Extreme Iceland Highlands Photography Workshop
Join award-winning landscape photographers from Iceland, Iurie Belegurschi and Orvar Atli on this 13-day Extreme Iceland Highlands Photography Workshop that covers the south coast, Highlands and north of Iceland. This ultimate itinerary combines both the favourite playgrounds of landscape photographers such as the ice beach, the glacier lagoon and the majestic waterfalls like Godafoss of the North and the incredible landscapes of Highlands which can only be accessible during the summer. You will be traveling in a modified 4 x 4 vehicle to reach the great wilderness of Highlands safely.This is a great opportunity to photograph both the iconic landmarks and the off-beaten tracks of Iceland while learning new techniques as we take your photography skills to a higher level.
Capture the beauty of the incredible Highlands. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Jul. - Aug.
- Duration: 13 days
- Activities: Hiking, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Languages: English
Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the circular ring road of the country.
It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high.
These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.
When the icebergs finally make it across the lagoon, they either drift out to sea or wash up on the nearby shore. Because of the way they glisten against the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur, this area has been nicknamed ‘the Diamond Beach’.
In spite of being a rather recent formation, Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake in the country, with depths reaching 248 metres. With a surface area of 18 square kilometres, it is also growing to be one of the largest.
Jökulsárlón has not been around since Iceland’s settlement; it only formed around 1935. This was due to rapidly rising temperatures in the country from the turn of the twentieth century; since 1920, Breiðamerkurjökull has been shrinking at a dramatic rate, and the lagoon has begun to fill its space.
Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating. As recently as 1975, it was just 8 square kilometres, and now that size has more than doubled.
In the relatively near future, it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a large, deep fjord.
Though a dark omen for Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps in general, the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull has resulted in an incredibly beautiful, if temporary, site. This has not been overlooked by Hollywood.
Jökulsárlón has been featured in the James Bond films A View to Kill in 1985 and Die Another Day in 2002, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and 2005’s Batman Begins.
In 2017, Jökulsárlón was enveloped into the Vatnajökull National Park, thus it is now fully protected by Icelandic law.
Because of the wealth of herring and capelin that the tides bring into the lagoon, Jökulsárlón is somewhat of a hot-spot for Iceland’s wildlife.
In summer, it is a nesting site for Arctic Terns; stay well away from this area, as these birds are notorious for the fierceness with which they protect their eggs, dive-bombing the heads of any they see as a threat. Skuas also nest on the lake’s shores in this season.
Seals can be reliably spotted here throughout the year, swimming amongst or else hauling out on the icebergs. Jökulsárlón provides them with a safe haven to rest and socialise, especially considering the waters of southeast Iceland are renowned for their population of orcas.
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Eldgja is the largest volcanic canyon in the world, 270m deep, 600m at its widest and around 40 km long.
The canyon lies paralel with the Lakagigar craters. The first documented eruption of Eldgja, in 934, was the largest flood basalt in historic time.
A beautiful watefall, Ofaerufoss in the river Ofaerua falls into in the Eldgja canyon. This is a two-spilt waterfall and the lower part used to have a natural bridge, but the bridge collapsed in the early nineties.
Aldeyjarfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the mighty Skjalfandafljot river, dropping from a height of 20 meters.
Of particular note is the contrast between the giant black bent basalt columns and the white water of the fall.
Goðafoss waterfall is located the river Skjálfandafljót in north Iceland, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, falling from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres.
The fall's name means either waterfall of the gods or of the 'goði' (i.e. priest/ chieftain). It is said that when the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði declared Christianity the official religion in Iceland, after his own conversion, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
Dettifoss, in the glacier river Jokulsa á Fjollum, flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull, is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
This thunderous fall has an average waterflow of 193 m3 per second. It is 100 meters (330 ft.) wide and plummets 45 meters (150 ft.) down to Jokulsargljufur canyon.
Landmannalaugar ("The people's pools") is a vast area of stunning and unique beauty, the true heart of Iceland's southern Highlands.
Landmannalaugar is a truly rare area, both geologically and aesthetically. The area can be found nestled beside the raven-black Laugahraun lava field, a sweeping expanse of dried magma which originally formed in 1477. Landmannalaugar itself is made up of windswept rhyolite mountains, a rock type that creates a full spectrum of dazzling colour on the mountainside. Shades of red, pink, green and golden yellow all change their tone, keeping in movement with the sun rays and creating an area of wilderness that resembles no place else on earth.
