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Where to find the northern lights on a self drive

The Northern Lights are rightly one of the most sought after travel experiences on the planet. Who doesn’t want to travel to a beautiful Arctic paradise and gaze upwards at green and purple ribbons that dance across the sky? No matter how fleeting, this is a sight that will enchant and mesmerise. If you’re planning to rent a car for your next Iceland trip, here’s where to find the Northern Lights on a self drive.

Close to Reykjavik

Whether you’ve just arrived or this will be a last ditch attempt to see the Aurora Borealis, take a trip out to Grótta lighthouse. Thanks to its proximity to the capital, this historic lighthouse, located in Seltjarnarnes, is a popular spot. If it’s too crowded, stroll along to Grótta beach instead where there’s usually a bit more space.

A little further afield

Iconic Kirkjufell is a great place to catch the aurora, though again it can get a little busy. The most popular vantage point features a foreground waterfall with the hulking mountain framing the background. If you’re planning to make the round trip from Reykjavik it’s doable, but you might prefer to overnight locally instead.

Drama and history

Þingvellir National Park is an itinerary must, like the rest of the Golden Circle, but if it’s dark and you get to see the Northern Lights at this historic site then even better. Though the visitor centre closes for the evening at 6pm, there’s no reason why you can’t watch from the park’s main viewpoint at Hakid, before descending into the Almannagjá fault. Þingvellir is accessible throughout the night and when you’re done, it’s not too long a drive back to Reykjavik.

Victorious in Vik

The south coast is well travelled, but at Vik the easy access to the shoreline provides some interesting views inland from its black sand beach so long as you don’t get too close to the sometimes treacherous waves. However, though you might be tempted to hike from the car park further along the coast to seek out the plane wreck near Sólheimasandur it’s a dangerous place in winter especially after snow and not recommended.

Beauty on the beach

Few places are breathtaking enough to rival what’s going on in the sky, but the icebergs of Jökulsárlón are a definite contender. Whether you see them on the lagoon itself or find yourself a space on the beach instead, this is one of the best places in the country to watch the Northern Lights if they make a showing.

The Northern Lights up north

If you’re looping the ring road and find yourself up north, then one of the best locations to enjoy the Northern Lights is at Hvammstangi in the north west of the country. Park up and use the old church and its cemetery to give your photographs a bit of forecast interest and focus.

Awesome Akureyri

Akureyri is another advantageous spot, well served by roads meaning you can branch out from the town in different directions according to where the skies are clearest. Try heading north to Gásir, once the site of an important mediaeval trading port. Its position beside Eyjafjördur fjord is just right for appreciating the colourful sky.


If you have a car, so long as you can park up safely, there are many places out in the Icelandic countryside which are well suited to Aurora hunters. Check the weather forecast as you’ll need clear skies, the aurora forecast as you’ll need the Northern Lights activity to be strong and position yourself facing north. So long as you are away from sources of light pollution, you’ll be able to have an uninterrupted view once they show up. Good luck!