13 day Extreme Iceland Highlands Photography Workshop
13 day Extreme Iceland Highlands Photography Workshop
Duration: 13 days and 1 hour / Difficulty: Easy
Day 1 - Arrival to Reykjavik
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
Day 6 - Landmannalaugar, Sigoldugljufur (a.k.a. Valley of Tears)
Day 7 - Veidivotn and Haifoss
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
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.