Iceland is a Photographer's Paradise

Why do photographers flock to Iceland to take pictures? The answer: Iceland has some of the best photo locations in the world. The soaring waterfalls, surreal landscapes and other-worldly geological formations are unrivalled. Not only is the countryside full of unique and stunning viewpoints, but the rich culture of the island and friendly locals make it a must-visit. In this post, discover some of the best Icelandic photo spots to plant your next photo adventure. Be sure to check out our one-of-a-kind Iceland Photo Map, and take the PIXEO Photo Spots App with you to discover thousands of great Icelandic photo spots. Without a doubt, Iceland is for photographers.

1. Hvitserkur Basalt Stack

Hvítserkur by Tetiana Syrova
Hvítserkur by Tetiana Syrova

Iceland is full of incredible geological formations that are fantastic to photograph, but few compare to the stunning Hvitserkur Basalt Stacks found at Húnaflói Bay. These basalt sacks soar to a height of 49 ft (15m) above the bay’s waters. Erosion and time have carved three large openings in the base of the rock formation, and the base has been reinforced with concrete to preserve it.

Hvitserkur translates to “White Shirt” and is so named because of all the bird excrement covering it. The rock is home to thousands of nesting seabirds and other wildlife. There are so many creatures living on it that it has a bizarre sense of constant movement and creates an illusion on the surface as though the rock is alive.

Like most rock formations, Hvitserkur is fabled to be the remains of a troll in Icelandic folklore. Legend tells how this troll sought to destroy the bells at Þingeyraklaustur convent but failed to see the rising sun in his rage. The Hvitserkur troll was petrified by the sun’s rays and rests here for eternity.

This is undoubtedly one of the top places in Iceland for photographers. To get to the Hvitserkur photo location, take route 711 off the Icelandic Ring Road (Route 1). Plan to stop a few times along the route as Hvitserkur is not the only site to discover. The region is one of the top places to photograph seals worldwide, so if you are into wildlife photography, this route will not disappoint.

Shooting Hvitserkur is best done either from the viewing platform, the beach, or the cliff tops. Pay attention to the tides and plan your trip for when the tide is going out so you can capture it when it is entirely surrounded by water, and then make your way down to the beach to shoot in the reflecting water as it recedes. A good selection of wide-angle and telephoto lenses is recommended for photographers. Weather-wise, partly cloudy will add the most drama to your photos.

Like most places in Iceland for photographers, the warmer seasons will be more popular and make shooting without people in the frame more of a challenge. Thankfully Hvitserkur is fantastic to shoot in all seasons, and the white snow adds a beautiful contrast to photos. However, if you visit in winter, be careful as the rocks and trails to the location can be slippery.

2. Háifoss Waterfall

Háifoss-Photo by Ben Karpinski
Háifoss-Photo by Ben Karpinski

Iceland has numerous waterfalls to discover, but Háifoss is one of those hidden Icelandic gems. One of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, Háifoss, is a 400-foot cascade into a deep canyon. Located in a more secluded part of Iceland, it is a two-hour drive from Reykjavik via 4×4 over uneven roads. Because of its remote location, it is less frequented by tourists and a pleasure to explore.

Háifoss is simply stunning, with a neighbour waterfall called Granni that can make great foreground or background interest in your photographs. The spray also paints magical rainbows that add to the composition when the sun hits the mist at an oblique angle.

The adventurous photographer can also descend a narrow trail into the canyon below and shoot the waterfall from the lower level. Follow the path from the parking lot until it turns right and then turns back down towards the waterfalls. Good hiking boots are a must, but this is also an excellent way to avoid any crowds that may be ruining your shot of Háifoss from higher viewpoints.

When shooting waterfalls of this magnitude, the mist is a real danger for camera gear, so protect your equipment appropriately if you intend to get close. In addition, a cloth to clean and wipe your lens is essential. Finally, graduated filters will help balance the exposure from the bright sky and the darker areas of the canyon and Háifoss. If you don’t have or use graduated filters, taking multiple exposures at different apertures (bracketing) for an HDR is probably a good idea to extend your dynamic range. In addition, wide-angle lenses will help capture the stunning surrounding scenery in your landscape photography.

3. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon-Photo by Gregory Sabin
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon-Photo by Gregory Sabin

Black sands and crystal clear ice blocks make Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon a fantastic place in Iceland for photographers. The beach at the lagoon is called Diamond beach for a good reason. Often the ice that breaks free of the glacier has been under pressure for centuries, forcing all the air bubbles out of it. The result is clear ice chunks that resemble diamonds washed ashore on the black sands of the beach. The result is surreal and looks like broken glass or flawless diamonds have washed ashore. The lagoon itself is very photogenic as the black sands and rich blue waters of the melting glacier conspire to create a rich turquoise colour that looks fantastic in photographs. There are several glacier lagoons in Iceland, but Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is our favourite because of its unique environment and stunning mountainous backdrop.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is found along the Iceland Ring Road (Route 1) and Iceland’s southeast shore. There is ample parking, and while it is popular with tourists, it is often easy for photographers to take pictures with no people. There are also boat tours and other activities to explore at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We recommend visiting Jökulsárlón in early to mid-June when the Glaciers have just started to melt. This season will provide some of the most stunning images and beautiful crystals on the famed Diamond Beach.

4. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss-Photo by Darren Fast
Seljalandsfoss-Photo by Darren Fast

Probably the best known of Iceland’s waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss is an impressive cascade over a sheer cliff. Visitors love that you can explore the trail behind the falls, and there are all sorts of unique and interesting angles to explore. Seljalandsfoss cascades water over 200 feet into the Seljalands River and features a cavern behind. Use the cavern to capture amazing shots with the waterfall framed by the rock. The waterfall is also impressive when photographed from the front, with the water curtain interrupting the sheer green cliff.

Because of its size and the volume of water, photographers are advised to bring weather protection equipment to avoid damage to their equipment. The falls are also easy to access and are part of the Golden Circle along Route 1. There is ample parking and washrooms near the falls as well. Add Seljalandsfoss to your list of Iceland’s top photo spots for photographers!

5. Svörtuloft Lighthouse

Svörtuloft Lighthouse by Zack Melhus
Svörtuloft Lighthouse by Zack Melhus

Standing tall atop rocky cliffs is found the unique Svörtuloft Lighthouse. It is formally known as Skálasnagaviti (if you are looking at it from the land) or Svörtuloftaviti (if you are at sea). Boxy and orange, the lighthouse is a unique feature that stands out from its surroundings of black lava cliffs topped with green grasses like icing on a dark chocolate cake. The Svörtuloft Lighthouse began operating in 1931 and has guided ships that transit the waters around the Snæfellsnes peninsula since then.

Svörtuloft Lighthouse stands roughly 6 metres close to the edge of the cliff. It is relatively easy to access and is found at the end of a bumpy gravel road. We recommend a 4×4 vehicle, and once you arrive, there are well-maintained walkways surrounding the lighthouse.

The cliffs that Svörtuloft Lighthouse stands atop are a sight to behold on their own. At 4 km long, these dark black lava cliffs are also nesting sites for various Icelandic seabirds. When visiting the lighthouse, you should also plan to photograph the puffins and other Icelandic birds that congregate here. If you like taking pictures of birds, Svörtuloft Lighthouse is one of Iceland’s top spots for photographers.

When packing for your trip, wear good hiking boots and clothing for the weather. As Svörtuloft Lighthouse is close to the sea, it can get quite windy here, and the weather can change without warning. Also, bring long telephoto lenses to capture the birds and add visual compression to your images of Svörtuloft Lighthouse and the long black cliffs. As a final photography tip, stop by the nearby Skarðsvík Beach, one of the only beaches in Iceland with white sand.

6. Glaumbær Farm & Museum

Glaumbær Farm & Museum-Photo by Bernd Thaller
Glaumbær Farm & Museum-Photo by Bernd Thaller

In Icelandic culture, almost everyone used to live in turf houses. Over the years, these houses have primarily been replaced by more modern construction methods, but there are still a few in Iceland. One of the best photo spots for photographers to capture images of these historic houses is the Glaumbær Farm & Museum.

This authentic Iclenadic village features numerous classic turf houses and was even inhabited as recently as 1947. Since that time, the National Museum of Iceland has taken over the town and maintained this vital piece of Iceland’s cultural heritage. As a result, the museum accurately reflects a snapshot of 18th and 19th-century Icelandic life. The village features 13 houses, and the nearby Glaumbær makes a beautiful addition to the background of photos taken here.

Visiting hours vary depending on the season, so check out the Glaumbær Info site before visiting. There is a small fee to explore the village, and photographers are welcome. There are also many staff who are always happy to answer questions and explain some of the historical highlights of the site. Glaumbær Farm & Museum is located about 5 km off of the Golden Circle (Route 1) on the North end of Iceland.

7. Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier Ice Cave

Breiðamerkurjökull Ice Cave-Photo by Simaron
Breiðamerkurjökull Ice Cave-Photo by Simaron

Few places in Iceland for photographers can compete with the ice caves. The turquoise beauty of the scalloped ice walls is stunning to behold and creates beautiful photographs. The Breiðamerkurjökull Ice Cave was first discovered in 2005 and has been a must-visit for photographers. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), it isn’t easy to access. The best and safest way to access the ice caves is with a local guide.

Many tour services offer tours of the caves, and we recommend local guides Solla and Guillaume. They offer private tours and have a personal style often missing from large tour companies. Guillaume is also a talented photographer; both Solla and Guillaume have a considerable amount of mountaineering and Icelandic experience. The other benefit of booking a private tour is that you are likely to avoid the crowds that accompany large tour companies, and the beauty of an ice cave is often the solitary mood it creates.

Once inside one, however, the expense and effort are worth it. Ice compression over centuries forces out all the air trapped in the glacier. The results are crystal-clear frozen formations like no other on earth.

Ice cave season is at its best around November, and the caves are forever changing. This constant change is another reason to hire a local guide to help you find the best caves to photograph that year. Plan a day for an Ice Cave photography expedition as the best ones can take 2 hours to get there and 6-8 hours exploring. Also expect to need hiking gear and sturdy outdoor clothing.

8. Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck

Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck-Photo by Marcus Holland-Moritz
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck-Photo by Marcus Holland-Moritz

As photo spots in Iceland for photographers go, the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck is a definite favourite of ours. This plane has been on our bucket list for years, and we highly recommend a visit for the adventurous photographer.

The Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck is what remains of a  United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 plane that had an emergency landing on the south coast of Iceland. Situated on the soft black sands of the waterfront, few plane wrecks in the world are as photogenic as this one. Partly because of its remote but accessible location and partly because of the majestic surroundings.

Because of its popularity, it has become a bit of a tourism destination, so like many great photography locations in Iceland, it can be overrun with people, so it is best to head out to this photo spot early. There is ample parking off Route 1 to the plane wreck, and anticipate a 4km hike out to the ruins. Once there, however, you will be impressed by the juxtaposition and beauty of the abandoned airplane and the stunning mountains and sandy beach.

9. Sun Voyager Sculpture

Sun Voyager-Photo by O Palsson
Sun Voyager-Photo by O Palsson

There are numerous great photo spots in Reykjavik, including the stunning Hallgrímskirkja church, the Grótta Island Lighthouse, and the squat yellow lantern lighthouse, but for our money, the Sun Voyager (Icelandic:  Sólfar) is the best place in Reykjavik to take photos. This stunning sculpture was the winning design of a contest in 1990 to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th anniversary. Designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason it is a beautiful reflective sculpture that perfectly captures the design of ancient Icelandic sea-faring boats. But what makes this public art installation marvellous for photographers is its placement. Situated on the waterfront on the north end of Reykjavik, it is perfect for sunset and sunrise photography.

The sculpture’s reflective surface creates absolutely gorgeous images when captured at the right time of day in the correct type of weather. Photographers should visit this beautiful piece of art in the early mornings or during golden hours to capture its magnificent beauty. The sculpture is easy to find and access, located on a public beach on the north end of Reykjavik. No special instructions for shooting the Sun Voyager. Bring a tripod, a selection of wide lenses and maybe a graduated filter or polarizer to capture the piece in all its beauty.

10. Búðakirkja (Black Church)

Búðakirkja by O Palsson
Búðakirkja by O Palsson

Situated in a lava field overgrown with wild grasses sits the unassuming Búðakirkja. This small black church is easily one of Iceland’s most photogenic hidden gems. Featuring a simple design and steeple, the church is as modest as it is unique. Búðakirkja’s black paint and remote location make it a fantastic place for photographers to explore. Originally a church built in 1703 stood at this location but was eventually destroyed as few people attended the church. However, in 1987 a local parishioner campaigned to have a church rebuilt, and the elegant Búðakirkja is the result. The black church is situated roughly 2 hours north of Reykjavik and a bit of to the way, but for photographers, it is well worth the trek out to this photo location.

More Places in Iceland for Photographers

Be sure to explore the Iceland Photo Map and discover even more great places in Iceland for photographers. We’ve collected and collated hundreds of the best Icelandic places to take pictures and geo-referenced them on a map to help make it easy for photographers to plan their photography adventures. When you get there, download the free PIXEO app and discover even more great places for photography in Iceland.

Iceland Photo Map

Latest Iceland Photo Spots

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