Landmannalaugar is primarily known for its natural geothermal baths, hence its name "The People's Pools". For centuries, Landmannalaugar has served as an area of shelter and respite for weary travellers who use these soothing springs as a means to relax after tiring excursions. Today, visitors to the highlands should always bring a swimsuit and towel, just in case one of these naturally occurring hot pools should crop up along the hiking trail.
The area marks the northern end of the Laugavegur, one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails. It is also home to many other notable trails, however, including the path onto the mighty Mt. Brennisteinsalda ("Sulphur Wave"). Visitors can also traverse the trail up the Bláhnjúkur ("Blue Peak") volcano, whose summit allows for a sweeping view of up to five glaciers on clear days.
Multiple operators run daily tours to Landmannalaugar from mid-June to mid-September, during which time The Icelandic Touring Association operates a small shop, three camp sites and a mountain hut equipped with sleeping bags and accommodation for up to 80 visitors.
- Find Highland Tours here
Skogafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the island with an astounding width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters.
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland for travellers to visit. It is located in South Iceland, not far from Skogar, which itself features a highly interesting regional museum. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall often produces a single or double rainbow on sunny days.
Seljalandsfoss in the river Seljalandsa in South Iceland is one of the most sought waterfalls in the country.
Seljalandsfoss has a narrow cascade but is one of Iceland's highest waterfalls, at 63 meters. The waterfall is highly picturesque and has the rare distinction that one can actually walk behind it.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
Kerlingarfjoll is a beautiful and colourful mountain range in the Icelandic highlands that hosts the third largest geothermal area of the interior.
This is a young range of mountains, unusually created from rhyolite and both dark and bright tuff stone, about 10,000 years old. A few small glaciers grace a number of their tops. The mountains constantly change colours depending on the light, the sun and the time of day. Kerlingarfjoll are operated as a highland resort, providing food services and accommodation to guests in the area.
The Sprengisandur highland plateau stretches between the glaciers Hofsjokull and Vatnajokull (Europe’s largest glacier) and was the main route between the North and South of Iceland in former times. It stretches between the North and South at around 200 km, reaching a height of around 750-800 meters.
The highland pass is mostly barren, with scant vegetation and is only passable during summer, and even then the weather can be unpredictable. It is accessible by car but it is a gravel road so a 4WD car is recommended.
To the north one can drive over to Eyjafjordur, Skagafjordur and Bardardalur. South of Hofsjokull is the nature paradise Thjorsarver. En route you’ll have view of three glaciers: Hofsjokull to the west and Tungnafellsjokull and the mighty Vatnajokull to the east. To the southeast is the oasis of Nyidalur with excellent lodgings.
Sprengisandur has strong connections with folklore and was a hiding place for outlaws in former times, the most famous being Fjalla-Eyvindur and his wife Halla, along with fellow outlaw Arnes, who resided at the southern border of Sprengisandur (ruins Eyvindarver bear witness to their stay). Already legendary, they were further immortalised in poet and playwright Johann Sigurjonsson's play Fjalla-Eyvindur, later made into a film by Swedish director Victor Sjöström. Poet Grimur Thomsen wrote a famous poem about Sprengisandur (A Sprengisandi = 'At Sprengisandur'), which was later set to music and is a highly popular song with Icelanders.
Skagafjordur is a fjord in North Iceland. Saudarkrokur is its largest village. Skagafjordur district has strong agriculture and a rich history. Five of the largest battles in Icelandic history were fought there in the 13th century civil war.
Islands & Cape
There are three islands in the fjord, Drangey, Malmey and Lundey. Foremost of these is the steep Drangey island, shaped like a fort and rich with birdlife. For 19 years it was the refuge for the outlaw Grettir Asmundarsson of Grettis Saga fame.
Thordarhofdi may resemble an island when seen from afar but is actually a cape, the remnants of an old volcano. The cape has beautiful rows of columnar basalt, best seen from the sea.
History, Culture & activities
An old renovated turf farm house is to be seen at Glaumbaer museum, giving a good sense of the rural life of 18th and 19th century Iceland. Gudridur Thornbjarnardottir is said to have lived there, the first European mother on American ground.
