|Iceland 2020 Summer Photo Tour:
The best birds and landscapes of the Highlands and the Southern Coast
Dates: July 24 - August 4, 2020
Limit: 8 participants (with 2 guides)
View photographs from Iceland >>
View photographs from Iceland >>
Embark on an unforgettable tour of Iceland to photograph a wide variety of birds and stunning coastal landscapes and topography at the Land of Fire and Ice. You will also capture birds, horses, waterfalls, desert lakes, and the remote highlands.
- Photograph Iceland’s incredible birds and landscapes along with other amazing sights.
- Travel with experienced leaders who are expert photographers, understand Iceland’s terrain, and know the best way to navigate each area.
- Visit a ton of locations including Háifoss and Granni Waterfalls, Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Veiðivötn and Hraunvötn, Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri Mountain Road, Skaftafell National Park, Svartifoss Waterfall, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Svínafellsjökull Glacial Tongue, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls, and more!
- Come home with a portfolio to share that’s packed with images of Iceland’s beauty.
Join us for an amazing photographic journey to witness and capture Iceland’s magical topography.
Experienced Leaders Take You on the Iceland Tour of a Lifetime
In order to achieve the best photos of the birds and landscapes of Iceland, two key elements are required. First, you need a leader who knows Iceland’s terrain like the back of their hand and is familiar with the best way to navigate the area. Second, you need to travel with leaders who are photography experts that will help you create images and position you in the best locations at the right time.
On this Iceland tour you will have both!
You’ll be guided by award-winning landscape and wildlife photographer, Nikhil Bahl and lifelong Iceland resident, ornithologist, and photographer Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson. We have worked painstakingly to offer this unique and comprehensive adventure to capture beautiful images of the best of this Nordic island. With all of our planning and attention to detail—as well as our top guides Nikhil and Jóhann—no other Iceland photo tour or workshop comes close!
At your disposal you will have all of the expertise that Nikhil and Jóhann have garnered over their years of experience to consistently capture dramatic and out of the box images of Iceland in all its glory. Nikhil’s extensive bird and landscape photography experience, coupled with Jóhann’s lifetime of knowledge and photography of the area, you will be presented with the absolute best opportunities at every turn. You’ll even get to visit some exclusive highland sites that most others don’t even know about!
Day 1, July 24
Arrival in Iceland
On the first day of your Iceland tour, you will arrive at Keflavík International Airport and transfer to our hotel in Reykjavík. After getting settled in you may opt for a self-guided tour of the city or get some rest. If you wish, vehicle rentals are available or you may take a taxi to the center city if you would like to explore on your own. It’s very safe to walk around at your leisure, with or without a camera and small lens. You can also just relax at the hotel and energize yourself for the tour to come, which is what we recommend for most travelers.
In the early evening we will have a casual meet-and-greet and discussion of the plans for departure the following morning, followed by a group dinner on us.
Overnight at Hotel in Reykjavík.
Day 2, July 25
“The Journey to the Center of the Earth” Words cannot express the mystery, wonder and almost surreal energy of the Snæfellsnes peninsula! The major landmark is the Snæfellsjökull glacier in Snæfellsjökull National Park, which is renowned for its mystical powers and has captured the imagination of people all over the world, ever since Jules Verne wrote “The Journey to the Centre of the Earth” in 1871. The area features extraordinary moorland, meadows, marshland, rivers, streams and small ponds along with beautiful rock formations and black sand beaches. Snæfellsnes Peninsula is without any doubt one of the best places in Iceland for Nature and Wildlife Watching during summer. On this tour we can expect to see a great variety of birds such as Harlequin Duck, Atlantic Puffin, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic Tern and Whitetailed Eagle..
Overnight at hotel in Snaefellsens.
Day 3, July 26
Board the morning ferry to Flatey Island, an island where the time stands still with no cars and a small 19th century village. The island is teaming with photographable and very tame birds like Arctic tern, redshank, oystercatcher, black-legged kittiwake, black guillemot, Atlantic puffin, and snow bunting. The sunset on the island can be overwhelming and the old houses are all very photogenic.
Overnight at hotel in Flatey.
Day 4, July 27
We depart Flatey on the lunchtime ferry and head into higher ground to one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls,Gullfoss or Golden Fall. It is found in the Hvítá river canyon in south-west Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, before cascading 32 meters (105 feet) down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power. A few km away is the Geysir area, a geothermal area named after the famous Great Geysir, where all the Geyser’s get their name from (but one character has been strangely changed). The area is part of a geothermal system that is within the zone of active rifting and volcanism, and the temperature in the subsurface system is higher than 200°C at less than 1 km depth. No need to say but the area itself is a different kind of photographic opportunity. The main birding site in the Highlands is Veiðivötn, but you can expect some birds, like Snow Bunting, anywhere. Bird life here is also special featuring common loon, pink-footed goose, long-tailed duck, purple sandpiper, and snow bunting among the breeders that we hope to photograph.
