Where to See the Northern Lights in Reykjavík

Northern Lights in Iceland

Seeing northern lights is a dream for many. In Iceland, the lights are usually green but sometimes purple, red and white. They can be seen on dark nights if their activity is high and the skies are clear. The northern lights have a schedule of their own and can be quite unpredictable. But if you’re in Iceland between September and April, remember to look up when the skies are clear. Like stars, you can best see these wonders away from the pollution and city lights; the darker the surroundings, the better. If you’re staying in Reykjavík, you don’t need to go far. Here are some of the best places to see the northern lights more clearly.

Northern lights in Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Grótta in west Reykjavík

Grótta is an area in the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, about six kilometres [3.7 mi] west of Hallgrímskirkja. As it’s the tip of a small peninsula, there are minimal city lights and pollution, giving you a higher chance of seeing the northern lights. Grótta’s lighthouse adds to its picturesque coast, creating a tranquil experience as you gaze at the lights.

You can take bus route 11 from Reykjavík city centre and get off at Hofgarðar. It is a 1.3 km [0.8 mi] walk from the bus stop to the vantage point.  You can also travel by car, bicycle, ride-share, scooter, or on foot.

Grandi harbour district

This area of Reykjavík is about two kilometres [1.24 mi] from the city centre. This neighbourhood has been growing in recent years, and you will now find various boutiques, restaurants and museums in the Grandi area. Due to its location on the waterfront, it is an excellent viewing point away from the city lights. You can get there by foot, car, bicycle or scooter, or take bus route 14 to Grandi bus stop. The best vantage point is on the northern tip, so walk up Eyjaslóð street along the water.

Perlan Sightseeing Platform in Iceland
Photo: Perlan’s 360° sightseeing platform offers great vantage points.

Perlan sightseeing platform

Perlan museum is in Reykjavík, just two kilometres [1.24 mi] south of the city centre. A large sightseeing platform wraps around the glass dome, where you have a 360° panoramic view of Reykjavík and beyond, which offers a great, unobstructed vantage point to see the Aurora.

To get to Perlan by bus, you can take bus routes 13 or 18. You can also travel by foot, ride-share, bicycle, or scooter. You can buy tickets to the sightseeing platform at Perlan’s reception for ISK 2,990 [$22, €20]. The observation deck is open until 10 PM, giving you ample time to observe the lights.

Northern lights and the peace tower in Iceland
Photo: Golli. The Northern Lights Yacht Cruise invites for beautiful views of the bay.

See the Aurora from a yacht

The Northern Lights Yacht Cruise will give you incredible views and the ability to see the Aurora more clearly. The two-hour cruise leaves from the old harbour in Reykjavík at 10 PM and is for those aged seven and older. As of 2024, the price is ISK 14,700 [$107, €99] per person, including blankets, Wi-Fi and a guide.

For an even better vantage point, there are more northern lights excursions, many of which depart Reykjavík city centre. You can also rent a car and chase the Aurora on your own.

No luck?

If you are not fortunate enough to catch the northern lights while in Iceland, you have other options. You can opt for a virtual experience by going to Perlan and experiencing them in the planetarium or to the Aurora Northern Lights Center in the Grandi harbour area, where you can admire the lights through VR goggles.

Northern lights exhibition in Perlan
Photo: The northern lights show in Perlan’s planetarium.

To keep track of the best times to see the northern lights in Iceland, using apps such as My Aurora Forecast & Alerts can better your plans. You can also visit the Icelandic Met Office’s website, where you can see the Aurora forecast. Note that on their map, the white areas indicate clear skies and a higher chance of seeing them. You will find their activity level in the upper right corner.



Exploring the Unique Geography of Iceland

Northern lights by a waterfall in Þingvellir, Iceland

Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. The land formed due to volcanic eruptions along the ridge of the North Atlantic Ocean. Due to volcanic activity, deglaciation, and earthquakes, the land is constantly evolving. Iceland is located between latitudes 63-68°N and longitudes 25-13°W in Northern Europe, making it an ideal place to see the northern lights in the wintertime. Its eight geographical regions are the South, the Southern Peninsula, the Northeast, the Northwest, the West, the Westfjords, the East, and the Capital Region. The Highland of Iceland, a 42,000 km² [16,000 mi²] area of lava fields and mountains, takes up about 40% of the land. Approximately 25% of the country is under official protection, mainly as national parks. Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, and Surtsey island are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Population distribution in Iceland

Due to the Highland being uninhabitable, Iceland’s population of over 399,000 primarily lives along the coasts and surrounding islands. The capital, Reykjavik, and its suburbs host 64% of the population or about 255,000 people. Other large cities include Reykjanesbær, with a population of 23,000 and Akureyri, in the north of the island, with a population of 20,000. The rest live in smaller towns and rural communities. In addition, Iceland has over 30 islands, six of which are inhabited: Grímsey island, Hrísey island, Heimaey island, Flatey island, Vigur island, and Æðey island.

