Pictures from the 2012 trip: Iceland, 6–23 September 2012.

Last year’s trip left us wanting to hike the Laugavegur trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar and return to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Some reading and looking at pictures also piqued our interest on the Westfjords. September seemed ideal based on last year’s experiences, but Dragon*Con during the first weekend in September and a Dead Can Dance concert on the 5th delayed our departure until the 6th.

Once again, we received excellent trip planning advice from Bjorn at Extreme Iceland. We rented our 4x4 through him but handled most of our own hotel booking.

Day 1

Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (12 km, +470 m)

We intended to spend a relaxing day in Reykjavik adjusting to the four-hour time change, but flight delays caused us to miss our flight to Iceland. So we hit the ground in Keflavik at 0600 after sleeping a few hours on the plane, ran to catch the FlyBus to the BSI station in Reykjavik, checked our luggage at the station, and got ourselves on an 0800 bus to Landmannalaugar. There was time to spare, but we were no doubt aided by our flight landing ~20 minutes early and organizing our gear the night before.

The bus arrived at Landmannalaugar around noon to overcast skies, temperature around 7° C, and light wind. It felt colder than it was due to our arriving from temperatures over 30° C in the US. We quickly filled up on water and finished organizing our packs before hitting the trail. We were immediately greeted by a beautiful mountainous landscape of pastel earth tones with geothermal vents spouting columns of water vapor. Rich, green moss surrounded most of the vents.

We knew that we’d get plenty of uphill sections with an overall elevation gain of 470 m for the day, and they took us up across several snow fields. The trail passed a memorial to a hiker that froze to death during a freak summer snow storm in the mid 2000s. After some more climbing, the trail crossed a ridge to reveal a stunning vista of snow-capped peaks on the far side of a broad plane with the hut a short, steep descent down the trail.

The Hrafntinnusker hut offers two sleeping rooms on the ground floor along with a lobby area and kitchen. The upstairs contains a third sleeping room. None of the huts have hot water in the kitchen, and this one had the cold water shut off for the winter and lacked showers. We ferried in water from a spring less than a hundred meters away and a scramble down from the hut. The area around the spring also contained several geothermal vents, but the spring water tasted crisp and clean with no sulfur. The bathroom with composting toilets is attached to the hut but requires walking outside.

One of the treats that comes with staying in the huts is meeting people from all over the world. We had an enjoyable evening chatting with a couple from Germany and another from Belgium, both in their late twenties. They had started much earlier than us and had already visited the ice cave ~1.5 km from the hut. It was fun seeing the same folks each evening and sharing experiences and impressions over dinner.

The clouds disappeared around sunset to reveal crystal clear skies with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, but only a hint of an aurora with a faint glow toward the north.

In retrospect, this section offered the most spectacular landscapes of the first four days. One could simply go for long day hikes around Landmannalaugar and not much from a natural beauty perspective.

Day 2

Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (12 km, -490 m)

The day opened with blue skies, some wind, and temperature just over freezing. We started the day with a hike to the ice caves. This involved following a partially snow-covered path to the top of the peak. Cresting it revealed a vast landscape of geothermal vents stretching to the horizon. The volcanic landscape, lack of vegetation, and billowing vapor from the vents had us thinking that we’re about to enter Mordor. A stream below revealed the location of the cave where a group of vents were melting a section of the glacier. We scrambled downhill to reach the cave and walked inside. The cave only stretched back about 30 m into the glacier but would easily fit an oversized American house. We got back to the hut slightly over three hours after leaving and suited up with our full packs.

The day beckoned with an overall elevation loss of 490 meters. It began well enough with a quick descent to the plane seen the previous afternoon. But the plane was actually crisscrossed with creeks that had cut 10-50 meter, v-shaped grooves in the landscape, and we quickly lost track of how many times we lost and immediately gained back the same elevation. This up-and-down ended in a long, steep climb that put us on a plane with a beautiful, close-up view of the mountains we had admired the previous day. The weather was gradually deteriorating with continually increasing wind speeds along with periods of rain and snow. But the temperature stayed just above freezing the entire time.

