This is why you shouldn't elope in Iceland - have your elopement here instead

You're probably thinking, what's the point of this blog post, and why am I saying you shouldn't elope in Iceland? Let's start this by saying that every time I've visited Iceland, I've loved it. However, I think there are some things you should know and consider if you're eloping there. Also, I want to share some of my favorite, not super-popular, elopement locations you probably haven't thought about. But let's start by describing my first experience in Iceland and why so many people dream of eloping in Iceland.

Let's talk about Elopements in Iceland

Posted on October 10th, 2023.

About Iceland elopements

Now, if the beauty of southern Iceland has captured your heart, but the idea of navigating crowds or incurring hidden costs has you second-guessing, I've got some fantastic news. Several equally bewitching and secluded destinations are waiting to be the backdrop to your love story.

But I want to be clear: I'm not saying you shouldn't elope in Iceland. I'm just suggesting you explore beyond the trend. Every couple's story is unique, so why not choose a location that resonates more personally with your journey? With that in mind, let's start planning journey through some less-traveled yet equally magnificent elopement destinations.

Iceland elopement trend 

As you probably know, elopements have transformed in recent years. Couples are not just seeking a quiet escape but chasing the adventure elopement of a lifetime. The thought of pledging love amidst breathtaking landscapes, captured by an elopement photographer, has seen Iceland become a hotspot. With its captivating northern lights, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and ice caves, an Iceland elopement offers an enchanting wedding experience.

And it's the truth: Iceland is truly unique. Its dramatic landscapes and planet Mars-like beauty make it a dreamy wedding and elopement destination. From its famous geysers and hot springs to the vast glaciers, Iceland's nature is both raw and captivating. The allure of the midnight sun, the dance of the auroras, and the mystique of its culture can be enticing for any couple. In fact, it wasn't very fun to drive there because it was so beautiful that I had to stop every 5 minutes to take images.

Modern elopements in Iceland

I visited Iceland for the first time back in 2015. It was well before it became a super popular elopement destination. I remember that the locals didn't lock their doors in Reykjavik, which felt strange, especially if you live in a vast city, but also cute and awesome. I married my wife that year, and honestly, I didn't even know eloping was a thing - let alone that you could do that in Iceland. But I wish that I had known that eloping was possible. I would have loved to elope in a way that would honour our relationship because both my wife and I are all about the experience. We had a lovely traditional wedding, and I love my friends and family, but that moment was supposed to be ours alone. But let's not get into that too much! If you want to hear more about my story and why I became an elopement photographer, head over to my About page.

My first experience in Iceland

Iceland a decade ago and eloping there in 2024

Iceland elopement experience

Opting for an Iceland elopement package often comes with the hope of an undisturbed, genuine experience. However, the reality might differ. With the influx of tourists and the surge in elopement popularity, seclusion might be more of a challenge than most couples expected. This doesn't mean, however, that it's impossible to find secluded locations to explore and have your ceremony in. It just needs more planning and the right time of the day. And probably a 4 x 4 vehicle.

In conclusion, while Iceland remains a breathtakingly beautiful destination with much to offer, couples hoping for a completely secluded and private adventure elopement experience might need to either adjust their expectations or consider alternative, off-the-beaten-path locations within Iceland or in other equally stunning parts of the world. So, let's dive into some of my favorite places for your adventure elopement!

Seeking Authenticity Amidst Popularity:

Iceland's landscapes, while rugged, are fragile. Those lush green areas, frequently captured in elopement photography, are delicate ecosystems. Straying from designated paths can harm the environment, taking years to recover. The effects of tourism are evident almost everywhere. The most famous sights have had to be cordoned off with ropes because people wanted to walk wherever they wanted, dramatically affecting the environment. When I edit photos from Iceland, I usually have to remove a rope here and there, and even a bunch of tourists. Fragile vegetation can be damaged, soil erosion can be accelerated, and litter can become a problem in areas that don't have the infrastructure to handle the volume of tourists.

Iceland has started implementing measures to manage tourism more sustainably. This includes investing in infrastructure, educating tourists about responsible behavior (like sticking to marked paths), and occasionally restricting access to particularly sensitive areas to allow them to recover. Overall, it's hugely different compared to other Nordic countries, like Norway and Finland, where you have a "Right to Roam" practically everywhere. I have to admit that as I've grown here, I'm used to National parks without permits or fees and endless camping possibilities anywhere - as long as it's around 150 feet from where other people live.

