Highlands photography 2023
10 days trip (12 days from home) in a small group of 6 to 10 participants, accompanied by a professional photographer, and driven by Icelandic driver-guide
This adventure in the heart of the Southern Highlands a series of 4wd overland discovery and walking loops in the very heart of the Southern desert highlands.
The permanent day which lasted three months ends in the last days of July. The night is back and settles gradually for a few hours often between endless sunset and bright dawn. From mid-August fall colors settle on the tundras of the highlands and the first northern lights burst in the starry sky.
Total immersion in the Wilderness of Fjallabak this trip is a journey aboard a 4wd vehicle that slowly travels through the heart of the southern highlands, an exceptional and very varied region offering some of the strangest series of landscapes on Earth.
Most of the photographic spots are on and around the track itself and the stops can be numerous, almost always improvised according to the play of lights and the atmosphere of the moment.
We sometimes walk away from the vehicle or from the refuge to reach some exceptional spots that are impractical for our vehicle. In general these hikes last around 2 hours and possibly a little more. Early in the morning when the dawn is bright we leave the refuge for shots before breakfast, similarly towards dusk. These outings are adapted to the weather, the light and the general rhythm and level of the group of photographers. Generally in the middle of the day, we have lunch at the refuge or we snack there, we take a nap if necessary and with your guide-photographer you talk about photographic technique and experiences.
The Icelandic driver-guide (whose name and qualities will be communicated later) will take care of accompanying non-photographers while Denis and the photographers will be taken over by their shots.
There are few, if any, marked trails in this wilderness area, but the terrain is fairly gentle despite a few icy but fun fords. The elevations are small and no passage is really dizzying. except for a small optional climb that your guide can always propose to you.
In its organization, the pace of this trip will always allow someone feeling tired one day to stay at the refuge or in the vehicle to rest peacefully and comfortably, to be full there and to take pictures with loved ones surroundings
Trip open to non-photographers (subject to availability)
Your spouse, husband or friend who is a traveler-hiker, but who is not a photographer like you are, can completely register for this trip with a discount (-70,000 kr or approximately € 500). Everyone travels together in the vehicle across the country. During their photo hikes, the photographers clad with their equipment walk at their own pace and and often at particular times. The Icelandic driver-guide who is an excellent connoisseur of his country will accompany non-photographers. In the evening at the refuge, around a good dinner, we enjoy life and friendship together at the end of the world.
Travel open to non-photographers - Subject to availability
Your spouse, husband or friend who is a traveler and an hiker but is not a photographer as you are, can fully register on this trip with a discount. Everyone travel together in the vehicle through the country. While photographers hike with Denis at their own pace with different schedules and goals, the Icelandic driver-guide will lead and take care of the Non-photographers and hike with them or explore more on the trails, In the evening at the shelter we dine and enjoy life and friendship all together.
Price, route and exact dates of operations will be posted around Christmas 2022 as well as the name of the leading nature photographer.
Price / Estimated
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Day 1: Reykjavik - Mt Hekla farmland
110 km / 68 miles on road - 40 km / 24 miles on tracks -Hotel near Mount Hekla
Your guide will pick you up between at 7:30 and 8:30 AM at your Reykjavik accommodation. Hiking clothes, duffel bag and day pack ready for trekking. The trip begins. Approx. 3 hours transfer on the road to the trail head. The majestic Hekla volcano rises above a grassy plain and marks the entrance to the high volcanic lands. It is probably Iceland’s most famous (or infamous!) and active volcano. Hike starts by late morning crossing grassland. The few little farms of the area have had to move many times over the centuries as eruptions have engulfed them. However, much of the countryside is now verdant with some former lava flows covered in green moss and arctic birch. Green moss, « bonsai » arctic birch grove along with the pure water springs, creates the feeling, perhaps, of a real Japanese garden. In August on this day, we can take a little longer as the berry and mushroom picking gets in the way of our passage.
Day 2: Lakes of Veidivötn
140 km / 86 miles round trip on tracks - Hut of Rjúpnavellir (220 V electricity)
In the middle of a vast expanse of black sand and on the horizon interrupted by several parallel chains of small volcanic cones equally black, stretches a chain of small crater lakes. These are the Veiðivötn, the fishing lakes. Their brilliance and color of innumerable shades of blue and the narrow fluorescent green band vegetation which borders it makes so much contrast in the black velvet desert that surrounds them. The lakes are connected by clear streams or small waterfalls. The only humans that we could encounter in the area are fisherman planted in the water that we will try to avoid disturbing. The magnificent giant trout in the area is an almost endemic species, impressive as it exceeds the salmon in size and weight. On each lake nestles a bird called the Great Northern Diver who occasionally makes a powerful and nostalgic sound. (listen and watch on YouTube: Great Northern Diver - Huard in Quebec - Gavia immer)
Day 3: Landmannalaugar - North Fjallabak
80 km / 49 miles on tracks - Hut of Eldgjá (220 V electricity)
Some lava fields we cross are less than six years old, some are beginning to be buried under the black slag, sometimes in beige colors because the Hekla erupts also acid. Silver lichen and green velvet moss have settled on the lava flows.
