The Best Place to see the Northern Lights

By Taylor van Biljon

The best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is among the most treasured secrets. Find out where our guides go, when they seek an audience with the aurora.

The Best Place to see the Northern Lights

By Taylor van Biljon

The best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is among the most treasured secrets. Find out where our guides go, when they seek an audience with the aurora.

Every autumn and winter, people seek the mystery of the northern lights in Iceland.

Though this phenomenon occurs above us all year long, our chance to view it is only possible from late August, to early April. Before and after this time frame, the famous Midnight Sun obscures our ability to see auroral light.

Three things to look for before searching for Northern Lights

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

To find the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, a few factors have to cooperate together. Chief among them are:

Clear Skies

If you’ve visited before, you’ve likely already seen a guide checking a weather map before deciding the likelihood of success, or before charting a course for a hunt. What they are looking for is clarity in the sky, or for windows of visibility on a cloud map. You can view these maps as well, and should, before setting out on your own. They are a huge aid in picking out a spot, and are not much different from your typical weather forecasts. 

You will notice that these maps are often split into levels of altitude. Different types of clouds occur in different sections of the sky, and some of these clouds affect visibility more than others. Knowing what kind of cloud cover you’re facing can help with understanding the probability of your visibility chances that night. 

A girl looks at the Northern Lights in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ken Cheung)

Clouds are a surprise heavy-lifter in aurora viewing, because regardless of if the lights are out or not- if the clouds are between us, we miss out on the show. Knowing how to navigate this information can save you a lot of time on your hunt, and can be a great way to know when to head in for the night, or even when to wake up!

If you do see clouds in the forecast, hope is not lost! Weather systems can move quickly in Iceland, and some clouds in the foreground can add great texture to that ultimate dream photo. They can also help you orient yourself visually, while you watch. Nighttime viewing can be a lot of work on the human eye- and user mileage may vary. 

Forecasts like this can be new to many- so don’t hesitate to share your questions with our experienced guides on your personal tour. Our staff are happy to help.

Solar Activity

Photographing the Northern Lights in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

Of course, clear skies can’t run the whole show! There has to be something playing as well, for us to have anything to see. Auroras occur because super charged particles from the Sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere.

The solar wind is always carrying this energy, but the amount that is sent can fluctuate. When viewing an auroral forecast, you’ll often notice a 0-9 number accompanying the cloud map. This is the KP-index, and it’s telling us the extent of disturbance in the solar wind surrounding our planet. 0 can indicate a quiet night, while 9 typically would indicate that a solar storm or high activity is occurring.

It is important to note that we use the word ‘can’ here, because like all data, this number is subject to many changes and factors as well. Sometimes our own Earth weather forecasts surprise us- so imagine how surprising the space weather forecast can turn out to be!

It has happened many times over that we have had a low number on the forecast, and were still surprised by a brilliant show. When in Iceland, it pays to keep an eye on the sky! The gift of the aurora is a once in a lifetime wonder.

Solid Darkness

Northern Lights over a black church in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Roan Lavery)

Key to this equation, darkness is required for the best Northern Light viewing conditions. This is why Iceland’s aurora season coincides with the darker half of our year.

Auroral light occurs at a low lumen, and it is not a type of light that the human eye is used to viewing. In order to give yourself a good shot at catching a glimpse, it helps to remove yourself from any light pollution. This could include something as large as city light, or something as small as the headlights of your vehicle- which may make it hard for your eyes to adjust. A strong showing will still be visible over these things, but it never hurts to give yourself a head start.

The more comfortable your eyes are in the darkness, the better. (This is our favorite thing about the Bubbles, as you can sit inside our transparent domes all night- without being subject to harsh conditions. Waiting outside on the Northern Lights has never been warmer, or more luxurious!)

Now that you know the process, all you need is the best spot! Here are some of our favorites, based on region, visual impact, and ease of access.

Reykjavik Area

Photo by Neil Mark Thomas on Unsplash

City life in Iceland is bright, but we still get our fair share of Northern Lights. On a good night, you can see many aspiring photographers setting up their tripods for the night’s performance. If you’re out late, they can be a good indicator that something might be headed our way.


