Best Place to See Northern Lights

Best Places to View Northern Lights

Below you will find information on some great places in Iceland for viewing the northern lights. These are not only great places to see the lights but also feature many activities and natural sights. When planning a trip to Iceland it’s important to research what kind of things you would like to do and the places to see. The northern lights can only be seen in the winter, when it’s completely dark with clear skies. There are many nights where visibility is low so make sure you have other items on your bucket list and take in as much of the country as you can. The northern lights are a natural phenomenon, so a bonus to your trip.

Hotel Rangá – the best place to see Northern Lights

Hotel Rangá is one of the most renowned hotels in Iceland for seeing the northern lights. It was the first hotel in the country to offer a northern lights wakeup call service to its guests so they could pull their parkas over their pyjamas if the Aurora made an appearance. In addition to their comfortable and luxurious rooms, the location on the south coast is in close proximity to natural wonders like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Reynisfjara black sand beach and basalt columns, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Hotel Rangá makes for a great place to see the beautiful dancing northern lights.

Hotel Glymur with its amazing village suites

Hotel Glymur is a friendly hotel with a beautiful village suites. It’s located in majestic Hvalfjörður (“Whale Fjord”) just north-west of Reykjavík, and has breathtaking scenery. It has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and a great restaurant that offers everything a hungry stomach needs. The six village suites are uniquely designed villas, each with an open-concept kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, leather sofas, large screen TV, dining table, amazing art pieces and can cater for 4-6 people. With its remote natural location, it’s a fantastic place to see the northern lights without going too far from the city.

Hotel Gullfoss – next to the famous waterfall

Hotel Gullfoss is located right in the heart of the Golden Circle, next to the amazing and famous Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall. One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland—and even the whole world!—it is stunning to see all year round. When the sun is shining on it, there is often a golden rainbow over it that gives the falls their name. During the winter a stay at the hotel is truly magical, with no urban lights around one can walk out into the darkness, or lounge in a hot tub, and gaze at the starry sky and watch the northern lights dance totally undisturbed. You can even get great photos of the lights dancing over the waterfall, capturing two of Iceland’s most famous sights together.

Great hot tubs for Northern Lights viewing

With less than 100 inhabitants, Drangsnes is the ultimate spot for seclusion and solitude for viewing the lights. You can lay in the seaside hot tubs waiting for the auroras to show up over the tiny fishing village, indulge your inner nature-lover by exploring the surrounding area, and go mingle with the locals at the Malarhorn café. When the northern lights do come out here, there isn’t anything or anyone to disturb your enjoyment.


Where To See The Northern Lights

Where Can We See The Northern lights?

This is understandably one of the most common question people ask when they are looking for information about the Aurora. Naturally it’s important to find out where it’s possible to see the Northern Lights before you start making detailed travel plans.

When Is The Best Time To See The Aurora?

The Northern Lights season starts every year in September and is until mid-April. There isn’t one particular month better than the other, the lights are hard to predict or plan for and the weather can prove challenging. That said, if you have a clear sky and can see the stars then you might be in for a good viewing.

One of the most important factors is the length of your stay as each day increases your chances of seeing the beautiful lights. We usually advise people to stay here for at least 4 days as the lights are often active for 2 – 3 days and then low for 4 – 5 days.

Iceland is an ideal place to hunt for the Northern Lights. In order to get the best viewing, go outside the city and away from the artificial lights. Often you don’t have to go far, just away from the lights as they often hinder you from seeing the Aurora Borealis.

Self-Drive v Guided Tour

Another common question we often get is whether we recommend a self-drive, guided tours from Reykjavík or a combination of both.

The main advantage of booking a tour is that your guide knows the forecast and has access to much more information so there’s a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights. If the forecast isn’t looking good by 6pm, they send a cancelation message and you’ll have another chance the following night. They provide the transport and know the roads so take you to the right spots.