We first saw the hut by the edge of a lake about 4 km distant. We lost that 490 meters in a quick descent and crossed a broad plane cut by several creeks to reach the hut. The wind was cranking by then and the temperature dropped enough that the rain turned to sleet. Both picked up once we arrived inside the hut. This hut offers a large communal cooking and eating area with several four-person sleeping rooms on the ground floor and a large communal sleeping room upstairs. Overall, it sleeps 70+ people and looks like something out of an Ikea catalog. The outside temperature dropped below freezing, causing ice to build up on the walkway to the toilet/shower building. This made for sporting trips to the bathroom given the high winds.

Day 3

Álftavatn to Emstrur (15 km, -40 m)

The day started above freezing but with gale-force winds. It was not raining, but we attached our pack covers to protect against the volcanic dust sure to be picked up by the wind. We had two creek crossings that day requiring taking off our boots. The least pleasant way to do them is going barefoot. Much better is to wear sandals to protect against the rocky creek bed. A further improvement is to wear a spare pair of hiking socks, which trap some water and allow it to warm. But the best way is to wear neoprene socks. The streams were all crystal clear with the bed clearly visible for easy route planning.

Both crossings took place in the first quarter of the day and were preceded with some beautiful views of a snow-streaked mountain. The trail entered a barren plane around the point of the second crossing, and there wasn’t much to see. The winds picked up to where walking was often difficult and continually peppered us with volcanic ash. The gusts exceeded 25 m/s, nearly knocked us over, and pelted us with rocks the size of bird seed. We turned our backs into the gusts and dug in with our heels and trekking poles while waiting for them to subside. Not much fun hiking that day despite the relatively flat trail!

The Emstrur hut consists of three small single-room huts, each with room for about 20 people, and a separate bathroom hut. We had cold water in our hut, but the showers had been turned off. The bathroom hut, like those at Álftavatn and Þórsmörk, has outside sinks were the water had been left running. The wind blew the water onto the walkway where it froze, again making for interesting trips to the bathroom.

Day 4

Emstrur to Þórsmörk (15 km, -300 m)

The day started with brisk winds, temperatures around freezing, gloomy skies, and dire weather predictions from the hut warden. The weather and scenery improved throughout the day until we reached the stream crossing about 2.5 km from the end. This crossing seemed particularly easy, perhaps due to our practice the previous day. The stream was also quite different from the previous day’s being a braided glacial one, with the glacial aspect meaning turbid water necessitating probe with our hiking piles. Soon after crossing, we entered a beautiful forest filled with birch trees and rich vegetation.

The Þórsmörk hut offers two kitchens, a large communal dining room, and two sleeping rooms on the ground floor plus more sleeping rooms upstairs to provide room for 70+ people. Some of the rooms have two bunks while others have more. As usual, the bathrooms and showers are in another building. The hut is beautifully situated by the river and surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and birch trees. Quite an idyllic place!

The skies continued clearing, and we followed a trail by the river for a delightful after-dinner walk. The Milky Way stretched from horizon to horizon at nightfall, but no luck with aurora watching.

Day 5

Þórsmörk to Fimmvorðuháls (13 km, +900 m)

This day's hike would take us up 900 m to a pass between two ice caps where we'd cross the lava field and craters from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. We had fond memories of hiking much of this segment the previous year. It starts in a birch forest and proceeds to gain elevation while offering one spectacular view after the next. Some of the early vistas look over the river valley, gorges cut by glacial run-off, or rolling hills blanketed in neon-green moss. At higher elevations, they reveal outlet glaciers from Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull along, lava fields, and distant mountains, snow fields, and extinct volcanos.

The day opened with blue skies brushed with a few wispy cirrus clouds, little if any wind, and temperatures that had us quickly stowing our jackets to hike in short sleeves. The two rangers we spoke with warned of high winds and rain starting around 1800 and peaking at midnight. We estimated that we’d arrive at the hut around 1600, well before the inclement weather. But the fine weather didn’t last long. The sky clouded over, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped so that we had put on our jackets around 1230. By 1500, we donned our full rain gear owing to rain joining the party. We passed a guided tour coming down the trail from the other direction, and the guides (one a rescue team member) advised to move quickly but didn’t seem concerned based on our attire. An hour later, all hell broke loose as the wind hit gail force, the rain turned to sleet, and visibility dropped below 100 meters. The trail is indicated by bright yellow posts, and we could usually only see the next one. Walking was extremely difficult, and we relied heavily on our trekking poles to stay upright and make forward progress. We arrived at the hut in a raging storm with ice covering our shells, but had fortunately brought good clothes and stayed warm.