The True Costs of the Iceland Elopement Experience:

While envisioning a winter elopement under the northern lights in Iceland sounds dreamy, nature can be unpredictable. Closed roads due to intense winds or snowstorms might disrupt your meticulously planned day. The weather is merciless. I experienced how the wind almost blew my car away from under me, which is typical on this country's roads. In fact, according to local Camper rental, it is not uncommon for tourists to be blown off the road.

I had to do everything in my power not to be knocked down by the force of the wind. For this reason, it can even be dangerous to go to the mountains or the beach on these stormy days, which are utterly ordinary in the country. Remember to hold on tightly to the car door when you open it. Also, you should be careful near the ocean because the sneaker waves can be hazardous, as some tourists have died there in recent years. The tremendous force of the wind could detach the car doors and take them away. This, too, has been proven in this country many times.

All in all, it's essential to be prepared for sudden changes that can alter the elopement experience you envisioned. That said, eloping in Iceland can be incredibly magical if you're willing to embrace the unpredictability and have a sense of adventure.

Nature's Quirks - Weather Challenges in Iceland:

If you ask me, an elopement day should be all about intimacy and privacy. However, popular spots like Seljalandsfoss might not deliver that dream. Besides couples seeking their ideal elopement location, there are also tour groups and travelers. Even remote geothermal hot springs, once seen as secret retreats, now come with parking areas and entrance fees. The once elusive feel of wilderness and isolation might be harder to come by than you think.

With the global recognition of Iceland’s natural wonders, there has been an exponential rise in tourism. Places once secluded and serene are now frequented by eager travelers and nature enthusiasts. The sounds of crashing waves on Kirkjufjara black beach in South Iceland or the whispering winds around the Geysir might now be accompanied by the distant hum of tour buses and the clicks of countless cameras.

The Reality of Seclusion in Popular Icelandic Spots:

Why Iceland Might Not Be Your Best Bet for an Elopement

Problems with eloping in Iceland

A picturesque village characterized by its turf-roofed homes and an impressive tidal lagoon. Surrounded by mountains and a quaint old church as a backdrop, it's a serene spot for a destination elopement.

03 Saksun

Often referred to as the 'Flute' because of its thin shape and many road tunnels, Kalsoy offers rugged landscapes and panoramic views. The Kallur Lighthouse, perched on a cliff with the vast ocean below, can be an epic location for exchanging vows.

02 Kalsoy

A small village located on the island of Eysturoy, Gjógv is named after a 200-meter-long sea-filled gorge that runs from the village into the ocean. The village's remote location and stunning natural harbor offer the perfect elopement experience.

01 Gjógv

Locations to consider for your intimate Faroe Islands Elopement

While both the Faroe Islands and Iceland offer rugged landscapes and breathtaking views, the Faroe Islands stand out for their untouched beauty. Nestled between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands are a collection of 18 islands characterized by dramatic green cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and a sense of solitude that's becoming increasingly rare.

Getting to the Faroe Islands can be slightly more challenging than a trip to Iceland, given the fewer number of flights and its lesser-known status. However, this also means fewer tourists and more secluded spots for those intimate moments. Unlike Iceland's stark and sometimes barren landscapes, the Faroe Islands are lush and verdant, offering a different kind of dramatic experience for your elopement days. It is still good to remember that the Faroe Islands are also entirely at the mercy of the elements, so it's good to have plenty of adventure spirit if you're planning to elope there.

Faroe Islands: Where Green Cliffs Meet the Ocean

Faroe Islands vs. Iceland as an elopement destination

Beyond the recognized paths of Lofoten, islands above Reine are sanctuaries of serenity. Amidst the backdrop of imposing peaks and reflective waters, couples can find their private corners, sharing intimate moments and creating memories.

03 Vesterålen: A hidden gem North from Lofoten Islands

North of the Arctic Circle lies Bodø, a blend of seascapes and mountain terrains. Beyond its urban charm, places like Kjerringøy beckon with their historic allure and serene beaches, far from the usual tourist trails.

02 Bodø: The Arctic's best-kept secret

Beyond the recognized paths of Lofoten, islands above Reine are sanctuaries of serenity. Amidst the backdrop of imposing peaks and reflective waters, couples can find their private corners, sharing intimate moments and creating memories. The photo above is from Lofoten Islands.

01 Lofoten Islands: Unbelievable views and steep mountains

Norway's Locations to consider instead of Iceland elopement:

At first glance, Iceland and Norway might seem to share many similarities. Both dazzle with their Northern Lights displays, house some of the most majestic landscapes and offer a truly Nordic elopement experience. But there are definitely some differences.

