Iceland is fast becoming the world’s premiere photography destination. So it makes sense that drone pilots from all over the world are planning trips to capture the country’s spectacular scenery from above.
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Before we get into a list of incredible locations in Iceland where you can fly your drone, here is a quick disclaimer: There are rules about where you can and can’t fly your drone in Iceland. It is not a free-for-all. Experienced drone pilots will already be familiar many of the Icelandic Transport Authority’s regulations. They aren’t too different from regulations in other countries around the world.
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But in Iceland there are also several locations – particularly those that are environmentally sensitive or popular among tourists – that require exemptions or special permits to fly there.
Iceland in Blue. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
For example, if you want to fly in a national park, then you’ll almost certainly need permission from the body that runs the park in order to do so. Major parks, including Vatnajökull National Park and Þingvellir National Park, can be contacted directly. Some areas of interest are under the jurisdiction of the Icelandic Environmental Agency. You can apply for an aerial photography permit for specific locations here.
So that’s the admin done. It’s time to go through Iceland’s most spectacular drone photography destinations...
Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall literally translates as ‘Golden Falls’, and if you’re lucky enough to turn up on a sunny day, then you’ll see why.
You’ll hear Gullfoss before you see it. Deep in a canyon of the Hvítá river in south-west Iceland, Gullfoss has two separate drops that bring the sense of awe, of nature at its mightiest, to the famous Golden Circle attractions.
Gullfoss in Winter. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
During the summer, when the path is safe for foot traffic, you can walk right down to the edge of the falls and surround yourself with the sound of crashing water. During the winter, you’ll probably have to keep your distance.
Whatever the season, providing the conditions are decent and that you have permission to fly, Gullfoss represents an aerial and drone photography opportunity like few others. Unlike many famous waterfalls, Gullfoss is completely exposed and open from all sides. No trees, no mountains, no rainforest to hike through… just a whole load of majestic scenery waiting to be captured.
Few beaches in the world are as dramatic and imposing as Reynisfjara. At this beach, bad weather actually adds something to the scene. Dark clouds, black sands and the towering basalt sea stacks of Reynisdrangar all combine to make this a brooding, menacing, breathtaking place to fly your drone.
Golden Light over Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
One thing to watch out for at Reynisfjara though is the wind. Even when the sun is shining, the wind and waves are likely to be fierce, so make sure that you factor that in to any drone flights that you make.
Try to arrive early in the morning or late at night during the summer months to avoid the crowds that arrive by the bus load from Reykjavik. Remember: you shouldn’t be flying if there are any groups of people nearby.
Despite the daily influx of tourists, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of Iceland’s most peaceful locations and a truly remarkable place for aerial photography.
The tranquil waters are home to icebergs of all shapes and sizes, plenty of bird life and the occasional seal. And that’s before you even reach the diamond beach across the road, where remnants of icebergs wash up on the black sandy shore.
There are a couple of parking stops on the side of the road before the main car park. These are perfect for flying and will mean that you can avoid the crowds and won’t disturb other visitors.
Lenticular Cloud over Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
To fly here, you’ll need to be granted permission from the authority that manages Vatnajökull National Park. Drones are currently banned unless you have an exemption because of concerns over how they impact the wildlife, visitor safety and the quality of the experience of your fellow travellers.
You can apply for a permit here. Sure, it’s another hoop that you’ll need to jump through. But the prospect of flying at this site it will be worth it.
A short drive from Reykjavik, you’ll find Reykjanesfólkvangur, a nature reserve showcasing Iceland’s dramatic relationship with the elements. It includes a huge freshwater lake, lava formations, craters, bird cliffs and even a geothermal field.
Flying here gives drone pilots the chance to capture Iceland’s contrasts at the roadside within easy reach of the capital. The still waters of Kleifarvatn, the Reykjanes ridge volcanoes and some of the coolest roads you can imagine are all just around the corner.
Just like Reykjanesfólkvangur, the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is too scenic as a whole to pinpoint just a single location where you should fly.
Gattklettur in Autumn. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
Your best bet is to explore the whole area with your drone, hoping that the weather will be obliging, and to get as much footage as you can.
A few spots that you should definitely visit to capture from above include the Gerðuberg basalt columns, the pristine beach near Langaholt, the Snæfellsjökull glacier – providing that you can get permission from the Environment Agency first – the mighty Bjarnarfoss waterfall, and last but not least, the spectacular rhyolite mountains that litter the area surrounding the peninsula.
On the edge of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in southern Iceland sits a volcanic cone covered in moss that appears to change colour depending on the weather conditions. Most of the time, the cone is a bright green, in stark contrast to the black lava of its surroundings.
Maelifell in Midnight Light. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
Getting to Mount Mælifell requires a 4WD vehicle and an adventure across the F210 road. But once you’re there, a drone is the perfect tool to capture the scale of the majestic cone and the vast emptiness of the surrounding landscape.
Iceland has no shortage of spectacular sights, so being labelled the most photographed spot in the country takes some doing.
The Eye of the Beholder. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
Which brings us to Kirkjufell, Grundarfjörður's mountainous focal point where thousands flock every year to shoot the Northern Lights. In part, that’s because it’s not all about the picturesque ‘Church Mountain’. There’s also a nearby waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, that acts as the perfect foreground for a photoshoot.
Take your drone here and you won’t leave disappointed.
Skógafoss is a towering waterfall along Route 1 on Iceland’s south coast that manages to encapsulate the power and beauty of the Land of Fire and Ice.
The Mighty Skogafoss. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
There are few better locations in Iceland to fly than alongside this 60m-high waterfall. Just make sure that you’ve been granted a permit by the Environment Agency first and avoid flying over people.
What happens if you turn up and it’s too crowded to fly? Just climb up the steps and take a walk behind the falls. Follow the river around the bend and capture some shots from there instead.
Eldhraun Lava Field
Plenty of places in Iceland make you feel like you’re on another planet. Whether you’re looking up at the Northern Lights, gazing out across a black sand beach or wandering through an ice cave... this place can make you feel like you’ve just stepped onto a sci-fi movie set.
One great example of that is the Eldhraun lava field, an endless expanse of volcanic lava that’s been coloured green as moss has grown there slowly over time. You’ll find the green desert along route 1 on the south coast.
As remnants of the largest lava flow in the world, Eldhraun has fantastic potential for drone flights. Much of it is remote, with no people around at all. Just pick your spot, grab some epic sweeping videos and, of course, fly carefully!
We’ve already mentioned that it’s worth taking your drone to Iceland’s famous black sand beaches but out on the southern coast of the remote Westfjords, you’ll find a more familiar seaside scene.
Rauðasandur is known for its red sands that shimmer golden and its velvety textures, not to mention the contrast that the beach makes with the imposing black cliffs and blue surf.
Come on a sunny day and the aerial photography opportunities will be endless. If the visibility is good, you’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the looming figure of the Snæfellsjökull volcano in the distance.
About the author: Malek Murison is a tech journalist based in London. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Twitter.
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