Iceland in December: Isafjordur’s Frozen Fairytale & Unforgettable Light

Deciding to go back to Iceland at the beginning of December is something you shouldn’t think about too much, else you won’t ever do it!!!

But once the decision is made, you step out of the plane and you see all that white around you,  you are the happiest person in the world. Landing in Iceland is like landing on the moon, that’s what they say. Well, in December it’s like landing on another planet.

The day I arrived, was the first snowy day of the winter. When I got out of the airport, a storm was in full swing. On the roads there were no cars for miles and it took me almost an hour and an half to arrive at the hostel by bus. Reykjavik airport is out of town but they have a very good bus service that takes you directly to where you are staying, and this makes you happy when you look outside the bus window!

Reykjavik is exactly as I remembered it, just whiter. Since I left the year before, nothing has really changed. After two days in town and I know and remember most of the streets and features.

It was lovely to walk again through the little streets, all adorned already with Christmas lights everywhere.

The first day was weird, as I had to get used to the time the sun would appear. In December, the sun rises around 10 am, as it happened  I woke up around 9.30 it was still pitch dark… I thought about how the local people manage to make it everyday to work; plus, the sun rising in Iceland in winter is not like the Mediterranean sun I have in my mind. When it rises it seems to have almost already  set. You have a feeling of a constant sunset during the day; if it’s not cloudy the sun shines a little bit higher than the horizon until 3pm, before getting ready for the night again, and around 4pm the lights of the town go on and they prepare for another evening.

There is always a sensation that the time you can use to do things is short, the day finishes too early and for a traveler is a very difficult and weird feeling you have to deal with.

Despite this, Iceland is cool. At the hostel I met dozens of people  who were so sad to leave this place on their last day. It was impressive and made me think about how fascinating this place must be.

Reykjavik is the only place you can call a town on the whole island. Once you are there you have two choices: you either keep staying there and just do the daily tours that take you around  the most famous spots like The Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, or you leave Reykjavik and start to go wherever the adventure takes you.

My plan was to go to Isafjordur. I was not interested at all in the daily tours.

Isfjordur is a small village on the Western Fjords of Iceland, up North, far away from everything. The only way to got there in winter is by plane, if the weather permits. And on my first day, the weather didn’t permit it, at all. After waiting for good news all day at the domestic airport, my flight got canceled at the beginning of the afternoon. But no worries. Iceland is stubborn sometimes…but I am stubborn too.

So, the day after I tried again. The flight was again delayed in the morning, but in the afternoon the weather got better and I got the news I could finally leave.

Amazing Isafjordur. This place steals your heart since the moment you see it under your feet in the sky. Surrounded by majestic mountains, hidden by the fjords, Isafjordur belongs to another world.

When I arrived in town, I was hosted by Graham, an American student at the local university. In Isafjordur there is only one hotel, ‘originally”called Hotel Isafjordur, and then during summer the inhabitants houses transform into guest houses all around. In December they don’t, and Graham was literally my salvation.

He and his other friends were living in a small little yellow house at the end of the road, near a shrimp factory. Graham came to pick me up and we walked together to the town for the few meters before arriving at our destinations. The guys introduced me to  Isafjordur, to its small and easy life.

In the town there is one spot for everything: one supermarket, one fast food shop, a couple of bakeries, one post office, one bank, one pub….imagining life up there is difficult if you don’t see it with your own eyes.

However, life is sweet. People are simple and happy. When the bakery woman heard my story she thanked me for traveling and visiting them in winter. People constantly asked me where I was staying, and the day I tried to get a postcard in the bookstore of the town, as the only winter post card I found was sold out, the book seller suggested to try at the hotel as the photographer of that postcard works there!

Isafjordur is outstanding. For the two days I spent there, I was constantly walking the streets looking around and smiling. The landscapes is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life, with the high mountains surrounding everything and the silence and quietness of the place that keeps reminding you how small you are.

The sunrises at 11am. You are really at the extreme. The sun rises behind one of the mountains and never makes high enough to reach the town with its direct rays. So, for the whole winter, the sun rays only mange to light up the top of the mountains, transforming them in to pink delicate pieces of beauty. The first day I was there the weather was beautiful.

Blue sky and fresh snow made my day unbelievable. However, never trust the Icelandic weather. That night the weather started to change and a storm hit the town around midnight. The day after the landscape was totally different, the bay water was frozen and the wind had covered the walls of all the houses.

The sunset around 3pm. The day is really short and the rhythm of life is slow and peaceful.

If you tell the people how worried you are about the possibility of  your flight getting canceled for the weather, they reply that it’s normal up here, the flights can be canceled even for 7 days in a row.

Everything is slower, especially if it has to do with the weather. The town is a small coloured joy for your eyes. The small houses are Isafjordur’s pride, and when they are all adorned of Christmas lights it’s as though you are walking through a fairytale village. The first house was built around 1800. I tried to imagine life up here around the time of the first house, and how people could decide to settle here, how the houses must have been cold and the winter long…and I couldn’t stop admiring these people.

So it happened that the weather suddenly changed and on my 3rd day I managed to leave and go back to Reykjavik…and so it happened that I left up there a piece of my heart…I will remember forever the feeling of my arrival, the emotion of standing in font of such a beauty, and I will keep this emotions on the pages of my diaries and will come back again, one day!

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