North Iceland was a bishop’s district of its own and the bishop’s seat was at Holar in Hjaltadalur valley in the east of Skagafjordur. Holar today features an agricultural university, and is the seat for an ordaining bishop, who is a woman.
Skagafjordur district has some of the best rafting rivers in the country, so rafting there is highly popular, as well as horseriding. So is horseriding. Indeed, the culture of Skagafjordur is characterized by horse-riding, tenor singing and enjoying life.
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.
Hveravellir is a geothermal area and nature reserve in the Icelandic highlands, between the glaciers Hofsjokull and Langjokull.
The area features colourful sinters and smoking fumaroles, hot springs and a geothermal hot pool. Hveravellir is renowned for its beauty and is a popular stop when traveling through the highland road of Kjolur.
Fjallabak may refer to two highland routes, South Fjallabaksleid or the North Fjallbaksleid.
The South Fjallabaksleid ('Fjallabaksleid sydri') is an old highland route north of Myrdalsjokull glacier, connecting Rangarvellir (the eastern part of the South Iceland lowlands) to Skaftartunga (areas nothwest of Myrdalsjokull). This is a popular mountain track for hiking and jeeps and is easy to walk and drive. The area is very dry with scant vegetation, as it is situated between mountains that have a strong volcanic activity. The mountains have left endless amounts of ash, sand and lava in the area, now covered in moss. Rhyolite is the characteristic petrological berg type colouring the landscape grey-pinkish with endless shades of other colours.
From the west, the South Fjallabaksleid starts from Keldur in Rangarvellir, then goes eastwards to Laufafell, across Markarfljot river to Alftavatn lake (there are huts at Alftavatn owned by the Icelandic Touring Association) then onwards to Maelifellssandur and ending at Skaftartunga. This track was the main route for farmers in the East as they led their sheep to be on sale at the town Eyrarbakki in the South Coast. Already in the Middle Ages, the South Fjallabaksleid was a frequent route.
In more recent times, another track, North Fjallabaksleid ('Fjallabaksleid nyrdri') , has been laid, connecting the two aforementioned areas. This track lies further north across the South Iceland highlands, starting on the west side of Galtalaekur in Rangarvellir, leading on north of Hekla, through Landmannalaugar and Jokuldalir and towards Svartinupur in Skaftartunga in the East. This north track was originally named Landmannaleid by the local farmers who used it.
Háifoss ('High Waterfall') is a waterfall in Fossárdalur valley, innermost of Þjórsárdalur valley in south Iceland.
Háifoss is held to be Iceland's second-highest waterfall, with a height of 122 metres. Near it is another waterfall called Granni, meaning 'Neighbour', i.e. a neighbour to Háifoss.
In order to reach Háifoss you will need to be driving a 4x4 car and hike for a short while.
Ljotipollur is a explosion crater lake in the south highlands, situated in the southernmost crater in the Veidivotn fissure system.
Strangely enough, Ljotipollur's name means 'Ugly Puddle', since this crater anything but, being beautifully red with the deep trout-filled lake at its bottom and high edges on its sides.
Reynisfjara is a world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal.
With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland’s black sand beaches. In 1991, National Geographic voted Reynisfjara as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
Reynisfjara is found around 180 km from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and is a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along South Coast. Driving to the beach is particularly easy, taking an approximate two and a half hours from the capital.
Upon visiting the beach, travellers will immediately observe rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, known as Reynisdrangar. According to local Icelandic folklore, these large basalt columns were once trolls engaged in trying to pull ships from the ocean. However, as bad luck would have it, the dawn quickly arose, turning the trolls into solid stone.
Another legend tells of a husband whose wife was kidnapped and killed by two trolls. The man followed the trolls down to Reynisfjara where he froze them, ensuring that they would never kill again.
The sea stacks themselves are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species that can be found here include Puffins, Fulmars and Guillemots, making it a must-see location for all birdwatchers out there.
Visitors to Reynisfjara must be made well aware of the potential dangers present at the beach. First of all, the rolling, roaring waves of Reynisfjara are particularly violent, often pushing far further up the beach than many would expect.
Visitors are advised to never turn their back on the waves, don't go chasing after them and keep a safe distance of 20-30 metres.
Aside from these sudden and dramatic shifts in tide (known as “sneaker waves”), the currents off the shore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag helpless people out into the freezing cold open ocean. A number of fatal accidents have occurred at Reynisfjara, the last of which occurred in January 2017.
