Iceland has close to 5,000km of coastline, and with fishing as main industry for many, many years, it’s not surprising that there are lots of lighthouses to be found. The first Icelandic lighthouse was built in 1878, which is pretty late compared to other countries. Most of Iceland’s lighthouses are still active, even though the use of GPS, VHF radio and other electronics has an impact on the use of lighthouses. Electronics can fail though, so lighthouses are still in use as navigational aid and emergency shelters, and these days several lighthouses also function as exhibition spaces or concert venues. They’re great to visit, to photograph, or to use as wedding location, so check out the following lighthouses in Iceland.
Conveniently located close to Reykjavík, there’s no reason to skip a visit to Grótta lighthouse in Seltjarnarnes. Seltjarnarnes is a small peninsula and town and from Hallgrímskirkja church it’s only about 5km to the tip of the peninsula. Surrounding the lighthouse is popular recreational area, with biking and walking paths, a small geothermal hot tub, and a golf course. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset, in addition to being one of the most popular northern lights viewing spots.
Located in Akranes, an old industrial town about 50km from Reykjavík are two lighthouses, a small older one that is not in use anymore, and a newer one that contains a small museum with information on the lighthouses. It also regularly features art exhibitions, concerts, and guided tours. The view from the top of the lighthouse is outstanding on a nice day, so be sure to check this place out during your stay in Iceland.
The town Garður on Reykjanes peninsula, about 60km from Reykjavík, has two lighthouses, one constructed in 1897 and one in 1944. The older lighthouse was used as a bird observatory between 1962 and 1978 but is not in use anymore. Garðskagi lighthouse is designed by engineer Axel Sveinsson, but over the years it has been repaired and modernised numerous times. The old lighthouse keepers house, dating from 1933, was inhabited until 1979 and is still standing next to the lighthouse. Garðskagi lighthouse is open to visitors as part of the municipal museum of Garður, and in the surroundings of the lighthouses you will find excellent bird-watching spots.
Þrídrangar lighthouse is one of the most isolated lighthouses in the world, located on top of a 40m-high pillar. You can find it just off the coast of the Westman Islands, an archipelago 7.5km south of mainland Iceland. It was built in 1938, without use of helicopters. Three mountaineers from the Westman Islands climbed up the cliff, and the story goes that one of them had to stand on the other’s shoulders to reach the cliff end, as it was too steep to climb. They then made a path using pikes and chains, and constructed a small crane pulley system to hoist up materials. The workers camped on the island while the lighthouse was under construction. Later, a helicopter pad was made, so these days, it’s easier to visit the lighthouse, albeit not entirely without danger, as it’s still located on a narrow islet in the middle of the North Atlantic.
The lighthouse at Dyrhólaey in South Iceland is probably Iceland’s best-known lighthouse, located close to the popular black beach and basalt columns of Reynisfjara, and on top of the arched promontory Dyrholaey. The cute red-and-white lighthouse stands in the middle of a nature preserve, and the area is closed during bird nesting season in May and June. When the area is accessible, you can go on a nice hike down from the beach up to the lighthouse, which will also give you an amazing view over the area.
Mjóifjörður, a very small village in East Iceland, used to be the location of Iceland’s first lighthouse. Construction of the lighthouse started in 1895, but it has been inactive since 1917. In 1959, a new bright-yellow lighthouse was built, approximately 100m from the old lighthouse. The new lighthouse is still active, and between June and October, ferry Norröna passes the lighthouse every week as it arrives in Seyðisfjörður from Denmark. Even though the tower is closed, the site can be visited. A rough and narrow trail along the northern coast of Mjóifjörður takes you to Dalatangi. On route you will see waterfalls and steep cliffs, so it’s not for those with a fear of heights. At the end of the road, you will see the lighthouse and a farm.