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Iceland in winter - part 3

This is the 3rd part of our winter Iceland adventure, if you haven't read the first one you should start here: https://www.gyorgypalko.com/post/iceland-trip-2024-part-1

And make sure you watch our short film about Iceland as an introduction: https://youtu.be/d7nqYv_YMrU

We still had no luck with the Northern Lights and spent one more night at the foot of Kirkjufell. The next day, a long journey awaited us, a total of more than 5 hours of driving over 380 km. Since my parents live even further away from us, I can say that we are used to longer trips, but this was a completely different experience during our whole trip to Iceland. The landscape is so captivating that the journey never once seemed boring or uncomfortably long.


The planned route, which can also be seen on the map, looked like this: early departure - our first stop in Borgarnes, a quick charge here and continue - Thringvellir national park - Geysir, charge again in the parking lot - Gullfoss - Hvolsvöllur, Tesla Supercharger and a very delicious pizza - Seljalandfoss Horizons, where we spend one night.

Before each departure, I checked the road conditions in Iceland, which you can find out exactly up to the minute. On https://umferdin.is/en, you can clearly see which road sections are easily accessible - how many cars have passed since midnight and in the last 10 minutes - and where to expect snow, icy roads or road closures. A significant part of Iceland's territory, the Highlands - worth looking for - for example, cannot be approached by an average car in winter, only with the huge superjeeps and superbuses used by the tour organizers, i.e. road closures can and should be expected, especially if you want to get there early to go on a journey.

Some phone pictures of our accommodation, which I warmly recommend to anyone who plans to spend 1-2 nights in the area. Comfortable, spacious accommodation for up to 6-7 people, with a unique view, a well-equipped kitchen and very kind owners.

The trip - Grundarfjörður - Borgarnes - Geysir

We managed to leave at 9.15, which means it was still as dark as night, and the roads are just starting to be cleaned. After the previous day's snowstorm, I sat behind the wheel with a little more confidence, despite the fact that I suspected that the section of road ahead of us might hold surprises, since we have to go through a mountain again. Passing through Grundarfjörður, we caught up with a snow plow the size of which we had never seen before, so we understood that they were prepared for anything, and it showed on the road. Despite the large amount of overnight snow and the wind, the road was passable.

I have rewritten the following paragraph three times because I am trying to share a very personal moment and I am trying to make it easy to understand and a little bit relatable. I'll start by trying to describe what surrounds me, then I'll touch on the feelings swirling inside me.

So, leaving the settlement, we meandered along the ocean coast and in front of us the mountains swimming in the moonlight presented a sight that I had never seen even in movies. This is where it really hit me for the first time, I started to realize that we are in fact in Iceland. In addition to the emotional roller coaster ride that ended with a happy ending the day before, and the fact that Eszter and Johanna chatted kindly and cheerfully next to me, as well as the car finally working, there was nothing I should worry about. At that moment, I was filled with such a deep inner peace, peace and happiness that my tears fell silently for minutes. I smiled and cried from happiness, none of this was noticed by the girls. I have never, ever felt like I did in those moments. That's when I began to understand why people love this small island so much. You are exposed to the forces of nature, to extremes, to such an extent that you can do nothing but accept the current situation and try to get the most out of it, all in a landscape that was created by these same forces and is so impressive that nothing can compare to it. In my case, this led to me feeling closer to God than ever before.

I didn't have much time to dwell on the feelings described above, because for the next half hour we had to fight our way through an even more serious snowstorm than the night before on a much less cleaned road through the mountain. Sometimes driving at a speed of 40-50 km/h, the minutes passed with intense attention, but surprisingly, I wasn't worried for a moment, I just concentrated much more than usual.

Snapshot from video recorded by GoPro

Before our trip, I watched a lot of videos about winter road conditions and driving to know what to expect, but luckily they were much scarier than what I experienced in reality. It is important to note that anyone who has even a moment's doubt as to whether they are capable of this should plan their route very carefully and this is the only way I recommend driving in the winter in Iceland.


After we reached the highest point of our journey, it started to clear and the snow stopped from one moment to the next. Until Borgarnes, nothing really worth mentioning - apart from the stunning scenery - happened, apart from the fact that when I stopped for a minute I was surprised to see how snowy the back of the car was.


In Borgarnes, we again found the charger very easily, using Tesla's own navigation. It was a charger belonging to a different charging network, but the chip we received from Lava Car worked here too, so we didn't have to pay extra for that either. While the car was charging, we had a hamburger at the gas station. The kitchen at gas stations is completely different from the fast food offered at domestic gas stations. Our hamburger was not made of mirelit meat either, but a fresh meat patty. I think that reasonableness and economy are the main reasons why, in a building that basically looks like a gas station, you can find a restaurant-quality kitchen and a moderately equipped store in the majority of cases.


