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 a small island connected to the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, about six kilometres [3.7 mi] west of Hallgrímskirkja. Due to its location, 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.

To get there, 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, Reykjavík, Iceland at sunset
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.

Perlan Planetarium Northern Lights
Photo: The northern lights 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.

You can click here for a map of the Northern Lights viewpoints.



Fire Breaks Out At Lava Show

lava show fire 2022

On the night of September 19, fire broke out at the Lava Show by the Reykjavík harbour. It took the fire brigade four hours to extinguish the fire, with teams present into the early morning to ensure sparks had not lodged themselves in the roof of the building.

Reports indicate that the fire itself posed no significant danger, but it did produce large amounts of smoke.

According to Júlíus Ingi Jónsson, manager of the Lava Show, the exact cause of the fire is still being investigated. 

“This is of course a shock, but we are very happy that all the security systems worked,” he stated. “Interior damage is minor and all equipment is in good condition. Of course, the most important thing is that no one was harmed. It ended well, and you could say that this was a good safety check on the business before we open to the public.”

The Lava Show has operated out of Vík on the South Coast of Iceland since 2018. Conditions of a volcanic eruption are simulated by melting lava and metals at very high temperatures and pouring them in a controlled exhibition hall.

The Reykjavík Lava Show had been slated to open this October 1. It is unclear whether Lava Show will still be opening its latest location on time in light of the recent incident.

In a public Facebook post, the new Reykjavík location is described as taking “the experience up a notch with its focus on the largest volcano eruptions in Icelandic history.”

Brim’s Grandi Fish-Processing Plant to Close Temporarily Next Year

fish fishing haddock

Next year, the seafood company Brim will be closing its fish-processing plant in Norðurgarður – in Reykjavík’s Grandi neighbourhood – for a few months, RÚV reports. In order to install new processing belts to increase automation, the plant’s operations will be temporarily moved to Hafnarfjörður.

According to Guðmundur Kristjánsson, CEO of Brim, technological sophistication is, perhaps, the only way for Icelanders to remain globally competitive and to prevent fish-processing plants from moving overseas: “fish-processing plants abroad offer a premium for Icelandic fish, which is processed within the EU, in a more auspicious operational environment.” Kristjánsson adds that although the Grandi plant will employ fewer workers after opening again, their jobs will be more secure.

Brim has been involved in significant business dealings of late. It purchased the fish-processing company Kambur and the fishing company Grábrók, both of which are operated in Hafnarfjörður. The majority shareholder of Kambur and Grábók is a company owned by Hjálmar Þór Kristjánsson, Guðmundur Kristjánsson’s (Brim) brother. The acquisition means that Brim controls a quota that exceeds the fishing capacity ceiling. It has six months to rectify this surfeit.

Beached Whale Off Reykjavík Coast

whale

A dead whale stranded on the coast by the Grandi area, just west off the city centre, shortly after noon today. The exact species is not known but the Police, the Environment Agency of Iceland, as well as the local Public Health Office, have been notified. Part of the carcass has ballooned with gas, a common occurrence with beached whales.