10 places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Fascinated by the aurora borealis, those extraordinary light phenomena? If you’d like a chance to see them, here are the 10 best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland!

An aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere – is a luminous manifestation caused by solar winds. In fact, this majestic phenomenon is caused by cosmic rays from the sun colliding with the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Along with Norway, Finland and Sweden, Iceland is one of the countries best known for being a prime spot for observing the northern lights. And that’s because the island is isolated in the middle of the North Atlantic and relatively untouched by urban light pollution. It’s easy to see why aurora borealis enthusiasts love to go there to contemplate these sublime phenomena!

If you too want to admire these dazzling formations, you’ll no doubt want to know the best places to see them. We’ve put together a list of the 10 best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Open your eyes and let’s go!

1. Vík í Mýrdal beach

Plage de Vík í Mýrdal, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Stastny_Pavel

This small village is located on Iceland’s southern coast, south of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Its beach, made entirely of black sand, is a popular spot and one of the best places to watch the Northern Lights in Iceland. It’s not for nothing that many lovers flock here for a romantic moment. But all the while keeping warm!

If you’re in the area during the winter season, it’s a good idea to visit at night. You can try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights with the gentle lapping of the waves in the background: a truly magical experience!

2. Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / ddg57

This glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland borders the splendid Vatnajökull National Park. The reason we mention it is that it’s considered one of the best places in Iceland to observe the northern lights. In fact, the place is simply breathtaking, with its placid blue waters and floating icebergs from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

In winter, in addition to the seal colonies, the area is crowded with tourists who come to watch the polar auroras illuminate the area! And when the day comes, they can enjoy an extraordinary hike through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.

3. Reykjavik

Observer les aurores boréales à Reykjavik

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Gylfi Gylfason

Iceland’s capital is a city, albeit a small one, but one with many light sources. Unfortunately, these normally make it difficult, if not impossible, to observe the aurora borealis. That said, it is possible to get just a few kilometers away from the city to admire these splendid magnetic phenomena. Take a trip to Álftanes, for example, to watch them dance over the Icelandic capital. And witness a truly magical spectacle!

Or climb Perlan Hill, one of the city’s most famous museums, for a breathtaking panorama of the city. From up there, you might even catch a glimpse of the polar aurora reflected in the sea. Or take a stroll through the alleys of Ösjkuhlíð Park, a small forest adjacent to the city center that helps to reduce urban light pollution.

4. Borgarnes harbour

Port de Borganes, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Frans Blok

There’s one thing you need to understand when looking for the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. The nights are longest in the northern and western parts of Iceland! The little port of Borgarnes is just such a place, offering curious visitors a chance to watch the aurora dance.

From Borgarnes, you can see them twirling above the charming little fishing boats floating in the bay. These are the very symbols of Iceland, and show just how important the ocean is to its inhabitants.

5. Landmannalaugar

Aurores boréales à Landmannalaugar, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Gunares

Like all Icelandic words, this one sounds decidedly strange! Come on, we’ll help you out: in Björk’s language, it means « the hot baths of the locals ». And with good reason! In this volcanic region of southern Iceland, you can bathe in rivers and natural baths. In this territory sculpted by lava flows, the temperature of these hot springs is close to forty degrees!

And that’s exactly what makes this spectacularly scenic area one of the best places to watch the Northern Lights in Iceland. Difficult to access in winter, it’s well worth the effort. Just imagine yourself admiring the aurora while enjoying a refreshing dip in a natural bathtub!

6. Hvolsvöllur

Hvolsvöllur, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / BBandSIRI

In south-west Iceland, this spot is a favorite with photographers, who come here to immortalize some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. And the town is considered one of the best places in Iceland to observe the Northern Lights. Many people come here to contemplate these exceptional solar manifestations!

These move gracefully over spectacular waterfalls. In fact, the place has been the setting for several famous music videos, TV series and films, as the natural scenery seems so unreal!

7. Snæfell Peninsula

Aurore boréale à Snæfell, Islande

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This small piece of land at the western tip of the country is home to many of Iceland’s most emblematic landmarks. One of these is the Snæfellsjökull volcano, with a splendid glacier topped by volcanic chimneys. It’s famous for being the entrance to the center of the Earth in Jules Verne’s famous novel! There are breathtaking cliffs and fjords. It’s all part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park, one of the best places in Iceland to watch the northern lights. The silence and solitude are perfect for contemplating them.

Given that it’s less than a two-hour drive from the capital Reykjavik, you’ll have no excuse not to go and admire them! Once there, be sure to drive along the north coast to Kirkjufell, one of Iceland’s most famous mountains.

8. Keflavik peninsula

Keflavik, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / vichie81

Another peninsula, this time less than thirty kilometers west of Reykjavik. If we’re telling you about it, it’s because there’s a good chance you’ll be passing through Keflavik when you arrive in Iceland! This is where the island’s main airport is located. And it’s here that most travellers come to find the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland!

Away from the towns and villages, you can enjoy a sky free of light pollution. But also, and above all, a very low human presence! In short, this is certainly an exceptional spot to contemplate these incredible cosmic phenomena.

9. Skógafoss waterfall

cascade de Skógafoss, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Yevhenii Chulovskyi

In the very south of the country, you’ll find this spectacular waterfall on the Skógá River, plunging from a cliff over sixty meters high. It’s one of Iceland’s most famous landmarks!

Many photographers and curious onlookers come here to admire this natural wonder. But aurora enthusiasts are not to be outdone, here in the immediate vicinity of the spectacular Landmannalaugar region. This area, preserved from all sources of pollution, is the perfect place to enjoy these formidable waves of light ripping across the Icelandic sky.

10. Akureyri

Aurore boréale à Akureyri, Islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / EvrenKalinbacak

In this town in northern Iceland, at the head of a gigantic fjord, you can stroll and enjoy the Nordic heritage. For example, you’ll be able to discover some sublime Icelandic churches, as well as a renowned botanical garden featuring endemic species from the four corners of the country. But what’s less well known is that this sparsely populated area is one of the best places in Iceland to observe the Northern Lights!

The northern part of the country is an ideal place to admire them, as light pollution is virtually non-existent. So, if you’re visiting the region, don’t hesitate to stop off in this privileged natural setting. The locals are very welcoming and will be delighted to offer travellers who have come to discover Northern Iceland an exceptional stay!

Bonus: the best time to see the northern lights

In Iceland, the aurora borealis can be seen for almost eight months of the year, from late August to mid-April, especially between 11pm and 1am. In fact, it’s during this period that polar storms are most likely to occur.