The hut consists of a large room with bunks and a sleeping loft that together provide room for nearly thirty people along with both oil-fueled and propane stoves. Starting the oil-fueled stove requires manually pumping oil from an outside reservoir to an elevated holding tank. Cold water came from a rain barrel but had been shut off for the winter. The oil-fueled stove also heats radiators and a drying closet. We got ourselves comfortable and kicked back while the storm pummeled the surrounding landscape.

Day 6

Fimmvorðuháls to Skógar (but actually Vík) (13 km, -1,000 m)

The storm hadn’t lost the least bit of energy when we woke the next day but quieted enough by 1500 that we made a break for the 13 km descent down the mountain. Soon after stepping outside, we saw a new glacial stream that hadn't been present the previous day. It was moving quite fast, carrying chunks of ice, and poking with my hiking stick indicated that it was thigh deep. We scouted about and found some wider, shallower possibilities for crossing it. Our first thought was: Okay, we can cross this, but how many other new streams are there? Our second was: When do the stream depths peak? From cave exploring and desert hiking, we’ve learned that water levels may peak 24+ hours after the storm depending on local topography and soil composition. We didn't want to ford a stream or two, find ourselves by a really big stream, and turn back to find that this stream had only grown deeper.

We returned to the hut, and I got the VHF radio working to ask for advice. The warden on the other end responded to my question on stream levels with: It can take a while, we'll send a rescue team. Overkill given our situation (plenty of food and water and a toasty-warm hut thanks to the oil-fired stove). Three hours later, we saw two guys outside the hut. They had parked their super jeep at another hut about 500 meters away, as the one we were in was only accessible directly during a hard freeze. By that time, the new stream had subsided considerably and was only calf deep. We blasted across it and up the jeep for the ride down the mountain. Turns out that there would have been no other streams to cross on the way down, and we would have been fine had we forded the new one and kept going. But there wasn't a way for us to have known that. The Icelanders were great, and we chatted about everything from hiking and sheep round-ups to Icelandic hunting and firearms laws on the way down.

They had come from Vík and called in a reservation at the Hotel Edda for us. Cellular coverage was good the whole way down, as the driver drove with one hand while texting pals with the other. We would have been able to check the weather and get info if we had a GSM phone. Note to self: bring an unlocked GSM smart phone the next time. They said that they were quite surprised by the strength of the storm and that it was a stout one even by Icelandic standards. We felt silly riding down the mountain when we could have walked down earlier in the day, but such is the price for not knowing the territory.

We checked in at the hotel and gave the rescue folks a donation, as that’s what they rely on to buy/maintain the vehicle, fill it with fuel, and pay for equipment/training. Our room gave us a comfortable mattress; crisp, white bedding; and pleasing Nordic decor. We rinsed out a few clothes and quickly fell asleep.

Day 7

Vík to Hellissandur

Breakfast proved quite a welcome change from the rehydrated eggs of previous mornings with a spread that included smoked salmon, pickled herring, a wide range of cheeses and cured meats, slided fruits and vegetables, yogurts, milk, muesli and cereal mixes, tasty strong coffee, and several things I’m forgetting. Delicious all around! As an aside, if there’s a bad cup of coffee in Iceland, I’ve yet to run across it. Even the marginal coffee is still brewed strong and tastes passable, which I think is due to the excellent water.

We caught an early Sterna bus to the BSÍ terminal in Reykjavik, where we picked up our rental 4x4 from Extreme Iceland at noon. Our original itinerary had called for catching an evening bus from Skógar to Reykjavik the previous evening, spending the night in Reykjavik, and getting our car at 0900, so we were amazingly only three hours behind schedule.

We headed north toward Settlement Center in Borgarnes. This museum is located in a renovated warehouse and presents two main exhibits: One on the early settlement of Iceland and the other on Egils Saga. The settlement exhibit covers the time period from the first people stepping foot in Iceland to the first Alþingi in Þingvellir in 930AD. Egils Saga tells the story of Egill Skallagrímsson and his children, covering the time 850–1000 AD. Both exhibits use dioramas with hand-carved figures along with life-sized statues of some of the characters to illustrate the stories. Guidance is provided by an audio tour available in numerous languages. Highly recommended!

