Iceland is a photographer’s paradise – the unworldly landscapes, perfect lighting, and endless dramatic, beautiful places to visit will leave you spellbound, with beautiful pictures to take home from your trip. I was lucky enough to visit this incredible country for 9 days this May, and fell in love! Here are some of my photographs, as well as top tips for visiting Iceland!
PLACES TO GO
My friend Delaney and I got off the plane, took a short nap, then went straight to the magical Blue Lagoon! This place is the perfect place to relax after a long flight, and rejuvenate before exploring the rest of your trip! The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa – with warm, milky white water, and black volcanic rocks. To get in, you need to book your tickets in advance, and to some they are a bit pricy – but to me it was completely worth it. You get a free face mask, a free drink, and as much time as you would like relaxing in an enormous, absolutely beautiful hot tub! I can’t emphasize enough how relaxing it was to come after such a long a flight. I’d definitely recommend going!
Reyjkavik is such a beautiful city! It has many cute shops to explore, delicious food to eat, and tons of colorful buildings and interesting art and graffiti to take pictures of! The people are very kind, and almost everyone you meet speaks very good English. While in Reykjavik we went to:
— The Art Museum and Museum of Photography: They had an exhibit of photographs of glaciers around Iceland, taken on a large format film camera, that were absolutely stunning.
— National Museum of Iceland: They have many historical artifacts from the Vikings, which is so cool to see – especially when you have Viking ancestors 🙂
— Hallgrimskirkja: a gorgeous cathedral with views of the city.
I really love this city, and could have spent more time here!
Golden Circle – Southern Iceland
Driving the Golden Circle is a must while in Iceland! It’s about a three and a half hour drive, but will take longer because of the many places to stop and enjoy the incredible landscape. There are waterfalls, majestic cliffs, green moss fields, wild horses, Icelandic sheep, and beautiful views everywhere! Among these is one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls – Gullfloss. This double tiered waterfall is breathtaking! The river drops down one waterfall, crashes down into the second, and flows into a beautiful river surrounded by steep dramatic cliffs. I felt like I was transported back in time! It is so raw and powerful.
Another popular stop is the Geysir Geothermal Field. This field has multiple geysers, one of which is the Strokkur geyser which spouts water every few minutes, sometimes as high up as 100 feet in the air! I didn’t take a picture, because I wanted to enjoy it, and be in the moment 🙂 However here is a photograph of the mystic pools near the geysers!
Þingvellir National Park is another stop along the way that is absolutely beautiful to explore! There are small rivers winding through the valley, with towering black cliffs lining them. Along the black cliffs there are waterfalls that you can hike to and photograph. This site is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet! It’s also where the chieftains of Iceland back in 930 AD met and formed the first Icelandic parliament – basically the founding of Iceland.
Snaefellsjokull National Park and Snæfellsnes Peninsula
This national park is another must see! It’s located on the westernmost point of Iceland, with basalt black cliffs, lava bed hikes, surreal beaches, and thunderous waterfalls.
This small black church is nestled in a field of lava rock, right by the ocean. It has a historic graveyard, and is painted black with pitch – the same material used to paint ships to protect them from the sea. This is to help preserve it from Iceland’s harsh elements.
Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls
These waterfalls are absolutely breathtaking! The first pictured is Skogafoss – my favorite waterfall of the entire trip. It is awe inspiring. The last two photographs are of Seljalandsfoss, where there are three waterfalls flowing down a cliff wall. The larger one has a trail leading below and behind the waterfall, allowing you to experience the powerful spray and mist. Another has a trail leading into the cliff ravine, where the waterfall falls into a secret pool. You have to wade through ice cold water barefoot (or with water shoes) to get to this one – the experience is unforgettable!
There are also small local homes nearby these waterfalls, and they are the most charming places to stay! The ones we stayed in were owned and run by local farmers – one of them made homemade hot cocoa and cake for the guests. The one I stayed at had cows living on the side of the cliffs by the ocean, and across the street was a small restaurant run by the family. They served their own produce and beef, and it was delicious! It was such a perfect place to stay and relax after a long day of driving and hiking. Simply charming!
