Dates: 22 February - 02 March 2020 (8 days, 8 nights)
Cost: $3300 USD or Euro equivalent, all inclusive
Availability: not available - ask to be put on next winter season's similar annual trip
Experience all the winter photography classics around southern and eastern Iceland over 8 days in February 2020. Our unique itinerary features a comprehensive 1-way route itinerary through Iceland's South Coast, then ample time is spent around the Vatnajokull glacier regions including Skaftafell, Jokulsarlon, 'Diamond' iceberg beach, several more glacial lagoons, and an adventure trip to the most photogenic crystal blue ice cave. We then continue our photography through the Hofn, Vestrahorn, and Eastfjords coastal scenery all the way to Egilsstadir, where an included domestic flight brings you back to Reykjavik. No other photo tour companies offer this unparrelled 1-way itinerary that maximises the time, number, and geographic diversity of the locations we're photographing; instead all other weeklong groups take the last day and a half to return drive back to Reykjavik.
Throughout our photo tour you'll have ample opportunities for personalized in-the-field photographic coaching, as the trip leader ensures you both learn and improve in your photography and also come away with exceptional images. Last but not least, photographing the Northern Lights is a priority, and we'll have unparalleled chances for 8 nights to view the Aurora Borealis over spectacular glacial and mountain backdrops! We'll have a busy schedule, filling our days and nights with rewarding photography opportunities around the island, while staying in excellently situated quality accommodations at night close to the best photo spots. Read below for a detailed itinerary and further trip information.
- Comprehensive itinerary packed with photo locations of both classic and off-the-track places
- Unique 1-way driving route with included return domestic flight to Reykjavik to maximize time
- Ultra small group format and flexibility
- Personalized in-the-field photographic coaching all the time as needed
- Highly experienced trip leader who's guided 70+ trips to Iceland spanning the past decade
- Includes waterfalls, glaciers, iceberg beaches, mountains, fjords, and auroras
- 8 nights of potential Aurora Borealis hunting matched with epic foregrounds
- Guided Ice Cave adventure hike to the best crystal blue ice cave (not the crowded tourist cave)
- Price includes all meals, accomodation, ice cave, guiding, 4wd van, domestic flight
Day 0 - Arrive to Reykjavik, Iceland
22 February 2020
All trip participants fly in today. Pickup from Keflavik airport is included, for afternoon flights only. The day and evening are on your own, as your explore Reykjavik. The only group outing that would possibly happen is if clear weather and aurora activity is forecasted, then we will go out of the city as a group to shoot. This will be communicated to you earlier that day. Reykjavik Hotel included tonight and booked on your behalf.
Day 1 - South Coast waterfalls and Vik
23 February 2020
Sunrise shoot in the lava fields just outside Reykjavik. Return to Reykjavik for breakfast, packup, and quick trip meeting at hotel. Then we'll depart Reykjavik on our journey around Iceland, making sure to stop by a field with the friendly Icelandic horses and possibly an Icelandic church. We'll visit the famous waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss and some lesser known falls that you can walk behind like Kvernufoss, which for photographers will be much more interesting and less tourist crowds. Depending on the weather, light and time, we'll then check in to hotel quickly and go back out for a sunset shoot around the Vik black sand beaches and Reynisdrangar pinnacles. After a late dinner, Night/aurora shoot if clear weather over Dyroleay, or over iconic waterfalls like Skogafoss.
Day 2 - Vik coastlines and Skaftafell glaciers
24 February 2020
After a long previous day, we'll have another one, first photographing at sunrise around the Dyroleay headland and sea arch area, either on top of the headland or at the Reynisfjara black beach. Wrapup additional photography around the Vik seastacks of Reynisdrangar, Vik church, etc. Midday, we'll depart the region and drive 2 hours, stopping at Icelandic rural country scenes along our drive, the abandoned turf sheds of Nuppstadir farm, and the lush moss-covered lava fields of Kirkjubaejarklauster. Eventually we arrive to Skaftafell Glacier region for sunset light on the mountains weather permitting. Possible aurora boralis shooting locations over the Svinafell Glacier. Overnight Skaftafell region.
