I recently traveled to Iceland and had one of the best experiences of my life. The weather was mostly rainy and cloudy but it didn’t spoil my photographic journey to this mystical place. If you haven’t been to Iceland, I highly recommend it.
I’ll say this though, it will be an expensive trip. But I promise you will not regret it. As a photographer, I have never seen such an amazing place, the term otherworldly comes to mind. It is like walking on another planet.
Let’s run the steps…
Step 1 : Preparation
This will all depend on what you want to do in Iceland; my main purpose was Photography. If you are traveling 5 to 7 days only, I would suggest to google search ” Iceland Golden Circle”. If you are lazy to type, click here. If you are spending more than 10 days, I suggest doing a search on “Iceland Ring Road” trip, this time you can google it yourself 🙂 Try to get the GPS coordinates on the places you want to visit. Again, Google is your friend.
Depending on the time or season you will visit Iceland, you might need to bring more winter clothes. I visited around June, which is the end of winter in Iceland, the temperature is between 5 – 8C, but the wind is probably -10. From my experience, bring all wind proof outfits. Also good if you can get winter or thermal isolated shoes – that would help a lot.
Step 2 : Transportation and Accommodation
Public transportation in Iceland is only available in the city. If you want to see the best places, you have no choice but to rent a car or a camper van. I decided to rent a medium size 4×4 like a RAV4 to roam entire Iceland. Now, not all 4×4 are allowed to go in the gravel road (highlands), you have to check with the car rental company and try to get the insurance. The best deal I could find for renting cars is Cars Iceland, all of their cars have insurance included in the price, unlimited mileage and GPS. I would highly suggest getting a GPS and unlimited mileage, especially if you are planning to do a lot of photography. You can do your own research too. But knowing what I know now, I would have opted for a small camper van so I can save some money for the accommodation; there’s a lot of camping sites around the ring road that you can park and sleep. Anyway, it’s your choice.
For accommodation, I opted for Airbnb. If you are not familiar with Airbnb, just visit their website. It’s an awesome way to travel, compared to staying in a boring Hotel and it is very economical, too. What I did was, I booked the nearby house in places I want to photograph. Note, that if you are going to Iceland during winter, not all roads are accessible. So, do a quick check on that. I went in June, so pretty much all roads were clear, but still some areas were blocked with thick ice in western Iceland.
Step 3 : Getting the Schengen Visa
Iceland doesn’t have any consulate in Dubai. I discovered this fact after a long discussion with travel agencies and lots of googling on the interwebs. The good news is, the Denmark consulate takes care of Iceland visa applications. Their location is along Sheikh Zayed Road so it is very accessible. However, initial filling and scheduling is done online.
The online application is easy to follow and will also list all the required documents you might need to get the visa. You can visit their website here: http://fae.um.dk/
If you have applied for a Schengen visa before, you know the drill. In my case, I was required to submit some passport-sized photos with white background, passport, emirates ID, No-objection letter from your company, 3 months bank statements, confirmed E-ticket bookings for your flights and hotel or accommodation bookings. The whole process took 5 days for me, it is mentioned on their website that it will take up to 14 days to process.
Another thing though… This is important. This is applicable if you are visiting other countries on the Schengen area. You need to apply to the country in which you are staying for the longest, for example: if you spend 10 days in Paris and 7 days in Iceland, you need to apply your Schengen visa to the French consulate. However, if you are staying equal days, like 10 days for both places then you will have to apply to the first country you will be landing first. If you are landing first in Iceland then you will apply in Iceland.
Once you have your Schengen Visa, treat yourself with a big slice of pepperoni pizza (or steak, or any celebratory meal you desire!) because the battle is almost over.
Step 4 : Booking flights
There are no direct flights to Iceland from Dubai. I booked the flights from Qatar Airways and there is a short stop-over/transfer to Stockholm and from there to Reykjavic Airport in Iceland. That’s it! You are set to go to Iceland.
The Iceland Car rental company is a 5 minutes walk from the airport so I just picked it up and drove through my first destination.
If you are still reading this, thank you for spending time and for that, I’ll reward you with some helpful things that can make your photo shooting a bit easier.
- Bring a trusty tripod. The winds and waves in Iceland are unforgiving.
- Bring a plastic cover for your camera and some rubber bands to secure it. Most of the best destinations in Iceland are waterfalls and they can soak cameras easily. A shower cap is also a great alternative.
- In conjunction to #2, if you can, bring weatherproof gears. This applies to cameras, lenses and bags.
- Bring lots of small micro fiber clothes for wiping your lenses, the spray from the waterfalls can be immense.
- Do not pack heavy, some of the locations require a bit of hiking.
- Bring lots of SD cards and batteries, you will need them!
- Bring a heavy-duty rain coat, it will be very useful on getting those great angles with the waterfalls. You will thank me later.
- After all your shooting, try to relax and enjoy the view. Also, don’t forget to go to the Blue Lagoon for some nice warm geothermal bath. I really enjoyed my time there.
Gears that I used:
Fujifilm X-T1 (2 bodies)
Samyang 8mm Fisheye
GoPro hero 4 silver
Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 Carbon fiber tripod