Inspirational Iceland Sunrise Photo Guide

Everybody raves about sunsets. Obviously. But during the winter in Iceland, the dawn and twilight hours are long. And this makes for spectacular sunrises too! I share with you my 8 most amazing Iceland sunrise images, that will make you want to book a trip to Iceland immediately! 

8 Amazing Iceland Sunrise Images
That Will Make You Want To Book A Iceland Winter Trip Immediately!

Sunrise in Iceland

To my surprise, during our trip to Iceland last winter, sunrise took multiple hours! From 8 am, you could see some shapes in the landscape and clouds in the sky. But it wasn’t until 11.30 am until the sun was officially up! And even during noon and the early afternoon, the rising sun played tricks on your eyes with spectacular colors and dramatic light on the clouds.

So instead of the most amazing sunset photos, I share with you the magical sunrise photographs I took in Iceland. Because I want to show you how amazing Iceland in winter really is.

All images in this post are either taken by myself or my husband. We used our iPhone (XR and 8) and I have a Canon G9x camera. I have edited the images for this blog’s purpose. This is not a sponsored post. I have paid for everything for this Iceland trip myself. This post does contain affiliate links. If you decide to book something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.

Check out my Iceland Sunrise Web Story here!

My 8 favorite Iceland sunrise images

We stayed in Iceland for 9 days in December and January and drove nearly 1900 km. Not all mornings had a spectacular sunrise. But due to us moving around in the morning, and the ever-changing light during those many hours of the sunrise, I was able to capture some amazing sunrise photos. I made a selection, just for you!

Sunrise in an Icelandic snow storm

We drove from Kirkjufell towards Reykjavik across miles of flat farmland. That night, it had snowed heavily and everything was covered in a thick blanket of snow.

In the distance, we saw dark ominous clouds, sweeping across the sky. Rain turned into snow and left the surrounding landscape in a thick soup of grey-ness. 

As we approached Borgarnes, the weather turned and more light seeped through the clouds. The winds picked up and blew apart the snow clouds, leaving the sky with a thin layer of dark clouds. 

The sun colored the sky a bright orange and as the sun beams hit the dark clouds, the rest of the sky colored a dark purple. 

Snow covered road cutting a field in half with a soft colored sunrise above it. Dark clouds turning the sky purple and soft orange.
Just a sunrise down the side of the road

Borgarnes sunrise 

As it was my birthday (yeah me), we decided to stop in Borgarnes for some coffee and cake at a local bakery. Our little table by the window overlooked the small inlet of the lake and the mountains across from it.

After our short break, we set out to the car again but decided to check out the water and see the amazing ice formation on the oddly shaped rocks. By now, the sky was bright yellow and reflected on the dark ice. A cloud just drifted in over our heads and I snapped this sunrise picture near Borgarnes.

Frozen lake with black ice and black, snow covered mountains surrounding the lake. Above the lake, a dark clouds continues into a bright yellow sunrise. The colors of the sunrise are reflected on the ice.
The ice reflects the colors beautifully

Pink hue skies during sunrise in a snow storm

We turned inland and continued driving through snow. As we gained altitude, the clouds became thinner and thinner. Everything around us had a blue hue but the sky slowly turned purple.

This sunrise painted the sky all kinds of blue and purple. The little light reflection of the sun gave the whole scene a soft tone to it. 

Can you tell I took this picture from the car?

Snow-covered road cutting through snowy mountains under a bright purple and pink cloud covered sky during sunrise in Iceland.
Scenic road trip in Iceland!

Sunrise at Thingvellir National Park

On another day during our winter road trip around Iceland, we set out super early and drove in the dark to Thingvellir National Park. This amazing natural landscape is of significant historic value to the Republic of Iceland. It also has some phenomenal geographic unique features.

But let’s be honest, we were there for the views! 

The days were too short to do anything else than take in the spectacular views during daylight time. 

We arrived early at Thingvellir National Park and followed the crowds across a walking path to the Öxarárfoss waterfall.

Everything was frozen and the icy water was covered in a thick blanket of frozen snow. As we reached the waterfall, of course we took some photos!

At the time, I felt like it was still too dark to take any decent pictures, but I realized this image is quite special. Maybe it doesn’t have the most colorful sunrise of our Iceland trip, but it does show how beautiful the soft light reflects on the snow and ice of the waterfall.

In ancient Greek, I translated many a million times the epithets, like “rosy-fingered” Dawn. I never really understood why Homer used it so, so often. But it seems applicable to this sunrise photo for sure!

Panoramic sunrise image of snow-covered Oxararfoss Waterfall in Iceland in Winter
It is quite hard to capture a panorama image when it is that cold outside!

