There are few countries in the world that get landscape photographers excited like Iceland. With many of us returning again and again to this amazing part of the world in search of the ultimate shot, over time some of these locations become like old friends.
But which are the “best” Iceland photography locations for those heading to the Nordic Island state for the first time?
Well, naturally there are just too many stunning Iceland photography locations for us to possibly list them all here. Nonetheless, what follows are 10 of my favorite Iceland photography locations that no landscape photographer visiting the country would want to miss.
01 – Kirkjufell
A quirky, symmetrical, and free-standing lone mountain on the west coast of Iceland, Kirkjufell has guaranteed Instagram appeal. It was also featured in Game of Thrones, though, so don’t expect to have this place to yourself when you visit.
Nonetheless, Kirkjufell is big. Very big. So it’s easy enough to head off on your own and find a more original take on this iconic bit of Icelandic landscape. It’s also simple to move around the area surrounding Kirkjufell, shooting it from many different directions. According to your requirements, this allows you to position your camera so that either the sea, long grass, waterfalls, or sweeping plains are included in the shot alongside the conical, hat-like mountain.
02 – Skogafoss Waterfall
There are stunning views of the Skogafoss falls to be had even from the nearby road as you approach. But it’s only as you come close, and hear the deafening rush of the water as it cascades down a full 60 ft. of cliff face, that you will truly appreciate the power and majesty of Skogafoss.
Located on the the Skógá River in southern Iceland, Skogafoss cascades down what were once sea cliffs. Today, however, the actual coastline has receded several miles away from the waterfall, so the water instead plunges into a broad river basin and meanders its way out to sea across flat, green, coastal plains. If the sun is out, the large amount of water vapor produced by the falls often results in single or even double rainbows.
As one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, and also one of the most popular Iceland photography locations, Skogafoss is often busy with hikers and photographers, many of whom camp nearby. In cooler months the cliff face can become covered in pretty green moss and the pool below fills to the brim. Come summer, though, the river is shallower and the water easier to maneuver in on foot; making it possible to set up a tripod right under the falls itself.
03 – Arnarstapi Arches
The small Icelandic town of Arnastapi is home to some pretty spectacular hole-riddled basalt cliff formations, reminiscent of certain Japanese photography locations. The classic shot here is of the low spring sunlight hitting the ocean, as seen through one of the circular arches.
There are some other basalt formations here that you can actually walk across, like a bridge over the sea. Just be very careful though, as one misplaced step and you face certain death at the hands of the jagged rocks and thrashing Atlantic waves below.
04 – Hvitserkur
Another amazing coastal rock formation, similar to the Arnastapi arches. Only on an even bigger scale, and a lot quirkier in shape. Hvitserkur is the ideal place for shooting the sunrise over the ocean, with the sun bursting through one of its rocky holes. Background mountains across the sea add an extra element of interest. And if you are really lucky you might even get to see the Northern Lights here too.
05 – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
The bizarre otherworldly scenery of the Jökulsárlón lagoon is another Instagram hit that it would nonetheless be hard to leave off your Iceland photography itinerary. Picture it: a black sand beach strewn with enormous chunks of sapphire-like ice washed up form the glacial lake. Or instead, shoot the mirrorlike lake itself, with even bigger chunks of glacier slowly floating through the scene. Amazing!
06 – Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
In 1973 a US Navy DC3 got into trouble in bad weather and was forced to make an emergency landing on the black sand outwash plains of southern Iceland. You’ll likely have seen numerous images of the resulting wreck on Instagram, or in the video for Justin Bieber’s I’ll Show You. Now this unlikely tourist attraction is actually one of Iceland’s most popular.
Viewed against a stunning, minimal backdrop of black sand and rock, the faded white carcass of the weather-worn airplane also makes for a pretty amazing photography location too.
The wreck can’t be approached by vehicle, but instead involves a long hike from the road. However, it is not advisable to visit in winter or during poorer weather, especially when there are high winds. Numerous travelers have become lost or gotten into trouble trying to reach the site and have needed to be rescued by local emergency crews.
07 – Vestrahorn Mountain
Vestrahorn is an incredible mountain range that just sticks up out of the landscape at such an acute angle that it appears almost like a Hollywood studio set or plastic model. Best photographed with a vast expanse of shaggy dunes stretching out in front of the mountains. Or, if you’re there in spring, you might even get lucky and find a field of wildflowers.
Located near the southeastern fishing town of Höfn, Vestrahorn is also known as Vesturhorn or Stokksnes, and is just one of several jagged and “horny” mountain ranges in the region.
08 – Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara beach is located close to the the small seafront village of Vik, in southern Iceland, roughly a three hour drive from Reykjavik.
Although not unique in this part of the world, the beach would nonetheless be worth the visit for its large expanse of fine, black volcanic sand alone. But what really draws people Reynisfjara are the incredible towering basalt formations stacked along the shore. These almost geometric rock columns make for an amazing photography location, reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland; made famous by Led Zepellin’s Houses of the Holy album cover.
Reynisfjara is also a good place for shooting sunsets, when the sun goes down behind some of the jagged “devil’s teeth” rocky outcrops that jut out of the sea right in front of the beach.
09 – Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
While less dominant and imposing than some other Iceland landscape photography locations, Fjaðrárgljúfur is nonetheless impossible pretty. The rocky, winding canyon offers an enormous range of possible photography locations, and includes several waterfalls that would be worth the trip in themselves even if the canyon wasn’t so inspiring.
Another location favored by Bieber, the popularity of this place has reached new heights in recent years, with not all visitors sticking to the designated footpaths. This has caused local rangers to periodically close the canyon for a few months of the year in order to allow nature to recover. You’d be advised to check the situation before heading out here, as it’s a long way from Reykjavik.
10 – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Another Iceland photography “must-see,” Seljalandsfoss is a stunning jet of water projected down 60-foot high cliffs. What really makes this place unique though is the fact that it can be photographed from the back of a large cave located behind the waterfall itself, with the small water pool and coastal plains situated beyond the water.
As with many landscape photography locations in Iceland, the Seljalandsfoss falls have become even more popular with tourists after being featured in Bieber’s 2015 music video.
So there you go, some of my favorite landscape photography locations in Iceland. As we already said though, Iceland offers so many incredible spots for the adventurous photographer that you’ll likely want to keep coming back here again and again.
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