We had no plans, no expectations, nowhere to be for the next seven days. All we had was a Hightop VW Syncro, an island full of places to explore, and an open mind for finding our way round the island of Iceland. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when we landed in Reykjavik, but James Barkman aka Barky and I stopped in to Snail VW (www.snail.is) to chat with Sigrún about some potential travel options and hear some horror stories of drivers who need to spend more time in a manual car before hiring one to live in! I’ve heard this more than a few times now, car hire companies who do their best to ensure the renters can drive a manual before letting the vehicle leave, but end up with a blown clutch or worse. Luckily, being two VW regulars (Barky also lives full time in his ’76 Westfalia) we loaded up the van with our gear set off with high hopes for the adventures to come.
I find that most people either thrive or flounder in ‘no plans’ situations. It’s easy to get frozen in the ‘what should we do now’ mentality, and with as many options as a place like Iceland has to offer, there isn’t much point in trying to compare one to another, rather we found it best to just hit the road and get started. We met two friends from California the first day, and decided on a hot springs tour thru the western fjords, with a pit stop along the way at the famous Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, where we tested Barky’s cold water tolerance with several back flips off the falls.
Fortunately, our next two stops in the west fjords were hot springs, and the second can hit 55°C (130°F) so we all warmed up plenty.
Onwards down the road, and as you can see there is rugged beauty nearly everywhere. Countless stops along the road on our way to Islafjordur.
After parting ways with Chris and Ryan, Barky and I continued on, catching back up with the loop road and leaving the west fjords, but not before making another hot springs pit stop.
Iceland in the summer is a trippy experience, the sun was setting around midnight and rising at 3am, so we ended up staying up nearly all night then sleeping during the day to be able to photograph in the best light. Here on some lone road along the north shore, we found a perfect little hill for a casual ride.
Then, only a few hours later, this happened, and continued happening for approximately the next 45 minutes.
Waterfalls for days, another classic fall, Godafoss.
As you make your way across the north, soon you’ll come to the area that is a geothermal hotbed, with cone volcanoes and little houses that look as though they should be on Mars.
Lots of skating happened. The roads were too perfect. We even found the road featured in the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that Ben Stiller (or his stunt double I’m sure) went down. Barky decided to ride his skateboard in to the eastern fjords rather than ride in the VW. With road conditions like this, I understand why (and did a little time on the board myself).
A classic #vanlife view, out the read doors, with the mountains of Stokksnes is the distance.
Our trusty steed, holding down the fort at 2am.
When the clouds socked us in at around 1am, we made the call to move out, hoping to find somewhere that there was no low fog obstructing our views. We had almost made it to Jökulsárlón (the Ice Lagoon) when the skies began to glow with pinks and orange, as we soon found ourselves on the shores of a perfectly calm lake with only the sounds of cracking ice and our footsteps to be heard. The best part of being awake at 3am, you often get places to yourselves 🙂
Onwards to Vik, soon we were surrounded by lupines, a beautiful purple flower that has really taken hold in the southern parts of the island.
Oh, and the Blue Lagoon. I don’t think I’ll go back, not really my style; I prefer the lagoons that are a little more off the beaten path. That being said, it was a casual way to spend our last morning before catching flights back to the states.
A special thanks to Sigrún and the good folks at Snail VW for helping make this a great trip. If you’re looking for a solid ride for the island, they offer a great setup, just make sure you know how to drive manual or you might get thrown out 😉
There is something special about a road trip. It seems more personal, you experience the elements more intensely and become more connected to the place. For the last year and some change I’ve been partaking in a perpetual road trip, mainly in the USA, but occasionally getting to spend some time internationally. Returning from seven days in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, I think I’ve found one of my new favorite road trip locations. From the culture, stunning mountains, vast oceans, and the proximity of all these things to one another, it’s got a little bit of something for everyone!
