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These days, everyone knows that Iceland is a premiere destination for photography. However, many of our readers often ask what is the best time to go to Iceland. There is no straightforward answer to this question, as the best time to visit Iceland will depend largely upon what you want to see and photograph.
While the summers offer the long nights and mornings of the Midnight Sun that give photographers ample time to capture the stunning beauty of nature under what can feel like a never ending sunset, winter in Iceland turns the country into an icy wonderland filled with frozen waterfalls, crystal ice caves, and the Aurora Borealis dancing through the cold Arctic sky.
While summer and winter may bring in the crowds to Iceland for sure, what about the other months? Have you thought about visiting Iceland in September? What is Iceland in September like for photography? The answer is that September is as close to being the best month for photography in Iceland as it gets.
There are many reasons why we think that September is the best month for photography in Iceland, particularly if it will be your very first visit. This month contains the benefits of both summer and winter photography, all combined into the mouthwatering delights of autumn. If that's not enough to persuade you to travel to Iceland in September, then we're not sure what will!
During September in Iceland, the majority of the summer crowds will have already gone home. As such, the main tourist stops along Highway 1 will no longer be elbow-to-elbow during the daytime and Iceland will begin to get back some of that isolated, wild atmosphere that makes it such a desirable place to visit in the first place.
Best of all, the winter will not have returned in force just yet, so access to the interior of the country and places like Landmannalaugar in the Highlands will still be very much possible. Did we already mention that the crowds will be far less during this month than they are during the summer?
September is fall in Iceland, so the colours of the Arctic foliage will turn from shades of green to shades of red orange and yellow. If you haven’t seen these colours for yourself, then you are certainly missing out. Some of the best fall colours for landscape photography in the world is to be found in Iceland!
Autumn at Vestrahorn. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi.'
During September in Iceland, the days start to get a little shorter, but there is still plenty of light for great sunrises and sunsets. In addition, they'll still last longer than your typical sunsets from home because of how far north Iceland sits.
September also marks the moment that night time returns to parts of Iceland, which means that there will always be a chance to see the wonderful Northern Lights during September photography adventures. Not only will the roads be easier to drive during the fall, but access to the areas of the country where the Northern Lights are more visible is possible. Winter has not settled in yet, so the temperatures will still be similar to those in summer. The nights can be a little cold, but nothing like during winter.
Northern Lights and Moonbow over Gullfoss. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
Iceland has plenty of waterfalls, so the waterfalls here are never at a low-flow during any season, unlike so many other places in the world. Iceland has more waterfalls than you can imagine and they all flowing magnificently during September. Furthermore, waterfalls such as Hraunfossar will be surrounded by beautiful autumn foliage so if you love photographing waterfalls swathed in fall colours, then Iceland in September is for you!
Along with waterfalls, September is a spectacular month to photograph Icelandic horses. They look amazing standing next to the vibrant fall foliage. You can visit a horse farm in Iceland to see these magnificent creatures or spot them nearly anywhere by the side of the road throughout the country. You can also spend some time getting to know them a little bit more if you decide to spend an afternoon gong on a horseback ride in one of Iceland’s many fantastic horse paths.
Icelandic Horse in Autumn. Photo by: 'Iceland Photo Tours'.
September in Iceland is a wonderful time to visit the Vatnajökull National Park, where you'll find marvellous glaciers and icebergs. Summer doesn’t melt the ice in Iceland and by fall, the icy landscape is just as stunning. The world famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon will still be filled with enormous, magical, chunks of ice. That ice will still wash out through a narrow waterway towards the sea every day, where it will be pummelled by the waves and float back onto the black sandy Diamond Ice Beach.
The icebergs make for the perfect subject for landscape photographers, who enjoy capturing the crystal clear and cool blue chunks of ice as they sit on the beach being pounded by the waves.
If seeing chunks of ice on a beach or floating in a lagoon doesn’t satisfy your ice cravings, then perhaps a day hike on one of Iceland’s glaciers will put you close enough to the beauty of the Arctic to really get a feel for how amazing nature can be.
