Exploring a true winter wonderland is an experience like no other. Let's backtrack a bit to January 2020, before this global pandemic was in full swing. Gerry and I, along with our group of guests were exposed to the very best sights that Iceland has to offer.
Coming from the norm, an Africa specialist safari guide, this was so new to me. I did not know much about a true winter wonderland. I had no idea on what to expect.
Months building up to this adventure all I could think was;
Lions roaring as the night sets in. Wild dog on the hunt at first light. Leopard stalking its next victim. These are things that give me such a rush. Could "a true winter wonderland" with not much wildlife, really provide a thrill?
Well, I know now that words cannot describe how incredible this experience was.
I spent a lot of time online building up to this adventure. The information I managed to gather set some expectations. But now - having explored this fascinating country, I can confidently say that nothing I found online will ever do this spectacular country justice.
If I had to choose one word to describe the experience it'll be - exhilarating.
Something I would never have guessed. Not even in my wildest dreams but the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland did just that and so much more.
An adventure through Iceland, which is honestly a true winder wonderland, is something that will only be truly understood once experienced.
During their winter months, its best to set off on a journey along the South Coast. This stretch is one of Iceland’s most popular routes. The "why" will become apparent very quickly; the main road is lined with fascinating features, great for sightseeing but even better for photography.
Listed below you will find some of Icelands most famous attractions;
The waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss
The former stands at 63 meters tall, and falls in a narrow cascade in front of a cavern; if the path is clear, you will be able to walk behind it and photograph the water from a unique angle.
Skógafoss has no cavern behind it but is much more dramatic than Seljalandsfoss. Though the same height, it is wider and more powerful, thundering to the earth and throwing off clouds of spray.
The black-sand-beach Reynisfjara
This magical stretch of coastline was once voted amongst the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.
The main subjects from Reynisfjara beach are the Reynisdrangar sea-stacks. These two basalt columns rise from the tumultuous ocean, 66 meters tall at the highest point. According to folklore, the petrified remains of two trolls caught in the morning sun trying to pull a ship into shore.
Vatnajökull National Park
This vast area that contains many of Iceland’s greatest photographic landmarks. The mesmerising Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of them.
Due to its unreal beauty, Jökulsárlón is often spoken of as ‘the crown jewel of Iceland’s nature’. The vividly blue icebergs break from the retreating glacier tongue Breiðamerkurjökull, some towering high above the water. They slowly cruise across the lake towards the ocean.
Adjacent to Jökulsárlón is the Diamond Beach, named as such for the fact the icebergs, when they finally free themselves from the lagoon, tend to wash up on the black sands here. Photographing the contrasts between the crystal-like ice, black sand, and surf will result in some beautiful images.
Although the landscapes and skies above Iceland are as dramatic as anything you will ever see, sometimes there’s magic to be found underground.
Ice caves are only accessible from very few places in the world, and even then only at certain times of the year under specific conditions. The chance to explore one is an incredible, rare opportunity. This ice cave is beneath Europe’s largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier. The otherworldly blues, deep tunnels and unusual formations within the cave make for some awe-inspiring photographs, which tell the story of the wonders to be found here.
These unique cave systems shift with the changing glacier every year, so it’s up to the creative forces of nature to dictate your underground experience. The ocean-blue ice crystals make for an incredible composition, and the light dancing off the crystals all around means this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for photographers. After all, these caves reform every year; it’s history that you will be witnessing.
The Vestrahorn mountain
This beautiful mountain is found on the Stokksnes Peninsula and is often called ‘the Batman mountain’ due to its ‘horned’ twin peaks. It is a favorite subject amongst landscape photographers for these obvious reasons.
The dramatic, imposing mountain is surrounded by ominous black sands. This allowing you to take pictures revealing the stark, barren and often haunting nature of Iceland’s landscapes. There are several angles that you can capture it from, which may also include the churning Atlantic Ocean.
Saving the best attraction for last;
The Northern Lights
Nothing sums up the magic of Iceland quite like the aurora borealis. The ethereal northern lights have inspired wonder and awe for generations. It’s such a privilege to capture them glowing high above Iceland’s pristine Arctic landscapes.
The northern lights are the result of solar activity, which explains why they seem like something from another planet. Several locations in Iceland offer fantastic light conditions for aurora hunting and photography, especially during the winter months when the darkness lingers for longer than usual. In saying this, the aurora can be seen from anywhere in the country. You will just have to be in the right place at the right time to watch on as they illuminate the Arctic landscapes below.
Exploring, taking in the wonders, landscapes and light conditions that have made Iceland, a true winter wonderland, one of the world’s premier photography destinations is an incredible experience.
A bucket-list adventure to this Arctic paradise awaits!
I hope you enjoyed the journey.
Until next time;