As an island and a seafaring nation, Iceland has roughly 104 lighthouses lining its coast. And there’s a very good reason why these are photographed so often by our visitors. Not only are they reminders of the past, but the Iceland lighthouses come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and can truly be described as architectural gems.
If you fancy yourself a bit of a photographer or are just interested in the history, or the architectural value of these structures, here is a list of some of the best lighthouses in Iceland:
If you’ve ever wondered what a lone ranger lighthouse would look like – this is it. Thridrangar lighthouse in Iceland is also referred to by a number of names, including Þrídrangaviti o Thridrangar lighthouse in Iceland. The lighthouse itself is fairly inconspicuous (small and white), but what makes it so special is its location.
This lighthouse can be found in the Westman Islands in Iceland, roughly 1.6 kilometers offshore and seated on top of a giant basalt rock column that sticks up 37 meters into the air like a finger trying to reach the sky. Needless to say, it is these rock formations that pose an incredible risk to ships, and Pridangar warns off anyone before they can get too close.
Construction of Þridrangar occurred in 1938, and, as you can imagine, was not an easy task as workers had to brave incredible heights and all sorts of elements to get the job done.
Although the lighthouse is open to the public, it can only be reached via helicopter. If you have the money and can stomach a helicopter ride across the ocean, Iceland’s lighthouse on a rock (and probably the most remote lighthouse in Iceland) is an absolute must-visit spot.
Grotta lighthouse (also known as the Seltjarnarnes Lighthouse) is conveniently located close to the capital city of Reykjavik (which means an easy and quick day outing). The Grotta lighthouse as we see it today has been there since 1947, but there has been a Grotta lighthouse since 1897.
This is one of the lighthouses in Iceland that has been kept true to its original structure despite repairs and restorations over the years, which means that the biggest structural change this lighthouse has seen in its lifetime was when it joined the electrical grid in 1956.
Dyrholaeyjarviti, standing 13 meters tall, looks more like a big white fort with an orange top sitting on a hill than what you would envision a traditional lighthouse to look like. Dyrholaeyjarviti can be found in the south of Iceland and is the lighthouse closest to the village of Vik here in Iceland.
What makes Dyrholaeyjarviti such a remarkable place is that it actually symbolizes the southernmost tip of the island. But it’s not just the lighthouse you can take snapshots of here. This lighthouse on a hill offers visitors the most amazing views of the south coast of Iceland and all its characteristic features such as the black sand beaches, basalt cliffs, and mountains.
If your trip takes you there between May and August you might even get to see the Iceland Puffins. Unfortunately, the lighthouse isn’t open to the public, so you’ll need to “settle” for a few pics of the building itself and the breathtaking views.
Svortuloft lighthouse in Iceland, also known as Skalasnagaviti, is yet another of our bright orange lighthouses that make for spectacular contrast as it sits on its 4-kilometer-long black basalt rock cliff overlooking the ocean. Svortuloft is situated on the westernmost point of the majestic Snæfellsnes Peninsula (known for its incredible landscape views).
Initially built in 1931, Svortuloft stands 12 meters tall today and is powered by solar energy. But Svortuloft isn’t “just a pretty face”. A lighthouse here has proven to be absolutely essential since there have been plenty of sailing incidents and casualties due to the cliffs and the strong currents that can be found here.
Akranes Lighthouse is one of the first concrete lighthouses built here on the island and is known as one of the most picturesque lighthouse locations. But what probably makes the Akranes Lighthouse the most interesting is the fact that when asking for directions to the Akranes Lighthouse, you’ll most likely be met with “Which one?”
There are actually two lighthouses at Akranes, and whilst both are white in color, they look completely different from one another. The tall one resembles a rocket that will be launching into space any time soon, and the other, a smaller lighthouse, looks like a chess piece just waiting for someone to make their move. The Akranes Lighthouse (or rather lighthouses) is a very impressive site to visit.
Not only because of its “buy one and get one free” type of situation with both lighthouses being in short walking distance of one another, but also because they are not situated high on a hill or a cliff like most other lighthouses here on the island – they are located on a strip of rocky land that lies outstretched into the ocean, making it almost feel like you’re walking on water when entering this area. It is also a popular place to spot the Northern Lights.