We planned our route to pass by Kirkjufell and Drápuhíðarfjall, two of Iceland’s most beautiful mountains, and stopped to check them out along with many other sights. This led to us rolling into Hotel Hellissandur in time for a late dinner. We remembered excellent dinners at this hotel the previous September and were surprised to hear that it had changed hands a month after out stay. But the new chef did a wonderful job serving up a smoked lamb appetizer and our main courses, the latter using many vegetables and herbs sourced from Hellissandur.

Day 8

Explore Snæfellsnes

Only one other couple was staying at the hotel the first night, so breakfast involved a small buffet supplemented with excellent, cooked-to-order bacon and eggs. The bacon tasted particularly good with much less fat and a higher meat content than the stuff we get in the US. After eating and downing as much Icelandic coffee as we dared, we started off with a quick visit to Ingjaldshóll, a concrete church from 1903 with an auxiliary building shows Christopher Columbus meeting with local clergymen in 1477 to inquire about the Icelanders’ westward voyages to Vinland. The buildings were locked with nobody present, so we reverse course and headed counterclockwise to follow 574 along the shoreline. We stopped and went for several short walks whenever something caught our eye. This area contains several abandoned farms and villages that made for interesting exploring. We also checked out the beach and lifting stones at Djúpalónssandur. I couldn’t get the 100 kg stone off the ground but easily put the 54 kg one over my head. Further driving took us to a memorial for Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, an Icelandic woman born in 980 AD who gave birth to the first European child in the Americas and traveled as far as Rome.

Shortly after the road to Hellnar, we turned north onto 570 for the drive by Snæfellsjökull. We gained elevation, broke into low clouds, and saw snowflakes falling around us. It was above freezing outside, so the snow didn’t stick, but it made for a beautiful scene nevertheless. The road forks during the descent, with 570 heading northeast and an unnamed road heading northwest toward Hellissandur. We took the road toward Hellissandur and got out to explore the vast, rolling, field of lava rock blanketed in neon-green moss. The moss grows 10–20 cm deep, with the plant life including blueberry bushes only a few cm high. Many other tiny plants dot the landscape, which is broken up by lava rocks the size of large cars, some of which point skyward and remain free from moss but are peppered with lichen. The overall effect is difficult to describe other than by saying that elves probably live in this magical landscape.

Another delicious dinner at Hotel Hellissandur rounded out the day.

Day 9

Hellissandur to Heydalur

We fueled up on another hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, and buffet delicacies before hitting the road. We first stopped at Kirkjufell for some more picture taking, where the lighting and sky proved more conducive to photography than last time. Our next notable stop was the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík. Iceland possesses a rich magical tradition that got several people burned at the stake in the mid 1600s. The museum provides an artifact-rich interpretation of these events, examining who these people were and what they were accused of doing. I’d highly recommend including the museum in any visit to the Westfjords.

From Hólmavík, we headed north to Ísafjarðardjúp, then turned west on 61 to drive along the southern coast of Ísafjörður. Note that Ísafjörður is both the name of a fjord (as in this case) and a town. Shortly after rounding the back of Ísafjörður, we turned off on an unmarked road to cut across the peninsula between Ísafjörður and Mjóifjörður. Driving this road was no trouble in our 4x4 but would prove sporting in a 2WD car, particularly in rain. The ascent is not particularly interesting, but the descent toward Heydalur provides some spectacular views and beautiful waterfalls.

The Heydalur Guesthouse is nestled in a valley at the back of Mjóifjörður and consists of a barn converted into a dining area, lounge, and kitchen with a centrally located ping-pong table. A smaller building with individual guest rooms lies adjacent to the barn with several small guest houses also nearby. A short walk leads to a building that houses a tack room, a pool filled with geothermally heated water, and a mix of fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. A hot pot filled with the same water is just outside. Another hot pot lies farther away, and fences keep the horses in their pastures. Another building to house more guest rooms was also under construction during our stay.

Three generations run the guesthouse, with the grandmother leading the cooking of delicious meals. She so much reminded me of my Greek grandmother, a fantastic cook and spunky bundle of energy. For dinner, Jennifer got the salmon and I the lamb stew, both of which were served with local vegetables and herbs.

Day 10

Hiking at Kaldalón

Breakfast certainly didn’t disappoint, and the chef even made Jennifer some gluten-free flatbread using rice flower. We then hit the road and drove to Reykjanes to buy gas. The town contains a large boarding school that closed down and was converted into a hotel and camp site. One of the main attractions is geothermally fed pool over 50 meters in length, which we think is Iceland’s largest hot pot.

