Top Natural Wonders In Iceland To Photograph
Iceland is renowned for it’s natural wonders, it is a country of dramatic landscapes shaped by the forces of nature. From black sand beaches, deep fjords, snow-capped mountains and volcanic deserts, Iceland’s nature remains mostly unspoiled and is the perfect backdrop for photographers, amateurs and professionals alike.
Here’s a round up of the top 15 natural wonders of Iceland that will have you reaching for your camera…
1. Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir was the first national park in Iceland and was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2004 for its geological uniqueness and historical significance. It is home to some of the most photogenic spots in Iceland which are easily accessible from Reykjavik – perfect if you’re taking a short break in Iceland. Highlights include the craggy tectonic rifts where the Eurasian and North American continental plates divide, Silfra gorge and Þingvallavatn lake: Iceland’s largest lake.
Where is it? The birthplace of modern Icelandic history is 40km away from Reykjavik on the Golden Circle route.
Tip for photographers: The park is also well-known for birds, with about 52 bird species living by the lake. The most famous bird is the Great Northern Diver. Snow Bunting and Merlin are common in the area.
2. Strokkur, Geysir
Another favourite spot along the Golden Circle is the highly active and iconic geysir, Strokkur. It erupts regularly (every 4-10 minutes) to a height of around 30m.
Where it it? Geysir is one stop on Iceland’s famous Golden Circle route.
Tip for photographers: Time your visit either early or late in the day for best lighting and fewer people.
A magnificent, rainbow-spanned, two-tiered waterfall – Gullfoss thunders over a 33m drop before plunging down again into a mile long gorge. Gullfoss means “golden falls” in Icelandic. It is named so because when the sun catches the glacial sediments in the water on a sunny day, the crevice second drop glows with a golden hue.
Where is it? The final stop of the Golden Circle route in this is one wonder you can snap easily on a weekend away in South West Iceland.
Tip for photographers: The falls have been known to freeze over, so for a cool – and unusual – photo, try visiting during winter months.
One of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss cascades over a former sea-cliff before running down to meet the shore. A path leads behind and this picturesque waterfall, meaning that you can have the unusual sensation of walking underneath it.
Where is it? On the south coast of Iceland, around 125km from Reyjavik, off Road 1 which circles Iceland.
Tip for photographers: The falls face south, so the light hits them all day. You can climb above the falls as well as get behind the cascade – this is one waterfall that you can really shoot from all angles!
5. Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon
Experience Iceland’s incredible iceberg lagoon Jökulsárlón, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, and you’ll surely come away with some incredible images. Photographers who’d prefer to stay on dry land can snap icebergs from shore, or you can get up close to the big, beautiful ‘bergs which calve from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier as it meets the sea in an amphibious craft.
Where is it? Off Road 1, 370km from Reykjavik in south east Iceland, on the south coast.
Tip for photographers: Don’t miss going down to the beach on the other side of the main road to get shots of smaller beached mini icebergs washed up on the black sands, and keep an eye out for playful seals.
6. Black Sandy Beaches at Vik
Although the long, long June days are beautiful all over Iceland, standing on the black sand beach at Vík to watch the rocks glowing red in the sunlight, and capture the famous postcard-worthy sea stack Reynisdrangur is a particularly special experience.
Where is it? On the south west coast neighbouring the Myrdalsjokull icecap – Vik is a popular pitstop for fuel and food.
Tip for photographers: Vík also has a small, traditional hilltop church as an alternative vantage point.
7. Myvatn by the Midnight Sun
Myvatn is another famous geothermal area of Iceland and you’ll find bubbling mud pools, ancient lava formations like and both volcanic craters and pseudo-craters around the lake, as well as bird and animal life.
Where is it? In the north of Iceland – an easy drive from Iceland’s ‘second’ city Akureyri.
Tip for photographers: As Lake Myvatn is vast and the surrounding countryside all very photogenic, take advantage of the midnight sun in the summer to capture stunning landscape shots, and avoid tour groups.
