Are you wondering how to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik on your next trip to Iceland? Whether you’re determined to chase the lights on your own or would prefer an experienced tour guide leading you in the right direction, we’ve got you covered.
The Northern Lights dance through the sky from roughly September to April. Although you have the best chance of spotting the lights during these months, they are notoriously elusive and unpredictable. However, we’re here to provide you with the information you need to have the best shot at successfully witnessing this natural phenomenon.
Long, dark winter days, clear skies, minimal to no light pollution, and a little bit of luck are necessary ingredients for a successful Northern Lights hunt. Despite the light pollution found in Reykjavik, there are still quite a few locations in the city or nearby that will block out the light just enough to give you a spectacular Northern Lights show.
Many of the locations on this list pair the lights with some of Iceland’s most impressive natural landscapes and tourist hotspots for a double whammy that will create a night you won’t soon forget.
Forecasts are constantly changing so patience is key as you wait for the aurora. We highly suggest tracking the aurora strength (unless you’re on a Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik in which case your tour guide will do that for you).
There’s no exact formula for viewing the lights, but with our help you might just have a chance at leaving this spectacular land of fire and ice with memories of the swirling green lights dancing in your head. Don’t forget to check out our Tips For Photographing The Northern Lights!
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Best Places To See The Northern Lights In Reykjavik
If you’ve begun planning a trip to Iceland, you’ve likely heard of the Blue Lagoon. Thanks to its mineral-rich, geothermal seawater with healing properties, moss-covered lava rock surroundings, and top-quality amenities, the Blue Lagoon has become one of the most popular tourist stops in Iceland. It’s expensive and you’ll have to book a time slot well in advance due to the ever-increasing crowds, but it’s well worth a visit at least once.
As you relax for hours in the warm water, you can grab a refreshing drink from the swim-up bar, apply a silica mud mask, and in the winter, if the conditions are right, you might even be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. The Blue Lagoon is situated in the town of Grindavik, however it’s far enough from any major light pollution that you’ll certainly have a shot at seeing the lights.
The staff at the Blue Lagoon take extra measures to ensure visitors will see the elusive Northern Lights. In addition to tracking aurora activity in the winter, the Blue Lagoon will dim the lights at their facility on active aurora nights to better highlight the dancing lights overhead.
It’s a remarkably peaceful experience soaking in the brilliant blue waters of the lagoon while watching a natural phenomenon as spectacular as the Northern Lights. For this reason, if you’re hoping to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, we highly suggest driving the 45 minutes out of town to the Blue Lagoon to enjoy two of the most stunning and memorable experiences you can have in Iceland at the same time.
The Grótta Lighthouse stands at the end of the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula in Reykjavik. Just a 5-minute drive (or roughly 1-hour walk) from the Reykjavik city center, Grótta gives you a taste of Iceland’s natural beauty with its black sand and rocky coastline.
By day, this nature reserve is a fantastic spot for bird watching, and at night it has the potential to be the best place to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik. As you head towards the lighthouse, you’ll find the Kvika foot bath, a small, circular pool of warm water surrounded by smoother rock. Though this only succeeds in keeping half of your body warm, it’s an ideal spot to sit and wait along the coast for the Northern Lights to appear.
If you’re lucky enough to be witness to the Northern Lights, try to set up your camera in a way that includes the Grótta Lighthouse in the picture. The brilliant green lights swirling around or near the lighthouse make for a spectacular image.
The lighthouse’s proximity to the city center makes it a popular location for both locals and tourists alike, but it’s well worth bracing whatever crowds there may be to experience the Northern Lights in this setting.
Thingvellir National Park is one of three major stops on the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most famous tourist route. Located just 45 minutes from Reykjavik, this beautiful national park is a natural beauty that holds an immense amount of history for the country.
It was here in 930AD that Iceland’s first parliament was formed. It’s also the site of a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Over time, the gap between the plates has widened creating the Silfra fissure, an ideal snorkeling spot with crystal clear water and excellent visibility.