We then continued to Kaldalón, a fjord formed by Kaldalónsjökull, a retreating outlet glacier of Drangajökull. A braided glacial stream fed by numerous creeks flows down the center of the valley. We parked our truck near the tip of the fjord and hiked upstream to the glacier, stopping along the way to snack on fresh blueberries. The weather couldn’t make up its mind that day, and we donned and removed our rain gear repeatedly as sun gave way to rain and back again. The valley offered many photo opportunities with all the waterfalls cascading down the sides. We had the place to ourselves and only saw one other group that day—they were leaving the parking area as we arrived.

We drove back to Heydalur afterward and took a pre-dinner soak in the 47° C hot pot fed by geothermally heated water. Unlike the near-boiling springs, this one lacked any sort of sulfury smell. For dinner, we ordered smoked puffin as an appetizer and salmon and trout as our main courses. The puffin had a distinct fishy taste but wasn’t as rich as I expected and was closer to the dark meat of chicken than duck or goose. The evening’s entertainment consisted of a youth group who were on site for construction around the guesthouse and took full advantage of the ping-pong table in the dining area.

Day 11

Hiking around Heydalur and drive to Ísafjörður

We started the day with another excellent breakfast before setting off for a hike in the valley behind the guest house. We hardly saw a cloud the whole day and made our way through the fields, creeks, and patches of scrubby arctic birch to visit several waterfalls and relax in the sun. This was by far the best weather we had to this point in our trip, and one could easily spend a few days exploring all the nooks and crannies of the valley. After returning to the guest house, we fueled up on coffee and set out on the scenic drive to Ísafjörður.

Nestled in a fjord at the base of snow-capped mountains and filled with Nordic architecture, Ísafjörður couldn’t have been a cuter town. We checked in at Hotel Ísafjörður and ordered dinner. I got the horse tenderloin and Jennifer the lamb. Both were expertly prepared with a beautiful presentation. The horse was delicious: imagine the texture of beef tenderloin combined with the flavor of rib eye.

No aurora was obvious at bed time, so that marked the end of the day.

Day 12

Hiking around Ísafjörður and aurora watching

We were treated to another fantastic breakfast buffet with sunny blue skies beckoning outside. Jennifer wanted to explore the town and read, so I drove to the west edge of town, past the golf course, and parked next to the stream cascading down from the snow-capped peaks. I followed the trail northwest alongside the stream and waterfalls until it hit a road by the ski resort, then turned west toward the mountain pass leaning to Súgandafjörður. The pass was filled with packed snow, and it was good fun hiking across it wearing a t-shirt. The terrain eventually crested to give a view of the fjord and Suðureyri, a small fishing village along its edge. This seemed a good place to turn around and head back to town.

We met up at the hotel and went for a walk around town, mainly heading to the industrial area, where we watched a kayak roll school underway in the fjord and checked out an outdoor store, among other things. For dinner, we stopped in at Bræðraborg Cafe and ordered the delicious lamb soup and adult beverages. It was fun chatting with the Canadian student running the place that evening. He was pursuing a marine biology degree in town and explained how the university brought in guest lecturers from all over the world to teach multi-week sections. A cozy apartment in Ísafjörður could also be had for ~$200/month. For aurora watching, he suggested driving north and staying on the old coastal road where it broke off from the new tunnel.

Determined to see an aurora on this trip, we set our alarm for midnight and drove north along the coast after it rang. It was evident why the tunnel had been built, as we had to drive around boulders that had fallen off the mountain. It wasn’t long before we saw green bands hanging in the sky, and getting Ísafjörður completely out of view revealed a light show that stretched from horizon to horizon. We saw curtains hanging low over the horizon and bursts of color directly overhead. I was able to capture several good images using my E-M5 and 12 f/2.0 lens. Quite an amazing experience!

Day 13

Ísafjörður to Reykjavik

Lots of driving this day! We started by heading west through the amazing Vestfjarðagöng (Vestfirðir Tunnel), portions of which are one lane. Numerous pull-offs allow cars to pass, and driving through wasn’t a big deal. Snaking around fjords and over the mountains soon brought us to Dynjandi, one of the gems of the Westfjords. It consists of one main drop visible from many kilometers away, after which the stream branches and cascades down multiple smaller drops before rejoining near the fjord. The area offers much to explore, and we scrambled around for an hour or two before getting back on the road.

