Northern Lights & orca photography holiday, Iceland

“Even without the photography aspect, witnessing the rare aurora and orcas would be astounding. But with guidance from expert tutors, this trip becomes truly exceptional.”


Northern Lights | Two boat trips to see orcas | Snaefellsnes Peninsula | Snæfellsjökull glacier | Kirkjufell Mountain | Lava fields | Fishing villages | Black sand beaches | Volcanic craters and lakes | Chance to photograph seabirds following the herring migration | Reykjavik

Description of Northern Lights & orca photography holiday, Iceland

This Northern Lights and orca photography holiday is a small group trip, max 10 people, and it focusses on west Iceland’s stunning Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This area boasts many wonderful landscapes, but in addition to photographing these, we hope to photograph two of the country’s most iconic attractions: the aurora and killer whales. Two private boat trips out into the bay of Grundarfjorður give us the opportunity to spot these beautiful animals. The orcas only hunt here during the winter months, when they are following the herring, a feast of fish that is also enjoyed by a multitude of sea birds including gannets and sea eagles. In the evenings, our focus will be firmly on the skies, as we aim to photograph the northern lights.

You will spend six nights in Iceland, but this is so much more than the typical whistle-stop tours that take in just a few key spots. On this photography workshop, each participant enjoys personal tuition and great attention to detail. On location, tutors work alongside participants offering technical and creative advice as well as useful, practical help. Unusual and inspiring locations, from Snæfellsjökull glacier, sea stacks and vast lava fields, give each individual the chance to produce unique images.

This trip is run by photographers who have lived in Iceland for many years, and they have an intimate working knowledge of the landscapes, the light and the diverse terrain. Evening tutorials include image development and image presentations, too, and by night we’ll go in search of the aurora. Whether you are a beginner with your first DSLR or are considerably more advanced, this highly personalised workshop will take you to the next level of proficiency.

Accommodation in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is in a family run hotel right on the harbour front in Grundarfjörður with a great restaurant and outdoor hot tubs to enjoy. The owner Gísli is often the ‘captain’ on our boat, too!

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

01273 823 700 Calling from outside the UK?


Check dates, prices & availability

02 Feb 2020
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 02 Feb 2020 departure
Our top tip:
Temperatures can be deceiving; the worst thing here is the icy wind, so come prepared with windproof clothes.
Trip type:
Small group tour.
Activity level:
6 nights in a family-run, coastal hotel with outdoor hot tubs.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available with supplement.
Accommodation, all meals, photography tutor, guide, transfers and transport, listed activities, whale guide.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Out in the field
We encourage you to travel responsibly and to consider the following guidelines:
• When out in wild places we encourage you to keep erosion to a minimum, keep to footpaths and avoid stepping on or picking native flora, Iceland is especially fragile environmentally and the country is currently embarking of many projects such as tree planting to reduce erosion.
• We encourage you to use water sparingly and to avoid buying plastic bottles of water; use your own metal or heavy-duty plastic bottle such as Nalgene to refill with water from a safe source as recommended. In Iceland water should never be bought from a shop as most water sources are exceptionally pure.
• River water could also be drinking water, do not contaminate water supplies by washing in it. Any washing products should be phosphate free.
• Respect local customs religion and traditions.
• Carry out some research about Iceland and being able to speak a few words of Icelandic is always appreciated.
• Don’t take photographs of local people and places of religious significance without permission.
• Keep promises! Send copies of photos to local people if this is what you have said you will do.
• Read the labels and buy local products such as food and souvenirs so that money directly benefits the community.
• Minimize pollution, and carry out all litter. Iceland has one of the lowest levels of environmental pollution in the world and it is good to keep it this way.