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If you’re visiting the capital and you ask for a great viewing spot- many locals will point you towards Grótta, a lighthouse and island at the very tip of Reykjavik’s Seltjarnarnes peninsula. After the walk down, you can even dip your feet in a tiny geothermally heated pool while you wait. Be mindful of the tide while you visit, as the very end of Grótta becomes inaccessible during high tide.

Sólfar on the Sæbraut walking path

Grótta is a popular spot, but even closer to downtown is the Sæbraut walking path along the waterfront. This vantage point puts most of the city light behind you, and gives you an unobstructed view north towards the mountain Esjan. Keep an eye out for photographers on the rocks, a Northern Lights show with Sólfar (The Sun Voyager) in the foreground is a special sight to behold indeed!


Tucked away on the outskirts of town in the Heiðmörk reserve, Rauðhólar is right off of the main road, and might as well be another planet. Named for its waves of red lava, this is a popular recreation area that is often overlooked for aurora viewing, and very much worth a stroll.

Heading North

tips for travelling in Iceland
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

If your travels for the evening take you towards the north, you’re in luck. There are countless hidden spots here that are not popularly frequented by crowds, that provide great vistas for a night of light watching.


Cross one of the longest bridges in Iceland on your northward trek, to enter the town of Borgarnes. Close to Reykjavik and bordered by gorgeous snowy mountains, this can be a great location to grab a dinner or snack beforehand, while also being out of the larger glow of the city. No aurora hunt is complete without a bag of fresh Icelandic doughnuts, or, kleinur.


Borgarnes opens up into the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Often described as the whole of Iceland in a day, this region boasts endless stretches of black sand beaches, and one of our most famous mountain vistas, Kirkjufell. Snæfellsnes has stood in for many fantastical places from popular fiction- from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, to “Beyond the Wall” in the popular Game of Thrones television series, it is no wonder that Snæfellsnes has caught so many eyes. What is still very much a wonder, is how much of it you will have to yourself on a Northern Lights hunt.

The Reykjanes Peninsula

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

The Reykjanes peninsula is just in our backyard, and is home to some of the most exciting geothermal spots in the region. Easy to drive and dotted with observation points- Reykjanes is a favorite route for auroral viewing.

Blue Lagoon

We would be hard pressed not to mention the nearly neon waters of the Blue Lagoon, or, Bláa Lónið. While it is magical to watch the skies from the lagoon itself- did you know that you can also hike nearby? Located in a A UNESCO Global Geopark, the lava fields surrounding this gem are nearly 2000 years old, and filled with recognized hiking paths. These paths are mostly flat, and boast some of the easiest hiking in the area. Great for people who are keeping their eyes on the sky!


The largest lake on the peninsula, Kleifarvatn is situated in a steaming geothermal zone, and was once rumored to be the home of a mysterious monster the size of a whale! Whether that is true or not we cannot say- but we can tell you that the still surface of the lake can be a phenomenal mirror for an aurora reflection.


Named for the giantess Oddný who liked to bathe here, Brimketill is a small natural rock pool just protruding from the edge of the land into the ocean. Now outfitted with a viewing platform, it’s a great spot to watch the occasional stillness of the pool, next to the great movement of the wild sea.

The Golden Circle Area

best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

Home to the original gathering spot for the Icelandic parliament (Alþingi), people have been viewing the lights from this region for nearly as long as the world’s longest running parliament has been around! Like them, now you too can add to the ancient chain of amazed eyes on the dancing skies.

Þingvellir/Thingvellir National Park

Easily accessible from Reykjavik, Þingvellir is named for its role as the assembly place for the early Icelandic parliament. Today, it remains a favorite gathering place of nature and culture enthusiasts alike. Detached from the major sources of light pollution, and populated by many observation points; Þingvellir is ideal for safely parking a vehicle to watch from, and has proximity to restroom facilities.

On a long night out, these things can’t be beat! (If the restroom detail is important to your plans, check with the Visitor’s Center for additional information about service hours and availability. Winter is a quiet season for much of Iceland, and these schedules can change based on seasonal volume and maintenance.)


Near the southern end of the Golden Circle route, Kerið is a volcanic crater lake that boasts some of the greatest colors and easiest hikes in the region. Believed to be nearly 3,000 years old, Kerið can be viewed via a short walk from the parking lot, or entered from a small built path.


