Summer in Iceland
This past June, I traveled to Iceland for my 6th visit.
It's been awhile since I've been able to post about a trip!
I made two trips to Iceland in May and June this year, just as vaccinated Americans were being allowed to travel to very select few countries. These trips were my 5th & 6th visits to this magical volcanic island.
If you don't know, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano in the Reykjanes peninsula began erupting in March 2020. This was a big deal, as no volcano has erupted in this area of Iceland for over 800 years. The best part, is this volcano is located some 20 minutes from the airport, and is considered an effusive volcano - meaning it poses little danger to tourists as long as you pay attention to warnings and lava patterns. I was so jealous of Icelanders and other travelers with the ability to see this event in the first month it occurred, so I was elated to hear that this volcano is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
I was able to visit first on Memorial Day weekend - this was a short, weekend only trip. Unfortunately, between COVID hoops to jump through (that really could be its own blog post) and the awful high winds and weather, there was no visibility to see the active eruption. I did the hike anyway though - not an easy one!
Hoping to catch it, I booked another trip for the end of June. This trip I made a bit longer, and decided to camp in a Camper Van - something I've always wanted to do. What a treat it was! I trekked solo all across the southern coast, from Reykjavik, to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and all the way to Stokksnes Beach and back. For a 5 day trip, this is a phenomenal amount of driving for one person. But, I was detemined to revisit all my favorite sites, and check out some new ones too.
The first thing I noticed was how the entire coast had just exploded with color from the lupines. I knew there would be lupine flowers, but I did not realize the sheer extent of the summer bloom. I mean - you could see huge swaths of them just going for miles and miles - over cliffsides, along the highways and beyond. You could not get away from them. They were so beautiful!
I also really enjoyed getting to see all the baby animals! Lots of colts, lambs, and even ducklings. Something you don't get to see in the fall or winter months.
Some new spots I found include some smaller, less-known waterfalls on the southern coast drive:
One of my big hopes was to catch a sunset or a sunrise at Vestrahorn Mountain. This place just eludes me every time. I've yet to capture a stunning scene here. Someday! I did stick around for the nice summer day though.
The weather up to this point was just gloomy, foggy, and no visibility where the volcano was located. This time, I peaked at the live webcams each day to see if I should head back to where I started. The weather in that area did not become favorable until the very last day I was in Iceland. It was my last chance! After 8 hours of driving back, I arrived. I planned to hike up the trail (a new trail had opened, as you could no longer get super close to the volcano as lava had overtaken the path) in the night to be able to capture the glow of any lava. This was no problem, as during this time, it is the Arctic Summer, where the sun never really dips too far below the horizon and you can see well all 24 hours of the day.
I began my hike. In the first 15 minutes, I was amazed to see how much lava had overtaken the valley below in such a short span of time, and it was really cool to just stand next to it and feel the heat pour out of the earth. I continued on up a huge ascent, nearly straight up until I came to the view of the giant plume. I made it to the top after about an hour of climbing. I was disappointed to find that all of the lava was pouring down into a lava tube into the earth. Regardless, I flew my drone out to make some shots. Using up all my batteries, I packed up, nearly ready to leave. But, as I was packing, I noticed something incredible.
The lava from the volcano seemed to become more aggressive. Watching it for some time, the lava started flowing out of the side - it broke through a wall in the earth. Everyone was stunned. The lava was slowly expanding from its point of origin, and I could tell this was going to continue and become a real spectacle. I had to make the tough decision to hike down, recharge all my batteries, and do this brutal hike over again in the middle of the night. But, I did it ! How could I not? This thing is the whole reason I came in the first place, despite how angry my legs were going to be at me in the morning.
I hiked back up the mountain, and my goodness, I made the right decision. Everyone around me was gasping aloud at the incredible lava show that was being put on by this volcano. Words can't describe what an incredible experience it was to witness the earth changing like that right in front of me.
Unfortunately, Icelandic weather takes a huge toll on all equipment, so I was having issues with my drone at this point in the trip. Despite taking it to the DJI store in Reykjavik for a cleaning, I needed to send it for official repair. It severely impeded my ability to make the photographs and video I wanted, but I did manage to get some I am happy with. It doesn't take away from the experience of being there though, and I'm so glad to have been there for it.
I'll be visiting Iceland again in summer 2022 with BlueHour - and maybe the volcano will still be erupting!