resembles the moon than our planet earth.  Due to porous rock, cooler temperatures and wind, this part of the country is void of vegetation and the only greenery is located along an occasional stream bed, which seem to be rare. 
We use Mývatn as our base for several days as we visit some of Iceland’s large waterfalls, such as Dettifoss, Selfoss, Godafoss and Aldeyjarfoss, photographing some at sunrise and others at sundown to take advantage of ideal lighting.  Mývatn is also known for its geothermal features and one evening is spent photographing the Solfataras (sulfur mud springs) of Námafjall.  This geothermal area lies atop a nearby mountain and is dotted with mud pots.  The sulfurous steam rising from the pots is very strong on the olfactory lobes.  
A scenic drive along the Iceland’s North Coast brings us to the Vatnes Peninsula where we spend the night and photograph Hvitserkur, a wave-sculpted volcanic monolith that sits about 50 feet from the shore.  Local legend has it that Hvitserfur is a petrified troll who lived along the Strandir coast in the Wesfjords and was caught out in the open in daylight (trolls, of course, turn to stone in daylight).  
Iceland landscapeOur last stop before returning to Keflavik Airport is at Hraunfossar (Lava Falls).  The waterfalls flow out of a lava field created by the eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the Langjökull glacier, forming rivulets streaming out from the hillsides over a distance of 900 meters into the Hvítá River.  
Eventually we head south to our hotel near the airport and enjoy a superb dinner at the Park Radisson Hotel.  Like all the food on our trip the dinner is amazing and our participants enjoyed meals of seafood, beef, lamb, and some of the exotic dishes of Iceland.  The next morning we board our flights back to the US and abroad.  
This was my third trip to Iceland, a magical country with some of the best landscape photography on the planet.  I already look forward to my return next winter for the Iceland in Winter and Iceland Revealed trips in August 2018.  If you missed this year’s trip, I hope to see you on the next one to this photogenic place called Iceland!


Be sure to check out our 2018 Iceland Revealed trip!

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