Downstream of Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall, is another major waterfall, the thunderous Hafragilsfoss.
Like Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss is a part of the glacier river Jokulsa a Fjollum in North Iceland. Hafragilsfoss drops at 27 meters into Jokulsargljufur canyon.
Hrafnabjargafoss is a waterfall in the river Skjalfandafljot northwest of Vatnajokull.
Skjalfandafljot falls into several highly impressive canyons and other notable waterfalls in the river are Aldeyjarfoss, Godafoss, Barnafoss and Ullarfoss, all renowned for their magnificent beauty.
Svartifoss, in the area of Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park, is one if Iceland’s most scenic waterfalls.
This narrow 20 meter high waterfall is located in a horse-shoe shaped gorge and derives its name, ‘Dark waterfall’, from the fact that it is framed by dark hexagonal basalt columns. These are very pronounced and make for a truly spectacular sight. At the base you’ll see notably sharp rocks that have broken from the columns, as new column sections break faster than the water wears down the edges.
Architect Guthjon Samuelsson was inspired by the basalt columns of Svartifoss when designing the exterior of Hallgrimskirkja church, which towers over Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, from Skolavorduhaed hill, and when designing the ceiling of the National Theater, also in Reykjavik. Likewise the world-renowned sculptor Richard Scerra drew inspiration from the columns for his sculpture Milestones, located in Videy Island in Kollafjordur bay, near Reykjavik.
Reynisdrangar are rock formations situated near the shore of Reynisfjara beach by the coastal village Vík í Mýrdalur on the South Coast of Iceland.
The formations are large and impending sea cliffs, made up of the rock type basalt, that serve as a vital part of the area’s allure as they shoot dramatically out of the ocean under the looming cliffs of Mt. Reynisfjall.
- Visit Reynisfjara and Reynisdrangar on these South Coast Tours
The village of Vík only houses around 300 permanent inhabitants, but on a daily basis, travellers scouting the South Coast make their way there to visit what has been voted as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. The beach of Reynisfjara, however, can be highly dangerous if proper caution is not taken. As is evident from how the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash upon Reynisdrangar, the currents here are strong, and sneak waves can easily carry anyone that’s standing too close out to sea. The beach is not for wading, but for admiring, and especially the mighty surf bursting on the base of these rocky cliffs.
There is an Icelandic folk tale that explains the origin of the pillars’ eerie appearance. According to legend, a couple of trolls were busy dragging a stranded three-masted ship to shore when the sunlight hit them and turned them into pillars of rock for all eternity. In fact, numerous rock formations in Iceland carry with them tales of trolls or elves, and one has only to look at them to fathom why.
Surroundings & Wildlife
An alternative view of the bewitching cliffs and their surrounding sea can be enjoyed by venturing up Mt. Reynisfjall, by a road to the west of the village. The mountain furthermore functions as a puffin colony every summer, from April to September, meaning guests can enjoy the view in good company. Other birds can be seen gliding around the cliffs such as Arctic terns, fulmars and seagulls.
- See also: Puffin Watching Tours
Brúarfoss ('Bridge Falls') is a relatively small waterfall compared to many of its Icelandic counterparts, but its diminutive size does nothing to take away from its staggering beauty. Both locals and seasoned travellers regard Brúarfoss as one of the country’s hidden gems, often labelling it 'Iceland’s Bluest Waterfall.'
The glacial river Brúará falls 2-3m, ending in a U-turn at the base of the waterfall, where the river is concentrated into a deep crevice that runs through the centre of dark volcanic rock formations. This creates sky-blue rapids that almost defy the imagination—and the vistas are made all the more beautiful by the surrounding, lush green flora, which provides a stark contrast to the flowing water.
Brúarfoss makes up just a small part of Brúará, whose origins lie in the mighty Hvita river which runs from the glacier Langjökull.
- See also: Waterfalls in Iceland
Brúarfoss is found in the west of Iceland, roughly one hour and twenty minutes east of Reykjavik. The waterfall takes its name from a stone arch that once stood over it, acting as a bridge for those who wished to cross.
According to legend, this natural stone bridge was destroyed in 1602 by a minion of the Skálholt episcopal see. At that time, Iceland was suffering a severe famine, and by destroying the bridge, the minion prevented the starving peasants from reaching the bountiful lands claimed by the church.