Reaching Iceland might seem relatively convenient with its array of direct flights, but Norway isn't far behind. Major cities like Oslo and Bergen are not just gateways to Norway but significant European hubs. I think it's also good to remember that if a destination is effortless to get to - there are probably also more tourists. While Iceland has firmly planted its flag on the global elopement map, vast and sprawling Norway hides innumerable secluded gems. The raw, untouched beauty of its fjords, forests, and mountain ranges offers a different flavor of wilderness. Moreover, Norway's "Right to Roam" offers genuine seclusion, letting you find that perfect spot without the crowds or parking fees. If you're interested, you can look at my Guide to Norwegian elopements.

The experience, the paramount aspect of any elopement, stands distinct in both. With its volcanic terrains and geothermal marvels, Iceland paints a different picture than Norway's serene fjords, sprawling forests, and sharp mountains. In Iceland, you might stand beside a geysir, feeling the pulse of the earth. In Norway, you could find yourself amidst a quiet forest, the whispers of ancient trees telling tales of old.

Norway: Stunning fjords and quiet lakes

Iceland vs. Norway as an elopement destination

Adventurous Alternatives to an Iceland Elopement

Where to elope instead of Iceland

Encompassing vast forests, serene lochs, and mountain ranges, Cairngorms offers an unparalleled experience. Its expansive nature ensures that even in its popular spots, couples can find secluded corners for their special moments.

03 Cairngorms National Park: Nature’s Unspoiled Masterpiece 

Orkney, with its mesmerizing seascapes and Stone Age history, is an idyllic location untouched by time. Places like the Ring of Brodgar provide a historical backdrop and ensure an intimate ceremony away from bustling crowds.

02 Orkney Islands: Beyond the Edge of the Map 

Known as the ‘cloud island,’ the Isle of Skye offers an array of secluded spots, from the enchanting Fairy Pools to the Quiraing's otherworldly landscapes. It’s a place where the skies dance with myriad colors, and every corner whispers ancient tales.

01 Isle of Skye: Where Earth Touches the Heavens 

Scotland elopement locations:

In the contest of grandeur and allure of hiking elopement, Iceland and Scotland are truly worthy adversaries. Both are steeped in folklore, blessed with nature’s finest artwork, and present captivating backdrops for an elopement ceremony.

If Iceland is the land of fire and ice, Scotland is the realm of mist and mystery. The land of lochs and glens holds its own against the geysers and glaciers. Access to both destinations is fairly straightforward, with numerous flights connecting to Reykjavik and Edinburgh. However, when it comes to popularity, Iceland has become the representative of adventure elopements. This makes Scotland's vast highlands, with its hidden valleys and silent lochs, an ideal refuge for couples wanting to escape the crowds.

Where Iceland’s landscapes feel bold and untamed, Scotland’s nature has a soft, dreamy touch to it. The moody Scottish weather and the serene landscapes lend a unique, almost poetic vibe to your elopement experience.

Scotland - The Mystical Alternative for a Dreamy Elopement

Iceland vs. Scotland elopements

Below For the truly adventurous, the Skocjan Caves offer a subterranean wonderland. As one of the largest known underground canyons, this UNESCO site sets a dramatic and unparalleled scene for those wanting an absolutely out-of-the-ordinary elopement.

03 Skocjan Caves: Unearthly Beauty 

The Soča Valley, with its mesmerizing turquoise river, is a testament to Slovenia's breathtaking natural beauty. Off the beaten path, its vibrant hues and alpine meadows set the stage for a fairytale elopement.

02 Soča Valley: Turquoise Dreams

While Lake Bled takes most of the limelight, nearby Lake Bohinj offers a quieter, more secluded experience. Nestled within the Triglav National Park, its crystalline waters and surrounding alpine beauty provide a serene backdrop for intimate vows.

01 Lake Bohinj: The Quieter Sibling

Locations to consider if you elope in Slovenia

Iceland’s wild landscapes, often stark and barren, starkly contrast with the green views of Slovenia. Where Iceland boasts geysers and immense glaciers, Slovenia presents tranquil lakes, high mountains, dense forests, and a tapestry of rivers. Accessibility favors Slovenia, thanks to its central European location. Only 45 minutes from it's capital Ljubljana and you're up in the mountains! While Iceland’s allure has become a mainstream desire, Slovenia remains a lesser-trodden path, promising a more secluded elopement experience.

