Looking to up the ante on your aurora hunt with a getaway to a rare location? Look no further.

Seeing the northern lights is phenomenal no matter where you are. But for some next level aurora hunting, we’ve reached deep into our own favorites for some rare spots that we think you’ll enjoy. Seeing these places at all is a big win, but aurora hunting in them? Unforgettable.

1. Grímsey: The Gateway to the Arctic

Grímsey is the one point in Iceland that actually reaches the Arctic Circle. Resting about 40 km. north of mainland Iceland, Grímsey straddles the actual Arctic Circle and is the northernmost inhabited land in Iceland. (There is a smaller island further north, but it is uninhabited and is predicted to soon be claimed by the sea.)

Getting to Grímsey is fairly straightforward. You can hop on the ferry for a 3 hour trip both ways, or catch a quick 25 minute flight from Akureyri Airport. Believe it or not, you can access this northern gem year round.

Home to only about 100 people, Grímsey is a popular destination for aurora hunting, birdwatching, history buffs and those that seek the rare and covetous Arctic Circle certificate! When in Grímsey, one can actually visit the border that denotes the current location of the Arctic Circle boundary.

This intersection is marked by a nearly 9 ton stone sphere called “Orbis et Globus.” This giant art piece is a monument that was made to mark the Arctic Circle boundary, and follow its movement. In fact, it’s round because they never intended this monument to be static- just as the Arctic Circle is not static.

At the time of this writing, the Arctic Circle is marked at 66.5 degrees northern latitude, but it is constantly moving further north of us. The circle is moving about 14-15 meters north every year, and will likely continue this journey for 10-20,000 more years.

At that time, it is expected that it will move south once again. Till then, we have the century stones on Grímsey to mark its passage. You can visit these three stones, that mark the past locations of the Arctic Circle border from the summer solstice in 1717, 1817, and, 1917.

Depending on how things go, Orbis et Globus may have to roll into the sea! Despite Grímsey’s diminutive size and small population, it is a place of thriving life and a phenomenal aurora hunting spot.

There are multiple options for lodging there, multiple historic locations to view, and many hiking paths where you will truly be alone with nature at the edge of the world. Out here it’s just you, the northern lights, and about 1 million estimated sea birds.

This close to the pole your ability to pick up low level solar activity increases, and of course you can’t complain about the quality of darkness out in the Arctic waters. Not to mention, the certificate!

There are multiple ways to acquire one of these rare documents, and for many, they are a trip highlight. You can secure yours by taking a Nordlandair/Air Iceland flight, or by purchasing one in the Gallerí Sól giftshop.

(According to the town of Akureyri’s webpage, Gallerí Sól is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer months, which may not line up with many Aurora hunters. If you plan on taking the ferry, make sure to write or call ahead to pre-reserve your diploma by phone (+354) 4673190 / (+354) 4673156 or by email: gullsol@visir.is. Can’t leave without it!)

aurora hunting
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Robby McCulllough)

2. Þórsmörk/Thórsmörk: Valley of the God

In English, this place is The God’s Valley. Named for Thor, you don’t have to be here very long to see why this place is divine enough to be a deity’s backyard. Thórsmörk makes the list not only because it’s painfully gorgeous, but it is also not so easy to get to.

Nestled in the southern Icelandic highlands, this nature reserve is officially a trek. Though it doesn’t take too long to get there from the main ring road, it does require some F-road travel and depending on conditions, a couple of river crossings.

These are glacial rivers, and because of that, it can be hard to predict how deep, how turbulent, or how difficult a crossing will actually be at the time. Glacial rivers are affected by climate change, seismic and geothermal activity, and just weather in general, so this is a location that we recommend some help to access.

While it is perfectly legal to attempt this journey yourself, most rental insurance does not actually include water damage to the undercarriage of a vehicle, which is good to know before you take a 4×4 into the middle of a river for the first time.

Even the experts get stuck sometimes in their specially modified highland crawler trucks- so it’s a good thing to take seriously. Fortunately, there’s another way!

Thórsmörk is home to some cool mountaineer lodging and endless beautiful hiking trails, there are many different guides that can help ferry you into the god’s oasis.

These experiences range from private super jeep expeditions, all the way down to the Highland Bus, which is a specially altered bus meant to navigate river crossing and get you over Eyjafjallajökull’s still standing piles of fine ash.

If you’re able to make this journey in the winter, be ready with your cameras. There are some unbelievable vistas in this area, and some of them are quite manageable for the novice hiker.

Proceed with caution though, because colder months of the year bring additional navigation and footing challenges that should not be overlooked. These are the true highlands, and people aren’t kidding when they say it’s another planet.

