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Iceland in winter - Part 1

Updated: Feb 2

This is the first blog post on my site in a long time. I actually forgot that I even had one before... :) I had the desire to have a blog on my website, but I have never really started to write here. Probably because nothing caught my attention enough to really want to write about it. Now that has changed! I write these lines primarily for myself, because I want to preserve my memories, but at the same time I hope that there will be interesting things, tips or good advice that will be useful for others.

Just to have a bit of a feeling of this trip start with this 3 minutes short video:

At the beginning of 2024, Eszter and I decided that it was time to step out of the usual, our comfort zone, and travel to a place we have been wanting to visit for a very long time: Iceland. Most people don't want to go here in winter, short days, blizzards, stormy winds and rain. These are the first things that come to mind when you start searching with the following keywords: "Iceland in winter" "driving in winter in Iceland" etc. We decided to go for it!

Air tickets are 60-70% cheaper than in summer. Car rental as well. Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, so this seemed like a good opportunity to get to this seemingly magical place at a relatively affordable price.

As an introduction, a short film about our tour:

We planned for 5 days, which increased to 7 nights after the first detailed program planning. Our itinerary: Keflavik - Reykjavik (night 1) - Snæfellsnes peninsula (nights 2-3) - South coast (nights 4-6 in two accommodations) - Reykjavik (night 7) and on our last day an early evening 8-hour departure home.

We booked most of the accommodations on Booking or Airbnb, but we spent two nights right in the middle of one of the world's largest lava fields, specifically in the middle of nowhere, which we booked on the hotel's website. This is recommended during the winter, because you can get very good discounts.

Tips for the trip

Our plane landed around 5:30 p.m., we quickly received our luggage and after a short bus ride we were able to pick up our rented car, a Tesla Model Y, which I found at Lava Car Rental only in the Long Range version, which is not only the larger battery, but also the also strongly recommended in winter due to four-wheel drive. I have never driven an electric car before, nor have I sat in one much, so this was another adventure outside my comfort zone.

Iceland is not cheap, especially when it comes to food, so it is recommended to go shopping in one of the larger shopping centers (Krónan or Bónus) at the beginning of the trip. The prices here are not low either, but you can swim 10-20% more expensive than the prices in Hungary. We did this immediately after taking over the car, and we didn't regret it at all during the trip! In this way, we were able to comfortably prepare our breakfast in our accommodation, and Eszter usually cooked in the evenings as well. This was also practical because it happened that the first small village was 40-50 minutes away from us, so going to a restaurant would not have been easy.

When we arrived in Reykjavik, we really liked the city swimming in warm lights. The terraces of the apartment buildings were decorated in the same way and presented a very nice and orderly picture. After we occupied our accommodation, we took a short walk to Hallsgrímkirkja, since it was only 10 minutes away, and after the walk we went back to sleep.

Day 1 - Reykjavík - Snæfellsnes peninsula

For me, the day started with a short Supercharger detour so that we could hit the road with a full battery. It can be said that the car plans very accurately for the entire trip regarding the expected battery percentage upon arrival, which was a great help. The charging cards offered by the rental company, which cost 1,500 Kr per day, are very useful, and I will touch on this in the section on attractions.

It was a very interesting feeling to walk around the Harpa and Sun Voyager on the ocean shore in the darkness of night at 9:30 in the morning. We made a short detour to the lighthouse, where we watched the sunrise, a surfer - who seemed completely insane to us - who was about to go into the freezing water (my photo of him is one of my favorites from the tour) - and we were already on our way to the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

A little more than 200 km and about 3 hours of travel, with a few planned stops. I drive a lot compared to the average, but driving in Iceland is a completely different experience. The landscape is so different, so unique and captivating that many times the only thing that came out of my mouth was "pfffffffff", maybe because we don't have the right words for it. "What a beautiful landscape" or "it's amazing" doesn't even come close to the effect the sight had on me. And at that time we were only on route 1 (the world-famous tour of Iceland). As we turned away from this and headed towards the peninsula, the feeling intensified. I don't know when was the last time I smiled so much...

We had been on the road for nearly 2 hours, we were already looking for an opportunity to take a short rest, and it wouldn't have hurt to eat something, since it was 1 o'clock in the afternoon. We found a small, nice looking cafe called Hjá Góðu Fólki next to an ON charging point, which opened at exactly 1am. A very cozy little place built and run by the owner, a middle-aged married couple. Guests are welcomed with homemade cakes, tarts and delicious coffee. A slice of cake cost HUF 3,500, but it's been a long time since we've eaten such a delicacy.

After our car was sufficiently charged (about 20 minutes), we left for our first stop, the stretch of coast called Ytri Tunga, where, under ideal weather conditions, a lot of seals usually rest. We saw a couple despite the stormy wind and huge waves. Here we experienced for the first time how strong and cold the windy weather can be on the island. Fortunately, we were prepared with appropriate clothing, so it didn't discourage us, just enough that we didn't want anything more than to occupy our accommodation that day.

I was completely surprised (perhaps I didn't prepare enough for the routes) that the road started to rise very steeply at one point and suddenly we found ourselves in a fairytale world in the snowy landscape. Iceland swept us off our feet! This route then provided a view of the ocean and the narrow stretch of coast below us from a height that I had never seen before. As I wrote before, the trip itself is a fascinating experience, which I had heard very little about before.

Our accommodation was located at the foot of Kirkjufell ('Church Mountain' - literally translated), which is legendary among photographers. It was a guesthouse that could not be called small. Eszter found the place, the owners of which were very kind and helpful, and the house is luxurious.

While my wife made dinner for us, I went for a quick visit to the waterfall located here, which was completely frozen due to the cold. I have seen only a few such pictures of the place, because the pictures of it are much more popular when, thanks to the long exposure technique, the waterfall that looks like a silk stream is visible in the foreground. There was no one there except me, since I got there well after sunset, but it was still so light that I managed to take some interesting and beautiful pictures for me, as well as explore the place a bit.

After dinner, neither Johanna nor I wanted/couldn't stay inside. I just took some photos, thanks to the moonlight the pictures look like they were taken during the day, while my little girl enjoyed the snow, which she unfortunately sees less and less often.

Our winter trip also promised to see the northern lights for the first time in our lives. This kept Eszter and Johanna very feverish during the trip. Unfortunately, we were not lucky in this regard, once Eszter managed to take a photo with her phone. My camera was dripping steam at that time, because after 3 hours of taking pictures in the freezing cold, I stopped for the day around 11 and brought it into the warmth. (After that, the machine spent the evenings in the car, to avoid extreme humidity)

This concludes our first full day in Iceland. This article turned out to be a bit longer than I originally planned, so I will continue it in a separate post the next day. Thanks for reading this far, I'll continue soon.

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