Iceland’s Lighthouses: 9 Lights Leading to Beautiful Photo Magic

Picture of Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Discover Iceland's lighthouses and take great photos! From iconic beacons to hidden gems, navigate our shores with this illuminating guide.

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Reykjanesviti lighthouse on Reykjanes peninsula in Southern Iceland
Reykjanesviti lighthouse on Reykjanes peninsula in Southern Iceland

Oh, the lighthouses of Iceland. You’d think with all the geysers, volcanoes, and northern lights, these towering beacons would be just an afterthought, right? Wrong!

There’s something undeniably enchanting about them. Standing defiantly against roaring North Atlantic gales, they’re not just structures; they’re stoic guardians with tales as old as time. And each flicker of their light seems to whisper secrets of shipwrecks and sailor songs. Visiting one feels like stepping into a storybook. Go on, stand by one, and let the wind tousle your hair; you might just hear the echoes of ancient mariner tales.

Sunset at Gardur Lighthouse in Iceland.
Sunset at Garður Lighthouse.

In this article, I have listed some of this country’s most photogenic lighthouses. I’ve also included a short guide on how to capture these solitary beauties best. Oh, and there is a map too! So you can go out and find them yourself.

Before we continue, however, let’s talk linguistics for a hot second. You see, in Icelandic, the term for “lighthouse” is “viti.” Thus, the Akranes Lighthouse, for example, dons the title “Akranesviti” in Icelandic. Don’t be startled if road signs, maps, or digital whispers guide you to “Akranesviti” – they’re speaking of the very same beaconed beauty.

Anyway… grab your camera, your sense of awe, and let’ navigate through these must-see wonders!

Akranes Lighthouse: Double Delight in Iceland’s Coastal Gem

The two lighthouses in Akreanes, Iceland, with a cloudy sky in the background.
The two lighthouses in Akranes.

If you venture a short distance away from Reykjavík and into Akranes Town, you’re in for a rare treat—two, to be precise! The newer Akranes Lighthouse is a stunning and dramatic feature built in 1947. A few feet away stands its older sibling, which is now discontinued. Together, they help paint a scene straight out of a dreamy maritime tale.

As winter sets in, these lighthouses become nature’s cinema, playing the magical aurora show. The drama of the northern lights, with streaks of green, pink, and purple, sets the sky aflame. Fast forward to summer, and you can witness jovial locals picnicking, the sun shimmering and soft melodies drifting from the larger lighthouse.

Today, the newer Akranes Lighthouse is a budding hotspot for concerts and artsy exhibitions. Fancy a climb? Step inside and trek to the top! You’ll be greeted by the friendly lighthouse keeper, who’s eager to share legends of this majestic structure.

But let’s not forget its older sibling from 1918—among Iceland’s oldest concrete lighthouses. While it might not host musical soirées, its history-rich walls echo tales of yesteryears. So, whether you’re chasing the northern lights or just a quaint seaside escapade, Akranes has got you covered… twice!

Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse: Where Isolation Meets Inspiration

Hold on to your adventurer’s hat because Þrídrangaviti isn’t your run-of-the-mill lighthouse. Nestled within the Westman Islands archipelago, it’s been dubbed the world’s most isolated lighthouse.

Picture the year 1938. No machinery, no cranes, no helicopters, just sheer will and determination. This ambitious project came about with the help of mountaineers with nerves of steel. Imagine scaling a colossal 35-metre sea stack without modern climbing equipment! And for that final stretch? They literally formed a three-man human stack to reach the top. Their grit and literal team stacking got this architectural marvel erected, creating a beacon in the middle of nowhere.

Fast forward to the present, and the isolation has slightly eased with the addition of a helipad. Pop culture tidbit: Our very own Icelandic band, Kaleo, rocked the lighthouse with a music video shoot! So, if you’re seeking a lighthouse tale peppered with audacity, daredevilry, and a touch of rock-n-roll, Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse is your wild story.

Hafnarnes Lighthouse: The Zesty Orange Beauty of East Iceland

The orange Hafnarnesviti in East Iceland overlooking the ocean.
East Iceland’s tiny Hafnarnesviti Lighthouse.

Look, I’ve got a riddle for you: What’s orange, sits against a jaw-dropping backdrop of towering mountains and coastline, and demands to be captured in every frame of your camera? Well, if you’re near Fáskrúðsfjörður, there’s no debate—it’s the Hafnarnes Lighthouse! The audaciously orange lighthouse is like an Instagram influencer in the middle of Mother Nature’s grand show.

Fancy a little adventurous stride to get there? Great, you’ll need sturdy shoes and a passion for minor hiking. Your reward will be an intimate rendezvous with this tangerine dream and, oh my, the photographs! The contrast of the lighthouse’s vibrant hue against the natural, earthy palette of the surroundings is what hashtags like #NoFilter were made for. Next to this little, 7-metre structure are the remnants of an older, even shorter lighthouse, which only adds a touch of drama to the whole scene.