The national park is also home to a historic church and a cascading waterfall. If you’re hoping to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, Thingvellir just happens to be one of the best places to spot the dancing lights within easy reach of the city.
Thingvellir is a popular spot for tour bus guides to end up on their Northern Lights tours. The vast, beautiful lava rock-filled landscape of the park coupled with the dark skies overheard make it a magical place to witness this jaw-dropping natural phenomenon.
Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel
Hidden in the lava fields of Hellisheiði, you’ll find a prime example of the remarkable power that nature wields. Raufarhólshellir is a lava tube, a cave carved by the hot magma from a volcanic eruption over 5,000 years ago.
On the one-hour evening tour, you’ll be led by a guide through 350 meters of the tunnel. Lights inside the cave will allow a better look at the cave walls and impressive structure. At points throughout the tour, you’ll find yourself gazing up at the night sky through naturally carved circular holes in the roof of the tunnel.
For those of you hoping to spot the aurora in Reykjavik during your vacation, you’ll find that the opening of this lava tunnel is the perfect place to seek out the lights. A quick 30-minute drive will take you from downtown Reykjavik to this fascinating natural wonder.
When you’re done with your tour you don’t even have to move your car from the parking lot. Just wander the vicinity around the cave and wait for the show to begin!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a lake? Is it nearby active volcanoes, underwater hot springs, and black sand beaches? Well, it should be if you’re thinking of Lake Kleifarvatn.
Located in a highly volcanic region on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Kleifarvatn, one of the largest lakes in South Iceland, is a beauty to behold. Like Thingvellir National Park, the lake finds itself straddling the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. As a result, earthquake activity is constant. In fact, a particularly notable earthquake in 2000 partially (and temporarily) drained the lake.
Whether you’re snorkeling to get a closer look at the underwater hot springs or are wandering the lake’s perimeter admiring the natural beauty, Lake Kleifarvatn is worth a stop on your adventures.
If you’re looking for the best place to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, the lake just so happens to be optimal for Northern Lights viewing and is only 30 minutes from the capital.
There are tales about a Loch Ness-like monster residing in the depths of the lake. If you’re willing to share the views with this creature, the dark skies and lack of people make the lake a peaceful spot to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
You don’t have to travel far to leave the city behind for the tranquil quiet of nature. If you’re hoping to find the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, we suggest taking a 20-minute drive over to the town of Hafnarfjörður where you’ll find the small but picturesque Lake Hvaleyrarvatn.
Head to Lake Hvaleyrarvatn earlier in the day for a stroll along the 2km walking path. The lake is surrounded by trees, and though much of the plant life doesn’t survive the winter, the natural landscape is still beautiful.
As night falls, bundle up and pick a comfortable spot by the lake to enjoy the Northern Lights. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the dancing waves of green reflected in the water.
Thanks to its location in the heart of the city, Klambratún Park is one of the most convenient locations on our list for viewing the aurora in Reykjavik. Locals love this park thanks to its ample green space and its sports courts and frisbee golf course (a popular game among Icelanders).
Everyone in your family can enjoy views of the famous Hallgrímskirkja church which is easily visible from the park. When everyone’s tired of running around and playing games you can pick a spot in the wide-open grass area and wait for the Northern Lights.
It might seem strange that we’ve chosen a location in the heart of the city as one of the best places to view the Northern Lights in Reykjavik. After all, with so many buildings nearby you’d expect there to be significant light pollution.
What makes Klambratún Park an ideal location however is the line of trees that surround the park. The trees help block out the light pollution making the Northern Lights more visible. While the skies may be darker and the Northern Lights more vibrant in other locations we’ve included on this list, it’s a solid location nonetheless and the convenience of being right in the city can’t be beat.
Öskjuhulíð, a forested hill in the capital city, is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights in Reykjavik. If you’re staying in Reykjavik you won’t have to venture far to witness the beauty of the aurora. In fact, it’s only about 5 minutes from the heart of downtown.
