Today we had a very long day ahead of us. A long and cool day since when we woke up, it was -5 °C outside with a bit of wind, but the sky, on the other hand, was quite clear. We planned a day visiting this famous coastal area, stopping at a couple of points of interest on the peninsula.
We struck out west along the north coast. After crossing the beautiful Kolgrafarfjörður fjord and the charming town of Grundafjorður, we arrived near the famous Kirkjufell mountain where we decided to stop and take some photos.
There were already a lot of people near the waterfall, so we decided to hike up to this viewpoint tomorrow when there would be fewer tourists, but nearby on the left we found a small path leading right up to a small frozen lake that offered a beautiful view of Kirkjufell.
Further on, a little before Rif, we stopped at Svodufoss, a gorgeous little waterfall, very well indicated from the main road, which is only 1.5 km away. The north of the peninsula was almost too rich with things to see, and a few kilometers further on, we arrived near the very photogenic church of Hellissandur, Ingjaldshólskirkja.
Returning to Snaefellsjökull National Park, the wind began to blow really hard and the landscape changed entirely: a thick carpet of snow had fallen here the previous night. We arrived near the Öndverðarnes lighthouse, where we planned to take a walk on the beach.
The place was gorgeous, the colors and contrasts magnificent with the sunrise bathing everything in twilight.
On the way down, we crossed over to Dritvik to see Djupalon beach. We learned here that a trawler ran aground in 1948, and we still saw the remains of the wreck on the beach. The place was really wild, and it was possible to do a short hike of 1 km in 30 minutes to reach Dritvik, where you could find pretty rocks, including Vikurklettur.
We had planned to go further south to see the small Bjarnarfoss waterfall, unfortunately, the 574 road leading to it was closed. So we set off nearby Arnarstapi for lunch.
Once the traditional Icelandic soup was over, we stopped very close by at the Rauðfeldar canyon. The hike up to the canyon was very steep, and there was quite a bit of snow here on the south coast of the peninsula.
The wind blew a little harder with every meter of elevation and the climb was a real challenge. We were all the more disappointed to realize when we arrived right in front of the canyon entrance, so to speak, that it was impossible to go inside. The path here above the stream was strewn with pebbles and iced over entirely, much too slippery to be safe. We had no choice but to go back down to the car.
I don't know what temperature we felt at the top of the canyon, but with the wind at 80 km/h and a temperature of -5 °C, we really were frozen stiff. Personally, I've never been that cold in my life!
The landscape was entirely white, and the wind was bringing snow back onto the road, but we arrived near the Buðir church a few minutes later. This church is incredibly photogenic, even more so, I think, with the white splash of the snowy landscape around it. We took a short break here to enjoy a Skyr and take a few photos before heading back east.
Despite the cold, we decided to take a break to spot seals near the Ytri Tunga farm. We walked to the beach until we found some seals basking on the rocks, noting that the temperature didn't seem to bother them at all.
We had a clear blue sky at the end of the afternoon, and decided to go back to the north coast and Stykkisholmur to eat there. We'd booked a table the day before at the very popular Narfeyrarstofa which offered local cuisine and had an excellent reputation. Well deserved, we can tell you we were not disappointed! This was fine cuisine and the fresh fish was absolutely delicious.
That evening the sky was cloudless and the forecast for auroras boasted a Kp of 5 on vedur.is, and even 6 on to My Aurora Forecast. This was our chance after the failed attempt in Vik a few days ago. After eating we decided to take the car back to the south coast of the peninsula, finding an unobstructed view of the clear sky on this dark night. We parked and turned off the lights having found a small trail near the Hotel Rjukandi between road 56 and 54.
The My Aurora Forecast application said there was a 37% chance of seeing them after 10:00PM, so it was now or never!
We sat there with our heads against the window on our side of the car, eyes trained on the starry sky, and at 9:45PM we began to see what seemed to be a white cloud or mist stretching. But within seconds another 2, 3, then 4 other shapes appeared near the first, and a few seconds later, they started to move and shifted to green. Unbelievable... dancing before our eyes were the mythical Northern Lights.
We immediately got out of the car, forgetting the cold, set up the camera on the tripod and set the focus to manual (it was impossible to autofocus in the dark...). The colors were fantastic, the auroras slow-dancing in the sky, and sometimes whipping back and forth at speed.
The photos were difficult to take with the strong wind, but we kept at it and tried many shots with different settings. The auroras would grow bright emit a lot of light, then less, leaving us scrambling to adjust settings.
We stayed no less than an hour and a half photographing the lights on that frozen day, witnessing one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons we had ever seen before. What luck! We returned to the guesthouse around 11:30PM, our eyes still star-struck by this ballet of colors.