Thursday, December 22, 2016 / Iceland

Where To See the Northern Lights in Iceland

Aurora Borealis taken at Þingvellir National Park in Iceland

Northern Lights season is officially underway! If you are visiting Iceland in the next couple months to see the Northern Lights, this post is for you. This past February, I had the chance of seeing the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, when I visited Iceland. It was honestly an amazing phenomenon that I hope everyone gets to see at least once in their lifetime.

Before visiting Iceland, I did a large amount of research to figure out where to go to see the lights and how I would be able to capture them with my camera. You can find my post about how to take photos of the Northern Lights here. If you're a DSLR rookie, like I was, be sure to bookmark this site. (Haha, I wrote that post almost 1 year ago and it cringes me to read it now that I know my camera better.)

Anyways, another very important site to have on hand is this forecast site that gives you an indication of how strong the lights will be that day. but in this post, I will share with you the top spots in Iceland you should go to see the Northern Lights.

1. Grótta Island Lighthouse in Seltjarnarnes

If you've Googled pictures of the Northern Lights and seen it with a lighthouse in the background, this is where the photo was taken. The Grótta Lighthouse is situated about a 20 minute drive west of Reykjavik. What is beautiful about this location is that you are right next to the water. In some cases, you will be able to see the Northern Lights not only in the sky, but also in the water as a reflection! Here is a photo by Giulia Cimarosti for you to see what I mean.

2. Þingvellir National Park

This is where I went to see the Northern Lights. I actually joined a Gray Line tour, and this was where they brought us. From Reykjavik, this is about a 35 minute drive east of the city. What's good about this tour is that if you go on this tour with them and you don't end up seeing the Northern Lights, they will let you go on the next tour and try again until you are able to see them! I was fortunate to be able to see the lights the first night we went. Apparently the lights were also very strong that night, which is why my camera captured so many colours! Another thing that is great about this location is that there was a little hut that stayed open for us to help keep us warm. It was coldddddd, guys!

Northern Lights Aurora Borealis Iceland

3. Jökulsárlón

If you aren't based/staying in Reykjavik, and if you happen to be on the southeast side of Iceland visiting Jökulsárlón, that is also a great place to see the lights. With a large glacial lake to view during the day (just beautiful in in the winter months), you will also be able to see the lights at night because you are away from the city lights. Be aware that it takes about 4.5 hours to drive to this part of Iceland from Reykjavik. I had tried to go there during my time in Iceland, but was unable to because it was an overnight trek due to the distance. It is definitely something I want to go back and see though! Here is a photo I found on Guide to Iceland so you know what I mean.

4. Reynisvatn

A little closer to town is this little area called Reynisvatn. It is just a 8 minute drive away from the city centre. There is a lake where you could potentially take reflection photos of the lights (as mentioned above). But all in all, it's a close little place for you to go if you wanted to minimize light pollution and stay really close to the city centre. - Side note: I actually saw the northern lights from my hotel room in Reykjavik because the lights were just abnormally strong that day! We did stay somewhere with 'less' light than the city centre, but STILL! I am pretty sure we were 'ouuu'-ing for a solid 10 minutes haha.

5. Anywhere DARK

As per what I just said above, literally, if you go anywhere that is away from any form of light. the chances of being able to see the northern lights will be that much higher. A common misconception is that you can only see the Northern Lights after midnight. As long as the skies are clear and you've minimized light pollution, if the Northern Lights are active, you should be able to see them. Time of day is not important, as is the darkness & clearness of the sky. Another thing you need to understand is that the Northern Lights have a mind of it's own. They don't care if you're waiting for them haha they will show themselves whenever they want to. With that said, be ready to wait a couple hours or more for them to show up. I believe I waited over an hour to see them (with some others having waited even longer). It's all about your luck and patience!

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Good luck & happy sighting!
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