Iceland is often called the land of fire and ice, with its wild and wonderful beauty, sharp contrasts, geological anomalies and natural blend of elements, it offers impressive landscapes, making it a paradise for a photographer. There is a lot of diversity in one little island: glacial tongues, turquise rivers, spectacular black sand beaches, picteresque waterfalls, vast lava fields, various geological wonders, active volcanoes and dramatic snow-capped mountains.
I’m a locally based photographer and I spent years of my experience finding the perfect locations for your dream photo session. Below you can find a list of three areas in Iceland that have all that the island has to offer and I find the most suitable to make your photoshoot one-of-a-kind: South, West, and North from Reykjavik.
(travel fee 180 USD)
The Reykjanes peninsula is located between two continents, the Eurasian and North American plates. It is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level. Laying in the drift zone gives it its uniqueness. The landscape is rough and a bit otherwordly and lunar looking. Due to its volcanic past, it allows for little vegetation and you can’t find it here so typical to Southern Iceland vast grassy meadows, instead, there are huge areas covered in soft moss. There are fissures, craters, and bubbling mud pools. Many amazing grey-colored rock formations and spectacular cliffs are located by the sea, which is particularly spectacular when the wind is blowing and the sea violently hits the rocks. Hot springs, rifts, steam coming from under the ground, lava fields, lava tubes, rifts, and hot springs visible signs of volcanic activity in the area. Reykjanes peninsula, despite its uniqueness, is not the most popular tourist destination, therefore it’s a perfect location to feel a little bit more secluded from the crowds.
My favourite photo locations on Reykjanes Peninsula:
Kleifarvatn – lake surrounded by unique and beautiful volcanic landscapes. Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula and one of the deepest in Iceland. The lake is directly located on the drift zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and that’s why is known for its geological and geothermal activity; the landscape around is covered in a thick layer of lava, moss, and hot springs steam in many areas. The rock formations around the are spectacular, formed by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Blue Lagoon – located in a lava field in Grindavík, is one of the most famous places in Iceland and on the top of many bucket lists all around the globe. The beautiful vividly milky-blue water with rising pillars of steam is truly one of a kind earth and makes an eye-catching contrast to the black lava fields and green moss sorrounding the area.
Krýsuvík – Only a twenty-five-minute drive from the center of Hafnarfjörður, it is one of the most striking landscapes in Iceland. Here you’ll find many geothermal areas with old craters, boiling springs, volcanic vents, and bubbling mud pods surrounded by dramatic yellow, green and red hills. It is possible to hike at the top of the hill for an amazing view of the ocean, meadows, and lakes.
Brimketill – it is a large, natural pool carved by the hammering of waves against soft lava rock, and is located at the bottom of a cliff at the edge of the ocean. Brimketill’s current name translates to ‘whitewater/surf cauldron’, although it also was known as Oddnýjarlaug, which is ‘Oddný’s Pool’. It was named after a troll, who was believed to use the pool to bathe and wash her clothes. This place offers a beautiful view over the Atlantic ocean, cliffs, and rugged coastline.
Gunnuhver – It is said to be one of the most awe-inspiring locations in Iceland. Gunnuhver is a huge geothermal field where the country’s biggest hot mud pool can be found. An enormous quantity of steam that is produced in the area is visible from many kilometers away as it rises high into the air. Countless hot springs, steam vents, and fizzling fumaroles can be found in there, as well as impressive, colorful rocks and mineral-painted ground.
Reyjkanes Lighthouse – the oldest lighthouse in Iceland located on a small hill. According to a survey from 2007, the Reykjanes lighthouse was voted as the favorite one among Icelanders. It offers an amazing view from the top – picturesque cliffs, Eldey Island in the far distance, and on Gunnuhver Hot Springs.
Valahnúkamöl – It is the southwestern-most tip of the peninsula. Here are located stunning cliffs that are created by powerful storms and high waves. Here also lies a dramatic, rocky beach full of sea stacks and massive boulders. This place also provides a great view over the coastline and Eldey island. It is said to be the perfect location to watch the sunset.
South Coast of Iceland
(travel fee 180 – 450 USD)
Iceland’s beautiful south coast is one of the most popular regions among travelers. It is said to be home to some of Iceland’s most iconic sites and natural attractions. Black sand beaches, most famous volcanoes, glacier lagoons, dramatic cliffsides, stunning waterfalls, ice caps, picturesque mountains, charming fishing villages, nearly endless grassy meadows, lava fields and pitch-black volcanic desserts. Those extremely diverse landscapes are only a few hours of driving distance from Reykjavík.