Gunnuhver, geothermal hot spring in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Gunnuhver hot spring.

Iceland’s energy and water

Iceland has an extensive amount of unpolluted freshwater resources. The tap water is fresh and ready to drink, and geothermal water is used to heat 85% of houses. Iceland is known for being the world’s largest green energy and electricity producer per capita. Iceland’s renewable energy provides almost 100% of its electricity production from hydropower and geothermal power.

The climate in Iceland

Iceland’s climate is classified as subarctic, with short, cool to mild summers and cold winters. In the capital region, the average temperatures in the summer are 10°C [52°F] and in the winter 0°C [32°F].

Lakes and waterfalls in Iceland

Iceland has over 60 lakes that exceed 2.5 km² [one mi²] in size. The largest is Þingvallavatn, with an area of 84 km² [32 mi²] and at its deepest point, 114 m [374 ft]. Out of thousands of mountains, the highest peak is Hvannadalshnjúkur, with its highest point at 2,110 m [6,920 ft]. Due to the many mountains and hills, you can find over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, the tallest being Morsárfoss in Vatnajökull National Park, towering at 240 m [787 ft].

The Icelandic Horse, Iceland
Photo: Golli.

The flora and fauna of Iceland

The only native wild mammal in Iceland is the Arctic Fox. Some of the more prominent animals include the Icelandic horse, the Icelandic sheep, the Icelandic sheepdog, cattle, goats, and 75 species of birds, including Atlantic puffins, skuas, and ptarmigans. Iceland has a rich marine life in its lakes, rivers, and oceans: over 270 species of fish, whales, dolphins, and seals. Fish is one of the country’s main exports, making it crucial to its economy.

Iceland’s greenery consists primarily of moss, downy birch, aspens, and flowers such as the Mountain Aven, Alaskan Lupine, and Marigolds. Despite the cold climate, geothermal energy makes it possible to grow vegetables and fruit outside, including potatoes, carrots, beets, rhubarb, cauliflower, and broccoli. Fruit grown outside includes wild berries like blueberries, crowberries, and redcurrants. Using geothermal energy, tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy greens, and herbs are grown in greenhouses.

Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes Iceland, 2023
Photo: Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes Peninsula, 2023.

Iceland: The land of fire and ice

Iceland has 269 glaciers, including Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. This massive glacier is 8,100 km² [3,100 mi²] but sadly continues to decrease in size due to climate change.

In Iceland’s geothermal areas, there are hot springs and geysers. Forty-one volcanic systems are believed to be active in Iceland, the largest being the Bárðabunga system, responsible for most of the country’s largest lava fields. Some of Iceland’s most active volcanoes are Hekla, Katla and Grímsvötn. The volcanic systems on Reykjanes peninsula have had the most activity recently, erupting every year since 2021 after laying dormant for eight centuries. Its eruption on January 14th, 2024, caused lava to flow into the town of Grindavík. Three houses burned, but the town had been evacuated two nights prior. This was the first time lava entered an inhabited area since the eruption in Vestmannaeyjar islands in 1973.

 

Where Can I Do My Laundry in Reykjavík?

Laundry hanging outside in Iceland

Some accommodations in Reykjavík have laundry machines on the premises. For visitors who do not have access to laundry facilities, there are other possibilities, such as laundromats and dry cleaning services. You may be able to recognize these businesses by name, as most of the time, they include the Icelandic terms for laundry or dry cleaners: efnalaug and fatahreinsun.

Laundromats in Reykjavík

Wash Laundromat

In Reykjavík city centre on Grettisgata 3, you will find the self-service Wash Laundromat. This laundromat has new machines that take up to 10 kg [22 lbs] of laundry. As of 2024, the price is ISK 890 [$6.50, €6] for a wash, which includes a gentle detergent. It is the same price for 30 minutes of drying. Payment is by debit/credit card or coins. The laundromat has a seating area, but due to its central location, there is plenty to do to keep you occupied while you wait.