Overnight close to Gullfoss-Geysir.
Day 5, July 28
Highlands of Iceland, Háifoss and Granni Waterfalls, Landmannalaugar, Frostastaðaháls
After an early breakfast we’ll check out of our hotel and head for the Highlands of Iceland with cameras at the ready. Along our journey we will make one of our first stops to photograph the picturesque Háifoss waterfall, Iceland’s third highest fall, dropping at 122 meters into a deep river gorge and its neighboring fall, Granni.
As a group we will continue into the Highlands of Iceland and check-in at the hotel where we will base for the next 3 nights. After gathering our gear and a bite to eat, we will visit the magnificent highland oasis of Landmannalaugar after tourist hours. This area is chock-full of wonders including natural baths, colorful rhyolite mountains, spectacular rock formations, vast lava fields, and so much more. Since this area is one of the most popular and photogenic places in the country, we’ll plan to get there late and stay as long as we like so you’ll have plenty of time to capture the images you want. We can’t stress enough the beauty and indescribable splendor this area holds with its hills awash in a painter’s palette of colors from bright yellow, red, and green.
As we spend the evening photographing this area we’ll be traveling the ridge of Frostastaðaháls for a nice overlook, including Frostastaðavatn Lake. We will base the next 3 nights in a comfortable guest house in the area of Sprengisandur.
Overnight at hotel in Hrauneyjar.
Day 6, July 29
Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Crater Lakes Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur, Sigalda Canyon, Bláhnúkur, Rauðufossar Waterfall
This day brings us continued exploration to photograph the beautiful Fjallabak Nature Reserve in all its glory. We will make a point to create unusual images of the crater lakes of Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur, and you will photograph the many beautiful waterfalls of the Sigalda canyon. If time and weather allow, you will even have the option to climb to the top of Bláhnúkur (Blue peak) which gives a marvelous view over the Landamannalaugar area and all its photogenic colors and textures. You will also have a good view of the red mountain Brennisteinsalda, which you may also climb if you wish. The unusual red waterfall, Rauðufossar, among others are also on our list to see and photograph.
Overnight at hotel in Hrauneyjar.
Day 7, July 30
Lake Area of Veiðivötn and Hraunvötn, Bird Photography
Today you will visit and photograph the unique lake area of Veiðivötn and Hraunvötn. This unusual area is an entanglement of small desert lakes in a volcanic basin, which is a continuation of the same fissure that produced Laugahraun in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. It is so unique that it is difficult to describe in words, but you will be able to capture and interpret it through your camera lens! A key birding location in the highlands is Veiðivötn. Common loon are particularly common, and other breeding birds include whooper swan, pink-footed goose, scaup, long-tailed duck, harlequin duck, rock ptarmigan, ringed plover, purple sandpiper, dunlin, red-necked phalarope, arctic tern and snow bunting. Barrow's goldeneye winters here and has recently started to breed. Arctic fox is often seen here.
The crater formations here are extraterrestrial in character making up an environment that is one of its kind. The contrast between black sand and waters as clear as gin is very striking and photogenic. Many travelers find this to be the highlight of their visit to Iceland. As a landscape photographer you will absolutely love this area and can get lost in the many compositions that you can create.
This part of the country is also among the youngest (circa 1477) and contains some of the wildest and untouched areas of the central Highlands of Iceland. It comprises about 50 lakes of different sizes, most of which are crater lakes. The area is about 20 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide with a southwest/northeast direction.
Bird life here is also special featuring common loon, pink-footed goose, long-tailed duck, purple sandpiper, and snow bunting among the breeders that we hope to photograph.
Overnight at hotel in Hrauneyjar.
Day 8, July 31
We are leaving the Highlands and will overnight at hotel Laki or somewhere at the foot of the Highlands. Some maravelous sites within reach are Jökulgil, Langisjór and Ófæra.
Day 9, August 1
Skaftafell National Park, Svartifoss Waterfall, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Black Sand Beach
Today we head for the easternmost destination point, at the foot of the biggest icecap in Europe and one of the most active volcanos on earth, Vatnajökull, where we stay for two nights. On the way you will visit Skaftafell National Park, which includes the basalt lined waterfall Svartifoss among other gems.
