08 Oct How Much Would You Pay for the Perfect Instagram Photo?
We’ve all seen those artfully framed shots of the same places that show up on our feeds time and time again: bright blue Lake Louise surrounded by high peaks or the Colorado River winding around Horseshoe Bend at sunset. But let’s be honest, that doesn’t stop most of us from taking the exact same photo when we visit these iconic destinations ourselves. “Gotta get the ’gram,” you say, as you snap the 79,305th photo ever taken of that one cypress tree outside Monterey, California.
Of course you’re joking. Travel is about the experience, not the social-media affirmation. But what if even a tiny part of you was serious—how steep is the price tag on that banger shot anyway?
Between flights, hotel stays, and guiding services, we broke down the expenses of getting to the most Instagram-famous locations in the world. Here’s how much it costs to capture these iconic pics—and, OK, maybe the memories they represent, too.
Lake Louise, Alberta
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The best time to visit Lake Louise is June to August, when the waters turn a luminescent turquoise from glacial runoff. The reflection of light off rock-flour particles gives the lake its famous coloring, presenting prime photo-snapping opportunities.
Fly into Calgary International Airport, which is an easy 90-minute drive to Lake Louise. Frontier Airlines offers competitive rates to Calgary out of most major airports. Prices are highest in the summer months—between $375 and $590 round-trip from Los Angeles, $500 and $700 from New York City, and $370 and $460 from Chicago. For a more affordable backdrop that’s just as striking, visit in September and October, when fall foliage peaks and prices drop to between $280 and $400 from the same major cities.
There are many different transportation options, including the Banff Airporter shuttle, which runs $101 round-trip from Calgary to Banff. You can also rent a car from the airport, starting at $19 a day.
Admission is free on July 1 (Canada Day), when you’ll likely be fighting for that prime spot; otherwise, it’s $9.80 per day.
There are a number of places to stay around Lake Louise, including luxury hotels, family-friendly chalets, condo rentals, and RV sites. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is probably the most recognizable—that iconic shot is from the rocky shoreline right in front of the hotel, but rates top $675 in the summer. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to access the vantage, though, so it’s possible to consider lower-budget options, like Lake Louise Campground, which has over 200 campsites that run $36.50 per night and include firewood.
The lakeside is littered with high-end options, where you’re paying more for the view than the food—capturing a plate of steak frites against a spectacular panorama from Lakeview Lounge at the Fairmont will cost you $36. If you’re set with your shorefront snap, however, there are a few wallet-friendly restaurants, like Chateau Deli at the Fairmont and Bill Peyto’s Café, and a couple of supermarkets in the area that will help you keep this expense to an average of $24 to $30 per day.
One of the best ways to get your shot is the easy 1.2-mile hike on the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail, where you can shoot photos of the lake from multiple vantage points. If you prefer to bike, the Lake Louise Tramline is a fantastic three-mile gravel path with plenty of pulloffs at picturesque spots. Bike rentals cost about $45 for two hours. For a bit of a different angle, rent a canoe for $125 an hour and paddle out onto the turquoise waters.
Total Price: From $592 for a three-day, two-night stay
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
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Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona, just north of Flagstaff and a few minutes south of Lake Powell, is a time-honored social-media hit. The most famous photo site on Instagram is on the rim, where the Colorado River wraps itself around sandstone canyon walls. Be sure to secure a spot during sunset when the light bathes the Colorado River in soft pinks, yellows, and reds.
Contour Airlines offers roundtrip fares starting at $29 directly into Page from Las Vegas and Phoenix. Alternately, round-trip flights into Las Vegas or Phoenix (the closest larger airports) in the late fall and early winter run from $57 to $87 out of Los Angeles, $120 to $180 out of Chicago, and $170 to $340 from New York. From mid to late spring, prices spike to around $100 from Los Angeles up to $500 from New York.
Horseshoe Bend is only 6.5 miles from Page Municipal Airport. Renting a car is easy, since you have only one choice: Avis, which averages $48 a day. Or pick up a car in Las Vegas or Phoenix for around $30 per day, and enjoy the scenic four-and-a-half-hour drive southeast.
Entrance is free if you’re on foot, but parking costs $10 a day.
Your best option is to stay in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Flagstaff, or Page. In Page, hotels like Hampton and the Holiday Inn range from $100 to $300 a night. There are also a few campgrounds located around Lake Powell, like the Wahweap Campground, which has nearly 300 sites and costs about $30 a night.
Pack a picnic, as there aren’t many great dining choices nearby. For meals out, Page is your best bet, with options from casual, like Birdhouse, where a fried-chicken lunch will cost you about $8 to $10 on average, to upscale spots, like Rainbow Room. Cheaper choices will round out to about $35 for three meals.