The Laundromat Cafe

Another laundry facility in downtown Reykjavík is The Laundromat Cafe on Austurstræti 9. As the name suggests, Laundromat Cafe is a coffee house with a laundry facility, which is located in the basement. The price is ISK 1,299 [$9.50, €8.70] for a wash and the same for drying. You can sit down and enjoy a snack or a beverage at the cafe while waiting for your laundry or use the time to explore the city centre.

Dry cleaning services in Reykjavík

Dry cleaners in the capital area, such as Úðafoss, Hraði and Fjöður, offer wash, dry and fold services in addition to their regular dry cleaning services. The rate for laundry is weight-based. Depending on your location, you may have the option of a pick-up/delivery service for an extra fee. Note that dry cleaners close earlier than the laundromats and are usually closed on Sundays.

 

Does Reykjavík Have Uber?

Hopp car share Reykjavík

Uber has not arrived in Iceland yet. However, there is a new, similar company called Hopp Taxis. The company is known as an electric scooter rental but recently introduced their car-sharing service and Hopp Taxis. You can download the Hopp app on both Apple and Android free of charge, and there is no subscription fee. It works like Uber; you can see the car’s location, arrival time, and price before confirming the ride, and the payment is made through the app. The drivers are all licensed taxi drivers and drive carbon-neutral or electric cars. Currently, Hopp Taxi operates in Reykjavík and its closest suburbs, such as Kópavogur, Garðabær, Hafnarfjörður, and Mosfellsbær, as well as Keflavík airport.

Taking the taxi in Reykjavík

Another option is to take a regular taxi. Taxi companies, such as Hreyfill and BSR, offer apps you can download to order a cab and monitor its location. The taxis have a much wider service area. Unlike Hopp Taxis, you will know the price once you have arrived at your destination, and the payment goes directly through the taxi driver, not the app. Note that taking taxis to and from Keflavík International can be expensive. An average taxi trip from the capital region to the airport may run from ISK 15,000 – 20,000 [$110-146, €100-134], so budget-minded travellers may find the Fly Bus a more economical option.

Iceland’s bus system

Iceland’s bus system, Strætó, is a great, economical transportation choice. You can plan your trip and see more comprehensive route maps on their website. To pay the fare, buy a ticket through the app Klappið or pay the exact amount in cash on the bus. About half of the buses run from 6:30 AM to midnight, but some services may start later and end earlier. A night bus on Friday and Saturday nights runs from downtown Reykjavík to some of its surrounding suburbs. Note that the night route only runs from Reykjavík, not towards it.

 

Iceland’s Diamond Circle: A Guide

Húsavík in Northern Iceland

What is the Diamond Circle in Iceland?

The Diamond Circle showcases some of northern Iceland’s magnificent waterfalls, geothermal, and volcanic sites. It consists of Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn lake, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon, and Húsavík fishing town. The Diamond Circle itself can be completed in a day, as the driving distance with Akureyri as a starting point is about 224 km [139 mi]. The total time will vary based on the time spent at each site. Guided excursions and tours are available, but you can also choose to explore The Diamond Circle independently, at your own pace. The roads connecting the Diamond Circle are paved.

We will start in Akureyri, the third-largest city in Iceland, with a population of 20,000. The 390 km drive to Akureyri from the capital area is quite simple, as you drive on the same road the whole way- Route 1 or the “Ring Road” as it’s often called.

Goðafoss Waterfall

From Akureyri, you will continue on Route 1 for about 34 km [21 mi] before turning right towards Goðafoss.

On the sightseeing platform, you can take in the panoramic view of this 12 m [39 ft] high, 30 m [98 ft] wide waterfall that runs from the glacial river Skjálfandafljót. Goðafoss waterfall is a historic site in Iceland. In the year 1,000, Þorgeir Þorkellsson, the lawmaker of Iceland, had concluded that Iceland should become a Christian country. Believing in the Norse gods was still allowed, but that religion had to be practised in one’s home. He is said to have gone to Goðafoss waterfall (translated as “Waterfall of the Gods”) and thrown his heathen idols into the water.

Goðafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Photo: Golli. Goðafoss Waterfall in Iceland.

The geothermal area of Mývatn Lake

Return to Route 1, turning right to keep driving towards Mývatn lake. 30 km [22 mi], turn left to stay on Route 1, following the Húsavík/Egilsstaðir/Fuglasafn sign. Shortly, you will see the lake and can pick a stop of your choosing along the route- there will be several.

