Where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

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The northern lights are a rare phenomenon that occurs at the north pole as a result of solar particles entering the earth’s magnetic field, resulting in incredible waves of colour. The most common countries to see the Northern Lights are Sweden, Norway and Iceland. In this post we tell you all about the Northern Lights in Iceland, the best time of year and the best places to see them.

If you are travelling with the aim of seeing the Northern Lights, it is very important that you carefully prepare your travel plan to maximise your chances of seeing them. As you know, it’s not that easy to see the northern lights as it depends a lot on weather conditions and light pollution. Also, many of the usual places to see them are so crowded that the cameras themselves will affect your perception of the spectacle. So read this post for all the tips and tricks.

Where to see the Northern Lights in the interior of Iceland?

There are several strategic locations in the interior of the island where you can see the northern lights. These are usually natural areas, volcanoes, waterfalls or places with little light pollution to appreciate the lights. Here’s a list of some of the most famous spots in the country.

1. Reykjavik, the city to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Though it may seem hard to believe, it is possible to see auroras in the middle of Iceland’s capital. It’s not as easy as in other parts of the country because of the city’s light pollution, but it’s not impossible. If the night is clear you can head to the Sun Voyager sculpture or to Þúfa, an outdoor facility set up for aurora viewing. These are the best places in the city to see the lights, always facing north.

The good thing about this option is that the capital is the best connected area of the island, and the easiest to get to. Also, while you’re there, you can take advantage of the day to visit all that the city has to offer, such as Hallgrímskirkja church, Austurvóllur square and its main streets such as Austurstraeti, Laekjargata and Skolavordustigur.

2. Skógafoss, Iceland’s most famous waterfall

The Skógafoss waterfall is located near the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in a secluded spot untouched by light pollution. Its northerly orientation makes it an ideal place to see the winter lights. The downside of this place is its popularity. Being such a well-known spot, it is normal that when there is a high probability of seeing auroras, it is full of photographers who can get in the way with their flashes. On the other hand, it is also a very accessible place that even has hotels next to it.

During the day you can also hike around the beautiful 25-metre-high waterfall, the highest in the country. You can climb to the top of the waterfall, which is 400 steps above the ground. It’s a tiring walk, but it’s done in a short time and the prize at the end is a breathtaking view.

Skógafoss waterfall
Skógafoss waterfall @pixabay

3. Geysir

This is the country’s oldest geyser and one of the main tourist attractions on the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most famous tour. Although it’s a very touristy place with some light pollution due to nearby facilities, it’s a good place to see the northern lights.

This attraction is a two-hour drive from the capital and access is free. Even if you don’t see aurora borealis, we can assure you that the spectacle of the geyser spitting water 20 metres into the air is incredible and will make it well worth the drive.

4. Jokulsárlón, the most spectacular glacial lake

Jokulsárlón is one of the most spectacular places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. It is a glacial lagoon located in the middle of Vatnajökull National Park. The main advantage is that it has no light pollution at all as it is far away from civilisation. In addition, the image of the aurora reflected in the lagoon, where small icebergs are floating off the glacier, is priceless.

Besides being an ideal place to see the northern lights, the lake is a must-see on your trip to Iceland. During the day it can be explored by zodiac or boat, and you can also take organised tours of the caves covered by the glacier. It’s a unique experience not to be missed.

Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Aurora Borealis in Iceland @travelers

5. Kirkjufell, The Church Mountain

Kirkjufell is known as Church Mountain because of its conical shape resembling a temple. It’s a popular area for photographing northern lights, so there are often many photographers and the lighting in the car park can even affect your experience. That’s why it’s recommended to go in low season, even if you’re less likely to see auroras.

The mountain is located on a small peninsula called Snaefellsnes in northern Iceland. It is one of the most visited areas in the country because of the array of natural formations that make for a unique landscape. You are sure to enjoy your daytime strolls in the surrounding area, jumping streams and discovering small waterfalls along the way until you reach the coast.

6. Goðafoss, the waterfall of the gods

Like Skógafoss, Goðafoss is also a spectacular north-facing waterfall and perfect for aurora viewing. It’s not as well known as Skógafoss, but that works in our favour as it will be less crowded. The waterfall, which is 12 metres high and 30 metres wide, has been the inspiration for many stories from the island’s mythology and is known as the waterfall of the gods. The best way to get there is by private vehicle, although there is also a bus route but it is not as recommended.