On July 20th, 1433, the Danish bishop, Jón Gereksson, was drowned in the waterfall after being placed in a bag, tied to a large stone and thrown in. Though details are somewhat hazy, it seemed that Jón had, in a jealous rage, attempted to murder the lover of a young woman named Margrét Vigfúsdóttir. In return, she swore her heart to any man willing to avenge the murder attempt and, thankfully, the son of a chieftain, Þorvarður Loftsson, was there to oblige her.
There has been much discussion in Iceland, concerning the steadily increasing stream of travellers who visit the area and trample its delicate natural landscapes. Unlike the larger waterfalls in Iceland, Brúarfoss does not have a designated parking space and tour operators leading groups to the area have been known to cross private land in order to reach the falls quicker. This is in violation of the ‘No Trespassing’ sign clearly on display, though there are routes to the falls that leave the area untarnished.
It is recommended that visitors park their vehicles by the Brúará bridge (on Road 37) and that they walk along the river to the waterfall. The bridge provides the best vantage point for photographers and nature enthusiasts.
During winter, snowfall will often conceal the walking paths, making the waterfall even more difficult to locate. Therefore, to avoid unnecessarily damaging the surrounding nature, you should only visit the waterfall during summer.
Breiðamerkurjökull is the glacial tongue that extends from southern Vatnajökull and into the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón.
Breiðamerkurjökull is constantly retreating, breaking and melting, causing the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to increase in size. This glacier tongue provides the lagoon with all of its enormous icebergs, which perpetually break from off its tip and tumble into the abyssal waters where they float for about 5 years until they are small enough to make their way towards sea and join the countless smaller ice chunks that adorn the nearby Diamond Beach.
Breiðamerkurjökull is beset with enormous cracks and crevices, and since it's virtually impossible to tell exactly when the next big block of ice will break from it, people should admire this enormous glacier tongue from a great distance.
Starting time : Flexible
Two Professional photo guides.
Transportation in a spacious, comfortable 4x4 super truck offering ample room for you and your photography gear
Accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. Rooms with private bathrooms.
Full board during workshop, from dinner on day 1 til breakfast on day 13.
FlyBus tickets for transfer from and to Airport.
Alcohol, snacks and beverages.
Good to know:
The tour is always dependent on weather, as the Arctic weather can indeed be highly unpredictable.When it comes to the Northern Lights, while they are most likely to be seen between September and April, there is no guarantee that they will appear at a given time. There is however always plenty to see and do if conditions do not favour any part of our original plan.
Day 1 - Arrival to Reykjavik
After landing at Keflavik International Airport, take the FlyBus to your hotel of stay in central Reykjavik. We‘ll meet up with you in the lobby at 7:00 and go out for a nice meal at a nearby restaurant, where we‘ll get to know each other and go over the itinerary of the photography adventure awaiting you. You‘ll spend the night at your Reykjavik hotel.
Day 2 - Seljalandsfoss, hidden waterfall, Skogafoss, Vik and Reynisfjara
On this day, we‘ll travel the south shore of Iceland, visit amazing waterfalls and one of Iceland‘s most spectacular beaches. Seljalandsfoss is a narrow fall that drops at 63 meters and is one that you can actually walk behind. Nearby is the 40 m high “hidden waterfall“ Gljufrabui (“Gorge dweller“) which we‘ll also be photographing. Its location means that it is often overlooked but it is certainly impressive in its own right and one you can get quite close to. We will then head on to the waterfall Skogafoss, one of the higher falls in Iceland, as well as one of its most beautiful. This waterfall can photographed from the top, as there is a pathway leading up and onwards towards other falls. Skogafoss is also known to produce a double rainbow.
Next we‘ll head towards the southernmost part of the Icelandic mainland, the village Vik and its famous beach, Reynisfjara. With its dramatic scenery, this beach is a photographer‘s dream. You‘ll have the black sands and pebbles of the beach, the basalt column pyramid of Gardar and the impressive Reynisdrangar sea stacks protruding towards the sky from the wild North Atlantic Ocean. There is also a charming lighthouse not far off, at the Dyrholaey promontory. Photographing the beach by the rays of the midnight sun is particularly great, as the twilight gives off a great variety in colours and lends an otherworldly feel to the area. Your night will then be spent at Vik.