Mývatn lake was formed about 2,300 years ago due to a volcanic eruption. With an area of approximately 73 km2 [28 mi2], it’s the fourth-largest lake in Iceland. Mývatn lake is known for its rich birdlife and its surrounding geothermal area, including hot springs and mud pots.

You may want to experience the Mývatn Nature Baths for a relaxing stop. To get to the baths, stay on Route 1. Following the sign for Egilsstaðir, turn left to continue on Route 1. Follow the signs for Jarðböðin við Mývatn (Mývatn Nature Baths) and enjoy the beauty of this geothermal lagoon. This area also has a cafe where you can stop by for a snack.

Dettifoss Waterfall

From the baths, turn right to continue on Route 1 for 23 km [14 mi]. Then, turn left towards Dettifoss on Route 862 and follow the signs for Dettifoss. You will arrive at a parking lot. From the lot, there will be about an 850 m [0.52 mi] walk to the viewpoint. Dettifoss waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, with a flow rate of 193 m3 [6,815 ft3]. Dettifoss is located in Vatnajökull National Park, and its water runs from the glacial river “Jökulsá á fjöllum” directly from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The waterfall is 44-45 m [144-147 ft] high and 100 m [328 ft] wide.

Ásbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland

Return to Dettifossvegur (Route 862) and turn right. When you approach the intersection of Route 862 and Route 85, turn right. Shortly, there will be a sign for Ásbyrgi canyon.

Ásbyrgi is a glacial canyon in the shape of a horseshoe. Like Dettifoss waterfall, it’s a part of Vatnajökull National Park. Ásbyrgi was formed due to a glacial flood from Jökulsár á fjöllum river during a volcanic eruption in Grímsvötn volcano. Ásbyrgi is about 3.5 km [2.2 mi] long and 1.1 km [0.7 mi] wide. In the middle stands a large 25 m [82 ft] high rock formation called Eyjan (The Island), emphasising the canyon’s horseshoe shape. Its surrounding cliffs are about 100 m [328ft] high. You can choose from several hiking trails with stunning panoramic views along the way.

Húsavík: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

To get to Húsavík from Ásbyrgi, drive back towards Route 85 and make a left. The drive is 62 km [38 mi] long.
Húsavík is a small fishing town in Skjálfandi bay, with a population of about 2,300. It is home to The Exploration Museum, The Whale Museum and Húsavík Museum. The Húsavík Museum is a cultural centre displaying the historic exhibitions “Daily Life and Nature-100 years in Þingeyjarsýslur” as well as the “Maritime Museum”. This picturesque town is a prime whale-watching destination, offering tours to see some of the 23 species of whales. Húsavík has several restaurants and cafes with a beautiful view of the harbour.

Akureyrarkirkja Church, Akureyri Iceland
Photo: Akureyrarkirkja Church, Iceland.

Back to Akureyri

To return to Akureyri, drive south on Route 85 for 45 km [28 mi] until you hit Route 1. Make a right and continue for 30 km [19 mi] following the signs for Akureyri.

From the trembling power of Dettifoss waterfall to the tranquillity of Mývatn lake, the Diamond Circle is a great route to experience the distinct beauty of northern Iceland. It unveils the region‘s geological wonders of volcanic and geothermal areas, waterfalls, and cultural sites, making the trip an exciting adventure for any explorer.

 

Nauthólsvík Beach in Reykjavík, Iceland

Nauthólsvík Beach in Reykjavík, Iceland

What is Nauthólsvík?

Nauthólsvík is a recreational area in Reykjavík. It includes a yellow sand beach in a sectioned-off bay. On the shore is a 30-39°C [86-102°F] hot tub and a pool with a temperature of 38°C [100°F]. The sectioned-off lagoon has a temperature of 15-19°C [59-66°F]. Aside from the Siglunes Sailing Club, Nauthólsvík has clubs for water sports, diving, and open-water swimming.

The Nauthólsvík bathing area first opened in 2000, to the joy of locals. Imported golden sand had been pumped onto the man-made beach to give it a Mediterranean look since Icelandic beaches are usually black. A stone barrier sections off the coast, where geothermal water meets the cold water from the bay. Walking on the golden sand and stepping into the warm sea gave locals a taste of summer travel.

