Taking Van Life Internationally - ICELAND

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Four Day Summer Trip to Iceland

adventure elopement photographer

adventure-elopement-photography

4 days, 1,000+ miles, 8+ waterfalls, 3 hot springs & not much sleep

Wow! I am not even sure where to start!!! As an adventure elopement photographer, Iceland has always piqued my interest. It is actually where I started my elopement photography career a little over a year and half ago when I went in the dead of winter to capture an elopement. Ever since the first time I went I have been constantly ready to pack a bag and go back. A fellow photographer/video-grapher, Sean Farley, booked a flight and asked if I would join. I booked a last minute flight and packed my bags! We rented a small van for our four day road trip around Iceland’s Golden Circle, Ring Road and a few other off the main road ventures.

Iceland holds a very dear place in my heart. The place is absolutely beyond stunning. Arizona has always felt like home to me, even after the first time visiting. Iceland holds a very similar feeling to me, there is a deep rooted connection for me in its landscapes and its people. I completely understand why it is such a hot spot for many tourist, but also for couples eloping. No matter if you are reading the blog or viewing these photos as a couple thinking of eloping there, or a person thinking of traveling there or just here for fun, I hope you enjoy the images and stories below. As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Þingvellir-iceland-photographer

Our first stop was Þingvellir (Thingvellir) which is known for a lot of historical purposes in Iceland. To me I will always know it for THE place to see the tectonic plates above ground. I will always remember it for the time I almost died on my trip here in the winter a year and half ago. Folks…. do not drive on closed mountains roads ever, even more so when there are feet and feet of snow. I was very excited about this trip to see Iceland not covered in snow and to be able to cover more ground. I was very interested to see if I would like it more in the Winter season or Summer. I can not decide! At first I was so like for sure Winter, the snow covered mountains and landscape just give it a fairy tale feel, but as the trip went on there was so much more you could see and enjoy in the summer. No matter what Iceland is breath-taking and surprising in every corner.

Next stop on the Golden Circle was Gullfoss waterfall, which translates into Golden Waterfall. I have never had a love or awe for waterfalls, but this trip for sure changed my mind. The sound is totally capturing and the mist rising against Iceland’s lush green land is so beautiful. On this trip alone we saw well over ten waterfalls, it seems like everywhere we looked there was one.

Next stop is one of my at most favorite places in Iceland! I would almost fly to Iceland just to come sit in this hot spring, The Secret Lagoon. I always skip the Blue Lagoon because I am really not a fan of tourist areas, which is part of the reason a lot of our adventuring on this trip happened in the middle of the night. I also skip the Blue Lagoon because of cost and experience. The secret lagoon is cheaper and every time I have been I get to enjoy the company of locals in a more natural hot spring. It is a great spot to shower, enjoy a local beer and soak in the warmth.

Our first night’s dinner was at Tryggvaskáli, a beautiful historic location with fantastic food.

Next stop was the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. You can walk behind this fall, but be prepared to get wet. We timed it just right for “sunset” which was around midnight. During the summer there seems to never be a point of complete darkness, but about two hours of “blue hour” as we call in the photography world. Sunrise and Sunset being only a couple of hours apart and while you wont see the northern lights this time of year you get amazing pink skies if the weather is right. There are several smaller falls around the area so be sure to take a walk around. This like many of the falls is a very popular tourist spot and not too far from Reykjavík, so if you are there during the summer and up for some night driving I highly recommend. I SUPER recommend this for any couples eloping in the summer in Iceland, we had this waterfall all to ourselves like many of the popular locations because we visited in the middle of the night.

Seljalandsfoss-waterfall-iceland
Seljavallalaug-Iceland

We hit another hot spring, Seljavallalaug, to relax and enjoy some local vodka before digging into a hike on the next stop. This hot spring is usually less crowded because it is down a long dirt road and a some what off of a hidden hike to the pool. I have always found this hot spring to be a little creepy, maybe because of the movie, Bokeh, or because when I went here in winter I could not find the trail at first due to large snow fall and it was getting dark and no one was around. This time was much the same minus the snow, but still creepy lol. A must visit though! To have a hot spring to yourself in Iceland is amazing! There are no bathrooms or showers here, but you are surrounded by the mountains and there are some further trails you can check out after your swim.