In the winter, roads conditions can be icy and not ideal, so we don’t advise self-driving unless drivers are familiar with snowy and icy roads.

Road more on Driving In Iceland.

It is common for people to opt for both, tours and self-drive. It all depends on what each person is comfortable with. We recommend that you spend a few nights out in the countryside if you stay in Iceland for more than 5 days. You don’t need to go far out the city to be in with a chance to see the dancing Aurora. If the sky is clear of clouds then head down to Grotto and wait patiently.

If you have a car, drive out of the city and away from the light pollution to areas like Grotta, Mosfellsbaer, Seltjarnarnes and Perlan, where you can easily park.

Further afield, head to Thingvellir National Park near the Golden Circle to be surrounded by nature for a vast open sky ready for the nights display. Threngsli, Seljavallalaug Pool, Vík, Eldborgahraun, Djúpavík, Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Hvammsfjordur, Jokulsarlon, East fjords, Hvitserkur, Siglufjordur, Reynisvatn, Öskjuhlid, Borgarholt in Kopavogur and Kirkjufell.

Understanding The Northern Lights Forecast

There are a few things you need to consider when you take a look at the forecast. Firstly, look for the white areas on the map, these show clear sky (so a low cloud coverage). Secondly, in the top right corner you will see a scale which shows numbers and indicates to a moderate, active or high performance of the Northern Lights. Finally, the weather in Iceland changes constantly so it’s important to check the forecast regularly during your stay, especially if you are doing a self-drive so see where to drive to.

When you go on a bus or superjeep tour, the drivers know where to hunt for the lights each night. Also keep in mind that even though the forecast says low, go outside and hunt for the lights if the sky is clear, they tend to show up without any notice.

The Northern Lights Forecast


10 Sights to Visit in Reykjavik

Even though Reykjavik isn’t a very big city, it has a lot to offer and there are many lovely sites to visit. We’ve put together a list of our top ten sites to visit in Reykjavik – but of course there’s much more to see and do in Icelands capital.

1. Hallgrimskirkja Church

One of the most iconic buildings in Reykjavik is Hallgrimskirkja church. You can see it almost wherever you are and it is amongst the highest buildings in Iceland. You can go up the steeple and enjoy the magnificent view over the city and surrounding coastline. The church itself is beautiful and the organ is a work of art.

2. Perlan (The Pearl)

Perlan (The Pearl) stands out for its unique and modern architecture. Up on the fourth level there is a 360 degree viewing platform where you can get the best panoramic views of Reykjavík. When the sun sets, it’s a spectacular spot for the Northern Lights in winter if the forecast is looking good. You can also dine at the Perlan Restaurant and enjoy a view across the whole city. Visit the newly opened Glacier and Ice Cave Exhibition to learn about the Wonders of Iceland.

3. Tjörnin (The Pond)

Tjörnin or The Pond, is located in the city centre of Reykjavik. The birds on the Pond give the city a lively charm. You can take a walk around the Pond to see the sculptures set amongst the park grounds and enjoy the sunset. In winter the pond freezes over and people go ice skating on it. Hot geothermal waters are pumped into a small section of the pond where ducks and swans gathers. It’s ok to feed the duck in winter but please refrain from doing this in the summer time.

4. The Parliament

The Parliament, Althingi was founded at Thingvellir back in 930 up until 1799 when it was discontinued for some decades. Althingi is one of the oldest extant parliamentary institutions in the world. These days

In 1844 Althingi was relocated to the capital city and has be held here in Reykjavik ever since. The role of the Parliament has changed over the years but its main function today is to discuss and pass legislation. With 63 members voted by the public, they are refered to as ‘thingmenn’ which means People of the Althingi or Parliament.

The parliament is located in the heart of Reykjavik, in Austurvollur square. This square is the place to be in the summer time as the sun in shining and people gather on the grass. There are many nice restaurants to dine outside and enjoy the sun. At the centre of the square stands a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, the renowned figure who led Iceland to independence.

5. Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall is one of Reykjavik’s most unique buildings. It was designed by a Danish firm in co-operation with the Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. Harpa stand at the edge of Reykjaviks Harbour and is Icelands biggest concert hall suitable for a broad range of concerts and cultural events.

The interior and exterior are both stunning but the interior is worth a visit and walk around. There’s a nice café on the ground floor and a restaurant on the top floor. There are guided tours on offer and some great short cinematography shows worth looking into.

In winter the glazed facade is eliminated with a magical light show representing the Northern Lights.

6. The Old Harbour

The old harbour is the first lasting harbour of Reykjavik and an area of great history. On the eastern pier you will find galleries, excellent restaurants, cafés and more. You will also find numerous whale watching companies willing to take you out to sea on unforgettable excursions. The atmosphere at the old harbour is friendly, the sea air is fresh, and there’s plenty of interesting activities to check out such as the Maritime Museum.

7. The Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager is a beautiful sculpture on the coastline, a short walk from Harpa Concert Hall. The sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, serves as a reminder of the Icelanders history and heritage when the first Viking settlers sailed to Iceland. Designed as an ode to the sun symbolising freedom, progress, the promise of undiscovered territory and a dream of hope. The Sun Voyager is a lovely sculpture that has become one of Reykjaviks symbols.

8. City Hall

With an impressive modern design, the building sits right on the northern shore of Lake Tjörnin, The Pond. The building is also open to visitors, providing internet access and an information desk, exhibition halls and a cafe. Sit in the café and enjoy the magnificent view over the Pond, admire the birdlife through the huge class windows. Visit the galleries to admire one of the steady streams of new and exciting exhibitions. Make sure to have a look at the 3D map of Iceland in the entrance.

9. The Seaside

Wherever you are in Reykjavik you are never far from the sea and it’s refreshing to take a walk along the coastline. Ægissíða is a great place to walk. you might even see a seal swimming in the ocean. Grótta is another great place for a walk along the rocky coastline or black sand beach. The lighthouse is fun to walk out to but beware and check for high tide so you don’t get stuck. There is also a very small but cute geothermal pool where locals sit in and watch the sunset. Grotta is also a good place to check for Northern Lights at night.

10. Kolaportið Flea Market

At Kolaportið Flea Market you can find almost anything. An indoor flea market so no need to think about the weather. It’s open during weekends from 11:00 – 17:00 and is fun to visit. The atmosphere is unique and the old industrial building is usually filled with people hunting for books or antiques, grocery shopping, selling old garments, buying music and DVD’s, or digging through piles of stuff in search of hidden treasures. We recommend bringing cash as the majority of stalls are unable to accept card. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon in Reykjavik.


Winter Wonderland

Up until quite recently, winter tourism in Iceland was almost unheard of. Most people thought the only time to pay us a visit was during the summer for the midnight sun. Now that some of the low cost airlines have started to fly in and out of Iceland, things have changed and more people are now discovering our magical winters too. Even though the winter is very dark and the weather can be wild, there is nothing quite like experiencing this country under the night sky, with northern lights dancing above you. It really is a winter wonderland.

There are dozens of fantastic things to do and places to see during winter. It’s important to plan ahead to make sure you can fit everything from your bucket list into your time in Iceland. We’ve put together some great lesser-known options for a winter trip that are sure to give you the best experience possible.

Multi-Day Super-Jeep Tour

For a truly unforgettable trip where you’ll be fully taken care of, a multi-day cross-country trip by 4×4 is a great adventure to take. You’ll experience every terrain Iceland has, from lunar lava fields to black sand beaches, cold glacial mountains to hot springs.

Typically lasting from 2 to 6 days (but can be longer upon request), this kind of tour is perfect for a small group of travellers who want to see as much as possible in an intimate time. Tour groups usually being 4 to 6 people and we use our own super jeeps and drivers.