Iceland National Flag and the sunrise

At Thingvellir National Park there is a wooden viewpoint, overlooking the delta of Drekkingarhylur and the meandering stream of water. As I carefully navigated my way along the boardwalk (too afraid to slip and fall flat on my face), I noticed a park ranger approaching the flagpole. 

She hoisted the Icelandic flag at sunrise!

I checked the time and noticed it was already 11.24 am and only now realized that this is the official sunrise in winter!

We left our amazing holiday rental home in Kerbyggð in the dark that morning, but it was light for a few hours already. But although it is light outside, the sun takes a few hours to actually rise above the horizon.

Luckily for us, she did so in bright beauty and I was able to take this picture of the sunrise at Thingvellir Iceland.

Early morning image of a natural landscape at dawn with a river meandering into a delta with a bright yellow sky above it with soft pink and purple clouds
The National Park is perfect for an early morning sunrise photo.

Rainbow, icy rain and sunrises

The next day, the weather turned on us and we basically had nothing but rain, rain, rain. More rain and dark skies. I think we didn’t see the sun for a full 48 hours and it felt like one big swoop of darkness.

We had now moved on towards Kirkjubæjarklaustur, where we ‘celebrated’ the New Year (aka got drunk while watching videos on the laptop and went to bed waayyyy too late).

Anyways, a new year, a new day. On the 1st of January, the weather forecast promised to be mildly in our favor. At least for the earlier part of the day. 

So, although a bit hung-over, we headed out early and decided to explore the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon!

This amazing green landscape has several viewpoints from which you can take spectacular Instagram-famous pictures. Or record a music video of you’re the Beebs.

Anyways, amazing nature, a manageable hike outside, fresh air. What more could we want for?!

Maybe a nice sun rise? Unfortunately, the sun was behind us and behind the surrounding hills, so we missed the official sunrise.

But we had some sun and a blue sky so we walked towards the first viewpoint. Half-way towards the second viewpoint, I noticed icy water hitting my face. Oh no! A snow front moved in and a mixture of snow and rain drizzled down on us. As I looked around, I noticed an amazing spectacle of nature: a panoramic rainbow spanning across this Icelandic canyon!

What a view to ring in the new year!

Woman in red winter coat standing underneath a rainbow surrounded by green landscape and fields.
The light was all over the place so it is hard to make a panoramic picture under those conditions, but I didn’t want to keep this special sunrise from you!

Cloudy sunrise in Iceland

As it turned out, clouds are your best friend for a colorful and spectacular sunrise in Iceland. What do you think of these fluffy clouds drifting out across the water? They catch the early morning light lovely and reflect the little sunlight on the water.

Water as a mirror to the sky always makes for a nice early morning photograph in Iceland!

Continue reading under this image.

Snow-covered ground with frozen water and black mountains in the distance. Cloudy sky with orange and black clouds, colored by the sunrise.
This photo was taken at the turn-off to Dyrhólaey Lighthouse but the road was closed due to flooding, so this is as far as we could get.

Sunrise with Iridescent clouds or Rainbow Clouds

Sadly, during our trip to Iceland last winter, we didn’t see any Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. It was just too cloudy, too much rain, and too much instability in the sky for clear nights. 

However, that ‘bad’ weather can be a blessing, proves our sighting of a Rainbow Cloud! Usually, they accompany thunderstorms (and we got one) but they are rare sightings. Maybe even more rare than seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland!

Dark scenic view with orange dawn. In the sky forms a cloud of colorful circles in all the colors of the rainbow.
At 7 am, it was nearly pitch dark outside, except for this colorful Rainbow Cloud in the sky.

So, what is a Rainbow Cloud?

According to the National Geographic, this is what a Rainbow Cloud is:
“iridescent clouds, known as “fire rainbows” or “rainbow clouds,” occur when sunlight diffracts off water droplets in the atmosphere. And the recipe for these heavenly sights is actually pretty simple. Like common cloud-to-ground rainbows, iridescent clouds usually accompany thunderstorms”

They form in the higher stratosphere, and we saw them 2 mornings in a row. The first time, it was very bright and pale and we really didn’t know what it was. It looked more like a fluffy blanket in the sky.

After some inquiries and some Googling, we recognized it the next morning again. As I woke up around 7 am, it was pitch dark outside. This made the colors of the cloud even more visible and bright in the early morning.

As the morning progressed we drove west, and the sun rose making the rainbow cloud paler. The winds blew the oval shape apart, making this rainbow cloud even bigger.

All in all, pretty spectacular, right?

