The Best Hikes and Photography Locations in Iceland
There are very few countries in the world that can offer so many amazing hikes and fantastic photography locations like Iceland. Beautiful trails through glaciers, volcanoes, natural thermal pools, and amazing landscapes. Iceland is this and much more. Well, Welcome to the land of fire and Ice!
The Múlagljúfur Canyon, both one of the best hikes and one of the most photographed locations.
The Iceland Ring Road Road Trip is now a modern classic. You will discover many beautiful locations along the way just by following the road. I’ve done it myself several times in the past, and each time I discovered new points of interest I had missed on previous visits. I did it again most recently in the spring of 2023. You can actually read my 8-day ring road Campervan trip report here for some travel inspiration.
You could probably spend weeks just traveling around the Ring Road, as I did in the past. However, if you really want to get the best out of your trip to Iceland, I recommend preparing yourself to do some hiking and explore the pristine nature Iceland can offer. Whether you are a hiker or a photographer, or both like myself, you will find more than you can handle in Iceland.
That’s why many of us keep coming back to Iceland year after year. It’s kind of an addiction, really :).
Hiker on top of Mælifell
So this is what this free Iceland travel guide is about; the best hikes and photography locations in Iceland. Here you will find some quick tips to get you started with Iceland if you are a first-time visitor, or if have already been there, but are now ready to explore some of the most remote areas on foot. Trust me.
If you loved the Ring Road, the highlands will blow you away. Hopefully, I will be able to share the passion I have for Iceland with you through my posts.
Going to Iceland?
As a reader of The Photo Hikes, you get a 5% discount on your car rental when booking with Blue Car Rental through this website.
Iceland does not have a standard trail difficulty rating as other countries have. So while hiking trails in the Highlands are usually reasonably easy to follow and visible, it is sometimes difficult to assess how difficult or dangerous a trail really is, without actually having been there or spoken to someone who already visited those locations. I found myself on paths as narrow as my two feet on the edge of a 100+ meters drop, not mentioned anywhere.
Hvannárgil Canyon in Þórsmörk, home of some beautiful but very dangerous trails.
For this reason, I will only report and post information on places I have actually visited. trying my best to show the beauty of each location through my photos as well as the trail difficulty the best I can.
Also, trails are not marked everywhere. For instance, In places like Landmannalaugarand Þórsmörk, each path is marked with a different color. This allows you to identify each trail and possible detours along the way easily, should you wish to do so.
As I’ve said earlier, if you plan to venture into the Highlands, You should be well-prepared and equipped. Iceland can be as ruthless as it is beautiful. Therefore, familiarizing with some basic safety rules is essential:
First, the common sense: make sure you are fit enough for the hikes you plan to do. Bring more water and snacks than you think you’ll need.
Mobile reception can be spotty to non-existent. If you are hiking alone or planning to venture on multi-day trips, leave your travel plan with Safetravel.is. You may also want to bring a dedicated GPS device with you.
Check the weather before you set off. Even then, make sure you bring a waterproof jacket with you. The weather in Iceland can change fast, very fast, even on a sunny day with no clouds in sight. If you see a yellow alert on the Vedur.is website, best to stay put, or travel with caution.
Bjarnafoss, going back upwards and sideways. This was during a “yellow” weather alert, with wind gusts up to 100 km/h. Brutal.
Also, if you plan to eat freeze-dried on your hiking/camping trips, make sure you pack some in your bag before leaving for Iceland. It is almost impossible to find it outside the Reykjavik area or along the ring road. However, if you are coming from a non-EEA country, the meat and dairy products restrictions also apply to freeze-dried food. This means you will not be able to bring freeze-dried food to Iceland if you are coming from outside the EEA area.
For more essential tips, make sure to read the following posts too:
Also, respect trail closures. Areas are usually fenced off with just a rope or sometimes only with a stone. it may seem strange such a high level of trust to non-Icelanders, but rarely closures are enforced harder than that. Quite often closures are not only in place to protect the delicate flora, but also your life.
Tourist risking it all in a closed-off and dangerous area at Dettifoss. Please don’t be that guy!
Lastly, and hopefully, it goes without saying: leave no traces. Or, if possible, leave a place better than you’ve found it.
When To Go to Iceland for a Hiking and Photography trip
The highlands will be completely inaccessible all year round except during Summer. The end of June to early September should be your target dates if you plan to hike anywhere in the Highlands. This, however, varies year by year, depending on snowmelt and road conditions. You can check the road conditions on road.is, and the average f-roads opening times here.
Transportation and Renting a Car or Camper Van
In terms of transportation, renting a car or a camper van will be the best choice for a hiker. You will need a 4WD vehicle allowed for F-roads to drive on tracks that have no river crossing. Check with the rental agency before booking. F-roads with river crossing is something I do not recommend unless you are very experienced at it. Some rental agencies have large 4WD vehicles on offer, but keep in mind the insurance does not cover water damage.
Car or Camper Van Rentals
I can definitely recommend two companies here:
Cars: Blue Car Rental, (5% discount on your rental through thePhotoHikes). Blue Car Rental is the largest Car rental company in Iceland and for good reason. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour breakdown assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!
These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area. This is also the reason why I am happy to recommend both on my blog. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too. If you do, you have all my gratitude!
Lastly, keep in mind off-road driving is prohibited in Iceland. You can only drive on F-roads, and only use vehicles approved for that purpose by your rental agency.
The CampEasy Campervan I used during my last ring road trip around Iceland.
Other Means of Transportation
If you don’t drive yourself or prefer to be based in Reykjavik, several travel agencies will offer day trips to the most popular hiking locations.
Hiking/hikers bus passes are also available from a couple of agencies: