Travel Guide Iceland - Page 4
4. Iceland's unique weather
The first thing I noticed when I left the plane in Keflavik, the airport of Reykjavik, was the unbelievably fresh air. It's even better when you leave the airport area, of course. Thick, clean, fresh air, so beautiful that I wished I could take it with me. Take a breath when you arrive, it's really different compared to e.g. Germany.
4.1 RAPIDLY CHANGING WEATHER
There's a saying in Iceland: "If you don't like the weather in Iceland wait 5 minutes". Although it looks like this can't be true, it is, you will experience it when you are there. This doesn't mean that the weather changes every 5 minutes, but you have periods of hail or rain which are very short. I have seen very tiny rain clouds, when you drive through they rain like hell for 2 minutes, then they are gone. Same with hail. It's definitely an experience!
It means as well that if you are at a spot and the weather looks bad, go back to the car and wait, it will be better the sooner you expect. But don't forget it can be the other way round as well - you just prepared your tripod and camera for a nice shot, then heavy wind and rain is coming and no photo will be possible anymore.
Mentioning wind, this is a constant factor in Iceland. When I got my rental car, the renter told me "all damages are included in our insurance except when the door flies away because of wind". I thought he was kidding but he wasn't wasn't. When we have been in the north on top of a hill, I couldn't leave the car as the wind was pressing so heavily against my door that it just didn't open. We needed four arms to open it! When we left the car, you could stand in the wind with a 45 degree angle without falling down. There's this famous Youtube-video where you can see what Iceland's wind is doing to you. This is not faked or unusual for Iceland!
Example of how the weather changed within an hour (iPhone shot, different angles, same spot)
4.2 THE SOUTH BEING BETTER THAN THE NORTH
Generally speaken the weather in southern Iceland is "better" than in northern Iceland, it is a bit warmer and not as rough as in the north. Iceland's south and east is connected to the gulf stream, leading to mild winter and warm summers, with all what I have said before still being true. If you are on the northern half of Iceland, weather is even more extreme, end of May I experienced tons of snow, meter-high walls of snow next to me, and rapidly changing weather conditions. Even that time roads get closed a lot as the weather is so extreme making roads impassable.
A famous shot I did was this one, this is no composite, that's how it really looked like. On the right beautiful sunlight, on the left approaching hell. You better run when this one comes closer. I have more examples like this, so will you when you have been there, I am sure!
4.3 THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
I often prepared my camera accordingly that it can cope with the heavy weather. I always had a rain cover for my backpack, additionally I was wearing rain clothes and I had an umbrella with me, not for me but for my camera when wind wasn't too heavy. On top I had several microfibercloths with me to clean the front of the lense when rain fell on it.
It's important that you have backup rain clothes as well as you really can get quite wet. I remember the time when we hiked to Svartifoss, the black waterfall, which took us about 90 minutes, arriving in heavy rain and doing some photos. We were completely wet when we were back in the car. And when you do something like the below to cover your camera, you need to clean your tripod afterwards as salt and water are getting into it.
So if you encounter heavy rain, snow, hail or whatever, I recommend to just stay calm and wait and don't get angry. The weather will change, sometimes quicker as you would expect. And if you have great weather conditions and are at the right spot, enjoy it to the maximum!