Your safety is our concern, so please note that the waves at Reynisfjara are dangerous and unpredictable. Take uttermost care, don‘t go too far out and follow safety instructions to the fullest.
Day 3 - Svinafellsjokull, Jokulsarlon and ice beach
On this day we‘ll head eastwards and visit the natural reserve Skaftafell, part of the vast Vatnajokull National Park. Skaftafell is a lovely place with lush vegetation and beautiful waterfalls, most famously Svartifoss, with its black basalt columns, sharp broken rocks at its base and its wonderful and photogenic contrasts.
Further east we‘ll also be photographing the amazing beauty of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. The lagoon is riddled with glistening icebergs of various shapes and sizes that have broken from Breidamerkurjokull glacier and further icebergs can be found at the sandy beach. Indeed, more than 300 feet of ice break away from the glacier each year. You might also photograph some of the many birds that nest in the area. We will then overnight in the area of Skaftafell.
Day 4 - South Fjallabak: Maelifell, Oldufell, Axlarfoss, Eldgja canyon overlook
On this day we‘ll be traveling north of Myrdalsjokull glacier, taking the South Fjallabak highland route. This is a volcanic area of dark sands and moss-covered lava, with colourful mountains, mostly rhyolite ones. We‘ll be focusing on two mountains, Oldufell, situated above a green valley with many lovely waterfalls and the singular Maelifell, a roughly 800 m high volcanic tuff cone, rising like a pyramid with its mossy colour above the dark sand desert that surrounds it. Another waterfall then awaits, the beautiful Axlarfoss in the river Holmsa. Framed with basalt columns, it‘s a great sight and one that offers a nice photogenic contrast between the water and the basalt.
We‘ll then finish up for the day by enjoying an overlook of the immense volcanic canyon Eldgja. Stretching from the Myrdalsjokull glacier to the Gjatindur peak, it is over 40 km long, 600 m at its widest and 270 m deep. It was created in a massive eruption around the year 900 and its lava field covers around 700 km2. Afterwards, we‘ll head for the nearby Hrifunes guesthouse, where you will spend the night.
Day 5 - Eldgja hike, Ljotipollur and Blahylur crater lakes, Veidivotn area
On this day we‘ll be taking a hike to further explore the unique Eldgja canyon. On our way, we‘ll stop to photograph a beautiful waterfall called Ofaerufoss, which falls in two cascades from the North-Ofaera river into the volcanic canyon. We‘ll then be photographing the crater lakes of Blahylur (“The Blue Pool“, a.k.a. Hnausapollur) and Ljotipollur, both situated in the highland lake area of Veidivotn. Ljotipollur is indeed a strange name to give the latter lake (“Ugly Pool“), since it’s quite the contrary, the explosion crater being beautifully red and giving a nice photogenic contrast to the lake itself. Your night will then be spent at the Hotel Highlands.
Day 6 - Landmannalaugar, Sigoldugljufur (a.k.a. Valley of Tears)
On this day we‘ll start out visiting the lovely highland oasis of Landmannalaugar. With its hot springs and natural baths, its colourful rhyolite mountains, its spectacular rock formations, vast lava fields and lush vegetation, the area is one of the most popular and photogenic oasis in the country. We‘ll be photographing its wonders on this day and travelling the ridge of Frostastadahals for a nice overlook of the area, including Frostastadavatn lake. We‘ll then be shooting the many beautiful waterfalls of the Sigoldugljufur canyon. While not as well known as many of the other Icelandic attractions, it is a marvel in its own right, sure to result in stunning photos. The contrast of the green moss, the water and the dark rock make for a particularly pleasing effect. On this day you‘ll also have the option of bathing in the Landmannalaugar natural baths. Your night will then again be spent at Hotel Highlands.
Day 7 - Veidivotn and Haifoss
On this day we‘ll return to the Veidivotn area and further explore and photograph the area‘s many beautiful highland lakes, its craters and lava. We‘ll then travel west of the Fjallabak reserve to photograph Haifoss waterfall, Iceland‘s second-highest fall, dropping at 122 meters into a deep river gorge and its neighbouring fall, Granni. The falls are in the river Fossa, itself a tributary of the Thjorsa glacier river, the longest river in Iceland. If conditions are favorable we‘ll also photograph a third waterfall in the river, Hjalparfoss. This is a two-stepped fall and framed with basalt formations, offering a good photogenic contrast to the whiteness of the water. After photographing these spectacular falls, we‘ll head back towards Haaland Hotel where you will spend the night.
