When asked the question, “What’s your favorite country you’ve been to?” my mind often jumps to Iceland for two reasons:
- Antarctica isn’t really a country more than it is a continent
- I could visit Iceland a dozen more times and not be bored!
With $99 flights, a mere distance of 5-hours from the east coast, and Iceland Air offering up a maximum of 7 days for a stopover from North America to Europe at no additional charge, visiting Iceland has become much easier over the past few years, and the country has boomed into a tourism hotspot!
After my first time there in the early 2000s (when many friends asked if Iceland was 100% covered in ice), I vowed to return. Upon my second trip in 2014, I had one goal in mind: photography. Having now been during summer and winter, I can confidently say winter is my favorite season to visit!
In December/January, Iceland has around 4-5 hours of sunlight, but pretty much that whole time is Golden Hour(s), with a solid hour or two on each end of soft, muted lighting. This leads to spectacular opportunities for photography, and our itinerary was crafted to chase the light.
Follow my guide below for the most beautiful places to photograph in Iceland!
We started in Reykjavik, the capital city with wonderful people, food, and nightlife. Surprisingly, Iceland is also famous for their hot dogs, so be sure to try one when you’re there!
On our drives, we visited the following:
One of the most colorful waterfalls, with black lava rocks, turquoise water, and shrubbery that changes color according to the seasons. Bright and gorgeous!
A beautiful waterfall you can walk behind. This is an incredibly moving and dynamic waterfall with several compositional angles, especially during the afternoon as the sun sets.
A really unique black sand beach with sea stacks and basalt formations. Beware the currents here are incredibly strong and cold, and people have actually died in recent years being dragged into the waves!
Apopular waterfall you can climb to the top of and probably recognize from pictures. Its sheer size is what makes it magnificent.
An extremely picturesque, dramatic lighthouse, this is the perfect set up for moody shots! Dare devils can walk out to the edge of a cliff side and even dangle their feet off the edge.
A river canyon in the south east. Really fun spot to hike and climb around! I’d recommend adding a person into your photographs for perspective. Recommended to visit late morning.
Skaftafell / Svartifoss
A really awesome hike that culminates with one of the most unique waterfalls, Svartifoss! If you time it right, you can also visit the ice caves. Unluckily, the weather wasn’t cold enough the year I went, so it was too dangerous to venture inside. All the more reason to come back!
An area near Skaftafell with some interesting photo opportunities.
Jökulsarlon (black sand beach)
The main location for our morning and night shoots. There’s the famous black sand beach littered with icebergs nearby. We timed our visits at dawn so that as the sun rose up from the horizon, it shot brand new streaks of gold into the ice, which contrasted beautifully with the black sand. The water would rush in and out, consistently changing the landscape and always giving new shapes and colors. A guide in the area told us that he’d photographed the site a hundred times, and every time was different. Truly a spectacular spot!
Jökulsarlon (lagoon and glacier)
At night, this is a fantastic place to photograph the northern lights, as they swirl above in the sky and also reflect in the calm waters below – double the fun! I set up my camera on time lapse, and just fully enjoyed the aurora. During the day, you can also spot seals that live in the area.
A gorgeous spot where vertigal cliffs fall into black sand beaches, located 12km east of Hofn. This site has dramatic views and interesting sand dunes you can climb on top of to get a unique perspective, with golden light at sunset! Afterwards, finish your shoot with a drive back to Hofn for some local cuisine.
Have you been to Iceland? Let me know some of your favorite locations and places to photograph!
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