We leave “the Gateway to Hell” (as Hekla was known in the middle ages) and the landscape begins to soften; the green colors of the mosses slowly dominates the black lava fields that have rained on the land with each eruption. Mount Loðmundur, a flat-topped volcanic monolith that erupted during the Ice Age is surrounded by marshland and rich pasture that reflects in the beautiful lake of Loðmundarvatn. Landmannahellir has been for ages and it is still used now by the shepherds as a base when catching thousand sheep in fall after having been grassing free the whole summer. We are in a legendary place with thousand stories to tell. From there we walk through the shimmering colours of rhyolite magma that lead to the notorious Landmannalaugar Valley. Incredible range of pastel colors, from blue to pink through all shades of ochre’s. Then we drive the track of Fjallabak North to Eldgjá crossing many rivers.
Day 4: Option Langisjór and the Fagrifjöll
100 km / 62 miles round trip on tracks - Hut of Eldgjá (220 V electricity)
Our track reaches Sveinstindur, the first cone of the divided chain of Fögrufjöll, with its conical black and green volcanoes. Easy ascent of Mount Sveinstindur, from where you can admire a fabulous panorama view. To the north and the mighty Vatnajökull the fabulous jade green narrow lake of Langisjór. At the South lies the strange lava fields of Laki, covered with green fluorescent moss, and partly flooded by the overflows of Skaftá. Hike along Langisjór and up on easy hills we follow the narrow ridge of the Fagrifjöll. Their name means the beautiful mountains. Knowing the sobriety of the Icelandic language, they must be on to deserve such an appellation. We are moving on the narrow green and black backs of Fagrifjöll, sometimes on the shore of the lake, sometimes the easiest buttes.
Day 4: Option Eldgjá
50 km / 31 miles on tracks - Hut of Eldgjá (220 V electricity)
We follow the ridge of Eldgjá, the longest eruptive fissure on earth, today covered by moss and crossed by a clear stream. As large as the Laki eruption was, it was exceeded by Iceland's A.D. 934-940 Eldgjá eruption, which occurred in the same mountainous region. During the six years that this eruption was active, lava erupted from several vents along a discontinuous 75-km-long (47-mile-long) fissure system and buried more than 781 square km (302 square miles) of southern Iceland. Fortunately, huge eruptions like those at Eldgjá and Laki are very unusual; otherwise, life as we know it would probably not be. Though the hazards posed by lava flows and volcanic gas here on the “Big” Island are understandably important to us, they are still tiny in comparison to what our big planet is capable of.
Day 5: Vik-í-Myrdal
50 km of tracks - 100 km of road - (220 V electricity)
We are on the edge of the inhabited lands of Skaftafellssýsla district, on the edge of the enormous Laki petrified lava river. Descent from the highlands to the farms and circular route nr1 along the South Coast with a walk in the surrounding of Vik to admire the power of the ocean the rolls of foam on the huge black sand beach. Until mid-August we can observe in large numbers Atlantic Puffins nesting in large numbers on the edge of cliffs.
Day 6: South Fjallabak - Hólmsárlón
50 km on tracks - Hut at Strútur (No electricity)
Proceed to the shores of the long and narrow Hólmsárlón Lake. We reach the place nicknamed the red baptismal fountain. The waterfalls at the end of the turquoise colored lake plunging into the red crater, is a sight to behold. We cross the sands of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-colored moss.
Day 7: Torfajökull and the warm pool of Strútslaug
Hut at Strútur (No electricity)
We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes on the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera. We are at the other end of the turquoise colored lake where we hiked the previous day. Of course, we cannot resist taking an unforgettable bath in Strútslaug, a nearby, natural hot spring pool.
Day 8: Torfajökull - Mælifellssandur
40 km / 24 miles on tracks - Hut near Laufafell (No electricity)
We cross the sands of Mælifellssandur. In the middle of this strange black flatness stands the solitary cone of Mælifell, covered in fluorescent green-coloured moss. We are able to explore the extraordinary landscapes between the southern flank of the Torfajökull caldera and the mighty dome of the Mýrdalsjökull icecap. Beneath this huge sheet of ice lies Katla, another of Iceland’s angriest volcanoes. She last erupted in 1918 and is long overdue for another eruption.