Dyrholaey Beach and Reynisfjara (black sand beach) near Vik, Iceland
These beaches are unworldly and awe inspiring. The contrast of the black sand with the crashing white waves makes it feel that the world is black and white.
To see the first stunning view, drive to Dyrholaey Beach and follow the road that winds up to the top of the cliff. There is a small trail and outlook at the top.
Reynisfjara is perhaps the most famous beach in Iceland. It is listed by National Geographic as one of the top 10 nontropical beaches in the world to visit. It is also one of the most dangerous beaches in the world – there are enormous rogue waves that sneak up and effortlessly wash unsuspecting people out to sea. At this point, if you went straight into the ocean, you wouldn’t hit land until you reached Antarctica. It is an incredibly beautiful, wild place. The waves are stunning, and the geometric black basalt cliffs create a dramatic landscape against the sand and the sea. This is one of the most popular places to visit and photograph in Iceland – just make sure to keep an eye on the water behind you!
Vatnajökull Glacier National Park
Vatnajökull is Europe’s largest glacier outside the arctic, and conceals mountains, valleys, and active volcanoes. It’s amazing to see and touch this ice that has been frozen for hundreds of years!
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and the Diamond Beach
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon was one of my favorite places in Iceland as well! This lagoon has enormous chunks of ice floating in the still blue water, broken off from the Vatnajökull glacier and washing out to sea. There are boat and kayaking tours that take you up next to the glaciers. The water is freezing cold, and you can see seals swimming around the ice and shore. Right next to the lagoon is Diamond Beach – the beach along the ocean where pieces of ice wash up during the day and night.
As you can see, there are many things to see and do in Iceland! We barely scratched the surface of this beautiful country during our trip. If you do nothing else, I would definitely recommend going to the Blue Lagoon, driving the Golden Circle, and visiting Reynisfjara (the black sand) and Diamond Beach.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING ICELAND
THINGS TO EAT
— Pylsur. These Icelandic hot dogs are absolutely delicious! Served with fresh and/or fried onions, sweet mustard, and remoulade. They are seriously SO good – definitely a must try!
— Skyr. This yogurt is creamy, delicious for breakfast, and is a product that Iceland is well known for!
— Breads, cheeses, and sliced meat. The breads here are so good! Thick and hearty and delicious! A popular breakfast is cheese and sliced meat on the bread, with tomatoes and cucumbers.
— Fish and Chips. The seafood is delicious!
— Other popular foods to try include shark, whale, and puffin – I personally didn’t try them, since they were a bit expensive (and I just feel bad eating a cute whale or puffin!) but many tourists like trying them.
WHAT TO PACK
I went to Iceland in May, so keep that in consideration when planning your trip! But I brought:
— 2 pairs of hiking pants, at least one pair waterproof
— 1 pair of water wicking leggings
— A poncho (I almost didn’t bring this, because I personally don’t like wearing them – but I am SO glad I did! You never know when it’s going to start raining, or when a waterfall is going to soak you through)
— Thermal leggings and shirt to wear underneath outfit
— A nice warm jacket
— Waterproof hiking boots
— Nice wool socks
— 4-5 thin hiking shirts
— Thick sweater or sweatshirt
— A beanie
— A cute outfit to wear on the town
— Bathing suit
along with your normal things to pack, such as toiletries and underclothing!
— The national currency is the krona! When we went 100 krona was apx. 1 US dollar, but this can change frequently.
— The language is Icelandic – which derives from the Old Norse language.
— Iceland is one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, using renewable energy for power
— It’s also a very safe country, with very low crime rates
— Because it’s so far north, in the summertime it doesn’t get dark! You can walk around at 10 pm and it will still be bright outside. The lighting is absolutely beautiful. If you go during the early spring or late fall, you can see the Northern Lights.
— There is cute wildlife! We saw an arctic fox, and if you go during the right time of year you can see puffins and seals. There are also no mosquitos!
SONGS TO EXPLORE TO
Do you have a Spotify? Listen to this Icelandic music playlist to prep for your travels!
Thanks for reading my blog post!! I hope it was helpful! If you liked any of the photographs you saw above, don’t forget to check out my print shop! You can find find gorgeous prints of Iceland to decorate your home or give as gifts here.