Between the climate microcosms and the rapidly changing conditions, it is good to be extra mindful out here. Keep in mind that some of these pathways into the reserve may not receive extensive service in the height of winter, and so if you are aurora hunting then, it is recommended to go with a guide.

If you are visiting in the earlier or later halves of the aurora season, it may still be clement enough to venture out on your own, if you are an experienced outdoors person, or you’re hitching a ride on the Highland Bus.

Thórsmörk in the autumn months is colorful and covered in berries, and a great place to spend the night for a northern lights show like you would not believe. When you’re there, you know you are watching from Thor’s own theatre.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Visit Greenland)

3. Greenland via Reykjavik or Akureyri

I know what you’re thinking! Greenland? But this isn’t a rare spot in Iceland? And you are correct. However, for the intrepid aurora hunter or day-tripper, it is good to know that the icy shores of Greenland, or Kalaallit Nunaat, are accessible from multiple city airports in Iceland.

You can catch a quick flight in Reykjavik’s domestic airport to the capital city of Nuuk, and it only takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes. These flights visit multiple locations in Greenland however, so if you’re looking for a longer stay you can visit Ittoqqortoormiit, Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq or Ilulissat.

Though this is another country, we had to include it on the list as a rare and magical aurora hunting dream spot- because it has not been possible in recent years to get many direct flights to this area outside of Iceland or Denmark.

Thanks to Greenland’s small population, remote towns, and low light pollution, this is a phenomenal place to chase the lights. This large landmass also boasts fairly clear skies most of the time and is large enough that you can move around to avoid some of the relentless low-pressure systems that are so populous in the high winter of the year.

There are many things to do while you wait, like fishing in the pristine ice fjords, dog sledding, hiking, climbing, and visiting one of the biggest ice caps in the area. But don’t stray too far from the towns- with their colorful houses and local delicacies, they are just as incredible and bright as the light show you’ve come to witness.

iceland northern lights hotel

4. The Bubble Hotel of Iceland: Imagine if the only thing between you and the lights was a bubble?

Though rare, this spot might be easier for you to get to- with some help from their intrepid guides. The Bubble Hotel of Iceland is a surreal paradise tucked away into two different Icelandic forests.

These wholly transparent spheres are heated and nested into private groves so that you can melt into nature while wrapped in a luxurious down comforter. This might be our coziest location yet!

Typically when aurora hunting, you have to give it a rest when you go inside. Sometimes we miss prime aurora hours, or even a whole show when we head in to get a hot chocolate and thaw out.

But not here at the Bubbles. At the Bubbles, going inside never means missing the sky. You can lay outside for the whole night, and see everything around you from your 360-degree nest in the woods. It’s hard to beat!

If you plan on visiting the Bubbles, it is good to note that there are not many of them, and they book up months in advance. They exist in order to protect the woodlands they’re in, and provide an alternative revenue source to the farmers in the area so that they do not have to sell their lumber.

Protecting long-term growth in new forests is an important task, and so not only are the Bubbles a fun choice, they are a responsible one. They are located out in the country near the Golden Circle region, and the South Coast region, and upon booking, one of their local guides will collect you in Reykjavik and give you a chauffeured tour on the way to your destination.

They will also pick you back up the next day, and return you to town. From start to finish, a trip to the Bubbles is the ultimate luxury and a rare chance to turn off your brain and connect to the world around you. Not a bad state of mind for some aurora hunting.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jack Anstey)

5. The Arctic Henge at the top of the world

Unless you’re already stationed up in the north, it may take you quite a while to get to this one. Sitting at 2 hours and 2 minutes drive from Húsavík, this monument is nearly the highest mainland point in Iceland.

Designed by Artist Haukur Halldórsson, the Arctic Henge is much like Stonehenge and is built as a reminder of figures from Norse mythology. The henge itself represents four dwarfs from the Prose Edda book who were tasked by Odin to hold up the sky.

It acts as a sundial and a calendar of sorts, reminding us of all of the dwarves that help to build this chronological map of the seasons. Right now the henge consists of four six meter tall gates and one ten meter high column, but it is still under construction.

The stones used to create it are massive,  Set on a hill in the seaside town of Raufarhöfn, this is a historical place with an incredible spectrum of wildlife. If you don’t visit Grimsey, this is nearly as far north as you can get in Iceland.

The clarity in the northern climes and lack of light pollution is sublime, and few photos can rival a choice shot of the lights dancing among the henge. (Perhaps even a video punctuated with the wild cries of Arctic foxes darting in between? This is their turf, after all.)

Keep in mind when you visit that the henge is a holy place celebrating the Ásatrú belief. It may yet be under construction for some time, and so it may take a few visits to see everything that has been planned.

Though it is out of the way, don’t sleep on Raufarhöfn and its beautiful henge. Aurora hunting is a place of deep magic is not an opportunity to be missed.