This secluded island near the Arctic Circle is home to some of the most incredible landscapes anywhere in the world. It’s no secret that this is one of the most Instagram-able places in the world and well worth a visit. The island is an ideal location for various types of travelers. Whether it’s backpacking into the abyss or a scenic drive, this island has something to offer everyone. In this blog post, I share the 20 most beautiful photo locations in Iceland to add to your next Iceland road trip adventure.
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This beautiful waterfall on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is just a very short 0.6-mile walk on a partially paved trail from the parking lot, and the edge of the ring road (get directions here). It is a smaller waterfall with the unique Kirkjufell Mountain behind it.
Like a mini Yellowstone, this 1.2-mile hike takes you to a unique geothermal area (get directions here). It has a geyser here that goes off regularly, every 10 minutes or so. There are also several uniquely colored pools. The area isn’t that big so it’s worth a stop but won’t take a long time to see everything. Dog friendly but they must be on a leash.
This waterfall stands out from the others on this list with its many cascades and bright blue waters (get directions here). It’s a short 0.5-mile walk that takes about 14 minutes to complete. There are several viewing platforms a short walk from the parking area. The second photo is from the closest viewing platform to the parking area. This waterfall definitely works best as a long-exposure photo to get those smooth lines of water. This waterfall is kid-friendly.
The first true hike on this list, this spot requires a 1.2-mile roundtrip walk to reach it (get directions here). It can get quite busy so plan to go early in the day to avoid people. It does have a bit of a slimy feel to it and can have trash, depending on how previous visitors leave it.
This waterfall is a bit out there, in the northeast corner of Iceland. It requires a 2.2-mile roundtrip hike to visit these falls as well as nearby Selfoss (get directions here). Photography can be a little tricky here, especially if the lower viewpoints are closed like they were when I was there. Regardless though, standing and feeling the power of the second most powerful waterfall in Europe is an amazing experience. There are two sides to visit at this waterfall, so it’s important to mention that these images are from the west side which is the more popular side to visit.
Note that this spot is in a National Park and there are signs prohibiting the use of drones. Also to note, the bathrooms at the parking lot were excellent for such a remote place.
This is a classic Iceland photography spot in the town of Vik (get directions here). It’s right off the main road and a drive-up spot so it’s definitely worth the quick detour. These images were taken a little up the dirt road from the main parking area by the church. You’ll need to go early or late to get photos like these without cars in the parking lot. These photos were actually all taken in the middle of the night in the summer, around 2 am.
One of the main stops on a tour of the Golden Circle in Iceland (get directions here). This waterfall is similar to Dettifoss (tough to photograph but incredible to experience). It is just a short 1.3-mile walk from the parking area to viewpoints of the falls. Also important to note here is that drones are not allowed.
It is a 2-mile drive down a dirt road to get here (get directions here). There are signs at the beginning of the road saying it is only for 4×4 vehicles so proceed with caution. This is a unique canyon and honestly would have been higher on my list years ago when you were freer to explore. But these days, any spots right on the edge for more unique photos, are roped off and you are no longer allowed to walk down into the canyon. Drones are allowed in this location though.
This is a popular spot near Vik, so plan accordingly to avoid crowds (get directions here). It is just a short walk on the beach to this unique area. When visiting this place, be careful of the tides and watch the ocean carefully. The spot in the first photo is around the corner in the first photo. As you can see, the waves are too high in the second photo to visit that spot. Again, check tide charts and go during a lower tide.
This is a unique waterfall in east Iceland (get directions here). It is a 2.9-mile roundtrip uphill hike to get up to the base of the falls. It takes about 2 hours to complete. Drones are allowed at this hike and personally, we find its beauty best displayed from the sky.
Just across the road from popular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon lies this unique black sand beach (get directions here). It is such a strange experience walking down this beach next to large chunks of ice. There really isn’t much to the place, what you see in these photos is basically it, but the experience is interesting enough that I put it this high on my list.
This beautiful waterfall in the north of Iceland is probably the biggest draw for visiting that area. It is right off the main road and has 2 different viewpoints, one on each side of the river. The first photo is from the east side of the river and the second photo is from the west side. I like the east side best as it looks down on the falls a bit more but it is worth checking out both sides since each viewpoint is just a short walk from the parking lots. No drones here either.
This is certainly a popular area but the views are right on the edge of the water so your views won’t be impacted too much by crowds. The views are also right by the parking lot so it’s worth a stop even if you don’t have much time. You can also walk up the little hill by the parking lot for a view over the whole lagoon. No drones here as well.
Less than 2 hours from Reykjavik, this popular waterfall is a must-see on any trip along the south coast of Iceland. As this spot gets quite busy with tour buses and such, I would recommend going at odd hours to avoid the crowds. You can also go at sunset to get the light coming through the falls as you stand behind the falls. It is certainly a unique experience to be able to go behind a waterfall like this. While here, be sure to check out nearby Gljufrabui, another unique waterfall.