Magical glacier lagoon. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
There are a lot of possibilities for landscape photography in Iceland, though none are more mysterious than the Icelandic Highlands.
Not all seasons are suitable for exploring Highlands locations such as Kerlingarfjöll or Landmannalaugar, as these areas require a lot of hiking by foot. Furthermore, the roads to the Highlands are often closed until the end of June. However, by September, the roads to the Highlands in Iceland will be open, though they may still remain a little bit wet and muddy. It may also be easier to navigate the numerous river crossings by 4WD vehicles in September, as the water volume can be a little bit lower.
The best part about visiting the Icelandic Highlands during September though is that most of the hiking trails will be free of snow, making photography off the beaten track just a little bit easier.
Perhaps the best place for photography during September in Iceland is Þorsmörk – a mountain ridge situated in the south of Iceland between the glaciers Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull. This lush valley is somewhat of an oasis in the Icelandic Highlands and has a camping site which can get very busy during the summer. Of course, if you visit during September, then the campgrounds may be a little bit more peaceful.
Around Þorsmörk, there are several beautiful hiking trails which will take you up to extraordinary vantage points for photography. From up high, you'll be guaranteed amazing panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the complex braided river system that flows from the glaciers towards the ocean.
All of Iceland’s churches and other man-made photographic icons are beautiful during September, and they’re just waiting to be photographed! There really is no shortage of things to capture with your camera, from the Sun Voyager in Reykjavík to the black church of Buðir on Iceland's Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
You can explore all day long and then spend the night at one of Iceland’s hospitable farmhouses or quaint hotels, while you wait to see if the Northern Lights will pay you a visit.
That Golden Glow. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
Although the puffins will have returned to the sea by September, there will still be opportunities to photograph other birds. The Arctic foxes will still be out and about as well. Maybe you’ll get lucky and capture one of these adorable little balls of fur!
September is also the time of the year when the annual event of 'Rettir' takes place. This is when farmers and their helpers round up all of their sheep and bring them back from the countryside in the Highlands and the mountains to their farms. If you're around in Iceland during this time of year, then you'll have the wonderful chance to photograph this event!
Aside from that, the geothermal activity is always steaming along in Iceland. The cooler temperatures make the idea of sitting in the world famous Blue Lagoon or one of Iceland’s numerous other geothermal pools even more inviting.
If bathing in a geothermal heated pool isn’t your idea of a good time, then you can still see the raw power of Mother Nature in the steam vents, geysers, and mud-pots that bubble away at numerous geothermal areas that are located all over the country.
Stars and Steam. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.
If the photographic offerings of September aren’t enough to bring you to Iceland then maybe the prices will help! September is the shoulder season in Iceland, so prices will drop and it will be possible for you to save money on hotels, food, and car rentals should you decide to extend your stay here. Much like the rest of the world, the school holiday season takes place during summer in Iceland, meaning that by September, most locals as well as tourists will have wrapped up their vacations and returned to work. This results in less travel demand, meaning that you'll be able to find great deals on flights to Iceland.
Moreover, while there has been a boom in the number of hotels and AirBnB rentals in Iceland's capital city of Reykjavík over the years, accommodation has largely remained the same throughout the rest of Iceland. As such, rooms may be difficult to come across and you'll often have to book well in advance of your travel dates. Not so if you decide to travel in Iceland during September! Accommodation is much easier to find in Iceland during September and you'll have a wider choice about where you'd like to stay. The prices will also drop around this time, making for a much cheaper holiday!
Let’s recap. Iceland in September has all of the same fantastic landscapes that you’ll find in the summer months, only now they are less crowded and covered with fall colour. The Northern lights are visible during the now shorter days; the roads are still open allowing you the ability to travel to where the skies are clear in quicker time to see them. You’ll also be wearing less layers than if you come in winter to see them! The glacier lagoon has not yet frozen as it does during winter, so you can make photographs of this amazing location and still find ice on the beach as well. What’s better…you might be able to photograph the northern lights over the glacier lagoon!