Day 3 - Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, Icebergs
25 February 2020
Sunrise over the glacier lagoon of Svinafell Glacier, or depending on weather, Fjallsarlon. Morning light illuminates the ice serac fins of Svinafellsjokull Glacier. Departing Skaftafell region we visit Hofskirkja turf church, and then arrive to the famous Jokulsarlon area as our base the next couple days. Afternoon and sunset photography at the Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon or iceberg-littered black Diamond Beach. We hope for auroras reflected over the lagoon tonight, and stay here for 2 nights to maximise our chances of seeing this.
Day 4 - Glacial Ice Caves Adventure
26 February 2020
ICE CAVES full day adventure and hike with local guide for majority of the day. We'll take a SuperJeep with huge tires across recently uncovered glacial morains, then hike across the glacier with a certified local ice guide to wherever the best ice caves are this season. We'll have ample time to photograph these blue ice caves which have ice that's taken a thousand years to slide down the glaciers, compressing out the air bubbles and appearing deep blue colors with facinating shapes. Working around this adventure, the rest of the day will be spent at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and black sand "Diamond Beach" iceberg beach areas. Overnight and possible auroras in Jokulsarlon region.
Day 5 - Jokulsarlon and eastern Vatnajokull
27 February 2020
Another chance for sunrise over the iceberg black sand beach, and morning photography here. Wrapup of any additional photography in this region, to make sure that all participants are thoroughly 'iceberged-out' and have shot their fill. Midday we'll drive along the scenic Sudursveit coastline where we frequently spot wild reindeer herds. If snow conditions allow a visit to a remote glacial lagoon that you'd have all to yourself, we'll go to the remote Heinabergsjokull. Stokksnes peninsula and grassy dunes with the backdrop of Vestrahorn Mt around Hofn is our postcard-classic sunset and auroras location tonight. Overnight Hofn.
Day 6 - Hofn, Vestrahorn, and Hvalsnes
28 February 2020
Sunrise chance at Vestrahorn and Stokkness Peninsula, then with a whole day given to photographing the Eastfjord coastline features and mountains and secret little waterfalls tucked into mountain vallies. There will much fewer tourists here, and better opportunites for photographing Iceland farm rural scenes and landscapes without other people around or disturbing the Icelanders. Sunset at another inspiring cliffline called Hvalnes. A second night for aurora photograpahy over Vestrahorn, with overnight in Hofn.
Day 7 - Eastfjords Coastlines and Mountains
29 February 2020
Plentiful Eastfjords photography roadside stops of the coastlines and wave action, waterfalls, and glacial mountain vallies. This region is very quiet in the winter and will provide us that remoter feeling that all of Iceland used to have just a few years ago. We'll spend a night in a small little village in the middle of the Eastfjords, with of course a hope to photograph auroras shining over the mountains. Overnight in Breiðdalsvík.
Day 8 - Eastfjords to Egilsstadir
01 March 2020
Today is the last day of this first-half circumnavation tour around Iceland. We'll drive in the morning through the rest of the Eastfjords, stopping for a scene or two, and within a couple horus arrive to Egilsstadir. Egilssstadir in the Eastfjords is the farthest opposite goegraphically from Reykjavik on the other side of Iceland, and it makes for a convenient end-point. Included in the price is a one-way domestic flight back Reykjavik. This concludes this portion of the trip, and once in Reykjavik, you'll be on your own. We strongly recommend to book a flight out of Iceland the following day, just in case there's any connection issues due to bad weather. Alternatively, you are invited to continue around Iceland with us on the 2nd half of our journey. This is described in the next East through North Iceland trip, which immediately follows this one. Discounts are available for joining this 2nd trip.
General Trip Information
Group Size: Maximum size of 7, minimum 3.