Day 8 - Long drive over Sprengisandur, Hrafnabjargafoss, Aldeyjafoss, Godafoss
On this day, we‘ll be taking a drive through the gravely Sprengisandur highland plateau, stretching at around 200 km and reaching a height of roughly 800 meters, which links the north and the south. This was a major route in former times. Three glaciers may be spotted on your way, Hofsjokull, Tungnafellsjokull and Vatnajokull. The route also has strong links to folklore and outlaws were said to have resided in the area, Fjalla-Eyvindur being the most famous, later the inspiration of the eponymous play by Johann Sigurjonsson and film by Victor Sjöström. There is also a popular Icelandic song, A Sprengisandi, which reflects both the fear of outlaws in the area of wily elves.
After travelling the route, we‘ll be photographing three fascinating waterfalls; Aldeyjarfoss, Hrafnabjargafoss and Godafoss, all located in the mighty glacier river Skjalfandafljot. At the 20 m high Aldeyjarfoss you‘ll have a nice contrast between massive black and bent basalt columns and the whiteness of the water. Hrafnabjargafoss similarly offers a magnificent sight. Lastly Godafoss is the most famous of the three, “The waterfall of the Gods“. Beauty-wise, the name certainly fits, and legend further has it that when the chieftain (godi) and lawspeaker Thorgeir Thorkelsson had to settle a religious strife between Christians and pagans around the year 1000, which threatened to result in civil war or even invasion, he declared Christianity the official custom and symbolically threw the icons of the old nordic gods into the fall. Your night will be spent in the area of lake Myvatn.
Day 9 - Lake Myvatn, Dettifoss, Selfoss, Hafragilsfoss, Hverarond and craters
On this day we‘ll explore the amazing scenery of lake Myvatn, one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. In the lake are many small islands, some of them pseudocraters, interesting rock formations are found in the area and it is rich in both flora and wildlife. Here you‘ll also have a nice view of the beautiful surrounding mountain ring and Myvatn is further famous for its natural baths. As with Landmannalaugar, bathing here is optional but not included in the tour fee.
We‘ll also be photographing the stunning waterfalls of the mighty glacial river Jokulsa a Fjollum, the most famous of which is Europe‘s most powerful waterfall, the thunderous Dettifoss in the mighty glacial river Jokulsa a Fjollum, 100 m wide, falling 45 m into the Jokulsargljufur canyon at an average waterflow of 193 m3. If waterfalls were to have a motto or a one-liner, this one‘s would definitely be“Hear me roar!“. The others, while lower are still powerful and together the falls are a feast for the eye and for your camera.
On this day we shall also be photographing geothermal areas, volcanoes and craters. We’ll photograph the Hverfjall tuff ring volcano and its vast crater (1 km in diameter and 140 m deep) and proceed towards the colourful geothermal area of Hverarond, a.k.a. Hverir, a.k.a. the Namafjall geothermal area, east of Myvatn. There you‘ll find boiling mudpots and solfataras with multicoloured sulfur crystals decorating the scene. While a highly photogenic area, it does give off a lot of hot stream, as well as a strong sulphur smell, so please take caution. At the geothermal area of Mt. Leirhnjukur, near Krafla volcano, we‘ll find further colourful mudpots and fumaroles and we‘ll also witness the Viti (meaning “Hell“) crater, with its green lake set against a dramatic background.
Two major eruptions have shaped the area in historical time, the tremendous Myvatn Fires back in the 18th century, that lasted five years and then, around 200 years later, were the Krafla Fires from 1975 to 1984. Iceland‘s most famous poet, Jonas Hallgrimsson, was inspired to write a poem about the Viti crater and Myvatnseldar that formed it, this poem was later set to suitably dramatic music by Icelandic composer Jon Leifs and was finally recorded and released by the Icelandic University Choir in 2015. After photographing on this day, we plan to spend the night again in the Myvatn area.