Where to see the Northern Lights off the coast of Iceland?

On the north coast you’ll find several black sand beaches surrounded by incredible cliffs where you can see the northern lights in Iceland. Photographs in these places are magical because of the reflection in the sea water, so it’s highly recommended that you take note of these places, which we’ll tell you about below.

1. Stokksnes, the best beach to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

You can’t miss the northern lights in Iceland at Stokksnes beach, characterised by its black sand dunes, which in combination with the views of the Vestrahorn mountain in the background offer a picture postcard image. The scenery alone is worth the trip. In addition, the sea plays a key role in the composition of the picture.

Access to the beach is private, so you’ll have to pay €6 to get in. On the plus side, there’s a café where you can have a drink and warm up if you go during the day, which we also recommend so you can appreciate the scenery in the light.

2. Valahnúkamöl

Valahnúkamöl is on the Reykjanes peninsula, less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavík. As such, it is one of the most famous locations to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. The beach’s main attraction is its steep cliffs and rock formations in the middle of the sea where the waves break violently. It’s a mesmerising spectacle.

Valahnúkamöl is a favourite spot for photographing the aurora because of its unique rock formations and monumental north-facing cliffs. We also recommend a daytime walk to appreciate the beauty of the scenery.

the most famous locations to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
Valahnúkamöl @Pixabay

3. Hvítserkur, the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

In the middle of the sea, on the northern coast of the country, stands this 15-metre-high basalt stone structure, also popularly known as “Rhino” for its distinctive rhinoceros-like shape. The beach, as well as being an ideal place to see the northern lights, is famous for the sighting of seals, which often rest on the shore.

When the tide is low we can get close to the rock, but if our aim is to take pictures of the auroras, it’s best to get a little further out and take them from above. Hvítserkur is one of the most touristy places in the country, but can only be reached by car.

Best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

While in neighbouring countries (Sweden and Norway) the northern lights season runs from November to March, in Iceland it’s a little longer and runs from late August to April. But if you don’t want to risk it, the most likely months to see them are September to March. The best months to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights are September and March as there are more daylight hours and the temperatures are more pleasant, allowing you to spend more time outdoors doing daytime activities.

With regard to weather conditions, the ideal time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is at night, the darker the better, and there should be no artificial light at all. Therefore, during the summer and spring you cannot seen them, because there is too much light. The sky must also be clear, no clouds.

Travel tips for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

  • Tap water is safe to drink throughout the country.
  • The best way to get around the island is by car.
  • Read the car rental insurance contract carefully as you will see that it does not cover the vast majority of damage to the vehicle.
  • The official currency of Iceland is the Icelandic krona.
  • We recommend that you exchange money before you set off on your trip, as it will work out cheaper.
  • As European citizens, we don’t need a visa to enter the country either, just an ID card or passport is enough.
  • Don’t forget your medical insurance.
  • The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between March and September.
  • There are numerous apps that will help you predict the days when you are most likely to see auroras.
  • You should be aware that the images recorded by the cameras are not the same as the images we will see, as the human eye does not register certain shades of colour.

Organise your trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Register or download the Passporter App and discover all its possibilities.

  • Get inspiration from the experiences of other travellers.
  • Create your own itinerary and add suggestions from the app to it.
  • Add the stops you’re most interested in, as well as the restaurants and bars where you want to eat (you can use the points of interest listed in this post as a reference).
  • Organise your itinerary by route days according to their location on the map (you can take inspiration from the routes we present in the post).
  • Check out the travel budget that the app calculates for you based on your travel stops, restaurants, and leisure activities.
  • Make any modifications you need to make and you’re all set for your trip.
  • Share your experience. Upload photos of the places you’ve visited on your trip to the app and recommend to other travellers how to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

If you have doubts about how to do it, you can check our post: How to create a travel itinerary in Passporter.

Frequently asked questions about seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The best time is from September to March, when it gets dark earlier.

What do I need to photograph the Northern Lights?

If you are a photography lover we recommend you to be well prepared with the following equipment: tripod, wide-angle lens, timer and a torch to see the buttons on the camera.

Is it better to go aurora spotting on your own or with an organised tour?

There are many organised tours to see the aurora borealis in Iceland, but the truth is that you don’t need a guide, just a good knowledge of the best places to see them. Besides, if you are going to take photos and want to have a good time, it is better to go on your own.

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