Arrival/Departure: You must inform me of your arrival time to KEF. Arrive anytime you like on 22 February 2020. Airport transfer to your hotel is not included and to be booked on your own if arriving in morning. If in afternoon, complimentary pickup can be arranged. Please allow enough time for yourselves in Reykjavik, based on the trip itinerary.
- Mini-bus 4x4 vehicle for group travel (probably Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, but may change based on group size)
- Highly experienced guide and driver (Johnathan Esper)
- Occasional entry fees when required (Vestrahorn site, or any museum/indoor activity, especially if it's really inclement weather outside, but museums are generally skipped if it's decent weather)
- A challenging ice cave adventure hike for unique photography with a certified local ice guide. If you are physically not up for the hike, we'll be able to book you onto an easier glacier tour or ice cave alternative.
- All bookings and arrangement services made on group's behalf
- All meals (mix of 2-3 course dinners, lunches bagged or self-choose at convenience store stops or cafes along the way, breakfast always provided at hotels)
- Accommodation in country hotels and nice guesthouses with ensuite bath and double occupancy. Single room upgrade is $80/nt extra. If non-elective, forced upgrade to single due to no suitable rooming partners, then a 50% subsidized single supplement fee is still charged.
One-way domestic flight from Egilsstadir back to Reykjavik at the end of the tour.
- International Airfare
- Airport transfers to/from your hotel unless otherwise specified.
- Extra days or nights in Reykjavik on your own before/after the photo tour
- Any and all drinks - alcoholic or non-alcoholic - at sit down meals of all dinners and some lunches, when good pure Icelandic water is always offered
- Gas station snacks/coffee stops
- Bathroom entry fees if applicable
- Single room upgrade is $80/nt extra. If non-elective, forced upgrade to single due to no suitable rooming partners, then a 50% subsidized single supplement fee is still charged.
Accommodation/Single Supplement: Our included accommodation will be in comfortable country hotels and guesthouses chosen specifically for their location close to our photographic destinations, in twin rooms, with normally (but not guaranteed - depends on availability) private bath, shared with another trip participant if you're a single. Single supplement is $80/night for this trip; you must let me know specifically if you need a single room and wish to upgrade. If anyone is forced to upgrade to single room due to no suitable rooming partner of the same gender or other uncomfortable scenario, then they will still be asked to pay a 50% subsidized single supplement rate.
Packing: a packing list, which will be provided, has been fine-tuned over the years to include everything needed but nothing extraneous for a typical photographer. If you have questions about it, please let me know. I want to stress that simplicity is good, and please don't bring too much, as it just becomes a burden to carry around, transport, and won't be used. Also, while things generally stay dry, if you're very concerned, you may wish to pack things inside plastic bags in your suitcase.
Special Dietary Restrictions: While traditional Icelandic meals include lamb and fish, if you are a vegetarian or have other special needs, this is not a problem and there are many menu choices. There will be a few group meals but if you have specific allergies you may order individually.
Physical Fitness: This trip offers a fully packed schedule of sightseeing, photography and travel up to 15 hours a day, so a good travel attitude, high energy and enthusiasm is very important. We will not be hiking very far distances on the trip, usually staying close to the road, perhaps a 1 hour round trip walk at most (except for ice cave trip), but we may be out in the cold and wind for several hours at a time. Additionally, it is important that you are generally comfortable and confident in walking in outdoor environments and terrain which may possibly be steep or muddy or slippery, else you may miss out on some photo opportunities by having to stay closer to the car.
Icelandic Contact: Should you need to contact me last-minute, my Icelandic mobile phone number is +354 626 0292. However, please contact me by email for all but last-minute needs.
This photo workshop is all about in-the-field field photography and situational instruction, working alongside your trip leaders. Each day, the group will photograph diverse landscapes and natural wonders of Iceland, in the quiet and peaceful setting of the Icelandic wintertime. In the evening, we'll occasionally have image critiques and editing sessions on clients' laptops. We will always being prepared to go out to photograph the Aurora Borealis should it occur. Aurora Borealis viewing depends on 2 main factors: solar activity and clear weather. A long trip through various parts of the country gives us the best chances to see and photograph this phenomenon.