Nauthólsvík has a service centre with changing and showering facilities and a snack bar. During the winter, Nauthólsvík is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 AM to 7 PM and Saturdays from 11 AM to 4 PM. On Sundays and Mondays, the beach and its facilities are closed. During the summer, The entry fee to Nauthólsvík is ISK 890 [$6.50, €6]. You can rent a towel and a bathing suit in the reception for a fee.

Dining in Nauthólsvík

Besides the snack bar at the service centre, there are two restaurants by Nauthólsvík: Bragginn Bar and Nauthóll. Bragginn Bar is a new restaurant that offers drinks, hamburgers, tacos and chicken wings. It is located in a renovated 1940s military barracks. Their kitchen is open on Wednesdays from 11:30 AM to 8 PM and Thursday to Saturday from 11:30 AM to 8:30 PM. The bar’s closing time varies. The other restaurant, Nauthóll, serves Icelandic cuisine, such as lamb, fish and salads. They serve brunch, dinner, desserts and coffee and are open daily from 11 AM to 10 PM. Both restaurants have indoor and outdoor seating, including views of the bay.

How do I get to Nauthólsvík?

Getting to Nauthólsvík from the city centre is quite simple. If you take the bus, you can take line 8 from Gamla Hringbraut, across the street from the BSÍ bus terminal in downtown Reykjavík. The ride is about 15 minutes long, and as of 2024, the fare is ISK 630 [$4.60, €4.20], payable through the Klapp bus app or with exact change on the bus. Nauthólsvík is about 2.2 km [1.4 mi] from the BSÍ bus terminal, so the ride is about five minutes if you go by car. You can also walk down Nauthólsvegur street, which intersects with Hringbraut road by the bus terminal.

 

What Is Iceland Like in the Spring and Fall?

Hraunfossar Waterfalls in Iceland

Icelandic nature during shoulder seasons

During fall, Iceland’s nature takes on a unique palate of orange, maroon, and moss green, making autumn in Iceland a treat for your eyes. During the spring, the empty branches start blooming after a long winter’s rest, and the grass turns green again. Both fall and spring are excellent times to observe the rich birdlife of Iceland, as migrant birds pass through during this time. The well-known Atlantic Puffins arrive in April and stay until September. You can see the puffins in several places, but the most convenient way is to take a boat tour to Akurey island or Lundey island from Reykjavík harbour.

The weather in Iceland during fall and spring

During any season, Iceland’s weather can change often and quickly. Sometimes, you can even experience all four seasons in just one day! For this reason, it is best to be prepared and regularly check for weather updates and road conditions. In the fall, the average temperature is 4-7°C [39-45°F], and in the spring, 0-7°C [32-45°F]. In the spring, the daylight is, on average, 15 hours. During fall, it averages 10 hours. Fall and spring bring more rain than the other seasons, so bringing water-resistant coats and footwear may be a good idea.

The roads in Iceland

Route 1, often referred to as “the ring road”, will take you around the island with clear road signs and paved roads. However, some remote locations may only be accessible by gravel roads. You will not be able to travel to the Highland, as the F-roads that take you there are only open from June to August.

Foggy road in Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Driving safe

Due to rainfall, water can accumulate in the roads’ tyre tracks or other dips, causing hydroplaning. If this happens, slow down by letting go of the accelerator and pump lightly on the break if needed. Note that rain, fog, and snow can reduce visibility, especially during the darker hours. Make sure to never stop in the middle of the road or enter closed roads; it is illegal and can cause serious accidents. In case of an emergency, call 112. Make sure to bring essentials such as warm clothing, snacks and beverages, and to have a GPS/map at hand. It is good to familiarise yourself with Icelandic road signs before driving. For information regarding weather and road conditions, you can call 1777. With some preparation and research, you can have a safe and adventurous journey!

Northern lights in Iceland during spring and fall

Late fall and early spring are good times to see the northern lights, though never guaranteed. You can catch them yourself from wherever the skies are clear, but tours are available to see the northern lights shining brighter from better vantage points. The tours usually run from mid-September to mid-April, as the rest of the year brings too much daylight to see the aurora. You can view the northern lights forecast here. Note that the white areas on the map indicate clear skies and a higher chance of seeing them. You will see numbers in the upper right corner representing their activity level.

What is there to do in the spring and fall in Iceland?