View from a car window on asphalt road with snow on the sides. A pale blue sky with circular clouds in all the colors of the rainbow.
As the sunbeam flooded the Icelandic roads, the rainbow cloud got paler and paler.

Helpful tips and tools for your Iceland winter trip

What about sunset in Iceland during winter?

I hear you think, but what about some sunset photos? Well, the sunset was just never nearly as spectacular as the sunrise in Iceland. And usually, during the day, more clouds (and rain) drifted in in the afternoon. 

But… I did manage to snap some nice sunset pictures too. As I’m all about sharing the good stuff (and motivating you to consider a winter trip to Iceland), I’ll share them below!

Windy sunsets in Iceland

A big pro of fierce winds blowing out to sea is that they blow away all clouds! And that is how I got to greet the sunset with the amazing view. It was during one of our longest days of driving and made for a welcome stop. We parked the car and walked to a viewpoint with a beach below us.

Woman seen from the back at an overlook by the sea at sunset
A great road trip stop, this sun set was at 3 am!

Rainy sunset at Kirkjugólf

As this picture shows, we don’t actually need clear blue skies for a nice sunset picture. It was actually raining and freakishly cold that day. But we did decide to walk out to the columnar basalt stones of Kirjugólf. Standing on the hexagon-shaped stones, I pointed to the sky, saying to my husband: “look, we finally see a sunset” as he snapped this picture of me. 

Woman standing on basalt hexagon-shaped rocks, pointing to the mountains and sunset in the distance
Look… the sunset!

Ice rocks and sunset in Iceland

We rose early for a day of Ice cave tour at Jökulsárlón Glacier. It was absolutely amazing, freakishly surreal, and beautiful. At the end of the tour, we warmed up with some hot tea and weathered the stormy winds to explore the Jökulsárlón lagune. This lagune shows spectacular icebergs floating away and beaching on the pebbled beach.

We moved across the bridge to Diamond Beach. This black sand beach caught the icebergs floating from the lagune to sea. Some beach here and sit on the beach like diamonds in the black sand.

As we approached one of the ice blocks, a big wave crushed on to it and showed the amazing colors of today’s sunset! What do you think? Epic sunset?

Black sand beach with blue ice block. Waves crashing onto the ice block at sunset.
And splash! The waves came crushing onto Diamond Beach with enormous force!

Tips for the best sunrise and sunset images in Iceland?

If you plan on visiting Iceland and you want to take some amazing sunrise and sunset photos, make sure to take the following tips into account.

  • Research daylight hours in Iceland. This way, you know when the dawn will be and the official sunrise.
  • Always keep yourself safe. Above everything else. Don’t worry about your equipment, keep yourself safe no matter what! Find more safety tips for Iceland here.
  • Use a Tripod, Gorillapod, or another device to put your camera or phone into to keep it stable. This is especially important in low light conditions. I have a Joby Gorillapod for my camera, but you can see where I didn’t use it.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera settings. It is ok to take multiple frames to see which setting works best in sunrise conditions.
  • Make sure to bring wind-proof, water-resistant, super warm gloves. They must be flexible enough to operate your camera. If you need to operate a smart-device, make sure they have touch screen tips.
  • Don’t drive and take photos at the same time. Either park the car at a designated parking area or only photograph when you’re in the passenger seat.

What is your favorite sunrise image of Iceland?

Let me know! Which is your favorite photo of the sunrise in Iceland? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have you been to Iceland, what did you prefer, photographing the sunrise or sunset? Did these images motivate you to put Iceland on your bucket list?

If you like this post, feel free to share one of the following images to your travel Pinterest boards.

4 images of sunrises in Iceland. Yellow sunrise above a frozen lake. Pink sunrise over a snow-covered field. Purple sunrise over snow-covered road and mountains and 4th image of frozen river delta with golden sunrise. Text overlay saying: 8 sunrises in Iceland that will make you want to book a trip ASAP. Probe around the Globe
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Top image of black sand beach with blue ice rock. Waves crashing on the ice rock at sunset. Second image of a road with light blue early morning sky and circular clouds with rainbow colors. Text overlay saying Amazing sunrises and sunsets in Iceland. Probe around the Globe
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Frozen lake with dark mountains. Fluffy clouds catching gold, orange and yellow colors at sunset. Text overlay saying: 8 marvelous and spectacular sunrises Iceland Probe around the Globe
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Vertical image with 2 photos. Top photo is a dark sky with circular clouds in rainbow colors. Second image is a rock formation with black and blue sky filled with stars. Text overlay saying: Iceland Amazing Early Morning Images Probe around the Globe
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