Iceland: My Top 10 Iceland Photography Locations

Top 10 Iceland Photography Locations. Photo of Blue Lagoon in Iceland by Andy Long.
Iceland photography. By its stunning color, it’s not hard to determine how Blue Lagoon got its name.

Compiling a top 10 photo list for any location can become a daunting task and such was the case when I sat down to put one together for Iceland photography – The Land of Fire and Ice. It is a photographer’s mecca, so whittling the list down to just 10 became a challenge. My list unfolded after making several photographic adventures to this beautiful country.

Not all who know the area may agree with me, but every list you see is going to be subjective and be based on each person’s own interests and experiences. I’m a nature, wildlife and bird photographer, so obviously my top 10 list will include all of these.

My goal is to either make it easier for the first time visitor to plan their upcoming photo trip or let people enjoy reminiscing about a previous journey. One thing is for sure, Iceland is a place every photographer should try to visit at least once.

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Because many of my locations and subjects are comparably the best, the list has been set up in alphabetic order.

My Top Ten Iceland Photography Locations

Blue Lagoon (above lead photo) Location: between the airport in Keflavik and the main city of Reykjavik

This is a perfect first stop when on a photo adventure in Iceland. While the Blue Lagoon is a very famous hot springs spa, the photo possibilities here are unmatched by most areas because of the incredible color of the water and the in water and surrounding lava rocks.

You’ll find many photo prospects available on the road leading to the spa, so your best choice is to pull off to the side of the road and spend some time working those rocks and the stunning, pale blue water from a variety of vantage points.

Photo of church in Iceland by Andy Long
Most churches around the country look like this one, but each has its own charming character. They offer simplicity in style and abundance in their picturesque settings.

Location: all through the country

There are so many quaint country churches dotting the landscape of the country that you just won’t want to let them pass by as a top photo subject. Most are white with red roofs and of similar architecture, but what sets them apart from each other is the variety of spectacular setting.

Some are surrounded by trees, some with sparkling water in the foreground or background, and others boast beautiful mountain backdrops. You may not think a location with only a half-dozen homes would be enough to make you stop the car, but on a drive from one main shooting spot to another, these unique churches will pull you towards them.

Floi Bird Reserve

Location: south out of Selfoss near Eyrarbakki

While best visited during the spring and fall migrations, numerous birds use this fairly new reclaimed area as their breeding grounds.

It’s one of only two wetland reclamation projects in Iceland. In 2010 a blind was built on one of the many ponds. With free access to walk throughout the wetlands, many of the ponds can be reached and you’ll have the chance to photograph some of the nearly 70 species of birds recorded here. One of the prizes of the area is the nesting Red-throated Diver, which is referred to as a Loon in America.

Whooper Swans are also common on these waters. These are the two main residents if you are traveling during the peak of summer, but getting the opportunity to photograph these birds is well worth putting this location on the list.

Photo of Red-throated Diver at Floi Bird Reserve in Iceland by Andy Long
This Red-throated Diver gave me a show at Floi Bird Reserve.


Hraunfoss (Lava Falls) 

Location: about an hour northeast of Reykjavik

It would have been easy to lump all of the waterfalls into one category, but by far, amidst the thousands of waterfalls in Iceland, these falls are my favorite spot in the country. While not one of the bigger waterfalls in Iceland by volume, height or width, Hraunfoss (foss means falls) is the prettiest in terms of color and flow.

Not too often do you see a waterfall with the water coming out of the ground instead of from a river flowing downstream.

The water has made its way to this point underground from a nearby volcano and comes out of the lava fields along the edge of a river. Lush green surroundings and incredibly blue water combine to make this a must see spot. Be sure to have both a wide angle and a mid-range zoom lens to capture both the full area as well as coming in tight on sections of the falls.

While there is a good viewing area next to the parking lot, take a walk down to the rivers’ edge by way of a path to the left of the viewing area. Here you can acquire much better photos by shooting straight across to the cascading falls. Superb spot for Iceland photography

Photo of waterfalls at Hraunfoss in Iceland by Andy Long
It’s spectacular, it’s fascinating, it’s unexpected and it’s beautiful! The colorful waters that flow at Hraunfoss.

Icelandic Horses
Location: all through the country

Like the churches, there are horses everywhere in the country. In fact, there is about one horse for every two people. Since the majority of people live in Reykjavik, driving the islands lesser populated areas makes the ratio seem higher.

Icelandic horses are unto themselves. They come from pure breeding stock, as no other horses are allowed into the country. They are truly unique, with shorter legs, very long manes and tails, and beautiful colorations.

Now add to the mix an attractive setting, such as fields of lupine or yellow flowers or maybe a waterfall, and you’ll have the makings for outstanding photo subjects. And when you find a group to photograph and walk up to the fence, more often than not they will come right up to you for a head scratch or a handout.

Photo of Iceland horses by Andy Long
It didn’t appear to be a skirmish, but just two horses give a helping mouth to scratch each other’s neck.


Location: between Skaftafell and the Glacial Lagoon

This is the rookery to visit on the eastern coastline of Iceland. Because it is on private property, access is limited to their tour schedule. While there are public tours during the day, special photographer tours are available early in the morning or at night.

Since it does not get dark during the summer nesting season, night shooting is irrelevant and you could still be taking photos at 11 p.m. The biggest draw is the Atlantic Puffin, so take advantage their daylight feeding times on those Iceland photography tours.

The easiest nesting birds to photograph are the Skua. They nest on the ground and are in abundance in an area on the cliffs. Other nesters at this rookery include Black Backed Gulls, Kittiwake and Razorbills. To reach the nesting cliffs you’ll take a short ride on the tour operators tractor pulled trailer and then hike up a sand hill.

The biggest problem with this location is that once you make a reservation for a specific time, you’re at the mercy of the weather, which can turn grey and rainy very quickly.

Photo of Skua at Ingólfshöfdi in Iceland by Andy Long
This Skua and I were having a conversation at Ingólfshöfdi. It may have been more of a warning or maybe it’s just saying, “Be sure to get a good photo of my incredible wing feathers.”

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon 

Location: Southeast coast of Iceland north of Skaftafell

This is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country for a very good reason. The lagoon is at the base of the largest glacier in the county and with a very narrow strait leading to the ocean, calved icebergs fill the lagoon. There are plenty of great vantage points providing lots of interesting perspectives of the lagoon.

And a boat ride on the water certainly provides more photo opportunities, but they can be crowded, so you won’t be able to freely move around to get all the shots you may want.

Quite often while at Jokulsarlon an iceberg will break and tip over, leaving some amazing blue ice exposed (the beauty of Iceland photography) . Backlit angles really help bring out the colors as well as under-exposing just a bit.

Photo of Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon in Iceland by Andy Long
A recently broken and over turned iceberg shines blue with the glacier in the background at Jokulsarlon.


Location: west end of Westfjords

Located on the westernmost point of Iceland is one of its largest sea cliffs–about 8 miles long and 1,300 feet high. It’s the perfect setting to capture bird nesting activity, because millions of birds nest here throughout the summer.

Among them are Razorbills, Atlantic Puffin, Common and Brunnich Guillemot, Arctic Tern, and a wide variety of gulls. Latrabjarg is easily accessed by a road leading to a parking lot with a short trail to the top of the cliffs.

With the west facing cliffs and a cove at the top of the trail, many birds are lifted by the winds and soar to your eye level, making for some fun and effortless flight shots. Puffins dig burrows in the soft soil at the top of the cliffs, so be ready to capture some great images of these colorful little birds.

All of the birds here are very used to human activity so the photography is easy as well as plentiful. Just watch your step when nearing the cliffs. It’s a long way down with a hard landing.
Location: between the towns of Selfoss an Vik

What makes this location one of the best is the path which takes you behind the falls into somewhat of a cave-like setting. For most waterfalls it’s best to photograph them when it’s a bit overcast so as to get longer exposures to make the water silky and to cut down on over-exposing the water. But this waterfall is great in sunlight.

From the vantage point behind the falls and with the right elements of a blue sky and a good sun angle, you can capture a photo with a rainbow across the bottom of the falls. And be sure to keep your eyes open for all the other great photo compositions in the area.

By placing a bench, flowers or the departing river in the foreground, you’ll add a different twist to your Iceland photography waterfall images.

Photo of Puffin at the rookery in Latrebjarg, Iceland by Andy Long
Latrebjarg is the top Puffin rookery on the western side of the island.


Photo of waterfall, landscape and rainbow at Seljalandsfoss, Iceland by Andy Long
Not many places allow for a walk behind a waterfall, and if the elements are cooperating a rainbow will appear at the base of Seljalandsfoss.


Tern Colony on Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Location: east of Hellnar on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

A visit to this location in June or July will leave you with as many close flight shots of Arctic Terns as you will ever need, if you are “quick on the draw”.

The terns nest on the ground and as you walk out to the cliff’s edge they will spring up and fly all around you. They’ll even dive-bomb you thinking you are too close to their nest site. Everyone who goes into this area will get the same treatment. Setting up off the edge of the nesting area will provide plenty of flight shots.

Because they are so quick and change direction a lot, a lens in the 100-400mm range is plenty to try and track them. A lot of shots will be thrown away, but the amount kept will be high as well. The pure fun of seeing the flurry of activity and trying to get the perfect shot makes up for all the misses. And a walk to the cliff line offers shots of nesting Black Backed Gulls, Kittiwakes and Fulmar.

Photo of Arctic Tern in flight at Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland by Andy Long
Lots of time can be spent catching the Arctic Terns flying around the rookery on the southern shores of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.


by Andy Long
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All text & photos: ©  Andy Long. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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