Iceland is world-renowned as one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, the natural phenomenon that has intrigued generations for as long as people have inhabited the most northerly countries.
The lights only appear within, or in close proximity to, the Arctic Circle and its various aurora zones, so pretty much all of Iceland is game. Dark and cold nights are best for spotting the lights, as is keeping a close eye on the live Icelandic Meteorological Office aurora forecast.
The majority of visits to Iceland start and end in the pint-sized capital of Reykjavik at Keflavik International Airport. There are seasonal direct flights to the country’s second city of Akureyri from Greenland, but not many.
Reykjavik is a great place to search for the Northern Lights in its own right, with top spotting locations including Grótta lighthouse at the north-western tip of the capital and Öskjuhlíð Hill near to the city centre, but many visitors venture further afield away from the light pollution of the city.
There are two options for visitors searching for the lights in the other eight regions of Iceland, either fly from Reykjavik Airport with Air Iceland Connect, Eagle Air, or Mýflug, or take a coach from BSI Bus Terminal just outside of the capital.
The Reykjanes Peninsula is a short drive southwest from Reykjavik, and the main settlement of Reykjanesbær is great place to search for the lights, particularly the secluded lighthouse at the north end of the peninsula where there is no light pollution and strong aurora activity. The popular attractions of the Blue Lagoon and Viking World are also on the peninsula.
West Iceland is a remote and wild region, which is particularly good for the adventurous types who want to get away from major towns and cities. Coach 60 departs regularly from BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes peninsula, Glymur Waterfall, and the main town of Borgarnes.
Jutting out towards Greenland, Westfjords is a barely inhabited region that is a favorite among light hunters. The largest settlement of Isafjörður has only 2,600 inhabitants and is connected to Akureyri by road and Reykjavik by daily flights from Reykjavik Airport or Coach 60 along Route 60.
North Iceland is the island’s second most populous region, with Akureyri at its heart. Regular flights connect Reykjavik to Akureyri Airport, but once there, there is little need to venture out of the centre to see the lights.
The oft-forgotten East Iceland is a 7-hour drive from Reykjavik or 4-hour journey on Coach 62 from Akureyri. Flights are available between Reykjavik Airport and Egilsstaðir. It is recommended to travel into The Highlands region by 4×4 from Egilsstaðir or Reykjavik, as there are no airports.
South Iceland and Vestmannaeyjar are only for the most experienced explorers because of their remote ruggedness and seclusion. Daily flights connect the main settlement on the Westman Islands, Heimaey, and Reykjavik, and Coach 21 ventures along Route 36 to Skógar in South Iceland.
If you fly into Keflavik International Airport, you can use Wanderu to book a shuttle bus that will take you from the airport to Reykjavik. The shuttle will drop you off at the BSI Bus Terminal which is located right outside of Iceland’s capital.
For the best info on how to get a front row seat to one of the biggest natural phenomenons on Earth, check out The Northern Lights in Iceland, a free guide by Horizon Guides that you can download right now.