Photographic topics that will covered while shooting include nighttime and austral photography, Aurora Borealis photography, classic landscape photography composition and technique, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery, panoramic photography, adventure and travel photography, tilt/shift focusing, and slow shutterspeed effects. A maximum group size of 8 photographers ensures you will receive ample personal photographic coaching in the field from a full time working pro, and provides an intimate small group adventure experience.
Johnathan Esper of Wildernesscapes Photography LLC in the USA is organizing the trip. Johnathan is a full time photographer and international photo trip leader, and has a unique background and an intimate knowledge of Iceland from exploring and photographing Iceland intensively for months at a time on his own and is also very experienced in leading workshops, having led 70+ very successful photography workshops around Iceland since 2011. He specializes in wide panoramic landscapes, adventure photography, classic landscapes, and aurora borealis austral photography in Iceland and the Adirondack region in the USA.
Deposit: A $1,000 USD deposit is due at the time of registration, and the remaining balance is due 4 weeks prior to the trip start. Until payment is sent, your place is not guaranteed. For USA and Canada clients, we ask payment to be in the form of a personal check or bank check made payable and mail to: "Wildernesscapes Photography LLC", PO Box 326, Long Lake, NY 12847, USA. Please message us to confirm your place also. For European and other international clients, payment options include credit card payment through my website. The deposit portion may also be paid via credit card for all clients regardless of country, without added fee. You may conveniently pay your deposit at my website's payment page here , securely with your credit card, processed by PayPal payment processor.
Final Payment: The final payment for the balance due on the trip (after your paid deposit), is due 4 weeks prior to trip start, unless permission has been granted for payment in person upon meetup. Payment via personal check is requested for USA and Canada clients. International clients including European may pay with bank wire transfer, or credit card. Please note: For all credit card payments for the final payment portion, I do charge an extra 2.5% surcharge to partially cover my cost of accepting cards for the final payment portion. This can be paid on my website through Paypal. I can also accept cash currency at trip start in any major currency, with USD or ISK preferred, or with 2.5% currency conversion fee added for EUR, CAD, GBP, or others.
Cancellation Policy: In the unfortunate case if you need to cancel, the cancellation policy is: Deposit payments are refundable as 80% future scheduled trip credit up to 120 days before trip start, 50% future scheduled trip credit if cancellation is 120-60 days before trip start, and non-refundable less than 60 days before start. Final payments for the full trip balance are 100% refundable until the trip start, and non-refundable after the trip start. If I am able to fill your empty spot on the trip, half of what you'd lose will additionally be returned to you, for all the above situations. If the trip is cancelled for some major reason, such as overwhelming volcanic activity, trip leader health crisis, etc, then I fully refund everything in cash or PayPal or bank transfer, or a pro-rated amount if the trip must end early for the same reasons. If the trip leader is unable to perform his duties, of course a substitute leader will be sought, and overall trip cancellation is a last-resort. I am not responsible for reimbursing you for travel or other ancillary expenses you incur in prep for the trip.
Liability Waiver: I do require a signed liability release from all trip participants signed by the trip start. I can send a copy for your review if requested. If you do not wish to sign the document, and as a result wish to cancel your trip, that's fine, but my standard cancellation policies still apply.
Trip Insurance: I do require that all trip participants have at least a basic level of international trip insurance which also covers medical care, or else their home plan that covers them abroad also. Travel insurance isn't expensive, and I recommend the travel insurance comparison website squaremouth.com, where you can find a 2 week policy for as little as $25.
Disclaimer: I do have an Icelandic drivers license for legal purposes and safety. This trip is being formally run, for legal purposes, through my USA-based business Wildernesscapes Photography LLC.