Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

As an amateur photographer, there’s nothing more exciting than capturing the northern lights. I suspect that I’m not alone about that, so I decided to write down my top 16 places to either watch or photograph the northern lights and hopefully you’ll find it useful. To see the exact location of each spot, I put together this map.

General Northern Lights Tips

Before going through the list, there are a few general things that you should keep in mind before deciding on the perfect location.

  • Try seeing the northern lights during winter months, and close to midnight (or the darkest part of the day possible)
  • Make sure to bring warm clothes – this will make you more patient, which is crucial when shooting the northern lights
  • Keep the moonlight in mind (is it a full moon?)
  • Bring a sturdy tripod and a remote/cable shutter release trigger if possible
  • Bring a travel chair with you, to be extra comfy
  • Think about your composition and choose your location accordingly
  • Check the road conditions. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
  • If you are considering a northern lights tour, I’d recommend reconsidering (Unless you’re extremely uncomfortable driving). You don’t need a ticket to see the northern lights (It’s nature’s gift to everybody!) A little bit of research is all you need.

Reykjavik Area

1. Seltjarnarnes

This is my go-to place if I want to photograph the northern lights inside the Reykjavik area. This is a relatively uninhabited narrow peninsula that provides the darkness and serenity needed to capture the northern lights. I usually set up by the lighthouse, which adds something unique to the photo.

2. Perlan (“The Pearl”)

If you’re looking for a place close to downtown that provides a great view over the city and the night sky, Perlan (“The Pearl”) is a great place to go. Even though there will be some light pollution from the city, you can’t beat that view inside the city limits.

Outside Reykjavik

3. Thingvellir

This is my favorite spot in Iceland to take photos of the northern lights. If you drive past the tourist information center, for approximately 10 minutes, you will eventually drive up a hill which has a perfect place to pull over and have the perfect view over the entire national park.

4. Threngsli

This is a good spot to check out the northern lights and not many people know about it. When you are getting close to the town of Thorlakshofn, look for a turnoff on your left to pull over and watch the northern lights.

This was actually where Kristie (my American wife) saw the northern lights for the first time, so I guess it’s also a little special to me for that reason. I just managed to snap a quick photo (without my usual equipment) of Kristie from that night.

5. Seljavallalaug Pool

If you’re looking for a different kind of experience, this might be the perfect place to look at the northern lights. Bathing in the oldest pool in Iceland, in the middle of nowhere, while watching the northern lights, is not something many people can say they have done.

6. Vík

Sitting on the black beach at the town Vík is a great place to watch the northern lights. Listen to the ocean waves while watching the night sky come alive. The black beach and reflective ocean can add a pretty cool element to your shot. And even if that’s not your thing, you can get really cool shots using the local church in the foreground.

7. Eldborgahraun

This is one of my favorite places to take photos, period. The color of the moss covering the lava field makes a perfect foreground for landscape photography, and that’s no different for shooting the northern lights. You are far away from city lights so this solitary location is nice and cozy to see the aurora.

Unprocessed shot that I took in the summer of 2013

8. Djúpavík

There’s something amazingly melancholic yet beautiful about this tiny little town in the northwest of Iceland. Set up by an abandoned fish factory and get shots of the northern lights that are truly unique. The best part is that this tiny town does not have much light pollution at all.

Photo by Robert Postma

9. Látrabjarg / Westfjords

Látrabjarg is an amazing place to visit on its own, but watching the northern lights hover above the cliffs is something else. It’s hard to go wrong anywhere in the Westfjords, just make sure that you travel safely, as the Westfjords in the wintertime is no joke.

Cliff in Iceland – latrabjarg

10. Ásbyrgi Canyon

This is another beautiful and peaceful place, located in the deep north, that is perfect for shooting the northern lights. There are few people there in winter and light pollution is essentially non-existent. You can really get some great shots from this amazing national park.

Eyjan rock in Asbyrgi. Asbyrgi is a horseshoe-shaped canyon in Jokulsargljufur national park, Iceland.

11. Hvammsfjordur

I once spent a night in my camper here to see the northern lights. If you set up by the coast, you can get some beautiful shots of the northern lights over this fjord. There is no light pollution and only the sound of the ocean.

Parking spot for the night – now I just wait for the northern lights*

12. Jokulsarlon

Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. In the winter, not too many people are there, especially at night, so you could have this wonderful area to yourself. Catch the northern lights hover over this beautiful glacial lagoon.

13. East fjords

There are so many beautiful places in the East where you can take great photos of the northern lights. My favorite spot doesn’t really have a name, but it’s a black beach, right off Road 1, that is characterized by a huge rock rising out of the beach.

14. Hvitserkur

If you have looked for beautiful photos of Iceland, you have probably seen this cool rock formation in some of the pictures. This is an interesting subject on its own, but it’s even better when the northern lights light up the sky!

15. Siglufjordur

Siglufjörður is a pretty little town in the north that offers a beautiful view over the entire Siglufjordur fjord. There is a campsite open all winter in Dalvík, not so far from there, so it’s definitely worth exploring Siglufjordur and the surrounding areas for a couple of nights.

16. Kirkjufell

One of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. Just Google some photos of this mountain and you’ll know why it’s one of my favorite spots to photograph the northern lights!

Watching the northern lights at Kirkjufell from a camper