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Lastly on day one, we hiked to the crashed plane. The plane made its landing on Iceland’s coast in the late 70’s and has become a very popular tourist location. It also makes for a neat, moody location for an elopement. It is rare to be the only folks at the plane, but making our hike in around 3am and out at around 4:30pm we were able to have it all to ourselves. We took advantage of this chance for some portraits. While the four mile hike in and out is mostly flat it is a bit of the challenge from the windy and rocky conditions. At this point we had been in Iceland almost 24 hours. It was our last stop and then time for some much needed sleep. While the camper vans are a little more to rent they are well worth the cost. Having the van (which came with two pillow, two sleeping bags, a table, cooking supplies and a fridge) allowed us to sleep where ever we were on our trip and see way more stuff. Granted we pushed our limits in order to pack as much as we could in four short days.

Skógafoss-Iceland

After a few short hours of sleep we were up and back at the epic road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road which is highway 1 going all around the edge of the country. Since we started with the Golden Circle our journey was starting in my favorite town I have ever visited, Vík. We started out with Skógafoss waterfall and holy tourist, we were back in the crowds! Be prepared to get wet at this fall, while you can not go under it, I recommend getting close for the real feel of this fall’s power.

Then we went to the famous black sand beach, Reynisfjara. The wind was strong this day we were literally having an extremely hard time walking or even standing. Do not let the name fool you the beach is not really sand, but mostly all little rocks where hit flying and hitting us in the face and our cameras. We took cover in one the caves and enjoyed some time taking in the views relaxing. This is also a very famous tourist location, but I highly recommend checking it out and spending some time, just be prepared for any weather! Across the way from Reynisfjara you can see a cliff. On the top of that cliff is a lighthouse with one of my favorite views in Iceland where the waves meet the black sand beaches. It is a nice place to sit and see for miles. You can access it just a couple of roads up on your left heading back towards Reykjavík from Vík.

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As, I mentioned Vík is one of my favorite towns I have ever visited. Why??? I am not sure I can give you a full answer, it is just a feeling. There is a couple of little restaurants I love there, thank you Sean for capturing me walking to one of them, lol. I love the little white and red church that sits on the hill over looking the little town and all of its grand views. The landscape around Vík it simply stunning. Last time I went to Iceland I stayed on a farm just outside of the town and really enjoyed speaking with the farmer about life there, global matters, places to see and eat, life on the farm and more. If you are eloping or spending a few days in Iceland I highly recommend spending some time there.

Up next on our crazy little trip we had an engagement session with a local couple that I can not wait to share with you where we went to a local camping spot.

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Fjadrargljufur Canyon was the next stop on day two. I was super excited to start seeing new areas I hadn’t explored yet of Iceland. The sky and landscape did not disappoint! The canyon is beautiful with many trails along the edges for you to take in the view. One super special thing about visiting Iceland in June or the summer in general is the amount of flora you have the chance to see. The beautiful purple/blue flowers you see growing in masses all over the country during this time are called, Lupine.

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Jökulsárlón-Iceland-Elopement

The last stop for the second day was a very special gem of Iceland’s landscapes, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Even when I visited here in winter the place was crowded. We got to watch the sunrise over the icy water all alone. The sky was insane and the color reflecting on the ice and water were beautiful. It was surprisingly one of the warmest spots we had been in so far in Iceland on the trip. Behind us we watched the super large half moon rise above the horizon line. Initially we had only planned to stop for about 15-30 minutes, but we ended up staying for quite some time since we had such a beautiful peaceful morning. As we drove away the light just started to peak and hit the mountain tops and then the ice. It was so quite you could hear the the ice breaking away and falling into the ocean water. It was unlike anything and possibly one of the coolest experiences I have had in Iceland.

Before sleeping we decided to get some more miles out of our way and drove into the early morning hours into Northern Iceland. We stopped to sleep on a pull out right along the coast, our view being the ocean and mountains.

The following morning we decided to cut through a different route from 1 since we had seen a lof of the coast already. Lucky us we ran across a super beautiful waterfall we hadn’t heard of surrounded by this beautiful dark rock, blue water and lush plant life. This is not a super known spot and has trails right down to the fall, it would be a great place for an elopement!

Hengifoss-Iceland-Hidden-Waterfall
Hengifoss-Waterfall-Iceland

Our third day was filled with a lot of driving, energy chews from REI and two of Iceland’s larger waterfalls. We saw Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in all of Europe and Goðafoss, waterfall of the gods. These two falls are beyond amazing for two totally different reasons. Dettifoss is so powerful creating large gusts of mist blowing against the lush rock cliffs. This waterfall will quickly make you feel small and humble to the land. Gooafoss has the most beautiful color in the water I have ever seen and will bring you a sense a peace.

