Top 10 Places To See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Though you can see the Northern Lights across Iceland, some spots are better than others when it comes to viewing nature’s ultimate show. Landmarks, both natural and manmade, help create a picturesque scene which will help make this a memorable occasion even if the aurora makes only a fleeting appearance. Some are home to cliff top lighthouses, others historic buildings that have played a significant role in Iceland’s past. Nature too, throws in a clutch of impressive landforms for good measure: iconic sea stacks, exquisite iceberg-strewn lagoons and mighty waterfalls. Here are our picks for the top ten places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
1. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, for many visitors, has a jaw-dropping beauty that sets it apart from other outdoor attractions in Iceland. For many visitors, this is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. This place is a stunner even when the weather’s dismal, but if you head down there and the Northern Lights show up, there’s arguably nowhere in the whole country that can compete. It’s a lucky person who catches sight of the green lights as they dance playfully across Diamond Beach and its icebergs. That’s a big bucket list tick right there.
2. Snæfellsnes peninsula
If you want to photograph the Northern Lights, the distinctive shape of Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnes peninsula is one of the most iconic landmarks you could feature in your composition. Throw in the waterfalls that sit in front of it, not to mention dark skies, ample parking and an easy drive back to Reykjavik at the end of the night, and it’s not hard to see why so many visitors flock to this delightful place to try their luck with the aurora.
3. Perlan on Öskjuhlið hill
If the solar activity is strong enough, which is most likely around the spring or autumn equinoxes, then you could see them even from Reykjavik. Öskjuhlið is the hill on which you’ll find Perlan, just outside the city centre. If you can’t see them from outside on Perlan’s observation deck, head indoors and grab yourself a ticket for Áróra, the planetarium show that’s almost as good as the real thing. It’s possibly the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland as that particular sighting is guaranteed.
4. Grótta Lighthouse
Another easy site for Reykjavik-based travellers is the lighthouse out at Grótta. Visitors hopping to grab a photograph or two will be glad of the white paint as it makes the building stand out on a dark night. If it’s calm enough, you might also be treated to photogenic reflections of the green and purple ribbons in the sea. If there’s a strong aurora forecast, this is the kind of place that gets busy fairly quickly, so plan to get there early if that’s the case.
This North Iceland waterfall is another great place to see the aurora, perfectly aligned to see the Northern Lights if they make an appearance. What makes it one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland? For starters, it’s located right on the ring road and lies within easy reach of anyone staying the night in Akureyri or even Húsavík. On the opposite side of the country and also right on the ring road is Skógafoss, one of the south coast’s most impressive falls – even more so with the addition of a colourful auroral display.
Sometimes it’s great to get off the beaten track and this North Iceland gem ticks all the boxes in that respect. It’s a curiously shaped sea stack which is variously described as an elephant, rhino or dinosaur. Whatever you see, it makes a good focal point if you’re trying to capture the Northern Lights with your camera and regardless, the sight of the aurora above this coastal spot is extraordinary. Across the country on the south coast, the spiky stacks that can be seen from Vik make another worthy backdrop, but take care on the beach if the waves are strong.
If you’re a fan of out of the way places, you might want to venture up to the far north eastern corner of Iceland. There, you’ll reach Raufarhöfn, a long drive but worth it to see Arctic Henge. This manmade giant sundial dominates the horizon, but above it there’s nothing to obstruct your view of the night sky, making this an ideal place to hang out while you wait for the Northern Lights to show up.
8. Thingvellir National Park
One of the best places to see the Northern lights in Iceland is at Thingvellir. It forms part of the famous Golden Circle and is one of the country’s must-see national parks. An hour or so from the capital, it’s an easy drive and there’s plenty to see during daylight hours including the Althing, Iceland’s first parliament. When night comes, the visitor centre closes up, but hang around after hours and stroll back down into the gorge to wait up for the aurora from one of several scenic viewpoints.
If you’ve ever watched the Netflix series Trapped, you’ll be familiar with the village of Siglufjörður. In the past, this was a thriving port town which employed thousands of people to deal with the herring catch. Today, the bunkhouses and processing plants have been turned into museums, but at night, the aurora provides a very different kind of visitor attraction. Set up your tripod on the water’s edge near the Sigló Hótel and be ready to press the shutter when the show starts. The hotel is one of the best places to stay in Iceland for the Northern Lights, so why not double your chances and hang around overnight?
10. The Blue Lagoon
Seeing the Aurora Borealis appear while you’re relaxing in one of Iceland’s gorgeous geothermal spas has to be the icing on the cake for Northern Lights chasers. Timing’s everything: book an after-dark slot for your soak and you could still be in the water when the green lights dance around the sky above you. It’s another of the best places to stay in Iceland for the Northern Lights. If you haven’t booked a room, then the lava fields that surround the Blue Lagoon will have to deputise after closing, or instead, drive over to nearby Leif the Lucky’s Bridge, where the two continents are slowly drifting apart. Stand in the middle and you could logically claim you’ve seen the Aurora Borealis from both Europe and North America. Now wouldn’t that be the ultimate in bragging rights?
Top 10 Places To See the Northern Lights in Iceland
You can see the northern lights across the country, but some spots are more suitable than others. Find the best place to see the northern lights in Iceland.
Earthquakes in Iceland
Earthquakes in Iceland are a fact of life. Each year, hundreds of small tremors shake the earth, a reminder of the country’s position on a tectonic plate boundary.
Volcano Museums and Exhibitions in Iceland
If you don't manage to visit an actively erupting volcano in Iceland - Experience its force at one of these excellent volcano museums and exhibitions in Iceland.
Ice Caves From Reykjavik
Travel beyond the capital for a closer look at an ice cave under one of Iceland’s glaciers. If you can’t spare the time, experience Perlan’s ice cave in Reykjavik.