Iceland Conservation Volunteers
We support the Environment Agency of Iceland through passing on information about its policy and encouraging people to join their volunteer scheme. Our company is currently setting up an itinerary for UK schools expeditions to visit Iceland to participate in the project.
• Each summer more than 200 international volunteers take part in the Environment Agency programme. The volunteers now complete over 650 weeks of work around Iceland every year.
• The Environment Agency hosts volunteers from all over the world and works closely with a variety of international organizations. The programme is organized in partnership with the British conservation volunteer organization BTCV.
• The work began over 30 years ago in Jökulsárgljúfur, Vatnajökull National Park, with a team of 15 volunteers. Today, if you visit Iceland’s national parks, there is a very good chance that you will walk on trails built and maintained by Environment Agency volunteers.
• All volunteers live and work in some of the most beautiful parts of Iceland throughout the summer. The teams gain experience of a wide range of practical conservation skills while working closely with local staff and other international volunteers.
• Although work is focused on the improvement and maintenance of hiking trails, volunteers are also involved in wilderness management and heritage management
• Many volunteers from the scheme worked on cleaning the ash that devastated the rural and farming areas around the erupted volcano, Eyafjalljokull.

Wherever possible we work electronically, we are totally web based, our paper use is minimal.
We work from a home based office reducing car travel to a minimum.

The Impacts of this Trip

Iceland has been hit hard by their bankruptcy/crisis of October 2008. More than ever communties are having to return to their roots and rely on traditional ways of making a living. Tourism, fishing, farming and local crafts such as knitting are seen as a way of restoring economic stability to the country and giving a sense of dignity to Icelanders.

In particular communities away from the central hub Reykjavik are relying on visitors to boost their economy. Since way before the current crisis we have been supporting these less visited areas and we are rewarded with a very personal service, quieter locations, fresher home grown produce and insight into the lives and folklore of local people. Now it is cheaper for us to visit Iceland as we get an excellent exchange rate. We always ensure that participants on our holidays get the opportunity to see and purchase local products.

We always try to travel off season to extend the time that local people can earn money from tourism.

Local providers
Our transport will be local and with the exception of Reykjavik we use a small family run hotel as our base. Our boats to see the whales are local and our hotel owner is often the captain too! Our connections with these local providers of accommodation and transport go back many years. These local providers appreciate our on-going commitment to their livelihoods. All our meals will be from locally sourced products such as fish, lamb, homemade breads and yoghurts. Our guest are encouraged to buy their gifts in the local shops rather than in Reykjavik.
All of our service suppliers are informed of our responsible travel policy.


7 Reviews of Northern Lights & orca photography holiday, Iceland

3.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 20 Feb 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The views

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Make sure you know exactly what you are getting into and exactly what you will be doing

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I was disappointed in the amount of money spent for this vacation. I do not feel like we were informed well on what clothes, shoes, etc to bring. the main focus was on the killer whales and northern lights in which we did not see whales as we only went out once and not twice on the boat.

We only saw a very small glimpse of northern lights approx. 10 minutes and it was not seen by naked eye. The food most of the trip consisted of gas station sandwiches in which were not good. The hotel accommodations were less than to be desired as well! This was the most I have spent on a vacation and it was the least desired once over. yes, we saw some beautiful sights however not worth the cost along with everything else we experienced while there. The vehicles were freezing even while driving for hours.

There is no reason to not have a little heat going but instead we froze to the point of fingers and toes completely numb. I feel like the whole trip was very disorganized as well we never knew what was going on, seemed as if a few people would be told then we all just had to figure out from others what was happening. we did not get to experience many of the things listed on the brochure ie glaciers of any kind. The tour guides were very friendly.

Read the operator's response here:

Hi Danielle,

I hope you are well? Thank you for taking the time to write a review for Responsible Travel regarding your recent photographic trip with our company. I am very sorry to hear that certain aspects of the trip did not live up to your expectations. Most of the feedback on our own website or through Responsible Travel is very positive and generally with 4-5 star ratings. I was concerned upon reading your review.

Before responding I took time to talk with Kirk and Fran who were the photographic guides/organisers for your particular trip. My understanding from them is that you seemed unaware that this was a dedicated photography trip? Our company specialises in small-group photographic tours and workshops offering individual tuition in all aspects of the photographic process from composition and capture to the development (post-processing) of your images. Full and precise information regarding the nature of our trips is given to all guests prior to booking both on the Responsible Travel and our own website.