Day 9: Hrafntinnusker caldera
30 km / 18 miles on tracks - Hut near Laufafell (No electricity)
Slow climb to the colourful caldera of Hrafntinnusker. Walking among countless bubbling, steaming hot springs, we cross this pearl of the interior, famous for its incredible natural beauty. More obvious are the amazing rhyolite mountains, formed in incredible bands of pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black, white, orange and red and glittering with innumerable black, glass-like obsidian lava…
Day 10: Torfajökull– Hekla East flanc - Reykjavik
30 km / 18 miles on tracks - 120 km / 74 miles on road
Down to Fjallabak South in the direction of the Tindfjöll Mountains. Behind the imposing monolith Laufafell hides a series of red and black craters partly covered with bronze colored moss. We walk along a long narrow ridge overlooking a crater lake with clear water and directly leading us to a small closed flat valley at the foothills of Tindfjöll. The Tindfjöll ridge was once the highest volcano of Iceland (over 9000 feet / 3000 m). Many thousands years ago it collapsed completely and became a little Alpine chain with peaks welded by a small icecap. Today the hot spot has moved elsewhere to Mt Hekla and to the small neighbour Eyjafjallajökull who did so much talk about him in 2010. Crossing the soft grassy plain we meet the ruins of older farms abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, when a short but hard glacial period that lasted for 50 years forced many Icelanders to immigrate to the New World. We travel across the southern plain, to reach Reykjavik in the afternoon.
Itinerary and security: the day by day program can be modified or even reversed. However, these changes are rather rare for reasons of safety due to natural phenomena: volcanism, early or late snowfall, bad weather, flooding rivers, exceptionally unfavorable weather ... The guide knows the terrain well and is sole master in interpreting the whims of all-powerful nature on this volcanic earth under these high latitudes, and to make the necessary decisions.
Composition of the group: In general, the participants of our trips come from several countries: French speaking from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Quebec but also English speaking people from Great Britain, Ireland, United States (Democratic trending), Australians, New Zealanders or other nations who know how to express themselves in English like Scandinavians, Germans, sometimes Japanese or Russians, and even sometimes Icelanders.
Your Icelandic or French guide is fluent in French and English and masters very well at least one other European language. Traveling with Fjallabak can represent a unique opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and socialize with companions from other countries than yours that you might otherwise never have approached. A unique opportunity to make friends from all around the world and twist the neck to certain prejudices and misconceptions inked
Languages spoken: the departure dates are all marked as:
- International, (multinational is more accurate) this means that the guide can express himself both in English and in French (possibly in other languages). Participants can be from all around the world if they speak at least one of these two languages: French and / or English
- French, it means that the guide is French-speaking as the group that is composed solely of participants from French-speaking countries (Swiss, French, Belgian, Belgian, etc.) or non-French speakers wanting to improve their French. If you want to test your French, do not hesitate!
- English means that the guide and the group speaks English. That said, this guide probably speaks also other languages, which may be French (please consult). The group is made up of participants from English-speaking countries or participants from non-English speaking countries with good English skills.
Group size: Group of 8 to 10 participants photographers (+/- 1) participants (Note: for groups of 6-7 people, a small group supplement applies) Fjallabak staff or representatives of Fjallabak accompanying professionals (photographers , Journalists, etc.) and other discounted travelers such as children are excluded from the number of participants (minimum and maximum).
Extra charge per person for small groups:
• ISK /pp (ca. + € ) for 7 participants
• ISK /pp (ca.+ € ) for 6 participants
Accommodation: in sleeping bag (your own) in a comfortable remote mountain hut: Bunks with comfortable mattresses. Running water and kitchen in the shelter, but the toilets and sinks are usually outside, a few yards in a small building apart. Warm hot showers with charge is available outside the hut. If you want more privacy during the night while we sleep, we offer you the possibility of sleeping in tents that we provide, please notify us in advance.
Electricity: take enough batteries for your camera because you will not often be able to recharge batteries in the hut.
Food: We pride ourselves for providing the best cuisine in the highlands! Breakfast is Scandinavian style, with muesli, breads, jams, smoked fish, charcuterie and cheese. The picnics can be a bit repetitive after a week (we are in Iceland), with a variety of sandwiches, smoked meats and fish, excellent local cheeses, green salad, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dinners, varied and often excellent, include fish and lamb dishes, served with pasta, rice or potatoes, vegetables and a green salad.
However, vegans will have to supplement their luggage even though we can accommodate their needs.
For conviviality, but without obligation, you can bring with you a specialty of your country as well as a good bottle of alcohol.
Accommodation during the trek: Sleeping bag accommodation in mountain huts and huts (usually a comfortable and mixed lodging) and according to the itinerary and the conditions, at the peak of the season a few nights might be spent in spacious double tents equipped with comfortable mattresses. Showers are available in some huts, not all.