For those who've cherished the idea of an adventurous elopement in Iceland, embracing Slovenia might seem like discovering a well-kept secret. The overarching experience in Slovenia is about being enveloped in green serenity, far from the madding crowd but close to the heartbeats of nature. I can't recommend Slovenia enough!

Slovenia: Stunning Alps and dence forests

Iceland vs. Slovenia as an elopement location

A Secluded Slice of Heaven Away from the mainland, the Vis Island hides Stiniva Cove - a beach paradise ensconced by towering cliffs. An intimate spot, it's as if nature herself carved a private nook for lovers.

02 Stiniva Cove, Vis Island

Waterfall Wonders Beyond the beachfront, Croatia boasts of the Plitvice Lakes National Park - a cascade of 16 terraced lakes interlinked by waterfalls. Elope by these aquatic marvels, and let nature serenade your union.

01 Plitvice Lakes National Park

Croatia elopement locations:

If Iceland is the realm of ice and fire, Croatia is a tale of shimmering seas and historic cities. Iceland's dramatic geysers and volcanic landscapes contrast Croatia's serene beaches, azure waters, and centuries-old fortresses. While both nations beckon adventurers, their flavors are distinctly different. Iceland draws individuals with its raw power and mystery, while Croatia combines Mediterranean warmth and old-world charm. When it comes to accessibility, Croatia's proximity to major European hubs makes it an easily reachable elopement destination. And while Iceland's vistas have graced countless postcards and screens, Croatia's lesser-explored spots promise seclusion and romance.

For those considering an elopement in Iceland for its uniqueness, Croatia offers an equally distinctive but contrasting charm. Imagine exchanging vows overlooking the Adriatic, the sound of waves, your music, and the setting sun painting the horizon.

Croatia - Where the Mediterranean Meets Elopement Dreams

Iceland vs. Croatia as an elopement location

A drive or hike up the Grossglockner High Alpine Road reveals panoramic views of Austria’s highest mountain. Its diverse landscapes, from meadows to glaciers, offer various options for couples wanting a truly unique elopement experience.

03 Grossglockner: Austria's Roof 

This quaint town, cradled by the Hohe Tauern mountain range and bordered by Lake Zell, offers an unparalleled backdrop for those seeking tranquility and alpine adventure for their special day.

02 Zell am See: Alpine Elegance 

Tucked away between the Dachstein Alps and Lake Hallstatt, this village is the epitome of Austrian charm. While Hallstatt can be touristy, a short hike or boat ride leads you to isolated spots for the most intimate elopement settings.

01 Hallstatt: A Lakeside dream 

Locations to consider if you elope in Austria

While Iceland’s vast landscapes scream raw power and untamed beauty, Austria sings a different, yet equally captivating, tune. With their towering peaks and lush valleys, the Austrian Alps rival the majestic appeal of Iceland's geysers and glaciers.

Accessibility to both countries is commendable. Direct flights to Vienna or Salzburg bring Austria closer to adventure-seeking couples, while Reykjavik continues to beckon those drawn to Icelandic wonders. While Iceland is a celebrity in the elopement world, Austria remains a treasured secret, especially for those who wish to exchange vows amidst snow-capped mountains and pristine alpine lakes.

The elopement experience in Austria has its charm. It promises a blend of luxury and adventure. Historic castles juxtaposed against mighty peaks create an atmosphere that feels like a fairy tale. Moreover, Austria's alpine meadows in spring and summer present a riot of colors, painting an ethereal setting for the elopement ceremony.

Austria: The Alpine Dream for Elopement Enthusiasts

Iceland vs. Austria as an elopement location

Especially if it's cold, remember that most bridal gowns aren't designed for chilly conditions. For those who are planning a winter elopement, consider slipping on some nude-colored thermal leggings beneath your gown. They're a discreet way to stay warm. Avoid darker leggings or tights beneath a white gown because they are easy to notice. Instead, opt for a shade that closely matches your skin, ensuring it appears as if it's just your skin in the photos. As for suits, consider wearing a merino wool baselayer beneath. This adds warmth without bulk. However, ensure your suit offers a comfortable fit even with the added layer.

Your elopement attire should resonate with your destination. Consider elegant yet warm attire for a winter ceremony in the Austrian Alps. If you're saying 'I do' on Croatia's sandy shores, flowy dresses and lightweight linen suits might be more appropriate, allowing you to celebrate amidst the sea breeze comfortably.