Inside:

Iceland offers a diverse range of museums. In Reykjavík, Perlan museum has interesting interactive exhibitions presenting virtual northern lights and a man-made glacier, in addition to educational exhibitions on natural history and geology. Other museums in Reykjavík include the Maritime Museum, the Whale Museum, the National Museum of Iceland, and the Reykjavík Art Museum. Iceland offers a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can experience both Icelandic and foreign cuisine. You can browse Iceland’s unique art, clothing, and jewellery designs in local shops around the country.

Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland
Photo: Perlan Museum in Reykjavík, Iceland

Outside:

Hikes in areas such as Heiðmörk nature reserve and Þingvellir national park will bring you a new appreciation of the scenic nature of Iceland through lava, moss, lakes, and rich history. Road trips to the villages and towns of Iceland are a great way to experience authentic Icelandic culture. To keep warm during cold days, submerge yourself in some of Iceland’s many geothermal pools and lagoons. Mountains, black sand beaches, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers are some of the natural wonders of Iceland worth exploring, whether on your own or by going on various excursions.

As summer and winter are the peak seasons of tourism in Iceland, fall and spring are more affordable for flights and accommodation while bringing fewer crowds. Whether chasing the aurora, exploring Iceland’s nature and its wildlife, or immersing yourself in the local culture, the shoulder seasons provide fascinating scenery for a vacation to remember.

 

The Imagine Peace Tower in Viðey, Iceland

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland

The Imagine Peace Tower is a light installation in Iceland designed by Yoko Ono in memory of her husband, John Lennon, and their continued campaign for world peace. The light projector comprises six light tunnels surrounded by slanted mirrors and nine beams with a combined power of 70kW. From the 10 m [33 ft] wide wishing well, the dense light beams are reflected up to 4,000 m [13,120 ft] in the air. The artwork is funded and maintained by Ono, Reykjavík City, Reykjavík Art Museum and Reykjavík Energy. It is sustainably powered using geothermal energy. Engraved in the tower’s mount is “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages, referencing Lennon’s song Imagine.

The artwork is directly related to another piece by Ono, Wish Tree, which has been ongoing since 1996. She invites people to write their wishes and hang them on branches of trees native to their country. The Wish Tree has since become digital. She collects the wishes herself, totalling over a million. The wishes are buried in the base of the Imagine Peace tower: the wishing well. The beam of light then symbolically illuminates the wishes up into the sky. You can send in your own wish here.

The Imagine Peace Tower’s lighting times

The tower was first lit in 2007 on John Lennon’s birthday, October 9th. Every year, it lights up on October 9th and shuts off on December 8th, the date of Lennon’s passing. In addition, it is lit from winter solstice until New Year’s Day and on Yoko Ono’s birthday, February 18th. Lastly, it lights up for one week during the spring equinox: the dates of Lennon and Ono’s wedding and honeymoon.

Why Iceland?

Iceland continues to hold the title of the most peaceful country, as ranked by The Global Peace Index. Therefore, Yoko Ono felt it was the right location for the Imagine Peace Tower. Ono has spent a lot of time in Iceland and was made an honorary citizen of Reykjavík in 2013.

Where is the Imagine Peace Tower?

The light installation is located in Viðey, a small island off the coast of Reykjavík. In the summer, ferries to Viðey are available daily from both Reykjavík harbour and the Skarfabakki pier in Laugarnes, Reykjavík. In the winter, the ferry only departs from Skarfabakki pier on Saturdays and Sundays. As of 2024, the price for the boat ride is ISK 2,100 [$15, €14] in the winter and 2,300 [$17, €15.50] in the summer. Guided tours of Viðey island and the Imagine Peace Tower are available year-round.

 

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavík, Iceland

On Skólavörðuholt, in the centre of Reykjavík, stands Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. It is the country’s second-tallest building, at 73m [240 ft], and its tower provides breathtaking views of Reykjavík and beyond. Hallgrímskirkja is an Evangelical-Lutheran Christian church. Its name translates to Hallgrímur’s Church, built in memory of honorary Icelandic hymn writer and pastor Hallgrímur Pétursson. In addition to masses, the church has a rich community of social activities and events, both educational and artistic, through art exhibitions, meetings, classes and concerts.