Our expert tour guides have extensive knowledge and all the qualifications for your adventures in the country. These tours can also be arranged to take a variety of routes, depending on what sights you are interested in; Westfjords, south coast, highlands, etc. Private tours are great for flexibility. Contact us to find out more.

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon & South Coast

The glacial lagoon,Jokulsarlon, on Icelands south coast is a place that truly has to be seen to be believed. No matter how beautiful a photograph you take, nothing compares to standing on its shore and taking it all in.

The lagoon is where icebergs, broken off from the great Vatnajokull glacier, float out into the Atlantic ocean. There is no better time to see it than in the depths of winter, when the icebergs are at their biggest and more dramatic.

Jokulsarlon is about a 7 hours drive from Reykjavik and makes a great 2 day trip, either by guided tour or self-driven. On the way to the lagoon, you will pass Seljalandsfoss waterfall where you can walk behind the waterfall, the beautiful Skogafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach with its great basalt columns, and the site of the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

Time your arrival at Jokulsarlon right and you might get to see the northern lights reflect off the lagoon, surrounded by icebergs and seals playing. After you can stay in a number of lovely country hotels or guest houses in the region before returning to the capital the following day. We can help you book the perfect tour.

Lake Mývatn Winter Garden

Located in Icelands northeast highlands, this beautiful lake town is perfect to visit during the winter when its mild and peaceful.

The northern winters are lovely and scenic, Lake Mývatn in particular has some of the best natural sights and its remote location makes it perfect for looking for the northern lights. There is the great lava rock forest Dimmuborgir which was formed from an ancient volcanic eruption. Also make sure to check out the active hot spring field Hverir, the Lofthellir cave, Ludentarborgir crater rows, and of course, the lake itself!

Here you can also enjoy a soak at the Mývatn Nature Baths, the Blue Lagoon of the north, located up on a hill overlooking the lake. You can take a gourmet tour of the region trying all the local produce and visit the many farms of the area to taste real Icelandic country life.

Lake Mývatn is also known for being the mythical home of our thirteen Christmas elves, so it’s perfect for a great yuletide getaway.

Getting Up On A Glacier

What could be better on a visit to Iceland than getting up close and personal with the glaciers that give us our name?

Going for a snowmobile ride on the second largest glacier, Langjokull (“long glacier”) is a thrilling adventure that will leave you with lifelong memories. Langjokull is located just a few hours out of Reykjavík and so makes for a great day trip. You need no prior snowmobiling experience and it’s family friendly, those without drivers licenses can be passengers. Snowmobiling trips can be tied into many other adventure packages or spend the evening on a hunt for northern lights.

If you want to get up on a glacier but snowmobiling isn’t for you, go for a climb instead on the Solheimajokull glacier on the south coast of Iceland. The trained guides provide all the gear and advice for trekking on the glacier. You’ll get a hiking experience like no other.

Surrounded by beautiful blue coloured ice, you’ll really feel Icelands magic. This glacier is also just a few hours from Reykjavik so can be easily combined with many other activities and tours. It’s always an option for a day out in winter as we can build it into your upcoming vacation.

Going Down Into The Depths

While it’s really popular to climb to the highest peaks of the country to see Iceland from above, what lies below is not to be missed. The island is a geological marvel at every level and sometimes the best way to experience it is to go right inside it. There are several magnificent caves located right near Reykjavik that amateur speleologists can easily descend at any time of the year. Head to the Arnarker cave, Leidarendi cave or Thrihnukagigur crater to go down and experience the inside of this rocky island.

If you like water more than rocks, you’re in luck too. Head to the continental rift in the historic Thingvellir national park to go snorkelling in the Silfra river. This runs right between the North American and European tectonic plate divide. You’ll be provided with a dry suit and all the equipment by local guides who will take you on a gentle paddle through the place where the country splits into two continents. That is definitely something to check off your bucket list.

Welcome To Our Winter Wonderland!