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We were super tired from our day of driving, but we kept pushing forward. After a long tunnel drive we came into view of the cute little town, Akureyri. We stopped to have dinner and Ice cream as a refresher before driving to the night’s planned sleeping location. After a dirt road of horse farms we came to the parking lot of Hvítserkur. We took a nap and woke up to many sheep and lamb outside of the van. I got a little carried away with all of these cute creatures!! They have so much personality and in the Winter they were all in the barns so I did not see them. In the summer they all free roam all over the country. It is important to keep your eye out while driving for them. While they tend to move away from the road every time quickly, you still do not want hit one these little guys. We enjoyed time watching them and photographing them on our way to the Hvítserkur rock. The hike down the rock formation is no joke, while short it is super step so be sure you have the right shoes.

Also, I highly recommend grabbing a big map of the country from where ever you rent your car or camper van from. It is super helpful to mark all the areas where there are things you want to see, check out other roads and to keep afterwards to see where all you went. We also rented a wifi connector for our van, great choice! We were able to check in with our clients, parents back home and map things for different routes.

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Believe it or not we were on our final day, whooo!!! We packed it in though! After our hike to the cliff and hanging out with some of the local horses we headed for Guðrúnarlaug hot spring in West Iceland. I was super stoked! After road tripping like crazy, a day of thick fog I was ready to relax in a hot spring. This spring is much smaller with a beautiful little changing area. We got to the geo-thermal pool with just one local taking a dip. While this spot is not as popular as some of the other hot springs it is near a hotel so you can expect guests. I loved all of the moss in the spring! At first it felt a little weird but, it was sort of beautiful. This was the warmest spring we visited. Just be careful getting in and out, it is very slippery and I can say from experience , falling in is not grand!

We kept our road trip rolling to the ever famous black church, Búðakirkja. Once we stopped at the church and saw some of the rock cliffs on the coast we stopped for some much needed espresso at the hotel near the church. The hotel was super cute with windows over looking the coast and volcanic ash.

The last night we ate dinner closer to the airport so we wouldn’t have a long drive to the airport. TRUST ME, do not miss your Delta flight back to the states from Iceland. I have done that once, terrible. When planning your trip in Iceland I always advice doing things near the airport on the last day so you are near by and not as tired. The Iceland airport is super easy to navigate, but always give yourself extra time. We ate at a place called The Library. It was possibly one of the most beautiful restaurants I have ate at with great food for a last night’s meal in the country. That night we slept near two of the light houses right along the coast just 15 min from the airport.

Wow, so that is the quick low down on our summer four day road trip around Iceland! Next trip to Iceland for me will be explore mostly all of the Westfjords., which many locals have said to me to be the most beautiful region of the country.

At the end of the day when traveling to Iceland keep these things in mind:

  • don’t be strict on your timeline, be open to stopping at random places

  • be prepared money wise, gas and food is very expensive

  • be near the airport at the latest the night before

  • be prepared for any sort of extreme weather

  • keep an eye out for sheep, reindeer and puffins

  • do not stop your car in the middle of the road and stay off of mountain roads

  • get a hand held map and talk to locals!

  • ALWAYS, always practice Leave No Trace

  • if there in the summer try to see some things after peak hours for tourist

  • if you’re booking a trip to Iceland I recommend booking for 9+ days so you do not have to skip over a lot of beautiful areas or places that take a small hike

  • get off of the main road and really do your research before going on places you want to see

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
— Ibn Battuta
iceland-photographer

After my second trip to Iceland, I still can not find the words to really describe Iceland. It is truly amazing beyond words. I am sharing my trip with you to hopefully give you some ideas and advice for traveling here and eloping. I am very connected to this country and fully believe in eloping being the most connective way to say ‘I do’. It means so much to me to be able to go here and explore it so that I can provide the very best advice and tools for your elopement day. If you are looking for a photographer that is extremely passionate about the place you are choosing to elope and your experience on your wedding day I would love to connect with you!


Side note! I eloped in Iceland!!!! Totally just kidding….lol

In all seriousness though I believe everyone should elope at 2:30am in Iceland. It is amazing. <3

I had a wedding dress with me in the van and when we pulled up to the Glacier Lagoon with the most amazing sunrise and no one else around we had to take advantage of the moment. Though I am not actually married or engaged and Sean and I are just friends I can honestly say eloping is SO fun. Being in such a stunning place, all to yourself is unimaginable within itself. Getting all dressed up, romping around with a friend to have photos taken is so exhilarating, imagine it being you and your partner! I have witnessed many elopements as a photographer and guest now and I can say the experience is un-wordly connective and beautiful, just like Iceland.


All photos of me where taken by Sean Michael Images and edited by myself :)