Being a VW owner and lover, needless to say I was excited to find out you can hire a fully set up van with Arctic Campers (www.arcticcampers.no), just down the street from the Leknes airport. Fast forward to some months later, and I was chatting with the folks there at their shop, getting some insider information on some of the best views and hikes to start the day. Driving off down the road, I couldn’t help but smile with anticipation of what we had in store in the coming week. It’s easy to see why I was excited to get started, with views like this right out your back hatch how can it get better?!
Besides having some of the best views from any given road side, of course you can choose to get a little higher up and get in to the mountains. Only an hour or so from the car park, we gained a decent bit of elevation, enough to get above the clouds and see some of Lofoten’s pristine lakes.
I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘foodie’, but I love cooking and fresh food, so having access to a stove and fridge whilst traveling is a treat. Do you ever get home from a trip and feel like you haven’t had a home cooked meal in ages? Vanlife is the answer 🙂
I don’t know how anyone could want to stay inside in a hotel room when you can have the best sleep machine earth ever created right outside your windows.
I was fortunate enough to find a little access road that led to an amazing overlook of the tiny town of Unstad. Yes, you can camp here, or if you would rather you can sleep down on the beach.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Lofoten without exploring the tiny fishing village of Reine. This became our home base, stopping in for coffee in the morning, or afternoon, and of course a softis or two. If you don’t know what a softis is, you will be pleasantly surprised when you find out.
Rolf is a fisherman on the islands, and from what I experienced a pretty good one at that. It’s great to get off the shore and see the mountains rising stark out of the sea.
Every so often, you find a place in this world that drastically changes your concept of beauty and serenity. For me, that place was Kvalvika beach. A short hike over a mountain pass is the only thing that separates you from the rest of the world, but you feel completely detached. Honestly, I could have stayed there for days, weeks even. If I was forced to choose just one place to visit the next time I am in Lofoten, this would be it hands down.
Second place behind Kvalvika Beach would be Reinebringen, the prominent mountain just outside Reine. Although we had a comfy camper waiting for us at the base of the mountain, it was such a good view of the midnight sun and the mountains we decided to stay at the summit overnight. That being said, it was sure nice to come down after a few hours of sleep (when the sun doesn’t set it’s hard to go to bed instead of photographing all night!) and hop in the bed for a morning cat nap.
The only problem I’ve found with Lofoten, is that now I have to return in the other seasons. Spring was wonderful, and there weren’t too many tourists, the weather never got too cold, but I am intrigued to see summer, fall, and winter. Well, there is always next time!
Sounds like this weekend is going to be overcast and rainy in town, but it’s sunny at Crater Lake National Park, who’s ready for a snowshoe adventure?! Let’s go!
*On the Other Side – Ruckel Creek // Columbia River Gorge, Oregon*
It’s been a while since I’ve made a good old fashioned waterfall photograph. Here’s one from a lesser known (relatively) hike in the Gorge, up Ruckel Creek. I’d like to get back out there now that the weather is warming up a bit, and hit some of the other falls a bit further up the river.
Well, I head to Alaska in t-minus 6 days. Excited, yes, prepared, maybe, ready to see what happens? DEFINITELY.
*The Power of the Wave – Thor’s Well // Cape Perpetua, Oregon*
Last week Britta and I took off towards the coast on Wednesday night, with our eyes fixed southbound towards the mighty Redwoods in northern California. But, before we got there, we spent a night in Newport and Coos Bay, Oregon. On the way out of Newport, we decided to take a quick hike down to Thor’s Well just to see how it was flowing. We totally lucked out with a great sky, and only one soaking wet shoe between us!
I never really know when I’m working on an image what the title is going to be, it just kind of happens as I’m reminiscing on the moment and how the photo has turned out. Sometimes it takes a couple seconds, and sometimes it just sits for a while till it comes to me.
*The Story of Our Lives // Punchbowl Falls, Oregon*
It was a beautiful weekend for a hike up the gorge with the whole Drink And Click group. I’m still waiting for a really foggy day to shoot this waterfall, but in the late afternoon shade it was still a great time to capture the fall’s beauty.
Come summer, I have a plan to swim out there with my camera in a dry sack and get a few up close and personal photographs of the falls. Until then, this view is pretty great too.