Grótta Lighthouse: Where Iceland’s Sky Puts on a Show

Green sky from northern lights reflected in a calm ocean at Grotta Lighthouse in Iceland.
Extreme northern lights at the Grótta Lighthouse.

In the midst of Reykjavik’s serene coastal outskirts, there’s a beacon that’s less of a silent guardian and more of an invitation to nature’s ethereal dance party—meet Grótta Lighthouse. Now, you might ask, “Why’s everyone buzzing about Grótta?” Well, friend, the answer is painted across the Icelandic winter skies.

Come colder months, when the days grow short and the night feels like an everlasting embrace, Grótta becomes a hotspot—no, a cosmic-spot—for those hunting the elusive Northern Lights. Yes, right at the edge of Iceland’s bustling capital, the lighthouse stands tall, welcoming aurora chasers and dreamy-eyed romantics.

The panoramic view of the dancing greens and pinks against the stark black backdrop is a mesmerizing sight to behold. It’s as if nature itself decided to throw a rave, and Grótta got the VIP pass.

Whether you’re an amateur astronomer, a snap-happy photographer, or just someone seeking a quiet moment under the glimmering sky, Grótta Lighthouse is your winter ticket to a celestial soiree.

Reykjanes Lighthouse: Iceland’s Oldest Lighthouse

A view of Reykjanesviti Lighthouse in Iceland, with surrounding steam from Gunnuhver Hot Spring.
Geothermal steam from Gunnuhver Hot Spring surrounding Reykjanesviti Lighthouse.

Iceland has its fair share of striking landscapes and man-made marvels, and standing tall (quite literally) amidst them is its oldest sentinel, the Reykjanes Lighthouse. This remote lighthouse, painted a pristine white, adds a contrasting splash to the dark, foreboding backdrop of expansive lava fields.

But come early summer, it’s like someone tossed a flower bomb around it. The area erupts into a sea of blue lupine flowers, turning our lonely lighthouse into the centre of a botanical gala. Trust me, you’d want your camera for this seasonal plot twist!

Oh, but wait, there’s more. Once you’ve taken your 837 photos, don’t rush back to the car. Nearby, you’ll find hidden gems like the smoky theatrics of Gunnuhver Hot Spring and the majestic Reykjanestá Cliffs. So let the Reykjanes Lighthouse serve as your gateway to even more splendid Icelandic wonders.

Dyrhólaey Lighthouse: The Guardian of Iceland’s South Coast

Imagine standing atop a massive arch carved by the relentless waves, gazing out at the vast Atlantic with a symphony of seabirds circling overhead. Welcome to Dyrhólaey! And perched like a crown jewel on this dramatic cliff is none other than the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse. 

From the top, it feels like you can see forever. Standing here, you’re wrapped in a panoramic embrace that includes glaciers, black sand beaches, and the eternal dance of the North Atlantic waves. You might even spot a puffin or two, and these cheeky chaps are the sort of company that adds a dollop of magic to an already enchanted setting.

Close by are some of South Iceland’s most iconic attractions, including Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, the waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, and the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. So, while Dyrhólaey Lighthouse might not be the main attraction for many visiting the South Coast, it should be. If you’re on the prowl for places that blend rugged charm with serene beauty, well, you’ve just struck gold.

Svörtuloft Lighthouse: The Beacon of Contrasts on Snæfellsnes

Waves crashing against a cliff on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A lighthouse standing on top of the cliffs.
Waves crashing against Svörtuloft cliffs

As you wind your way along the jagged cliffs of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, there’s one sight that’s sure to catch your eye and make you pull over: the Svörtuloft Lighthouse.

Clothed in an unapologetically vibrant shade of orange, this 19-foot-tall guardian stands proud against a backdrop of black volcanic cliffs, making it an Instagram dream. Why “Svörtuloft” or “black ceiling”? It’s a poetic nod to these very cliffs.

It’s not just the lighthouse, though; there’s an entire panorama waiting to mesmerize you. Pause a moment at the recently added viewing platform and let your eyes wander over the coastline. A stone’s throw away, a majestic rock arch rises, reminiscent of its southern cousin, Dyrhólaey. And let’s not forget the beautiful Mt. Kirkjufell and the mysterious shores of Djúpalónssandur nearby.

Summer months bring an added touch of magic as seabirds, including the adorable puffins, claim their perch around the cliffs. Every element here plays its part: the vivid orange, the inky black, the birds, the sea. Svörtuloft is not just a lighthouse; it’s a masterclass in contrasts.