Food, special diets: It is essential that vegetarians specify what is banned from their menu, such as those suffering from food allergies (lactose, gluten, etc.). It is important that you advise us of your special food requirements at the time of booking. If the list is long or there is danger with certain allergies, please send us the details by mail to these two addresses <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com> so that the team of our warehouse/storage can take this into account in the preparation of food. Your guide will be aware of your plan, but it does not necessarily mean that he is a specialist in that matter, so it's up to you to tell him about it at the beginning of the journey when preparing the first meal! It is also up to you to control at each meal what suits you.
A 4wd powerful vehicle carries us through the rough and incredible landscape. Our carbon impact is low as this vehicle drives less than 500 km for this 10-day trip.
Preparation of the trip and notes: The level of walking is moderate to sustained. You only carry a light bag containing what you need for the day. This adventure does not present any serious difficulty for people in good physical shape having at least some experience of long walks in the mountains. An experienced guide leads the trek. This trek passes through totally desert areas. Most of the walking is off-trail, with ever-changing terrain conditions. Therefore, sturdy hiking shoes that fit well your feet are a must. Most days involve river crossing, so it is essential not to forget your sandals. See our kits list for more information. You hike 6-7 hours per day, on average, but it can be longer, depending on the weather, the average level of the group. The maximum altitude does not rise more than 1000m. The change of altitude for most days does not exceed 300 m.
Participation: An experienced Icelandic guide leads the trek. As we are not in Nepal but in Iceland, it is expected that the members of the group lend a helping hand to their guide in the preparation of meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the floor before leaving the hut. Once in the mountains, the group becomes an independent entity. Fellowship, teamwork and forged friendships add much to the richness of each person's experience.
You’ll need to bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold and wet weather, such as polypropylene, capilene, or pile. Wool and wool/synthetic blends are also suitable - though wool, if wet, dries slowly compared to synthetic fabrics. We discourage the use of cotton in wet conditions it dries very slowly. When camping, tents are provided. You will be responsible for bringing your mattress and sleeping bag.
When layering, the innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or wool shirt, and pants. The outermost layer must be a breathable waterproof jacket such as a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-pants.
For quantities for each item listed, use your own judgement, based on the expected weather conditions and overall packing/weight restrictions for your luggage.
- Regular underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry
- Synthetic thermal underwear
- Long-sleeved, synthetic or wool shirt
- Short-sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirts
- Medium-weight synthetic fleece sweater or jacket
- Full-length pants, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Down jacket from mid-August to September (optional)
- Hiking shorts, quick-drying synthetic fabric
- Pile/fleece pants, ideal for around the camp
- Sun & rain hat
- Wool hat
- Gloves (wool or pile)
- Waterproofed shell gloves
- Medium weight synthetic socks
- Gore-Tex rain/wind parka
- Gore-Tex rain/wind pants
- Hiking boots, medium-weight, all leather, with padded ankle, good arch support, and a lug sole traction. Your hiking boots should be waterproof, well broken in, and suitable for rocky terrain or possibly snow.
- Comfortables shoes to wear when not hiking (optional) Teva-type sandals for river crossing. Absolutely recommended! Gaiters. Highly recommended.
- Comfortable sleeping bag +10°C to –10°C which can be opened all the way
- Cotton sheet to cover the hut’s mattress
- Pillow if you can’t sleep without one (optional)
- Swimsuit and towel for hot spring bathing and swimming pool
- 1-to-2 liters capacity unbreakable water bottle or thermos
- Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries (essential from August onwards)
- Swiss Army-type pocket knife (Must be kept in duffle bag, not in hand luggage, when flying !)
- Eye shades. Highly recommended from April to last July!
- Wax ear plugs
- Spare pair of prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, or contact lenses (but not only lenses, as wind-blown dust can make them very uncomfortable)
- Toiletry kit—soap, toothbrush, and so on.
- Moisturizing lotion. (The air in Iceland is very dry)
- Sunscreen and lip protection (The sun in Iceland is much more intense than you probably imagine)
- Personal first aid kit
Optional Travel Accessories
- Hiking poles. Highly recommended
- Repair kit with needle, thread, and safety pins
- Reading and writing material
- Your favorite snack food such as raisins or chocolate
- Protein supplements for vegetarian
- Your own food reserves if you are vegan
- 1 or 2 good bottles of wine or a bottle of something stronger
- Netting hood in June and July *
There are no mosquitoes in Iceland (not yet), but in early summer midges swarms invade the banks of rivers and lakes in the lowlands like Lake Myvatn "Lake of gnats." With global warming now midges start to colonize certain areas of higher land with swamps vegetation. The outbreak period is short, but extremely difficult for the hiker. Gloves a long sleeve shirt and especially a safety netting hood that slips over your hat or cap can save you if you find yourself a day without wind in the midst of clouds of these very annoying critters. You will certainly not use it but in case... and that's not a huge investment.