My favourite photo location in South Iceland:
Gljúfrabúi – is one of the hidden gems of Iceland, the perfect location for those seeking to admire nature in peace. Falling down from the green hills of Eyjafjöll mountains and into a gorge, this little waterfall, with the open sky above, mossy walls, silver mist, and black lava around gives a truly fairytale vibe, especially on sunny days, when one can catch a rainbow.
Seljalandsfoss – is one of the most awe-inspiring and picturesque waterfalls in South Iceland. The water from Seljalandsfoss sources from an ice cap that covers the caldera of the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano The waterfall is popular among visitors to the country because it’s actually possible to walk behind it! Stepping behind the curtain of water gives a completely new perspective. Local authorities have constructed a walkway around the waterfall which allows visitors to view it from several different vantage points.
Skógafoss – one of Iceland’s largest and most beautiful waterfalls. Skógafoss has its origins deep within two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. Its beautiful cascade has a width of 25 meters and drops 60 meters. Such a big waterfall of this size generates a lot of spray, often creating a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Kvernufoss – waterfall, located on the east side of the popular Skógafoss waterfall, is half-hidden in a gorge and often overlooked by travelers. Therefore it’s unlikely to find the tourist crowds there. The waterfall is partially covered by moss-coated lava rocks, so approaching the waterfall gives a really quiet and peaceful feeling. The gorge is a combination of stones, palagonite cliffs, and juicy vegetation.
Sólheimajökull – a glacial tongue and part of the Myrdalsjokull glacier. It starts from the rim of the Katla volcano and is about 10 to 13 kilometers long and about 1 to 2 kilometers wide. It has everything that Icelandic glaciers are known for: deep blue colors, deep ice crevasses, dynamic textures, and rugged scenery. Due to volcanic ash, the glacier is colored with white, grey, and black. Sólheimajökull is shrinking rapidly due to climate change, so it’s worth admiring the beauty of its ice-cap while it is still with us.
Dyrhólaey – is beautiful cape along the South Coast of Iceland and the southernmost part of the Icelandic mainland. Its characteristic massive arch was created by the sea during centuries of erosion. It is best known for its fantastic views over Iceland’s South Coast. To the north, there is a view over Mýrdalsjökull glacier, while to the East- Reynisdrangar and West – dramatic black beach along the southern coastline towards the town of Selfoss. On the top, there is located a very interesting “castle-shaped” lighthouse.
Reynisfjara – the most beautiful and internationally known black sand beach in Iceland. Reynisfjara is the most favored site thanks to amazing pitch-black volcanic sands dotted with smooth pebbles and stones, unique rock and lava formations, spectacular sea stacks, hexagonal-shaped basalt columns, towering cliffs, caves, overall moody atmosphere, and breathtaking views of huge waves crashing on the shore! The black coast makes a perfect contrast against the blue water and white foam of the waves. Thousands of birds nesting all over the cliffs and sea stacks, it’s also possible to see puffins! From the beach you have a view of the arched cliff of Dyrhólaey looming over the sea, and also the Reynisdrangar sea-stacks, which are believed to be petrified trolls that were caught outside at sunrise, when they tried to drag the ship to the seashore.
Vík í Mýrdal – the southernmost town in Iceland. Though it only has around 300 residents, the village is very popular amongst visitors to the country for its beautiful surrounding landscapes. Vik is bordered by Mýrdalsjökull glacier’s white cap to the north, less-known part of Reyknicfjara black sand beach to the south, and grassy hills and mountains all around it.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach (450 USD travel Fee, available only for full and half day shoots) – Jökulsárlón is a breathtaking glacial lagoon and the deepest lake in Iceland. The Breiðamerkurjökull glacier tongue provides the lagoon with all kinds of icebergs, which break from its tip and tumble into waters as it slowly melts down. These icebergs are enormously beautiful and can vary in colors. They are not only, as expected, largely white, most are also turquoise and blue in part, with black streaks of ash from previous volcanic eruptions, very shiny and glass-looking or be almost completely transparent. In addition to those fantastic ice formations with magnificent glacier tongues and snowy mountains in the background, you can easily spot seals swimming amongst the icebergs. The icebergs from the lagoon are slowly floating towards the sea and when they finally escape the lake, most join the countless smaller ice chunks and wash up on the nearby shore. This area is called “Diamond Beach”. It’s just a magical view to see all these shiny pieces of ice sparkling on the black sand, looking like giant diamonds. They vary in size and color, making this place very unique and different every time it is visited.
