No matter how many times we’ve seen the aurora, we’re always looking for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

We never stop looking for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland. From the far reaches of the west, to the lush forests of the east- it is impossible to count them all. Iceland may be a small island, but the hidden treasures here are many. Where was the best place you watched the sky from?

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ursula Drake)

1. Vestmannaeyjar

Vestmannaeyjar, or The Westman Islands, lie right off of Iceland’s south coast. Accessible by ferry or plane, they are an often overlooked gem and in our opinion, a best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

The Westman Islands are a self-contained world all to themselves, and boast some of the warmest annual temperatures in the entire country! Benefitting from the gulf stream, they are known as a wildlife-rich area that enjoys plentiful fishing, whale and birdwatching, and music festivals and sport in the summer.

A visit to the Westman Isles is punctuated by incredible sights. Lighthouses on rock stacks, one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in modern history, vast sea caves, and a whole chain of gorgeous, uninhabited islands. And being far south, one of the last places to catch the lights at the end of the auroral season.

Many great country aurora spots are remote, but here in Vestmannaeyjar you’ve got everything you can think of within a few kilometers. Including some of Iceland’s most notable golfing and dining!

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
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2. Hellnar in Snæfellsnes

The peninsula above Reykjavik is known as Snæfellsnes. A place that enchanted Jules Verne and featured in many historical Saga tales, Snæfellsnes became an EarthCheck community in 2008.

Truthfully you could travel the whole of the peninsula, and find thousands of good aurora spots. This is not a heavily populated zone, and during the day it is a phenomenal sightseeing location.

But we’re spilling the details on our favorite spots, so Hellnar has to make the cut! An ancient fishing village for many generations, Hellnar is perched on the tip of the peninsula overlooking the curved basalt coastline and the thundering sea.

People come from miles around to seal and whale watch, enjoy the varied geology of the area and view the countless natural landmarks in peace. You can travel quietly here, and enjoy the high-quality darkness of this northerly locale.

When in Hellnar, one can nearly imagine what it might have been like in centuries past- a bustling destination under a slumbering volcano.

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
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3. Hvalfjörður

Just outside of Reykjavik lies a hidden treasure off the main road. Hvalfjörður is the name of the fjord that lies between Mosfellsbær and Akranes. A short trip from the capital city, Hvalfjörður is home to many small waterfalls and hiking paths.

The popular trek to Glymur starts here, and many coastal hikes as well. The fjord itself is 30 kilometers long and there is not a stitch of it that does not house some kind of tiny wonder. Often passed over for more notable climes, this is a calm and beautiful place to aurora watch, with multiple marked observation points that are safe to park in.

Great for some daytime and evening hiking while you wait, the textured vistas and low traffic certainly make Hvalfjörður feel like the best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
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4. Jökulsárlon and Fjallsárlón

You have likely already seen Jökulsárlon on lists like these, and it is admittedly hard not to include it. One of the most dramatic glacial lagoons on the island, Jökulsárlon feeds out to sea across a black sand beach littered with giant chunks of ice.

Watching the huge pieces of ice swirl in the surf as if weightless, is a close competitor for the northern lights. But what about nearby Fjallsárlón? Only about 10 kilometers west of well known Jökulsárlon, lies this smaller more intimate lagoon.

Spectacular during the day, at night the lagoons can provide gorgeous reflection photos for aurora hunters and stargazers alike. Time spent next to these otherworldly spaces is special and fleeting.

They are truly impermanent and no repeat visit to them will ever feel the same. All the better reason to hurry- both the lights and the ice do not keep. 

 

Tip: When visiting these spaces, be extra careful around the water and the ice. It is tempting to hurry forth and touch, but the calving of the glacier is unpredictable and can create impressive waves. The ice left on the beach is easily moved by the ocean, and just like the lagoons, can be dangerous up close. (What looks light in the sea, may feel rather heavy when dropped on your feet!)

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
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5. Dyrhólaey

Near the coastal village of Vík, there’s a promontory called Dyrhólaey. Named for the arched holes in the rock- or “door holes”, this is another ever-changing gem of the island, not to mention the southernmost point of the mainland! Featuring multiple paths, Dyrhólaey is a paradise of vistas.

There are many famous shots to be had here, and hardly anything to get in the way of them. An easy jaunt from the nearby village, Vík is a great refueling stop for explorers of this area. The south coast is punctuated by black sand beaches, huge basalt sea caves, and towering cliff waterfalls.

There are even northern light igloos that one can hide away in, which makes the south coast in general a great choice for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland. 

 

Tip: Mind the pathways and signs when visiting this area. Dyrhólaey is changing, and pieces of the landmass are sometimes lost to the sea. Places that are roped off are roped off for a reason.

Check any signage you see before you hike out, as rangers in the area often update it due to shifts in the conditions of the land.

The ocean around this area is fierce and has claimed many lives. When visiting the shoreline, keep your distance from the waves- this beach is known for “sneaker waves” and unforgiving currents.

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Yves Alarie)

6. Dimmuborgir

In the north of Iceland near Mývatn, lie the dark castles. Otherwise known as Dimmuborgir, this strange lava field has captured the eye of many, from Norwegian metal band Dimmu Borgir, to the wildlings of Game of Thrones.