(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Kameron Kincade)

Brúarfoss is a fairly level hike, and one of the lesser known jewels of the Golden Circle route. Easily recognized by its shocking glacial blue color, and linked in a chain to a multiple waterfall system, this may be a spot that you have to visit again in the daylight!

The South Coast Region

Home to some of Iceland’s greatest treasures, this stretch of land is populated by hundreds of our island’s most famous sights. From waterfalls, to gaping caves, to dramatic columns of basalt rock- the cliffs and valleys of the south coast region are second to none.

Photo by Thomas Tucker on Unsplash


Bring a raincoat, because this is a waterfall you can walk behind! Positioned with a wide, sweeping view of the southern sky from the cavern behind the falls- many an auroral night have been spent near the waters of Seljalandsfoss. Don’t forget to visit nearby neighbor, Gljúfrabúi while you’re there! This tiny crevasse treasure is worth braving the spray. 


Busy producing countless rainbows during the day, Skógafoss shines under the northern lights at night. Home to a lofty observation deck and emptying into a fairly flat surface, one can easily view the vista of this waterfall from afar, or right up close. If you’re looking for a versatile spot to spend time in, this may be for you. (Be careful of the ice created by the spray in winter, and consider bringing a walking aid if you plan on venturing close to the falls.)


Vestrahorn mountain in East Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit. Norris Niman)

Though the Vestrahorn mountains rightly belong in the eastern category, one can access them at the end of a long (and adventurous) south coast drive. Resting on a vast beach that often holds water after the tide goes out- Vestrahorn’s jagged peaks have created many a breathtaking scene in those surprisingly shallow reflections. If you’re looking for mountain drama right off the roadside, don’t sleep on this remote spot.


If the weather is calm and conditions are fair, the old plane wreck at Sólheimasandur can be an otherworldly location to watch auroras from. Abandoned here in 1973, the grounded shell of the aircraft stands vigil near the sea even now- and makes for a haunting stop both day, and night.


Only a half hour outside of Reykjavik, the Reykjadalur Valley hike is a steaming climb into the mountains of the Hengill area near Hveragerði. This flowing hot river is an unparalleled reward after a scenery packed walk, and is a popular local spot to lay and gaze for Northern Lights. Because of the graded nature of the path, this location is further down the list due to ease of access- but for a basic hiker, this can be an accessible trail. Remember to bring a torch if you are hiking at night, and exercise caution in all seasons, as the terrain can change quickly here.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Accessible only by 4×4, and standing on bedrock believed to be nearly 2 million years old- Fjaðrárgljúfur is a cascading, bending delight to behold. A reminder of the power of nature, and possible to hike both inside and on top of, Iceland’s feather canyon can be an intimate spot to catch the elusive polar lights.


Home to jagged peaks and rounded caves, “roof canyon” is a popular local recreation area. In the summer, Þakgil fills up with campers, but in the winter it can be a quiet amphitheater of vantage points for the perfect aurora sighting. Home to many treasures in its own right, Þakgil is located within the Katla Geopark, and is the starting place of many of Iceland’s most famous myths, folktales, and fantastical stories. (Not hard to believe, considering its many volcanic neighbors!)

A man looks at the Northern Lights in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Kristopher Roller)

These are only a few of our favorite spots- and depending on the route you plan to take, there are countless more to visit. Our staff are always happy to provide further insight, and would like to remind you to keep an eye on the weather in the quickly changing winter season. The status of any road you may plan to take can be checked on, and if you are hiking, you can leave a travel plan on

Weather alerts are easily accessible here, along with important safety tips and area information. If you plan to attempt one of the more adventurous routes, one can also rent a Personal Location Beacon from this site, or skype with a safety agent for advice. Remember, when viewing Northern Lights it is imperative that you park your vehicle in a safe location, and do not pause in a roadway, despite the temptation. Good luck, clear skies, and happy aurora hunting!

people watching the aurora. The best place to see the northern lights is with someone you love.
Watching the Northern Lights - Image by Rebecca Douglas Photography -


Travelling to Iceland?

Check our overnight tours with a driver guide that includes a one night stay in a bubble.
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*Starting from ISK 74.900 per person