Where's Dariel? – Travel Blog

Northern Lights in Iceland – Grotta Lighthouse

It was New Year’s Eve, our last night in Iceland and our last chance to see some (more) Northern Lights. The weather forecast was great – clear sky and the aurora strength was projected at 4 out of 9. This was the best day for us since we arrived 2 weeks ago, weather-wise. My friend and I decided to try our luck again to catch the Northern Lights near the Grotta Lighthouse in Reykjavik.

Grotta lighthouse

Grotta Lighthouse is right at the edge of the city

The last time we walked, it took almost 1 hour each way to and from the Lighthouse. Our hotel was near the Hallgrímskirkja church then. But it turned cloudy quickly that night and we left disappointed. This time we took a taxi, which took less than 10 minutes. Although the taxi fare wasn’t cheap, it was definitely worth every cent.

The moment we alighted from the cab, I saw the Northern Lights across the sky!

“There, there!” I pointed to my friend. And we scrambled to set up our tripod.

Northern Lights Grotta Lighthouse

Despite the amount of bright lights in the area, the Northern Lights at the Grotta Lighthouse was distinct. The green colours were much brighter than the ones we saw the night before, not pale looking and easily mistaken for clouds.

Since the Aurora Borealis were right above our heads at the carpark, we didn’t want to walk to the Lighthouse. Just in case they disappear soon. Luckily we had the experience from the night before and knew what settings to use on the cameras. So we found ourselves a spot next to the breakwater and started shooting. If you need a helpful cheat sheet on the camera settings for northern lights, check this out.

northern lights at Grotta Lighthouse

In order for one to see the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis), it is extremely important to have a cloudless night sky. Low hanging clouds are fine because there may be a chance for the Lights to peep through those clouds. But to have a clear sky like we did, in Iceland, we were blessed. Although the recommended time to look out for the Northern Lights is usually from 9pm to 2am, a local guy told me the Lights started dancing outside his house just after 7pm!

We saw some spectacular display of the aurora lights that night and what seems like millions of stars in the sky. It was awesome!

Northern Lights in Iceland Grotta Lighthouse

We hung around the Grotta Lighthouse area for about 2 hours, watching the Northern Lights dancing, changing shapes but also fading and eventually disappeared.

Northern Lights in Iceland, Grotta Lighthouse

Northern Lights in Iceland, Grotta Lighthouse

Last hint of the Northern Lights in the sky

With the last streak of the green lights bidding us goodbye, we packed up and took a cab back into Reykjavik downtown to join hundreds of party revellers for the New Year Eve countdown. What a wonderful way to end 2016!


If you are not driving, I would suggest that you take a taxi from downtown to the Grotta Lighthouse. I called a few taxi companies that night but only one answered quickly. I even managed to book a taxi to pick us up within 10 minutes from the Lighthouse. That taxi company was Hreyfill, Tel: +354 588 5522. They run by the meter and accept credit cards.

Northern Lights in iceland, Grotta Lighthouse

To read more about my Northern Lights adventure, click here. Tell me about your Northern Lights experiences!

29 thoughts on “Northern Lights in Iceland – Grotta Lighthouse

  1. J.T

    Did you take any photos of the starry night? If you did will you share it on the blog? 🙂 I heard the night sky is also absolutely gorgeous there due to the lack of light pollution!

    1. Dariel Post author

      Ah, unfortunately my focus was on the Northern Lights so I did not take any photos of the stars separately… they are all part of the Northern Lights photos 🙂 I will make it a point to remember next time!

  2. Kristine Li

    Hello from a fellow Singaporean! Beautiful northern lights and so many stars in the sky! Great that you didn’t have to camp outdoors for a long time – heard sometimes it’s really hard to chase the lights. I hope to see the northern lights for myself one day, preferably Finland or Iceland. Whoohoo

    1. Dariel Post author

      Helloooo!! Exactly, we were really lucky this time. I would love to go Finland and see the Northern Lights too, I guess it will feel quite different 🙂

  3. Steph

    I was literally just at Grotta a few weeks ago (but during the day!). The northern lights were not on my side during my trip unfortunately, it was super cloudy. But I’m so happy for you that you got to see them. Do you have any tips for how you captured these photos?

    1. Dariel Post author

      That’s a shame Steph but I guess it really depends on your luck. If it’s any consolation to you, we waited for almost 2 weeks before finally catching them. To capture the photos, make sure you have a tripod and a camera that allows you to change the aperture and exposure. I’ve written a little more about photographing the lights in my other post “Northern Lights in Iceland – The First Encounter”, do check it out if you are interested.

  4. travelerettenyc

    Your photos are so gorgeous! I love the green lights. It really is a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights some day!

    1. Dariel Post author

      Thank you! Frankly, at times the green lights were not distinct and they only look like clouds. But it is an amazing experience nonetheless.

  5. Albert Trotter

    what a stunning post it is…all pictures are so breathtaking..Northern Lights seems like heaven on earth…i wish i could go there at least once in my life…well thanks for sharing your memories of tremendous trip

    1. Dariel Post author

      Thank you very much Albert! I hope you can fulfill your wish, it is a very different kind of experience, to me at least 🙂

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