Characterized by the unusual rock stacks and tunnel formations, Dimmuborgir is a place of many stories and beliefs. But, regardless of what you believe, it is a shoe-in for best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

Being located in the picturesque Mývatn region, the dark cities overlook miles of great lakeside hiking and some of the north’s best geothermal bathing. For amateur and expert photographers alike, the craggy peaks of the lava and the still waters of Mývatn make incredible photos against the bright colors of the auroras.

Between the breathtaking natural wonders and the nearby amenities, it’s hard to find a better spot! 

 

Tip: Visit this place during the daytime to familiarize yourself with the terrain. Mývatn may not be hugely difficult hiking, but these rocky areas can be challenging to navigate for the first time in the dark. Double up on your protection by bringing a headlamp or torch- extra points if it’s a red light for night vision preservation!

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Michele Orallo)

7. Gullfoss

Imagine reclining on a bench watching the northern lights, while a waterfall rumbles nearby. Doesn’t get any more peaceful than that! On our hunt for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, we had to include a waterfall. Iceland is simply riddled with these gifts of nature, and Gullfoss is a big one.

Named for its golden illuminated appearance in the daytime, what is even more spectacular is the light that hits it in the nighttime. About 1 hour and 45 minutes from Reykjavik, Gullfoss is a protected area that hosts observation points, walking paths, and a parking lot with a cafe.

It’s rare to find a good aurora spot with a safe place to park your car, so spots like these should not be overlooked. The golden circle region is a great daytrip, and the roads are well maintained in the winter months. 

 

Tip: If you plan on visiting the cafe or shop on your trip, make sure to check ahead and see what the hours are. These things can vary depending on the season, so it’s better to go in with no surprises. (Or at least one less- the lights are a big enough surprise on their own.)

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Kym Ellis)

8. Þingvellir National Park

Only about 35 minutes from the capital, Þingvellir or Thingvellir should be on the top of your list for best place to see northern lights in Iceland- no matter where you’re staying. Once upon a time, Thingvellir was the most important gathering point for Icelanders, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Home to a massive lake, miles of hiking, and incredible views- Thingvellir is a place of activity. It’s also one of the places where you can see the continental rift! But as far as lights go, it’s a veritable playground.

When you’re out aurora hunting, you have to consider logistics. Things like places to park, places to get a snack, bathrooms, proximity to lodging, access to darkness, and so on. Most places will only have a few of these, but Thingvellir hits them all.

Being a national park, it’s designed to accommodate vehicles and wanderers. There are loads of paths to travel, established hiking routes, and plenty of parking lots and observation points to safely stow a vehicle.

This is a big win, because Iceland is full of narrow roads with few places to pull over for a show. Thingvellir is also aware of us aurora hunters, and so there are occasionally places to grab a coffee or a bathroom break along the way.

(Depending on how late you’re out, of course. Double check this before you go if it’s your destination.) You’re also in a great spot when you’re here. Thingvellir is just a half-hour north of Reykjavik, and rests at the entrance to the Golden Circle region. (Or exit, if you came the other way!)

And even though you’re close to town, you will find that Thingvellir is home to some surprisingly good darkness. Because of its inland location and its historical importance as a gathering point, it’s well-positioned on the edge of the highlands.

And there’s tons to do! The only mistake you can make by aurora hunting here is to skip visiting in the daytime. In the autumn, Thingvellir is a rainbow of foliage.

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Chris Stenger)

9. Ásbyrgi

This is a rarer stop in the north of Iceland. Located on the Diamond Circle, Ásbyrgi is a horseshoe-shaped canyon that some believe was made by a glacier.. But really we know it is where Sleipnir touched hoof to Earth.

The views to be had here are unique, as the steep walls of the canyon protect a vast forest within their embrace. Because of this “Shelter of the Gods”, Ásbyrgi is an incredible place to visit in the autumn months to catch the color changing of the leaves, and the crystal pond among them.

There is a campsite here, and multiple trails to enjoy all the different views that the huge canyon has to offer. But be careful while you’re here- to us this may be the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, but to some it is the elven capital. Tread lightly!

best place to see northern lights in iceland, The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing
(Photo Credit: Kévin Pagès)

10. Gamla Laugin: The Secret Lagoon near Flúðir

The truth about the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, is that it will change with the weather, and with your expectations. Maybe you have a certain photo you want to get, or a certain thing that you want to see. Maybe you want to stay in a specific region, or are looking for cozy places to unwind while you you look.

Places like the Secret Lagoon near Flúðir, perhaps. We are pretty big fans of watching the lights from warm places, and this is one of the warmest. If your plans and the weather both allow it- watching the aurora from a natural hot spring is an incredible experience.

Particularly one as beloved as the Secret Lagoon. One of Iceland’s oldest “swimming pools”, this is the place where many southern Icelanders first learned to swim.

And within 24 hours, it has replaced its own water as it continuously flows. One of the most authentic bathing experiences there is, coupled with one of the most authentic aurora watching spots we know. 

 

Tip: Check the website before you go to see what the conditions are for that day. Depending on traffic, you may need to book in advance. (The lagoon is big, but it is always better to plan ahead if you can.) The hours of the lagoon may change, so double-check the schedule to see how late they’ll be open when you visit.