Top 4 Locations to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

Lights Away!
In last week’s blog post, we laid down our top 7 techniques to take the best possible pictures of the Northern Lights. But what should you do about seeing them? This week, we want to tell you the top 4 best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, starting with the closest to Reykjavík and working outwards.

Seeing a display of the Northern Lights requires a clear sky, a dark sky (there are no Northern Lights in summer, April-August) a good amount of solar activity and a fair bit of luck. They are elusive, but that’s all part of the fun! And so, without further ado…

Photo: Hilmir Berg

1. Lighthouse Grótta
This is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the Reykjavík area. About a 10-minute drive out the west is a small peninsula of land which is the point with the lowest amount of light pollution in the capital area. There is a beautiful lighthouse which serves as an amazing foreground for the Northern Lights above. There is also a beautiful black sand beach which gives nice reflections in calm water.

It is possible to reach the lighthouse: you can cross the small jut of land over the lighthouse, but make sure you check the time sheet before the crossing. The tide comes in and separates the lighthouse from the land, so if you’re not careful you could end up stuck there until the tide goes out again, not so nice on a cold night of Northern Lights hunting!

Northern lights in Kleifarvatn, Iceland, Aurora borealis

2. Kleifarvatn
Slightly further away, about 25-minutes away and tucked into the beginning of the Reykjanes peninsula is a beautiful lake called Kleifarvatn. This also has some beaches around it and other rock formations as well as some mountains on the far side, often snow-covered.  There is a road that goes all the way around one side of the lake, with several places to stop your car and start your Northern Lights hunting (which often means waiting patiently inside the car with the lights off). Different views include the beach level and at a higher elevation with gives a view of most of the lake.

Make sure that when you stop, you take your car completely off the road. Visibility is very low on these country roads, and in winter the snow can be really deep on the sides, which means that could sink in and not get out without being pulled out. Just a tip.

Northern lights in Þingvellir Iceland, Thingvellir, Aurora borealis

3. Lake Þingvallavatn
About 90 minutes away from Reykjavík you will find this is one of the largest lakes in Iceland. You will find Lake Þingvallavatn, within Þingvellir National Park, which is one of the most important natural and cultural sights in Iceland. Historically, this was the site of the yearly meetings during the settlement period where the affairs of the country were discussed, as well as the site of the declaration of Icelandic independence from Denmark in 1944.

If you’re already out on a Golden Circle tour for the afternoon, you may want to hang around after dark, pitch up and find a nice spot by the side of the lake, waiting for the lights to appear. Get Local also have a special Golden Circle and Northern Lights tour which you might want to check out. Again, there is a road that goes around almost the entire circumference of the lake, so you can definitely find a nice spot to see the Northern Lights over the lake.

Northern Lights in Iceland, Aurora borealis

4. Kirkjufell
You might say we saved the best until last. Two and a half hours out of the capital lies Kirkjufell, the iconic mountain/nunatak. It is located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and, at a certain angle, appears to be pointy. A nunatak is a spit of land that has been pressed on either side a glacier, leaving a slender, tapered piece of land.

Grab a shot of the Northern Lights over the mountain with the waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss and the river out and off into the distance and you will have what is probably the most iconic shot in Iceland. Classic.

Similar to Lake Þingvallavatn and the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes is a great day trip from Reykjavík, so if you’re out here for the day make sure you hang around after dark, and hopefully Lady Aurora will come your way! Get Local has a good selection of tours around Snæfellsnes which we suggest you take a look at!

Happy Viewing!
We hope this little location guide to the Northern Lights in Iceland will increase your chances of a viewing as well as make your viewing extra picturesque. With the Northern Lights, patience is key: if you feel that you won’t have any luck on a given night, you should always try to stay up as late as possible on your Northern Lights stake out, you never know when Lady Aurora will come out to play.

If you are looking for more Northern Light tours, our friends over at Get Local have a good selection them ranging from 2 hours up to 13 hour long tours – we recommend you check them out!