If you want your photos to stand out from the crowd, book the Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tour ($90), which includes an hourlong hike and a six-mile truck ride through the hills over Navajo sandstone to a slot canyon with a guide. Another popular option is the Horseshoe Bend Trail Ride, where you can explore the area on horseback for one to two hours (from $60).
Total price: From $312 for a three-day, two-night stay
Taft Point, Yosemite National Park, California
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Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S., welcoming more than four million visitors each year. It’s especially popular from May to September, when the weather is predictable and the roads are open. One of the most photogenic spots, Taft Point, overlooks Yosemite Valley, with broad views of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan.
The closest airport is the small, local Mammoth Yosemite Airport, 42 miles from the park’s eastern Tioga Pass entrance. Prices are usually steep: round-trip flights start at $183 year-round from Los Angeles, and $400 from Chicago and New York in January, which spikes to almost $800 in the summer. Better options include Oakland International and San Francisco International, 150 and 169 miles, respectively, from the western Big Oak entrance. From Los Angeles to either, average prices range from $70 in winter to $290 in summer, from New York they run between $360 and $493, and from Chicago they cost between $200 and $350.
Yosemite is three and a half hours from Oakland and four and a half hours from San Francisco, with rentals starting at about $30 with the standard companies. There are also ways to reach Yosemite via bus and train lines; the least expensive option is taking Amtrak from Oakland’s airport to Fresno (from $35) and then a Greyhound bus to Yosemite (from $5).
Entrance fees are $30 per car or $15 per person. If you plan to visit at least three national parks or monuments in a year, it’s well worth it to buy a $80 annual pass.
The Ahwahnee is the park’s grandest hotel, with rates starting at $376 a night in the low season. Also inside Yosemite, you’ll find more affordable hotels, cabins, and vacation homes, plus 13 campgrounds ranging from $6 to $26 a night. Lodging fills up fast, so make sure you book at least three to six months in advance, especially if your visit falls in peak season.
Yosemite has a dining option to meet almost any budget, from a $44 rack of lamb at the Ahwahnee to an $8 pizza at Curry Village. There are also a half dozen grocery stores in the park, selling everything from dried backpacking meals to fresh fruits and vegetables. Lower-cost options can keep your food budget down to about $32 a day.
The best way to get an Instagram-worthy shot of Taft Point is to set out on a roughly 2.5-mile hike from the trailhead off Glacier Point Road, on the southern side of the park. Remember to bring plenty of water, warm layers, good hiking shoes, and a headlamp if you start out late in the day. There are also a handful of bus and tram tours of Yosemite, starting at $50.
Total Price: From $248 for a three-day, two-night stay
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
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The Blue Lagoon has been a longtime Instagram stalwart, thanks to its otherworldly landscape and easy access—it sits just 45 minutes from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and only 20 minutes from the airport.
You can catch a flight from most major cities to Reykjavik. Especially after the folding of WOW Air (which is supposedly poised for a comeback), getting to Iceland is notoriously expensive but worth at least a long layover if you’re headed to other parts of Europe. Companies like Icelandair allow for one-to-seven-day stopovers. Otherwise flights stay in about the same price range year-round (except on holidays), with tickets averaging about $700 from Los Angeles, $450 from New York, and $620 from Chicago.
Your best option is to hop a ride on a shuttle bus to the Blue Lagoon from either downtown Reykjavik or the airport for around $92 round-trip, which includes the entrance fee to the lagoon.
The best bang for your buck is to purchase a standard day-use pass for $55. That includes a towel, locker, and all-day access to the lagoon, saunas, showers, and even a free drink.
For an uncrowded shot—something that’s been nearly impossible to get since the lagoon blew up on Instagram a decade ago—you can shell out for one of 62 suites at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon (from $2,100), which feature private pools. If that’s a bit out of your budget, there are plenty of lower-cost options, such as Base Hotel (from $64), 15 minutes by car from the lagoon, as well as Grindavik (from $143), which has sites for tents and RVs.
Plan to spend anywhere from $10 to $70 a day for food in Iceland, if not more. To save money (and the environment), bring a refillable water bottle, as the drinking water is exceptionally clean. The Blue Lagoon has a café for affordable dining on-site, but you can also grab supplies at the airport or around Reykjavik to take with you.
No special gear or guides are required to explore the Blue Lagoon. Just bring a bathing suit.
Total Price: From $850 for a three day, two-night stay
Lead Photo: Roberto Nickson/Unsplash