Öskjuhilíð is both a historic location and an outdoor recreation area frequented by locals. Once serving as a defense post for the British army in World War II, remnants of former army barracks and shelters remain as a reminder of what the area once was. Since the 1950s, when trees were planted on the hill, the area has come to life with walking/running paths (that lead to Nathólsvík beach among other places) and rabbits darting to and fro.
Perlan, the building sitting on hot water tanks at the top of the hill, now features a rotating restaurant with 360-degree views of the city and a handful of exhibitions, both of which make it a prominent tourist attraction in Reykjavik.
Like Klambratún Park, Öskjuhlíð is an ideal place to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik because of the trees blocking out the majority of the nearby light pollution. It also has less light pollution to begin with due to the fact that it’s not smack in the middle of downtown. So prepare to witness this brilliant natural phenomenon from your own little spot on the hill.
If you’re wondering how to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, you might consider ditching your plans downtown and opting for a 45-minute drive to the Reykjanes Peninsula instead. At the northern tip of the Peninsula, not far from the Keflavik International Airport, lies a small, charming fishing village called Garður.
Along with a campground, swimming pool/hot tubs, and a museum, Garður is home to two historic lighthouses that were both incredibly important to the town’s fishing industry. The first was built in 1897 and stood low enough to avoid the mist, while the second and larger of the two was built in 1944.
Along the cliffs on the shores of this coastal village are large populations of nesting seabirds, making it a perfect spot for bird-watching aficionados. You also might catch a glimpse of a seal swimming nearby or passing dolphins in the distance.
When it comes time to view the Northern Lights, there’s no better place to be than by the Garðskagi lighthouses. Whether you’re strolling the beach and watching the Northern Lights swirling above the lighthouses or are enjoying the most spectacular views from the 360-degree lookout platform at the top of the newer lighthouse, you’re in for an experience you won’t soon forget.
If you’re hoping to view the aurora in Reykjavik but are willing to venture just over an hour outside of the city for even better viewing, then Hella might just be the spot for you. Hella is located on Iceland’s Ring Road just 30 minutes from the larger town of Selfoss, making it a perfect stop along the way to your other Icelandic adventures.
Hella is a small town on the South Coast that provides you with basics such as a grocery store, restaurants, and a swimming pool/hot tubs (a staple found in nearly every Icelandic town). It’s nothing fancy, but its proximity to other sites of interest including Golden Circle stops and the spectacular Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, as well as the limited light pollution make it a convenient location.
If you happen to be spending the night in Hella and are anxious to see the Northern Lights, the Hotel Rangá has your name written all over it. Thanks to its remote location by the river with a stargazing balcony perfect for viewing the Northern Lights, you might just have a shot at witnessing the impressive natural phenomenon.
Because Hella is only an hour from Reykjavik you can easily stick around Hella to catch the Northern Lights and return to Reykjavik that same evening.
Best Northern Lights Tours From Reykjavik
Northern Lights Bus Tour From Reykjavik (4 hours)
This bus tour is the most affordable and popular Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik on our list. This four-hour tour gives you the benefit of being guided by some of Iceland’s most knowledgable tour guides, adept at chasing the Northern Lights, while still leaving you the majority of the day to explore the natural beauty of Iceland on your own terms.
Through a combination of meteorologist predictions and many years of first-hand experience seeking out the Northern Lights, the tour guides give you the best possible chance of seeing the lights during your trip.
Throughout this whole experience, the tour guides have your best interest at heart and will do their best to find dark sky areas for optimal aurora viewing. As a result, you could go on the same tour twice and end up at completely different locations. Oftentimes they’ll use their own cameras to take a shot of the night sky, as faint aurora activity usually shows up clearer on camera than to the naked eye.
If you’re not able to see the lights on your particular tour (which inevitably will happen sometimes), you’re allowed to book another tour free of charge. In addition to hopefully seeing the spectacular Northern Lights, you’ll have the chance to visit the Aurora Museum in Reykjavik and find out more information on what causes this spectacular phenomenon as well as engage in interactive exhibitions.