Plane wreck (1,5 h hike, one way) – This abandoned airplane wreck belonged to the American Army and was used to transport supplies around bases until it crashed in 1973. The scenery around it surreal and makes an amazing contrast between weathered gray hulk of metal, the black desert around it, and dramatic ocean waves in the distance.
(travel fee 270 USD)
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a region in Western Iceland and it’s often called “Iceland in Miniature” or “Iceland in a Nutshell”. Translated to “Snowy Mountain’s Peninsula”, it is known for incredibly diverse and vast landscapes, here you’ll find all the best Iceland has to offer and all of the unique natural elements in one place. It holds both a volcano with a glacier on the top, untouched lava fields, craters, waterfalls, botch black and white beaches, caves, picturesque mountains, calm fishing villages, as well as gorgeous views along the coastline with hazardous cliffs and rugged rocks. Simply put, with magical sights at every turn, the area is a true paradise for taking epic shots!
My favourite photo location on Snæfellsnes Peninsula:
Arnastrapi – a small town at the southern edge of Snæfellsnes Peninsula at the foot of Mt. Stapafell. The pier there is surrounded by basalt columns, ravines, and grottoes. Large colonies of the arctic tern nest in the area and the beach at Arnarstapi has eroded very spectacular circular stone arch, which offers a fantastic view on the fascinating play of the light of the sun and dramatic waves hitting the coast.
Hellnar – an old fishing village on the westernmost part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. At the shores of Hellnar are spectacular rock formations. Here is located one of Iceland’s most peculiar caves, called Baðstofa, known for its unique light refraction and colorful interior. Another natural highlight in the area is protruding cliff called Valasnös. It has tunnels into the cliff, and its coloration is affected by the time of the day, the movements of the sea, and the prevailing weather conditions.
Kirkjufell – a distinctly shaped mountain located on the north shore of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It is often called ‘the most photographed mountain in Iceland’. Kirkjufell is very picturesque, and due to its dramatic formation and plenty of nearby beaches making its convenient coastal location, it is perfect for photographers. Also the mountain’s beautiful surroundings – such as the stunning Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall – contribute a lot to its popularity. The composition of the mountain and the waterfall is very aesthetic.
Búðir Black Church – charming and minimalistic church placed in the surreal, dreamlike landscape, where the black color makes one-of-a-kind contrast to the often cloudy mountains in the background and ice-capped Snæfellsjökull located nearby. The pitch-black church sits within the Búðahraun lava field, which is known for its beauty in its roughness and the diversity of plant life and the general view gives the unreal feeling about the place. There is a yellow sandy beach and an old wall from an old farm located nearby.
Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs – majestic sea stacks, geological wonders often nicknamed “the rocky castle”. Those basalt volcanic dykes sticking out from the ocean look really impressive surrounded by a rough lava field covered with endless green soft moss that looks like a magical green carpet. The overall view is truly dramatic and desolate. The area around the cliffs is rumored to belong to elves, so farmers have never made hay or used the fields around the Lóndrangar.
Svörtuloft Lighthouse – a fluorescent orange lighthouse and a four-kilometer-long cliff. It is translated as “the black ceiling”, thanks to the dark and black lava cliffs around it. It offers spectacular views over the coastline. The natural arch by the lighthouse, together with the stack that stands up from the sea line and the pounding waves hammering the cliffs is just an amazing view and perfect background for the pictures.
Djúpalónssandur Black Beach – a black pebbled beach located at the foot of Snæfellsnesjökull glacier. Even the path there is quite unique, it leads through a lava field, with amazing geological formations, like very interesting lava rock with a hole in the middle . The scenery is magnificent with the ice-capped volcano looming in the background. One of the most noticeable thing on the beach is a big lava rock called Söngklettur or the Singing Rock, formation with a reddish color that is believed to be an elfish church. On the beach there is also a picteresque lagoon called Svörtulón or the Black Lagoon at the beach. You will see many other interesting lava formations and rocks eberywhere you turn, and together with smooth pebbles of various sizes. It gives a beautiful sight to watch and amazing place to be in.