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
well said mike. btw, if you want to photograph the icebergs near the black sand sea shore, please bring a wader with you.
hope to see you in dubai. cheers!
Thanks Irwin! You are right! forgot to mention wader boots! Those always comes in handy for all seascapes 🙂
Excellent Cruz. I was planning for a strip early 2016. Thanks for the info.
That’s great! You will love it there!
[…] be enough and I had a lot of bags and other gears to bring with me. As a mentioned on my previous post, knowing what I know now, I would have rented a small camper van so I can camp out on the locations […]
Hi, Thanks for the info. My wife and I are planning to go there this coming June for a 3day-holiday. I would appreciate if you could recommend Must-see sights in Iceland?
Thanks a lot!
3 days might not be enough to see all the good spots in Iceland but you can see a lot already in 3 days. I suggest following the Golden Circle. Just Google: “Iceland Golden Circle”, this is really good especially if you are arriving in Reykjavic airport. The Golden Circle can be finished within 1 day. Once that is done, try to go to the Jökulsárlón and the black beach in Vik, it will be around 3 hours driving but totally worth it!
Enjoy your stay!
Hey I’m mohsin khan I want to visit to iccland and do business
Hi Michael, what if we cant drive on our own, like we need a tour guide. Which travel agent you recommend?
There are a lot of tour guides in Iceland; There are similar services you can see in some Tourist Center in Reykjavic. However, I have no experience with them. I guess you can try to check it with Google, Viator or https://guidetoiceland.is/.
Jas to rest trip Iceland
What kind of driving license would you need to be able to rent a car and drive in Iceland during a 5 day visit?
I used my normal UAE driving license.
Thank u so much for all info its is very useful but want to know I have already Schegen visa can I have to apply again
The Schengen visa is only valid for a period of time. If your visa is still valid then you should be able to go again, otherwise, you need to re-apply.
Insightful review! Btw what was the budget approx in dhirams?!? (inclusive of exchange rates)
It always depends if you are renting a car (type of car) or what kind of accommodation you get. I would say, you can spend as much as 500 dhs to 1,000 dhs food + car/fuel + accommodation.
That sounds quite interesting. I am planning for a trip comimg September. Think it’s a good time? And what about the expenses approx..including the flight charges?
Thank you so much ^^
Hi Cruz, thanks for the wonderful info! One quick question. Are we applying for a Danish visa to go to Iceland? In the url you gave (http://fae.um.dk/), I couldn’t find an option to apply for Iceland visa. Pls advise. Thanks
Excellent Cruz. I was planning for a strip early 2017. and guide me about visa details
You are most welcome Charles!
does it mean you did not require any visa when you entered Stockholm since you already have Schengen visa?
thanks in advance!
Hi Olivia, actually, it is just a stop over / transfer only. I didn’t really entered Stockholm. But, even if I did, it is fine since I have the Schengen Visa. If you have a Shengen Visa, you can enter Iceland without any issues.
thanks a lot, Michael 🙂
Hi Michael! Your post is really helpful. 🙂 Just would like to follow up on Sooraj’s question about the online registration. It does only say “traveling to Denmark” on the page. Is it the same form you registered on as well or should we look for one which says “traveling to Iceland”?
Kudos on your website by the way! 🙂
There is no Iceland consulate here in Dubai, the Denmark consulate is the one taking care of Iceland application. So that is fine, but all your papers like hotel bookings and travel tickets will be Iceland and this will be confirmed during your physical appearance in their office.
Hi Michael. This is a very helpful blog. Im planning to visit April next year. Can you please tell me your total expenses (flight, accommodation, tours etc) Just would like to know the estimate budget. Thank you.
Hi Ianne, that’s kind of hard to answer. Because everything is really relative on what you are going to rent or buy. For me, I rented a 4×4 and airbnb for my accommodation. I also ate mostly supermarket food and gas station sandwiches. It is expensive in Iceland compared to Europe, US and Asia. On my trip, I average around 300 USD per day. Mostly because I went around the entire country with my 4×4 and the fuel is really expensive.
Hey Michael, Thanks for the useful information.
We are travelling to Iceland between Jan 5 & Jan 14 2017 (for aprox. 8 days)
Please advise if the weather would be too harsh.
We plan to rent a car and do the entire ring road. Is it possible to complete the ring road in 8 days that too in the month of January. If not what itenary do you suggest
We have never driven in snow before, would you still encourage us to rent a car in Iceland. We are all charged up for it though!!
Your advise on this will be highly appreciated.
I’m not sure what would be the weather like at that time, but for sure there’s going to be ice. The ring road is always clear of snow unless you have to go to some back roads, nevertheless, I would suggest to get a proper 4×4 rental SUV. I would also avoid going to northern Iceland as it might be too much snow in there, but check the weather, they usually broadcast it as the weather changes drastically in Iceland. Ask your rental company for a GPS too.
