The Best Places to See the Northern Lights in and around Akureyri

Are you planning a trip to Akureyri during the Northern Lights season and wonder where the best locations to go and spot the lights might be? As an Akureyri resident, I’ll share you my favourite spots in and around the capital of the north.

The Northern Lights season in Iceland starts around the beginning of September and lasts as long as the nights are fully dark, so until about the end of April. They can sometimes start being visible a little earlier in the South though, as that part of the country gets darker nights quicker than we do up here in the north.

Also read: The Best Time to See Northern Lights in Iceland

In order to see them, all we really need is a clear or at least partly clear sky and darkness. It’s important to get away from the city's light pollution or any other lights around you - the darker spot you’ll find the better!

Northern lights dancing over snowy mountains, Iceland. It’s important to get away from the light pollution in order to fully enjoy the spectacular lights. Travelade/Snorri Þór Tryggvason. 

The Aurora Borealis forecast is really handy to check beforehand, as it can really help to predict how active the lights might be. Often the colder the nights are, the clearer the sky can be. I recommend to check the website regularly as the forecast can change a lot.

What I love to do the most is to check the Aurora forecast and see how clear the sky will be, and if it does look promising, I’ll pack some hot tea and snacks with me and head out for a little midnight trip out of town into one of these sweet little spots:

Gásir

Gásir is by far one of the best Aurora spotting sites in Akureyri area. About 8 mi (13 km) North of town´s center, it´s far enough to be totally away from the city lights, but still within an easy distance. The area itself is an old trading port since the Medieval days by the water in the fjord, located just off at road nr. 816. The sign from road nr. 1 to Gásir is very clear, but it’s good to keep in mind that once you’ve been driving the road a bit, the sign itself pointing to Gásir is not very big – so pay attention.

Krossanesborgir

Krossanesborgir is actually a nature reserve for birds, especially during the summer months. It also makes a pretty decent Northern Lights spotting location and it’s located just on the edge of Akureyri. Just drive a few kilometres north from the town center, and you can park your car at the parking space that can be reached from a road called Óðinsnes. From the parking space, walk up the paths for a few minutes to get away from the nearby street lights. You’ll be facing towards the open sea, where the Northern Lights dance across the fjord. You’ll experience some slight city light pollution here, but it´s still quite a good place to see the lights if you don’t feel like driving too far out.

Hlíðarfjall Ski resort

Just 5 km out of town – or above town should I say – this Ski Resort area offers fantastic views over Akureyri and the fjord. Sure, you’ll get the city lights down below, but it makes a one sweet show once the sky is clear and the magnificent Aurora shows up too.

The valley below Akureyri

To reach the valley, just drive down on road nr. 821 for a bit. Once you’ve passed the Christmas Garden, drive down a bit more and you should find some random empty gravel roads and pull outs. A really good area to watch the lights, and not too far away from town!

Ljósavatn

A bit of a distance, approx. 35 min drive away from Akureyri towards Lake Myvatn, this little lake is by the road nr. 1 and has a spacious parking lot. It’s beautiful here and it’s also pretty much in the middle of nowhere so any external light pollution won’t disturb your Aurora spotting.

The little hill in Grenivik

Grenivik village, just up on the East side of the fjord, has a perfect little hill for Northern Lights spotting. A bit of a drive again (approx. 30 min), this hill guarantees you to be totally outside of any light pollution whilst overlooking the beautiful fjord. Once you reach the village and are facing the water, take the road to the left and carry on driving until you reach a tiny parking space. Leave your car there and walk up the hill a bit following the hiking trails. Super quiet, super remote. Perfect for all of you romantics out there.

Q&A:

What do I have to bring?

Be an onion – wear layers and layers of warm clothes as the nights can get cold and standing outside even more so. If you have a good old Icelandic sweater, that will keep you warm for sure under your jacket! A flask with a hot drink and some snacks is also a good idea, as you often might need to wait for the lights to appear. A good woolly hat and gloves are a lifesaver, same goes for woolly socks. And don’t forget your camera and tripod!

Essential to remember:

It’s really important to remember not to stop or park in the middle of the road, even if the sky throws a stunning Aurora show all of a sudden. The roads in Iceland don’t have street lights outside of towns, so in order to avoid accidents it is very important to only stop and park on pull outs and assigned parking areas.

Happy Aurora spotting!