Day 10 - Skagafjordur, horses, turf churches and turf farm museum
On this day we‘ll head toward the Skagafjordur district. Skagafjordur is well known for its great singers, history and horse culture and it‘s the last two we‘ll be focusing on, i.e. beautiful horses and historical turf buildings. The Icelandic horse is a small, sturdy, sure-footed and noble animal, known to be good-tempered and famous for its five gaits. We advise that special respect be taken for the horses, please don‘t use flash lights and approach them with the care and gentleness they deserve.As we photograph the turf buildings, we‘ll have the choice of three churches and one farm; Grafarkirkja, Vidimyrarkirkja and Glaumbaer. Grafarkirkja is the oldest turf church in Iceland, as well as the only remaining stave church in Iceland, dating all the way back to the 17th century. In the 1950s it was refurbished by the National Museum of Iceland. Inside are some nice baroque wooden roof trims, a rare style in Icelandic churches. An old turf wall lies around the church and its graveyard and the church itself blends very nicely to the mountainous landscape. Of historical note, the beloved pastor Hallgrimur Petursson, author of the Passiusalmar hymns and in whose memory Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik‘s most distinct landmark, was built, is believed to have been born at this site, Grof.
The Glaumbaer museum consists of a renovated old turf farm and timber buildings ranging in age from the 18th to 19th century, which showcase life in Iceland in former times. Populated until the 1940s, Glaumbaer features early in Icelandic history and Snorri Thorfinnsson, said to have been the first child of European descent born in America, is held to have been born there in the 11th century. Vidimyrarkirkja is another small and beautiful turf church and dates back to the 19the century. It built from driftwood and turf from the Vidimyri farm and widely held to be a masterpiece of the old style. Inside are relics dating as far back as the 17th century.
Finally, we‘ll be shooting pictures of the scenic Reykjafoss waterfall in Svarta river. Flowing in three steps down 14 meters and bathing the cliffs in spectacular manner, it is the largest and most impressive fall of the area and a chance for great photography. After photographing the lovely Icelandic horses, the fall and charming old turf buildings, you‘ll spend the night at the Bakkaflot guesthouse in Skagafjordur.
Day 11 - Hveravellir geothermals. Kerlingarfjoll mountains, Gygjarfoss
On this day we‘ll be photographing the impressive and colourful rhyolite mountain range Kerlingarfjoll and the nearby geothermal area of Hveravellir, indeed one of the largest geothermal areas in Iceland. Here you‘ll find hot springs, smoking fumaroles and multi-coloured sinters and there‘s even a geothermal hot pool nearby. We‘ll also photograph another waterfall, Gygjarfoss. While not very high, it is certainly beautiful as it falls in its rusty brown and white colours in the Jokulhvisl river, a.k.a. Jokufall. Accommodation for the night will be in the Kerlingarfjoll area.
Day 12 - Kerlingarfjoll, Gullfoss, Geysir, Bruarfoss
On our final day of photographing, we‘ll be taking more time to take pictures of the colourful Kerlingarfjoll area and will then head southwards towards two of the three essential attractions that make up the famous Golden Circle. First up is the magnificent Gullfoss, “The Golden Waterfall“. Here‘s a fall that definitely lives up to its name in the sense that it is one of the most beautiful and photogenic of all waterfalls in Iceland, falling thunderously at a drop of 32 meters into a narrow gorge from the Hvita glacier river. Here you may be able to feel the spray of the wall on your face and the sun and water are also known to produce a rainbow.
The other Golden Circle attraction we‘ll be exploring is the famous Geysir geothermal area. Geysir itself seldom erupts anymore but its neighbour, the geyser (with a small ‘g‘) Strokkur is in full force, spouting its hot water as high as 15-20 meters every 5 minutes. Other notable ones are Litli-Strokkur and Smidur. To the north you‘ll find colourful fumaroles and southwards are boiling mudpots. There is also nice forestry in the area, an old and fragile natural pool and a charming old wooden church. In its diversity and beauty, it is a lovely place to take some stunning photos.
Slightly further southward, we‘ll be photographing the beautiful Bruarfoss waterfall. This waterfall is really made up of numerous small ones that fall together into an icy blue gap. It is seen as a kind of a hidden wonder, as it’s not immediately visible from the road, but once you‘re there it‘s a real marvel to photograph.
Afterwards we‘ll be heading back to Reykjavik. We‘ll have final dinner together and say our goodbyes.
Day 13 - Departure
Day of Departure. You will join the FlyBus towards Keflavik Airport, taking with you great memories and pictures of our photographing adventure.