The subsequent driving through the Westfjords on Route 60 proved very picturesque and practically devoid of signs of civilization. The road crossed the mountains, taking us by emergency shelters and abandoned farming structures, then dropped down by the fjords. Good thing we left Ísafjörður with nearly a full tank! We rolled into Reykjavik in the early evening and checked into 37 Apartments. Of course we had already stopped at a Bonus on the outskirts of town to buy whale steaks and other ingredients for dinner the next evening. But no cooking this evening—we drove to Krua Thai for what turned out to be okay curry.

Day 14

Caving trip and explore Reykjavik

We had arranged for a short horizontal caving trip through Extreme Iceland, and Ragnar picked us up in a super jeep after breakfast for the 45-minute drive to the cave. We donned our rain gear and crossed a section of lava field to reach the entrance. The interior was surprisingly warm, and we ditched much of our clothes before proceeding into the interior. Both of us had visited dozens of limestone caves in the US and Mexico, but this was our first lava cave. The cooling lava had created many fascinating formations, including one that looked like the head of a xenomorph from Alien. We very much enjoyed chatting with Ragnar, who answered our numerous questions about Iceland and recounted some of his adventures.

We got back to our apartment in time to make a late lunch and then walked to the Culture House to check out their collection of medieval manuscripts. The exhibit combined discussions of Icelandic history with period texts with a rather academic presentation. It would be a tough first exhibit for visitors not already somewhat familiar with Icelandic history and early culture, but we found it quite interesting having some familiarity with the topic. Afterward, we got coffee at a cafe in Harpa, went book shopping at Mál og Menning, then headed home to prepare our whale steaks with a side of leeks and potatoes. An after-dinner stroll concluded the day.

The book enthusiast should check out both Mál og Menning and Eymundsson. These stores contain a mix of Icelandic and English-language titles along with the obligatory cafe.

Day 15

Not much time in the morning, as we were quickly out the door and on our way to the airport via the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a 5,000 square meter hot pot fed by the exhaust of a geothermal power plant. The mineral-rich waters feel very soothing on the skin, and visibility through the sky-blue water is only a few centimeters. You receive a bracelet containing an RFID tag upon entering, and the tag can be used to purchase items at the swim-up bar and restaurants. The whole thing made for a very relaxing (and highly recommended) experience.

Flying home was very uneventful. We picked up our luggage, stayed at the Holiday Inn near IAD, and flew home to ATL the following day.

Getting Around

Bus service notes
BSÍ terminal
WiFi in Reykjavik Excursions buses.
Sterna bus
Iceland Road Guide

Helpful Things

Trekking Poles: There are several good options. Jennifer got a pair of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles in 2010, and I got a pair before our 2012 Iceland trip based on taking hers for a spin. You need a pair if you’re going to do any serious hiking in Iceland. They extremely helpful for maintaining your footing on slick surfaces, maintaining your balance while fording streams, taking the load off your knees during descents, and engaging your upper body to assist during climbs. And most importantly digging in during wind gusts of over 25 m/s so as to not get blown ass over teakettle. Be sure to get a pair where the sections can’t accidentally come apart.

Tenacious Tape (you’ll think you’ve stitched the tear back together)

US Wellness Meats pemmican bar (instant calories and protein)

Photo Notes

Olympus Micro 4/3 system

Olympus E-M5 camera (the best travel camera available in late 2012)
Olympus 12 f/2.0 (great for auroras and landscapes)
Panasonic 20 f/1.7 (impossibly small and a wonderful walking-around lens)
Olympus 45 f/1.8 (fine short telephoto for blurring the background and tight landscape compositions)
Olympus 12–50 (just okay optically, but shrugs off sleet and windblown ash)
Panasonic 45–175 X (better than its price tag suggests)


Incredible water everywhere.
Excellent coffee, likely due to the water.

Terrestrial and Space Weather

Check the University of Alaska aurora forecast to get predictions and a map for that night’s aurora. There’s an option for the northern polar region in the Select a Map option. The NOAA/POES map shows real-time aurora activity. For weather, check out Veður, and for road status, Vegagerðin.

Last edit: 4 November 2012