Book Here: Northern Lights Bus Tour From Reykjavik
Northern Lights Cruise From Reykjavik (2 hours)
What better way to experience the Northern Lights in Reykjavik than by venturing out on the water on a Northern Lights cruise. Departing from Reykjavik Harbor, this tour takes you on a two-hour ride on the Elding II as you head to Faxaflói Bay to escape the city lights and seek out darker skies conducive to seeing the Northern Lights.
To enhance your overall experience, the boat has a heated lounge you can enjoy while waiting for the lights to appear. Though warm overalls and blankets are provided to all passengers in an attempt to keep you warm, we highly suggest wearing your warmest clothes under the overalls to keep you as comfortable as possible in the crisp Iceland night air.
If you’re desperately hoping to photograph the Northern Lights this may not be the best tour option for you, as the rocking boat makes capturing clear photographs particularly difficult. If however, you’re content just living in the moment, soaking in this unbelievable experience, and stashing it in your memory bank, then you’re sure to enjoy this wonderful cruise.
Book Here: Northern Lights Cruise From Reykjavik
Northern Lights And The Golden Circle (9 hours)
Why not combine Iceland’s most famous road trip and tourist highlights with Northern Lights viewing? This 9-hour adventure, though more expensive than a basic Reykjavik Northern Lights tour, is one of the best ways to ensure you see some of the best that Iceland has to offer complete with facts and guidance from a knowledgeable tour guide.
The Golden Circle is a heavily trafficked route through Iceland that includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Strokkur geyser, and Kerið crater.
Thingvellir National Park is particularly noteworthy as the location of Iceland’s first parliament as well as a rift valley where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Imagine being on two continents at once! From admiring the natural landscape to snorkeling in the clear, pristine water, there’s more than enough to keep you entertained at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The tour will continue with Gullfoss, the thundering 105 foot “golden” waterfall that often can be seen with a rainbow arching across its waters on a sunny day. If you’re hoping to see a geyser bursting through the earth you’re in luck because you’ll make a stop at the Strokkur geyser in the Haukadalur Valley that erupts every 6-10 minutes. There is a second geyser that bears the name Geysir, however this one is no longer active.
Your Golden Circle tour will wrap up with Kerið crater, a magnificent volcanic caldera with a brilliant blue lake at the bottom. The caldera dazzles with streaks of red, yellow, and green cutting through the brown of the earth. You’ll want to take a moment to walk the perimeter of the crater for a view from all sides.
Imagine seeing the Northern Lights on top of all that. And with a limited tour size that accommodates a maximum of 18 passengers giving you more one on one contact with the guide, you’re in for the experience of a lifetime.
Book Here: Northern Lights And The Golden Circle
Secret Lagoon And Northern Lights Tour (6 hours)
This is the best Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik if you’re looking to have your whole evening planned out to perfection. Bathing in the warm waters of a lagoon, eating delicious, traditional Icelandic food, and watching the spectacular Northern Lights show all in one night…it doesn’t get any better than that.
Though the Secret Lagoon lacks the grandeur of the famous Blue Lagoon, it’s a beautiful man-made lagoon fed by natural hot springs with minimal crowds. The Secret Lagoon also wears the badge of the oldest swimming pool in Iceland and has long been a local favorite. The perfect water temperature, pool noodles to float around on, steam rising from the water’s surface, and general relaxing environment make it a welcome stop on this 6-hour tour.
Your peaceful soak in the lagoon will be followed up with a delicious dinner buffet at a family-owned restaurant where you can enjoy Icelandic staples such as lamb and fresh fish. You’ll be thankful for the fuel this meal provides as you set out to search for the Northern Lights with the help of your knowledgeable guide.
Book Here: Secret Lagoon And Northern Lights Tour
We’re thrilled you’ve chosen to adventure out on an Icelandic winter night to seek out the spectacular Northern Lights. Though they can be elusive and difficult to spot, the reward when they finally come into view is exceptionally great.
You don’t even have to venture out to remote parts of the island to enjoy this phenomenon. With a little planning, a short drive from the city lights, and an active aurora night, you’ll find yourself witnessing the magic of nature. If you have questions or comments as you go about deciding where to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, please let us know in the comments sections below.