Iceland in the winter time can be a challenging place to photograph, the weather can be extreme. A correct clothing and equipment list is essential, we ensure that all our guests have access to this information in the specific trip PDF on our website. All guests are asked to download and read this information prior to embarking on one of our trips. I believe that we sent a copy of this PDF by email following your questions to us regarding the clothing that you would need to bring. As is our normal practice, we sent out a final mail two weeks prior the departure date of your trip indicating the importance of reading about the itinerary, the clothing and photographic equipment requirements. I believe that one of our guides kindly gave you her own waterproof boots to wear for the duration of the trip, hopefully these at least kept your feet warm!

During a trip our guides continue to impart information each day with several regular briefings regarding weather, clothing, weather conditions, timings, meeting places and what to expect during the day. It is the responsibility of guests to take this freely given information on board and to ask questions if elements of the briefing are not understood.

It is fair to say that your particular group did not enjoy the best weather during the trip. It was just not possible or safe to send your group out on the boat for a second Whale watching trip. On several occasions high winds caused roads to close and cars to be blown from the road. It is true that due to the poor weather conditions the group were unable to see the Snæfellsjökull Glacier. Our guides always make super human efforts to see the northern lights if/when they manifest, it is always a highlight for them too. In truth, we are always at the hands of Mother Nature when it comes to the weather, Whales and the northern lights.

I am sorry that this trip not considered to give value for money. Iceland is currently one of the most expensive countries in the world. We include everything in the price of our trips, airport transfers, all accommodation, transport, three meals a day and professional photography tuition. We believe that all of our inclusive trips to Iceland are competitive and offer excellent value for money. I understand that all breakfast and evening meals were taken together either at the hotel or local restaurants. The sandwiches referred to were packed lunches, this is normal practice when photographers are out in the field during the daytime.

Thanks once again for taking the time to write this review, all the feedback that we receive is reviewed by us and is considered seriously. Once again I am truly sorry that our trip did not meet your expectations. I hope that you will return to beautiful Iceland sometime in the future and maybe this time Mother Nature will be kinder to you.

All the best
Gary Beff

Reviewed on 26 Mar 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Got to see a pod of eight orca whales including a baby on a whale watching cruise from grundurfordur.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take plenty of warm clothes, especially for northern lights shooting at night.
Hand and foot warmers are a good idea if you have bad circulation or feel the cold in your extremities.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We ate in local cafes and restauraunts, and went out on the whale watching cruise twice, so I'm sure the tour is a benefit to the local community.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Really good tour, photography tutor had extensive knowledge of best locations to see in prevailing weather conditions.

Reviewed on 22 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We had a 24hr period where everything just went right. Killer Whales, dolphins and a surprise display of a fantastic Aurora.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for it to be very cold and windy at times.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes we used local business run by local people throughout the holiday.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A lot of what we saw was by chance which is natures way but it certainly helped that our guides had done their homework. It was a fantastic holiday.

Reviewed on 09 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing the Orca swim under the bridge we were standing on and the grade 5 Aurora Borealis - painting the sky in technicolour! For the photographers Geraldine, Stuart & Tesio made the itinerary fluid enough that they could make the most of the light available.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Wrap up warm - the wind is bitterly cold in February.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

This is a family run company and Geraldine and Martin live in Iceland so we used small locally-run hotels and eateries.The food was excellent and the showers wonderful! Driving was inevitable but we did this in as few vehicles as possible.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Good itinerary, but Iceland is geologically so interesting that the coastal scenery could have been replicated elsewhere, e.g. west coast of Scotland! More uniquely Icelandic were the lava fields and glaciers. However, we are planning to return to the south-east coast with Geraldine et al where we will get the chance to see the glaciers very close up!

Reviewed on 19 Feb 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing the northern lights and the glacier ice cave.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take lots of warm clothing and layers. No need to take out lots of cash as can pay by card. Add a day or two in Reyjavik onto your holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I think so

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Good holiday. The emphasis is on photography (all levels) and there is enough time at each stop. Experienced photographers to help you and you also get to see some lovely places in Iceland.

Reviewed on 16 Feb 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The whole trip was excellent.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Read/bring your camera manual with you !
make sure your outer clothing is wind proof

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Used local cafes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Reviewed on 11 Jun 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

All parts were memorable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Small groups better

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very Good. Martin provides excellent knowledge on photography and on Lightroom. Geraldine provides excellent service in ensuring all aspects to the trip were good and no difficulties.

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