For someone who avoids being cold at all cost and wears a puffy vest in the summer, a trip to Iceland during the winter would seem like something I'd want nothing to do with. However, I have a deal with myself that if I keep thinking of something day after day, I have to figure out a way to do it. That something on my mind was seeing the Northern Lights in person. I knew that it would be a hit or miss situation to see the elusive nature show and there are no guarantees, but I knew I had to give it a try, even if that meant camping in the snow. The fact is, the weather is cold but not that cold compared to a lot of places in the winter. I decided to make the voyage and packed several layers, found a $99 deal on Wow air, and squeezed all of my things in a small carry on bag to head out for an adventure.
Teaming with CampEasy camper vans, I was able to travel in a 4x4 heated van for the week. I have to say, Iceland is pretty magical in the winter. But I'm sure you already knew that.
After I arrived, I started driving the Southern route on the ring road until I reached my favorite waterfall, Skógafoss. I tried to make the best of the limited daylight hours and plan my route the next day but that didn't always happen. Last April, I drove the entire ring road but didn't travel to the West Fjords. I decided to find a route to the area that was the safest to drive since many of the roads are closed during this time.
I took the ferry across and found a camping spot all to myself. Even though I was off of the main road in the area, I only saw about 3 cars pass by. The further you get from Reykjavik, the less and less people you will see and that's why I changed direction and decided to travel Northwest instead of Southeast on this journey.
It was 4 days into the trip and since I only had a week, I wan't sure I would be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the elusive lights. Then one night in the West Fjords after I settled into camp, I set up my go pro for a time lapse of the moon over the ocean and forgot about it. I cooked dinner in the camper and about 20 minutes later, I decided to go out to check on the camera. To my surprise, the Northern Lights were out in full force and I was completely overwhelmed with excitement. There wasn't anyone around but I still burst out with a, "are you kidding me?!!" (over and over again). There was a bright green swirl with a long stretch of light that went beyond the horizon. I quickly grabbed my go pro on 1% power and put it on time lapse to record the movement. I had each image 20 seconds apart and I quickly realized that 20 second was too much time between shots. As soon as it appeared, it was gone. That five minutes I had of Northern Lights made the entire trip. I was so excited like a kid and stayed up to see more of the show but sadly, it wouldn't be as brilliant as it was when it first appeared. I'm just glad I was able to capture some of the magic. I will never forget that moment. You can see some of the time lapse footage I took in the video below.
For the remainder of the trip, I drove around the western fjords, the Snaefellsnes National Park, golden circle to the secret lagoon, Pingvellier National Park, and took a dip in the icy Lagoon near Fontana spa. A close second to seeing the Northern Lights was plunging into a frozen lake for no other reason than for the experience of doing it. Many say that there are a lot of health benefits to submerging in an icy bath and I have to say that once I took that first step in the water, everything in my being told me not to continue. Once you're in, it's a feeling I can't describe besides the obvious numbness and shock. After defrosting from the first dip, I did it again just to be sure... of what, I am not quite sure. To my surprise, the second time was a bit easier.
To say that I camped in the snow in the winter is a bit of a stretch. Even though it was winter and I was sleeping in a van... I had a heater, stove, and everything you'd need to stay comfortable. The vehicles at CampEasy made the cold bearable and actually enjoyable for someone who isn't a fan of extreme temperatures.
The only thing I missed was Max. However, he would have hated the cold and everyday looked at me like I was crazy. Come to think of it, that's what he does normally.
If you can, I would recommend a trip to Iceland in the winter, or any time of the year. Seeing the Northern Lights was an experience I will never forget. To rental a camper van to tour the country, check out CampEasy. To check out my video from my last voyage to Iceland, click HERE.