I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland because in truth, I haven’t. The opportunity arose when I had a university project based on global warming, I thought to myself, what better way than to go and experience it first hand. Below is some of my iceland photography and travel tips/fun facts.

Iceland, home to mountains and glaciers, waterfalls and Icelandic horses has some of the most stunning scenery that I have ever seen. Lets start with Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. 

Reykjavik: 

Upon my arrival into Reykjavik, everyone made sure to tell me how small the capital is. Which is true, if you compare it to London. Reykjavik has over 300,000 people residing there… still sound small? I stayed at the Bus Hostel located around 30 minutes walk from downtown Reykjavik which was perfect for me because then I could burn off all the burgers that I intended to eat. 

My first day, I headed into downtown Reykjavik and was pleasently suprised by the views that I was welcomed with accompanied by a spine chilling breeze that comes with Iceland.  

 Who needs to experience Icelandic cuisine when you can experience Icelandic fast food. I was cold, on a budget and dying for a burger so I checked out Aktu Taktu. 

Fun fact: Iceland is one of the few countries without McDonalds. 

Aktu Taktu

After I ate, I ended up on a street called Laugavegur filled with cafe’s, gift shops and retailers.  I ended up buying a few worthless gifts to myself only to realise afterwards that I had confused the currency and spent way more than I should have, haha. This is what happens when in England you have £10.00 which converts to 1600 Krona. Yeah right? Confusing, I know. One thing about Iceland, it’s super expensive! Especially downtown Reykjavik. 

Inside a shopped called ‘Thor’

I met a really cool woman, native to Iceland called Fiöna, she took me into town to an Irish pub called The Dubliner, it was a Sunday afternoon so the crowd was less than thrilling. Although I did get to experience some of Icelands urban legends and stories from the island. 

Also, apparently you can eat Puffin out here? Thats gross. Whaling is legal, but frowned upon.  Drugs are incredibly easy to get (not that I tried, but just what locals have told me). Just a few fun facts I picked up from some Icelandic locals. 

Icelands Parliament in Reykjavik

South East Iceland

Tuesday at 7am, I was picked up by a small family run business called Bus Travel Iceland, Helgi was our driver and a good one at that. There was about 19 of us on this small bus to go and explore more areas of Iceland that are harder to get to. The bus was full of diverse characters from multiple countries like Bulgaria, India, Spain, America and England. 

We set off for our 14 hour tour, which sounds like a long time but it wasn’t long enough. I assumed that in Iceland everything was easier to get to… I was very wrong. There is no Uber, most buses to far away places run once daily and renting a car is possible but the road conditions can get quite dangerous during Winter.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall which is absolutely mesmerising, there is one large waterfall and a few smaller ones that add to the landscape. Usually you can walk behind the waterfall but it was barricaded off when I went. 

Excuse my ‘Im freezing to death’ face.

I had to get my tripod out and take some long exposure shots of this waterfall. I always enjoy experimenting with water and long exposures, there is something so beautiful about the misty effect that occurs when you use a long exposure on moving water. 

ISO 160, 70mm, f/32, 1.6 sec
Iceland Waterfall
ISO 160, 78mm, f/32, 1.0 sec

After this, we drove along Icelands ring road (the main road that goes around the entire island) you can see many waterfalls coming off the mountains and its truly breathtaking to see them scattered along the mountain sides. 

Vik

The small town of Vik located just over 2 hours drive away from Reykjavik was not as I expected.  I had expected a small village maybe a couple of houses but it was a lot bigger than I had thought. The first thing that caught my eye when we entered was the church at the top of the mountain overlooking the town, so isolated and lonely. 

Vik hilltop church
Vik Church
Vik beach
Vik has some very unique rock formations.
Truck in Vik
Icelands roads can get very dangerous during winter, so it’s best to have a beast of a car.
Icelandic horses playing in Vik
Icelandic horses

Hvannadalshnúkur

Hvannadalshnúkur is a pyramidal peak on the northwestern rim of the summit crater of the Öræfajökull Volcano in Iceland. Its summit is the highest point in Iceland. 

We only stopped here for a short 15 minutes but it had some crazy landscapes and the mountains had a beautiful contrast. 

Öræfajökull volcano in Iceland
70mm, f/15, 1/320 sec

When the Sun hits the snow, you may experience your photos coming out over exposed. It’s always best to have a low ISO, a small aperture of f/14 and upwards and a fast shutter speed.  

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is Icelands biggest glacier lagoon. Climate change is causing Icelands glaciers to melt at a precedented rate. When the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started to retreat, Jökulsárlón appeared and is now the countries deepest lake, constantly getting bigger due to the ice melting. Jökulsárlón is an enormous lagoon filled with huge chunks of ice, these have seperated from Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of the famous Vatnajökull, the largest icecap in Europe. The variety of colours around the glacier lagoon was astonishing, from deep blue to white, turquoise and dark grey. They made for some interesting photographs. 

During the winter, a lot of harbour seals and grey seal come to the lagoon for the fish. They can often be seen looking for an iceberg to lounge on. I was lucky enough to spot a grey seal looking for an iceberg, I travel to California a lot so I’m no stranger to seeing seals but it was great to experience a seal in a different environment.

I was told of an Icelandic seal legend which tells of a man who stole the skin of a seal, transforming the seal into a woman. When she sat weeping on the beach, he rescued her and made her his wife, to keep her in human-form he locked away the seal skin in a chest. The two had children together and everything was good, until one day he left the chest unlocked, the temptation was too strong, the seal-wife slipped back into the skin and disappeared into the ocean from once she came. 

Grey Seal looking for an Iceberg
Grey seal looking for an iceberg, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/100 sec.
Ice texture
Inside Ice, ISO 100, f/22, 1/4 sec.
Jokulsarlon glaciar lagoon Iceland
Glacier Icebergs, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/100 sec

Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach, despite being six hours drive from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is still one of the countries popular tourist attraction. The name came about from the glistening icebergs scattered on the beach that look like diamonds. 

Long exposure diamond beach, Iceland
ISO 100, f.32, 1.3 sec
Iceberg close up, black sand beach
ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/40 sec
Long exposure iceberg, Iceland
ISO 100, f/32, 1.3 sec.

Northern Lights

The highlight of my trip. Aurora Borealis aka the northern lights. I had booked a separate tour to see the northern lights but it was cancelled twice due to unfavourable weather conditions which makes sense because when there are clouds you can’t see the lights alongside weak solar winds, it makes seeing Aurora rare.

Mother Nature is a fickle mistress, however on our way back to Rekyjavik our bus driver was doing his best to keep an eye out for Aurora and as soon as he spotted some weak northern lights he pulled over in a car park. When the solar winds are weak, Aurora looks like a grey mist, after 10 minutes Aurora’s visibility became stronger and I happily watched her dance through the sky.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights Iceland
ISO 8000, f/4.0, 5.0 sec
Iceland northern lights
ISO 8000, f/4.0, 3.2 sec

I had such an amazing few days in Iceland and I am already planning a second trip. Thank you for reading my blog, check out my other posts here.