This is such a weird and surreal place that is definitely worth the stop and admission price (get directions here). You have to pay a fee at the self-serve kiosk in order to get a ticket and open the gate. It was around $7 per person, although it just takes 1 ticket to open the gate, so a bit of an honors system there. Once through the gate, you drive a few minutes down the road to parking areas to access the unique black sand beach. You can walk through the mounds as you get various compositions with Vestrahorn Mountain in the background. This is an excellent spot for photography.
This glacier lagoon is just a less than 10-minute drive down the road from the more popular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon so it is definitely worth visiting as well (get directions here). And if you’re coming from Reykjavik, you’ll pass right by it. I enjoyed this place for the tranquility and sheer size of the glacier. It is a 10-15 minute walk from the parking area to get these views but it is worth it as you stand by the water’s edge looking out towards this massive glacier. Note that there are no drones allowed here. The first image was taken on a 16-35 mm lens and the second image was on a 70-200mm lens.
The longest hike on my list, this waterfall requires a 4.3-mile roundtrip hike with 1302 feet of gain to reach the end of the canyon (get directions here). This is for the full loop though so it could be made shorter by just going out and back up the east side of the river. This is the second tallest waterfall in all of Iceland so it is definitely a sight to see.
This waterfall in the Golden Circle feels a bit off the beaten path (get directions here). You have to travel 4.7 miles down a bumpy dirt road to get to the parking area. From the parking area, it is a short, maybe 3-minute walk, to the first views of the falls. You can keep walking along the ridge for another 2.7 miles to get different/better views of the various waterfalls so I would definitely recommend allowing extra time for exploring a little bit. If you are feeling extra ambitious you can even hike down to the base of the falls.
This is probably the most famous waterfall in Iceland, and for good reason (get directions here). It is such an amazing experience being able to walk right up to such a powerful force of nature. The parking area is right by the waterfall so it takes minimal effort to reach it. There is a longer trail up the right side to the top but honestly, those views aren’t really worth it. I prefer getting low to the rocks and shooting with a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the falls behind my subject. Also note that there are no drones allowed here, despite the countless drone images and videos you may have seen on social media of this place. Please respect drone rules when visiting places like this.
This erupting volcano (June 2021), had to be number 1 on my list, simply for how unique it was (get directions here). I may never get a chance to see an erupting volcano like this again. The viewpoints seemed to change daily and kept getting pushed further and further back as the lava spread so I have no idea what current conditions are like. When I went, we had a nice viewpoint from up on a ridge (after a 2-mile uphill hike). But the best views were definitely with my drone. It was also probably the riskiest drone flight I’ve ever done because of the high winds, so fly with caution.
The restriction for entering Iceland is constantly changing and evolving, I suggest brushing up on your research before you purchase your tickets.
As of June 2022, all travel restrictions have been lifted to visit Iceland for both domestic and international travelers (read more about it here).
Weather: Plan to go to Iceland prepared for any type of weather and expect the weather to change frequently. There were some days I would be outside in shorts and a t-shirt, hop in the car and drive a few hours, and then found myself putting on a winter coat. When planning what to pack for how cold the forecast is, don’t forget to factor in the wind. The wind in Iceland can be brutal and makes days feel much colder than they are.
Date: Choose your date of travel to Iceland carefully based on what you want your experience to be like. With Iceland’s far north location, the weather and daylight hours vary drastically throughout the year. Check things like the average weather and the hours of daylight at the time of year you might want to go.
Business Hours: Don’t necessarily trust the hours of businesses listed on Google or other sites. Especially in smaller towns in Iceland, we found that Google would say a place was open when it really wasn’t. If you have service, it may be worth calling ahead to a place before you make a stop or plan your day around eating at a certain restaurant.
Gas Station Food: One thing to keep in mind is that many gas stations have food as well, and it can be quite decent. The gas station ice cream is also really good.
Bathrooms: All across Iceland you will be impressed by the clean bathrooms at trailheads and campgrounds.
Speed Cameras: Just be aware that these exist near many towns in Iceland.
We decided to rent a van for our last trip to Iceland since we planned to sleep during the days and explore at night during the midnight sun. After comparing many different companies and prices we decided to go with a 4×4 van from Lava Car Rental.
Personally, unless you really like the van lifestyle, plan on sleeping during the day as we did, or want the flexibility of not booking hotels ahead of time, I would suggest just renting a car and booking hotels.
If you do decide to rent a van, then the biggest decision with that is probably whether or not to get a 4×4 or just a 2-wheel drive van. If you are planning on a short trip, then I probably wouldn’t bother with a 4×4 since there is plenty to see without it. But if you have more time and want to see places like Fjaðrárgljúfur, Háifoss, Landmannalaugar, Kerlingarfjöll, and Hveravellir blue geothermal pool, then getting a 4×4 could be worth the extra cost.
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In 2017, I quit my job and dropped out of school to set out on a path less traveled. Since then, I have ventured across the world, built a van and created a life that both scares me and fulfills me at the same time. And I’ve never looked back.