Hallgrímur Pétursson

Hallgrímur Pétursson was an Icelandic pastor and a poet. He moved to Germany and later Denmark to study. There, he met Guðríður, an Icelandic woman who had been kidnapped, along with a group of other Icelanders, by Algerian pirates and bought and freed by the Danish. Hallgrímur taught the group about Christianity. He and Guðríður later moved to Iceland as she carried their child. There, they married, and he became a pastor. Hallgrímur died from leprosy in 1674 at the age of 60. His most famous work is the Passion Hymns, 50 poetic texts that follow the story of Jesus Christ from the time he entered the garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial, often known as the Passion Narrative. These hymns have been translated into multiple languages and are some of the most-read texts in Iceland.

The architect of Hallgrímskirkja church

In 1937, the respected state architect Guðjón Samúelsson began his draft of what would be his last work: Hallgrímskirkja. He had previously designed the main building of the University of Iceland, Landakot Catholic Church, and the National Theatre, all in downtown Reykjavík. He wanted the church to reflect Iceland’s landscape of mountains, glaciers and pillar rock formations.

The construction of Hallgrímskirkja church

The decision to build the church was made in 1929, and Guðjón Samúelsson began drafting its design eight years later. The construction started in 1945, and three years later, the choir’s cellar was sanctified and used as a church hall for masses. In 1973, the larger hall came into use for masses, and then Hallgrímskirkja was consecrated on October 26, 1986, the day before the 312th anniversary of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s passing. The same year, Reykjavík celebrated its 200th anniversary.

The church’s interior

The stained glass window above the church entrance, the glass artwork on the door leading to the nave, the baptismal font and the pulpit are all works of artist Leifur Breiðfjörð. The baptismal font is made from Icelandic basalt columns and Czech crystal and was a gift from the church’s Women’s Association. The pulpit was gifted to the church by former bishop Sigurbjörn Einarsson, the first pastor of Hallgrímskirkja church. In addition, there are notable artworks and sculptures such as Einar Jónsson’s bronze statue in memory of Hallgrímur as well as his statue of Jesus Christ, Guðmundur Einarsson’s painting of Mother Mary with the child, Sigurjón Ólafsson’s Píslarvottur (Martyr) sculpture, and Kristín Gunnlaugsdóttir’s icons of archangels Gabriel and Mikael.

The organ in Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. The Organ in Hallgrímskirkja Church.

The largest organ in Iceland

The organ in Hallgrímskirkja church is the largest in the country, with four keyboards, 72 stops and 5,275 pipes, the highest pipe being 10 m [33 ft]. The whole organ is 15 m [49 ft] high and weighs 25 tons. Many of the pipes have been gifted to the church through monetary donations. It is, in fact, possible to purchase a gift certificate in the church shop and receive a document stating that the recipient is the pipe’s owner.

The church bells

Hallgrímskirkja church has three large bells and 26 smaller ones. The largest bell is named Hallgrímur and gives the tone H, and the second-largest is named Guðríður after Hallgrímur’s wife, which provides the tone D. The third largest is named Steinunn, after their daughter, who passed away young. The bell gives the tone E. The church bells ring every 15 minutes, Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 9 PM, but on weekends and holidays when mass is not held, they ring from noon to 9 PM. The largest bell, Hallgrímur, rings every whole hour.

 

Kerið: A Volcanic Crater Lake in South Iceland

iceland tourism private land

Kerið is a volcanic caldera in the Grímsnes volcano system in southern Iceland, formed as a result of an inward collapse of a volcano about 6,500 years ago. The caldera is about 270 m [886 ft] long and 170 m [558 ft] wide, with a depth of 55 m [180 ft]. Its lake’s depth varies between 7-14 m [23-46 ft]. Kerið is known for its visually attractive palette. The lake has a distinct teal colour due to the soil’s minerals. Its surrounding hills are composed of low bushes, moss and red lava; the red colour is due to the oxidation of the magma’s iron (hematite). 

Visiting Kerið

Kerið is located on a private property owned and managed by Arctic Adventures. As of 2024, the entry fee is ISK 450 [$3.25, €3], and it is open all year. Swimming or drinking the water is not allowed. It is one of the destinations on the famous Golden Circle route, which includes stops such as Gullfoss waterfall, Haukadalur geothermal area and Þingvellir National Park. 

How to get to Kerið

Via Route 1 and Route 35, Kerið is a 67 km [42 mi] drive from Reykjavík city centre. From the capital, drive south on Route 1 for about 55 km [34 mi] before turning left on Route 35 towards Laugarvatn lake. Drive for about 13 km [8 mi], and you will see the parking area on your right. Kerið is right by the parking lot, so hiking is not required; however, there is a 1.4 km [0.9 mi] trail around the caldera for added vantage points.