In case the weather is too bad, they usually close the roads there so you won’t be able to pass. Usually they close the roads towards the northern part. I’ll focus on the ring road golden circle road as those are in the southern part of Iceland and for that scenic route itself is already worth the trip. From there, you can check the weather and check if you can visit the Western and eastern part of Iceland.
Amazing article; thank you so much for making it so convenient!
Just a quick question; so we’re planning to stay for 2 nights in Helsinki and then doing a 4/5 night stay in Iceland – would this mean we would need to get a Schengen from Finland as opposed to Denmark?
You apply the Schengen to the country you will be spending the longest time.
Hi Michael! I am planning to go in September. Whereabouts in Iceland do I see the Northern lights? Any recommendations for air bnb as well? Thanks!
Not sure if September will have northern lights. You need to check online somewhere. Usually it is around December / January is when northern lights appears. Do a quick google on that.
Hi Michael, thanks for your insights. Very helpful indeed! Just a quick question, so if I have a valid UAE driving license, I can rent and drive in Iceland or do I need to apply for an International Driving license. And which airline do you recommend (with less layover hours) from Dubai to Iceland?
You don’t need any international driving license, the standard UAE license will do just fine. For airlines, I used Qatar Airways, at that time offered the best rates.
Hope that helps!
Hey Micheal, thanks for all the information!
I have a question though: is it cheaper to book tourist packages (which include car rentals and accommodation) online or just book a package once i reach Reykjavik from the offices over there? What would you recommend?
Sorry for the very very late reply. However, I would suggest doing the booking yourself in advance, as the tourist packages in Iceland will be very expensive.
Hi Michael, this was very informative. You mentioned it would be very expensive travelling to Iceland – how expensive could it get?
Hi Michael, this was very informative. You mentioned it would be very expensive travelling to Iceland – how expensive could it get?
It can be around 1,000 AED per day if you rented a 4×4 car, the petrol is so expensive compared here to Dubai.
By any chance you came across northren lights in iceland during night session, please advise
You have to go during winter to get the northern lights 🙂
Hi Michael, I’m researching on the visa requirements and based on VFS website, “Original return ticket must be shown upon collection of the visa. E-tickets are accepted.” Did you present a confirmed ticket or a dummy ticket will do?
Did they couriered your passport or it is mandatory to collect it from VFS again?
Thanks a lot,
I have a real booking and just showed the E-ticket. And you have yo collect your passport, they will not courier it.
Hi Michael, I stumbled on your website because i was researching UAE to ice land tips *LOL… I am planning a trip to Iceland via Helsinki – in a couple of weeks, similar itinerary to Kristine (2 days in Helsinki and about about 5 days in Iceland). Great advice you have given here. Do you have more pictures of your trip from Iceland? I’ve looked at your other work and very impressed. I’m also teach photography here but in Abu Dhabi. It would be good to meet and perhaps collaborate on a project.
I have.. just didn’t post it here on the blog. Sure let’s do collab why not?! Add me on facebook or message me on instagram @michaelrcruz
Thanks for the tips, really help me well in planning our October trip. Just want to know if you apply visa through VFS or their consulate? And how many months prior to your trip did you apply for visa? so thanks I can have a heads up. 🙂
Its the same as any country in Europe. Personally, would plan atleast 2 months in advance to get everything sorted out. Visa itself will take 3-5 days only.
I want to apply for the two entries Schengen visa this time. First going to Iceland from 30th Nov- 2nd Dec and then Spain from 15th Dec- 24th Dec. I’ve got lots of visa to the UK and Schengen as well.
When I called up some visa services people, they said Iceland visa is very difficult to get, is that true?
Secondly, the no objection letter from the employer, there’s a standard one that my employer provides with my credential and how long I’ve been working with them. Did you get them to write the reason for travel and their guarantee that you’ll be coming back?
As mentioned on this post, you don’t need an Iceland visa, you only need to get the schengen visa. It is quite easy to get.
Thanks for your reply!
It says for Iceland we have to apply to the Danish embassy. Have you ever applied for two entries Schengen?
You only need to apply to one country to get the Schengen visa. Either you apply it through Denmark or other EU countries. Once you have a Schengen visa, you can enter Iceland.
Hi Michael, as a follow up on Tania’s query, I’m keen to know what you have written in your NOC letter to Denmark embassy. Is it Denmark or Iceland you are going? And for the supporting docs like hotel, flight etc.
Arvir, I think you didn’t read my entire post; please read it because all your questions are answered there 🙂
This was so helpful. Thankyou so much .
tnx for the info. i started to have an interest in Iceland because of the song “The hardest karaoke song in the world.” it features nice place and also about the car renting. i want to drive in the rainy cosy road.
Great article. Planning to travel to iceland between 4-17 May. What are the options available if one doesn’t know driving?
There are guides that drives you to different places, this is probably the best way to go, even if you can drive. That’s what I’m going to do next time I visit Iceland.
Hi Micheal. This is great information, Will check with you whenever I plan to travel to Iceland.