What to wear for destination elopements?

I have a whole blog post about why dreaming big is so important when hoping to elope in Iceland or elsewhere in the Nordic countries. Also, if you're particularly interested in eloping in Scandinavia, check out this awesome article about elopements in Scandinavia.

I know that most people can't just pick the perfect time to elope in Iceland or Scotland, so you probably have to first look at your calendar and then discuss the perfect time to elope, considering your life situation. Just as one would consider the winter months for a winter elopement in Iceland, it's essential to research the best times to visit your chosen destination. From the midnight sun in Norway to the mild Mediterranean climate in Croatia, each destination offers unique conditions that can shape your elopement experience. If you're unsure what would be the perfect season considering the elopement location, head over to my destinations page, where I have hand-picked the best locations to elope your secluded and intimate wedding experience.

What to do if you've just started planning your elopement day?

Consider the Season and Climate:

Crafting Your Unique Elopement - Tips and Considerations

How to plan your elopement

Usually, with adventure elopements, you need to have the necessary permits to access those adventurous elopement locations, but luckily, in Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden; the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), you don't need permits for your elopement ceremony. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider local vendors or plan early. I suggest you create a timeline for the days leading up to the ceremony, ensuring you have enough time to relax, explore, and enjoy every moment. And it's good to have at least one extra day if the weather isn't best.

Preparation and Planning Process for Adventure elopements

I'd love to help you plan and photograph your elopement in Iceland. That being said, it's close to my heart that you're fully prepared for your big day. Iceland is breathtaking, but its storms can be unpredictable. No one likes to dwell on it, but it's always wise to have a backup plan(s) if the skies decide not to play along.

If you're still unsure of your intimate wedding location, I recommend heading over to my Europe elopement guide. Whether you choose to elope in the Scottish highlands or along the Croatian coast, I'm sure choosing a photographer who values your experience over the photos is essential.

My elopement package packages always include customized location ideas that I've visited before your elopement, local vendor recommendations, personally designed timeline of the day, activity ideas, and, most importantly, plenty of advice and tips on making the most of your elopement experience.

Do you have Iceland Elopement Packages?

My biggest takeaway when planning your Elopement Adventure

What I really want for you?

It's no secret that the trend of Iceland elopements sparked a revolution in how couples perceive their wedding day. However, the essence of eloping is not tied to a specific location, be it the ice caves of Iceland or the waterfalls of Norway. As long as I've been an elopement photographer, I've thought that your memories of your elopement day are more important than the photos. Instead of taking inspiration from those awesome shots you see of couples on Instagram or Pinterest, I want you to think mostly about one thing: how do you want to feel about each other when you look at your wedding photos?

When you look at your wedding photos, I want you to see that story. The story of how you promised each other the rest of your lives, the love you felt, the connection, the great adventures you embarked on together on this day. If you feel it at the moment, you will feel it when looking at the photos. That's what matters most to me.

If you're anything like me, you've seen so many beautiful locations for elopements, but sometimes you wonder how genuine those places are. I want pictures that show the places as they are, without people clone-stamped out (because the last thing the two of you would like would be to line up behind a group of people to take a picture at a place that looks secluded on Instagram). When alone, you'll experience the connection with nature, and it's much easier to enjoy the stunning, beautiful scenery, and, more importantly, your loved one.

Let me explain: I can create the ideal Instagram image on a mountaintop by positioning you perfectly and provoking laughter to capture "an emotional moment." But when you look back at the photo, you'll only recall the silly joke I told and the discomfort of being posed in that manner.

I don't want any of that for you. Instead, I want you to be yourselves and focus on the experience, the moments, and the memories in the making. We can still climb that mountain together or find a spot by the lake. But they aren't backdrops for a photo; they are the settings for your story. So, I promise we won't do anything just for a photo. We will do it for the experience.

fun facts & deep thoughts

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get to know me

Hey, I'm Jaakko. I'm a Nordic adventure elopement photographer based in Finland.

A few years ago, I married my wife pretty traditionally. At the time, it felt like the best decision. However, I didn't quite understand how emotional the day would feel and how hard it was to be 100% myself. We didn't get a meaningful experience as a couple because we were self-conscious in front of crowds and cared too much about what everyone else was doing. It's easy to say now that because both my wife and I are all about experience, we should've eloped. 

So, I want to help couples learn from my experience and understand that they are allowed to plan a day that is just for them and about their love. 

Nordic Elopement photographer


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