The day before, we learned to be flexible with our plans, if something doesn't work out, we accept it. This is also the case with Thingvellir National Park. This area was the site of Iceland's parliament for almost a millennium and the world's first parliament was held here in 930, so as a historian major I would have been happy to stop here for a while. The road leading up there was a captivating landscape, unlike before, but already on the way I sensed that Geysir and Gullfoss would be of more interest to us, and perhaps this part will be much more interesting in the summer, when everything is green.

Geysir, Strokkur and Gullfoss

The origin of the word geyser is linked to Iceland, the phenomenon was named after the Geysir, a hot spring that erupts at regular intervals. Unfortunately, it has not erupted for decades, only its smaller companion, the Strokkur geyser, does so every 5-15 minutes. We got here around 2:00 p.m. and there were quite a lot of cars in the parking lot, much more than we saw anywhere on the peninsula, but even so it wasn't unbearably crowded and the charger was free. This area is part of the famous 'Golden circle', which is visited by almost all tourists who come to Iceland. Primarily because this is the only place in Europe where you can see an active geyser.


In the travel videos showing the location, the unpleasant, sulfurous smell that spreads in the air is always emphasized, but we only felt this when we were directly near the steam after the eruption or near a small stream, otherwise it was hardly noticeable. Like everyone else, we took videos and pictures of the eruptions, but we still had a hard time understanding the tourists who were filming themselves for long minutes with their backs to the Strokkur geyser and watching the events on their phone screens. I know it's 2024, but...


After an hour, we left for the last stop of the day, the Gullfoss waterfall. The building of the Geysir Hotel, located next to the parking lot, did not escape my attention... My architectural photographer self turned on immediately.


Our car was charged to 98% on the charger in the parking lot while we looked around. I started to like electric cars more and more. Gullfoss means golden waterfall in English and the Golden circle got its name from it. The waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island, and drones in these places are prohibited without proper permits. There is so much beautiful scenery outside of these crowded places that I never even considered risking flying. If you are wondering what the waterfall looks like from above, you can find a lot of beautiful footage on YouTube. (Highly recommended!) The force of the waterfall can be heard from far away, and even the strong wind could not suppress it. Here are some pictures, because I couldn't describe it with words anyway.


Many tourists are also an opportunity, so the locals try to operate cafes, restaurants and gift shops in these frequently visited places. And I was happy to photograph this. I think I took more pictures of this building than all the tourists that day combined. :)


Our accommodation was still an hour and a half away, so we didn't spend more than 50 minutes here either. On the way, we saw several farms where you could pet Icelandic horses, you could even buy "horse candy" in these places. Again, a tourist attraction that I like to avoid. However, Johanna definitely wanted to pet a horse, so I looked for the opportunity to safely pull over to the side of the road to a larger group of horses. I soon had the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, there were sugar cubes in the car (Eszter drinks her coffee with 2 sugars or 3 Icelandic sugars :D ) and so we had something to lure them to us.


My grandfather had horses, and I learned at an early age how to feed a horse with sugar cubes so that it doesn't start snacking with my fingers. It gave me a good feeling that while I was teaching this to my little girl, I could tell her a little about her great-grandfather.


On the way to Hvolsvöllur, I told some stories about my grandfather and the horses, these "holidays" are also good opportunities to pass down family stories. The landscape - I know I keep writing this - made sure that the trip didn't seem boring for even a minute.

A greenhouse in the middle of nowhere. The emanating warm light was a very special sight.

While the car was charging at the Supercharger, we ate a very delicious pizza, and to our complete surprise, Imi spoke to us in Hungarian from the counter, after he noticed that we were consulting in Hungarian while browsing the menu. So, along with our dinner, we received an experience report about what it's like to live here in a way of life, and I must say he managed to arouse our interest.

Our car is charging next to Lava Center

Since it was getting dark, we thought that the only thing left for that day was to occupy our accommodation, but on the way we realized that we were wrong. We passed by an illuminated (!) waterfall, that is, the illuminated Sejlalandsfoss waterfall, which was 3 minutes away by car from our accommodation. We quickly went to our accommodation, stretched out a bit, turned on the heating (these little cottages are not overheated until the guests arrive) and went back to the waterfall, where there was no one else but us at 8 pm. It was a very special ending to a long and meaningful day. I will continue soon...


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