Iceland has been a popular destination for both amateur and professional photographers for years. The huge glaciers, active volcanoes and dazzling waterfalls make for stunning shots.
Nowadays, with the advent of new technology, everyone can take quality photos to serve as souvenirs of their Iceland adventure.
One piece of equipment that has completely changed the photo and video game is drones. The technology has allowed us to go beyond our own bodies and take incredible aerial shots without a helicopter’s assistance. But it’s fair to say that drones aren’t suitable in every scenario or every location.
What are the requirements for using drones in Iceland? Are there places, situations and times that drones are not allowed? Let’s find out. However, drones aside, you’ll still need a rental car to reach the best places to take pictures and videos. Hire yours at Reykjavik Cars.
Can You Fly Drones in Iceland?
The short answer to “are drones allowed in Iceland” is yes, you can fly drones in Iceland but only in designated areas and with certain restrictions. The Icelandic Transport Authority published a list of rules you must adhere to when flying drones in Iceland. Here are some of the main ones:
Drone laws in Iceland:
- Mark your drone with your name, address and telephone number.
- Do not fly the drone over a crowd of people.
- Do not fly the drone closer than 2km to international airports, or 1.5km to other airports.
- Do not fly closer than 50 meters to buildings and premises in urban areas, or 150 meters in rural areas.
- Do not fly closer than 150 meters to public buildings.
- Do not fly higher than 120 meters above ground or sea.
For a more complete list of rules, check out this video posted by the Icelandic Transport Authority. Note that the drone rules above and in the video are general rules, and specific areas may have stricter regulations.
Where Are Drones Legal in Iceland?
It will be easier to list the areas where drones are banned in Iceland, and from there you can deduce the legal spots. This is what the drone law in Iceland states:
- Due to the proximity of buildings, people and the Reykjavík Airport, drones are not permitted in the capital city. There is a possible exception is if you are flying below the height of buildings, for example just in your back garden.
- Drones are not permitted in the country’s three national parks: Snæfellsjökull, Þingvellir and Vatnajökull. These parks cover massive areas of Iceland, so make sure you know where they begin. The reason for the ban is to protect the parks’ wildlife and ensure visitors have a peaceful experience.
- Some of Iceland’s most popular sites have also banned the use of drones, such as Gullfoss waterfall. When you visit a site, look for a sign that features a drone with a line through it, indicating restrictions. Although drones capture great footage, they can be disruptive and potentially dangerous for others in the area.
Despite these rules, you still have plenty of opportunities to capture your aerial Icelandic pictures and videos. As long as you’re not in a national park or other areas where they’re restricted, send the drone up.
Just remember to keep away from people and buildings, airports and “no-drones” signs, and you’ll be fine. You can also join a photo tour in Iceland, where a specialist will take you to lesser-known spots and permitted areas.
Note that if you are conducting research and have obtained special permission from the Icelandic Transport Authority, there are exceptions. Contact them and you may be issued a permit to use your drone in, for example, a national park. Professional filmmakers can also obtain temporary permission.
Tips for Drone Use in Iceland
- Do not fly your drone in bad weather. This includes rain, snow or strong wind. One of the rules around drone use in Iceland is to keep your drone in sight at all times. Not only will this be difficult on a day with bad weather, but you also run the risk of losing your drone.
- Practice with your drone in a safe environment first. It’s best not to use your drone for the first time when you’re on holiday in Iceland. Make sure you know how to operate it fully, to reduce the risk of damage and to maximize its efficiency.
- Bring spare memory cards. The last thing you want is full memory when you’re about to arrive at a great spot. If you need extra accessories while you’re here, head to the DJI Reykjavík drone shop.
- Keep a distance from wild animals. It might be awesome to get up-close footage of a puffin colony, but do so with caution, if at all. At the least, it will annoy them and they may attack your drone, and neither scenario is good. The same applies to Icelandic horses; drones scare them, so don’t chase the animals with your drone.
- Be sure to stop somewhere safe. Iceland’s main highway, Route 1, or the Ring Road, is only two lanes wide. Please don’t stop on the side of the road; instead, wait for a rest stop to pull into.
Where to Get Great Drone Footage in Iceland?
To avoid the restricted areas and large crowds, it’s best to use your drone in the more remote areas of Iceland. The best places to do this, away from national parks, are the highlands and the Westfjords. These are the most sparsely-populated areas of the country—in fact, the highlands have no permanent residents, only summer visitors.
If you want footage overlooking the Capital Region, but avoiding the airports, head to the top of Mt. Esja. This is a mountain range overlooking Reykjavík from the other side of the bay, and it makes for a fun hike.
The path is easily manageable for those in good shape and the view at the top is phenomenal. Bring your drone and head up there in the summer months.
The famous Golden Circle is not a suitable place to use drones, due to the large numbers of visitors. However, there may be sites along the north’s Diamond Circle route where drones are permitted. Again, keep an eye out for “no drones” signs, but if there aren’t any, go ahead.
Lake Mývatn in the north—one of the largest lakes in Iceland—will make a great backdrop for drone footage. It’s also an ideal spot from which to see the northern lights. The north coast has fewer places where drones are not allowed, and contains no national parks.
If you want more information on how to get great pictures and videos in Iceland, head to our guide to photography in Iceland.
A word of warning for drones in Iceland
Be sure to familiarise yourself with regulations and drone laws in Iceland before travelling. That way, you won’t risk being fined or even having your equipment confiscated.
When packing, remember to place your drone safely in a case; insurance would be a good investment as well. Be considerate and respectful towards other tourists, locals and wildlife. If you do, you’ll come away with arguably the best souvenir: aerial footage of Iceland.
To reach most of the places where drones are permitted, you’ll need some transport. Lock in the rental car of your choice with us, and one of the most important parts of your adventure will be all set.