8. Fjords and Fishing Villages in East Iceland
Iceland’s offer some sweepingly beautiful vistas which are overlooked by most tourists. There are rhyolite mountains, green valleys, vast inlets and hidden valleys, such as Storurd near Borgarfjordur Eystri.
Where is it? Egilsstadir is the hub town for the East Fjords. On the coast there are lots of charming fishing villages where you can hike and watch wildlife during the day.
Tip for photographers: Explore the town of Seydisfjordur – it’s painted wooden houses of Norwegian origin and influence are especially photogenic.
9. Dettifoss and Godafoss
These two waterfalls are two of the most special of Iceland’s natural wonders. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and its sheer magnitude is an impressive sight to capture. Godafoss the ‘waterfall of the gods’ is considered one of Iceland’s most photogenic falls – its cascade is 30m wide and has a 12m drop.
Where is it? You’ll find both in north east Iceland.
Tip for photographers: You get a great angle of Dettifoss from the west side, but this is difficult to access without a mountain vehicle – the track is very rough. For Godafoss, the main car park is on the western side, but if you cross the bridge you can get down to the lower river bank on the east, which offers more photographic opportunities.
10. Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs West Fjords
The impressive sheer cliffs at Latrabjarg are 14km long and 444m high, and are home to the country’s largest concentration of sea birds including puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and guillemots.
Where is it? The westernmost point of Iceland, in the remote West Fjords region. You’ll need a study vehicle to get there.
Tip for photographers: Firstly, be careful on the cliffs – they’re extremely high and can be hazardous. Then, be patient. The best months to visit are June and July, and if you sit still the birds will continue their activities around you.
11. Holuhraun, The Highlands
Volcanic eruptions are not uncommon in Iceland, and the Holuhraun fissure eruption (which began in August 2014) has created a lava field which covers an area greater than the island of Manhattan.
Where is it? In a remote area of the Highlands, north of the Vatnajokull glacier.
Tip for photographers: Your pilot will circle the eruption site to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to capture this natural phenomenon, so don’t worry too much about where you sit.
Please note that these excursions are entirely weather and conditions dependant.
12. Landmannalaugar & Thorsmork
This mountainous area offers stunning views for landscape photographers. Landmannalaugar’s colourful rhyolite lava actually sparkles in the sunshine and the myriad of colours have to be seen to be believed. There’s also a naturally hot river which you can take a dip in. Thorsmork is surrounded on three sides by glaciers and criss-crossed by raging rivers and gentle streams. There’s an ice-cave that you can visit at the far end.
Where is it? Both are in a remote area southern Highlands. We recommend taking a private Superjeep excursion to get there; all roads into the valley involve fording rivers so don’t attempt the drive in an ordinary car.
Tip for photographers: Iceland’s famous Laugavegur hiking trail runs between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork, so if you’ve got more time than just a daytrip take hiking boots and a lightweight tripod. Take notice of weather warnings and keep to established paths.
This enchanting waterfall is set in its own little canyon of black basalt columns, and a narrow curtain of water plunges into a deep, dark pool.
Where is it? Svartifoss is a short hike into Skaftafell, Iceland’s most popular wilderness area, in South East Iceland.
Tip for photographers: As well as Svartifoss, don’t miss the nearby Hundafoss – the best side for this one is the west.
Possibly the world’s most beautiful canyon, the tortuous Fjaðrárgljúfur is 2km long and, in places, 100m deep.
Where is it? Not far from Kirkjubæjarklaustur, on the south coast.
Tip for photographers: There are two paths you can take to capture this gorgeous gorge – one along the top of the canyon to the east, and one into the canyon itself along the river. You might have to get your feet wet on this one.
15. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Iceland’s beautiful Snaefellnes Peninsula, is where Jules Verne set his classic novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Base yourself in the fishing village of Grundarfjordur to explore the countryside, including Iceland’s most photographed mountain Kirkjufell.
Where is it? On Iceland’s west coast – Kirkjufell is just to the west of Grundarfjordur on the peninsula’s north coast.
Tip for photographers: The classic way to capture this conical mountain is with the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls in the foreground.
For help in planning a tailor made itinerary focusing on the country’s scenic wonders, contact our team of Iceland Travel Specialists.