After dinner you will visit the unique and famous Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and famous black sand beach to capture ice that has calved off the glacier, washed out to sea, and then deposited itself back on the beach at low tide. We will enjoy spending the evening here to avoid most of the other tourists. The bird life at the lagoon and in the area is rich, Arctic tern usually fish in the lagoon and they are chased by both parasitic jaeger and great skua … this area is the stronghold for the great skua in Iceland. Also for the barnacle goose, which can form large flocks in this time of the year. Harbor seals are regular in the outlet of the lagoon, diving for fish and resting on icebergs. (the terns have moved away because of too much disturbance, they breed at Hali, there is a huge colony there).
Overnight at hotel in Öræfi.
Day 10, August 2
In the morning we take an early ride to Cape Ingólfshöfði to photograph Atlantic Puffins, they are carrying fish for their chicks at this time of the year. There are also very tame Great Skuas in the headland. We will also get opportunity to shoot Northern Fulmars, Razorbills, Common Murres, even Thick-billed Murres and other seabird species.After lunch we will visit the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon again and then head for the Svínafellsjökull glacial tongue and some other interesting places to keep our creative photographic juices going. After dinner you will explore the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon one more time to capture the last photographs of this amazing area.Overnight at hotel in Öræfi.
Puffin and Seabirds, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Svínafellsjökull Glacial Tongue
To get to Ingólfshöfði we cross 6 km of waters, marshes and black sand in a tractor-drawn hay cart. The drive takes about 25-30 minutes each way, so we spend about 2 hours hiking around the cape. The circle we hike around the nature reserve is 2-3 km long. In the beginning we need to walk up a steep sand slope, and then through some uneven rocky terrain, but then it gets easier, mostly hiking on flat grass land. We don't recommend that people participate unless they can do this hike. You can opt out of this if you prefer.
Day 11, August 3
Drive from Hali to Hlíð with stops at Vík, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Then after dinner we will spend some hours at the Flói Nature Reserve for bird photography. This sanctuary has numerous small lakes, many of which have a breeding red-throated loon pair. Other species include Dunlin in breeding plumage and Black-Tailed Godwit.Overnight at hotel in Hlíð.
Day 12, August 4
Departure from Iceland
Reykjanes Peninsula in the morning. Reykjanes Peninsula is a UNESCO Global Geopark and part of the European and Global Geopark network. The peninsula, with its diversity of volcanic and geothermal activity, is well suited to be a Geopark as it is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level. The lava-scarred Reykjanes peninsula lies on one of the world's major plate boundaries, the Mid Atlantic Ridge. According to the continental drift theory the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are continuously drifting apart with great forces under the gaping rifts. As the plates diverge, linear fractures, known as fissures form due to stresses created by the tension that builds up as the plates move away from each other. The Bridge between two continents at Sandvík is a small footbridge over a major fissure which provides clear evidence of the presence of a diverging plate margin. The bridge was built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and North America. This area is plentiful of birds. Breeding coastal birds, migrating waders and seabirds passing by, like Auks, Northern Gannet and Manx Shearwater. We will try to use our limited time to find some nice birds to photograph. The airport in the afternoon, around 14:00.
*Itinerary may be modified based on weather and local conditions.
- Lodging throughout (double occupancy) - Single supplement $950. *
- All transfers to and from airport and hotels.
- Professional driver/photo/nature guide.
- Private transportation in a spacious tour bus throughout.
- Entrance fees for all described activities.
- Taxes on all services listed above.
- Breakfast (where included with hotels), meet-and-greet dinner the first evening, and farewell dinner the last evening.
Does Not Include
- Airfare to/from Keflavík International Airport (KEF).
- Airport departure tax or fees (if applicable).
- Meals and drinks unless specified.
Traveling to Iceland
Participants should plan to arrive at Keflavík International Airport (KEF) on or before July 24 and plan to depart on or after August 3. Most flights to Iceland arrive early in the morning. Since arrival times will vary we have no activities planned until the evening of July 24.
We will arrange your transfer back to Keflavík International Airport (KEF) on your departure day based on the time of your scheduled departure flight.
Keflavík International Airport (KEF)
Telephone: +354 425 6000
* A single room supplement at an additional cost of $950 is available on a first-request first-served basis. Due to the limited number of spaces available if we are unable to match a solo guest with another guest of the same gender in a “double” room, then the single supplement charge will be required.
Due to the confidentiality of the itinerary the specific lodging venues will be shared only upon request, or upon receipt of registration.
Registration through NatureScapes
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