Garðskagaviti Lighthouse: Where Sky Meets Sea in a Symphony of Colors

Northern Lights over Gardur Lighthouse on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula.
Green skies over the old Gardskagaviti Lighthouse.

Just when you think Iceland can’t possibly surprise you any more, you stumble upon the old Garðskagaviti Lighthouse. A stunner in its own right, this lighthouse is the kind of place that makes you pull over and go, “Whoa, I’ve got to capture this!” Nestled right where the sky seems to touch the ocean, Garðskagaviti offers views so expansive you’ll think you’ve reached the edge of the world.

There are two lighthouses in the little settlement of Garður on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Both are compelling structures (though the older one, pictured above, is my favourite), but let’s talk about those skies. I mean, where else do you get such an otherworldly canvas for a lighthouse to stand against? Blues that defy explanation by day, and if you time your visit right, a swirling kaleidoscope of auroras by night. Talk about a 24/7 spectacle!

Visiting Garðskagaviti isn’t just a stop; it’s an experience that keeps evolving from every angle, every second, with every change in the light. In the end, you’ll walk away with a camera roll full of awe-inspiring shots and a soul full of something a bit more intangible but equally beautiful.

Höfði Lighthouse: Reykjavík’s Cheerful Nautical Newcomer

Historic yellow Hofdi lighthouse on the rocky shore of Reykjavik
Höfði lighthouse would fit well in a Wes Anderson film.

If you’re visiting Reykjavík on a sunny day, I highly recommend taking a stroll along the ocean from Harpa Concert Hall to our final gem on this list: Höfði Lighthouse. Wrapped in a hue of optimistic yellow, it winks at you across the serene Faxaflói Bay, with majestic Mt. Esja serving as its stately backdrop.

Built in 2019, this spunky lighthouse isn’t just a photogenic spot; it’s a tribute to the Reykjavík of yesteryears. It’s like a wink to the old harbour lighthouses of the 1910s, and let me tell you, Höfði knows how to carry a legacy with style.

A stone’s throw away stands the Höfði House, the diplomatic rendezvous spot of 1986 that thawed the Cold War just a smidgen. Imagine standing where Reagan and Gorbachev debated the world’s fate; it’s like touching history. And let’s not forget the Sun Voyager sculpture, your nearby Insta-friendly ode to the sun—whatever that means.

But back to our jolly lighthouse. I mean, with its vibrant hue and youthful zest, it’s not just an Instagram stop; it’s a symbol of new beginnings, of hope. Höfði Lighthouse allows you to ponder both the past and future while basking in the inescapable now.

Map of Iceland’s Most Photogenic Lighthouses

Navigating Iceland’s Luminous Landmarks? Let this map guide you to our beaconed beauties, each one shining its light on a unique corner of our enchanting island.

How to Photograph Lighthouses

A woman photographing Icelandic landscapes next to Hafnarnesviti Lighthouse.
Next to Hafnarnesviti in East Iceland.

So, you’ve set your sights on capturing Iceland’s sentinels of the sea? Delightful choice! Let’s make your photos shine, just like those beacons. Here’s the how-to:

  • Golden Hour Glow: Every photographer’s secret sauce! Those moments just after sunrise or right before sunset will bathe the lighthouses in a dreamy, golden hue.
  • Drama in the Skies: Icelandic weather, unpredictable and wild, is your best companion. Dark storm clouds? Perfect for a moody shot.
  • Wide-angle Wonder: Get it all in! The lighthouse, the rugged coastlines, maybe even a curious puffin or two. A wide-angle lens captures the grandeur.
  • Long Exposure Love: Fancy those silky smooth sea shots? A tripod and a long exposure will get you there. As the waves crash, they’ll turn into misty wonders in your frame. The long exposure also helps capture the elusive Northern Lights, should they be dancing in the night sky.
  • Story in Details: Look for textures! Rusty old chains, weather-beaten doors, or even handwritten signs. These little details narrate tales older than your granddad.

Remember, it’s not just about snapping a building; it’s capturing the spirit, the tales, and the legacy of Iceland’s coastline guardians. Now, go be the storytelling photographer you were born to be!


A yellow lighthouse in Reykjavik with snow-covered Mt. Esja in the background.
A lighthouse in Reykjavik with snow-covered Mt. Esja.

And there you have it, the illuminating tour of Iceland’s lighthouses! Whether it’s the daredevil allure of Þrídrangaviti or the Instagram-worthy hues of Svörtuloft Lighthouse, each one tells its own tale. A cautionary guide for sailors, a haven for bird-watchers, or a canvas for Northern Lights—these lighthouses are more than just towering beacons; they’re microcosms of Icelandic culture and natural splendour.

So, pack those sturdy shoes, set your camera to ‘stunning,’ and let your own journey unfold. Your Icelandic lighthouse adventure awaits, and trust me, it’s a story worth writing.

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