Most visitors to the island will be able to see the 26-meter-tall Gardskagaviti since the lighthouse is situated directly above the Keflavik International Airport in the Reykjanes Peninsula. This is yet another very traditional-looking lighthouse with its white and red color.
But don’t let this well-maintained lighthouse with its bright red fool you; this is one of the old-timers here on the island with a pretty interesting, and rich history. The lighthouse was constructed in 1897 by the Danish Lighthouse Commission. It was made from timber originally, which obviously took some punches from the harsh weather elements of the Land of Fire and Ice.
It was then renovated with concrete in 1933 and remained active ‘till 1944 when it was decommissioned due to safety concerns stemming from potential landslides. The Gardskagaviti we see today was built to replace this structure with its inherent risks.
If you didn’t know that Knarraros was a lighthouse, you’d still remark that this is a pretty impressive building. In fact, the structural design reminds one of some of the famous Art Deco buildings of our time. This lighthouse stands a staggering 26 meters tall and looks like 2 cubes stacked upon each other, was created by the civil engineer, Axel Sveinsson, who was inspired by another famous architect here on the island called Gudjon Samuelsson.
For those who don’t know who that is; be sure to check out Hallgrimskirkja here on the island – it’s one of his most impressive works. Karraros lighthouse can be found about 5 kilometers away from Stokkseyri in the southwestern part of Iceland. Once again, this lighthouse is not open to the public, but you still get to marvel at this incredible structure from the outside and walk the grounds around it.
Hopsnes can just be referred to as the orange lighthouse in Iceland because of its incredibly striking color. The lighthouse can be found near Grindavik in the southwestern part of the island and a shipwrecked fishing boat lying just a few meters away, serves as a dark reminder of why the lighthouse was necessary in the first place when it was built in 1928.
This is one of the few lighthouses in Iceland that are open to the public, so exploring this lighthouse doesn’t begin and end with walking around its bright orange exterior.
Reykjanesviti is one of the oldest Icelandic lighthouses. Reykjanesviti ticks all the boxes of what you would generally think of when it comes to a lighthouse; the tall white structure with its red cap, standing high on a hill overlooking the waters below. It even has a lighthouse keeper living there to this day!
So, it’s no surprise that the lighthouse isn’t open to the public to go poking around where another man lives. The building we admire today was actually a rebuild of the original lighthouse in 1929. In 1886, a mere 8 years after it was completed, the original lighthouse was completely destroyed by an earthquake. Because of its location here on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the lighthouse serves both Keflavik and Reykjavik.
Dalatangaviti is yet another colorful lighthouse in Iceland. But over the years, its bright orange color has faded so that it can easily be referred to as the yellow lighthouse in Iceland today.
Dalatangaviti is an incredibly interesting lighthouse here on the island. It is the only lighthouse that was built by a shipowner simply looking out for his business interests and safeguarding his investments. Dalatangaviti can also be considered a traveling lighthouse. This lighthouse situated in the East Fjords is now approximately 100 meters from its original spot.
The reason why is a bit of a sad tale. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1917 and essentially left to go to ruins. When the lighthouse was revived in 1959, it was also moved to its current location. Today, the National Museum of Iceland is in charge of managing and maintaining this historic place.
This is yet another interesting lighthouse in Iceland that from the front looks more like a house on a hill than an actual lighthouse. This Iceland lighthouse can be found on the infamous Latrabjarg Cliffs in the Westman Islands and boasts quite a few claims to fame.
Firstly, Bjargtangar symbolizes the westernmost tip of not only Iceland but the entire Europe. And, secondly, if you’re a bird lover you will not only find a wide variety of species that call the cliffs home, but if you visit during the months of May to August, you’ll be at one of the most renowned sites for Puffin spotting.
During the breeding season, the cliffs are absolutely a buzz with Puffins and their cute little Pufflings. It’s also the place where many visitors nearly have heart attacks when the little Pufflings start flinging themselves over the cliff edges into the ocean. So, even though Bjargtangar isn’t open to the public, it’s well worth the visit for a variety of reasons.
Súgandisey is another one of the more remote lighthouses here in Iceland, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this short, stubby structure with its bright red color was a post box rather than a lighthouse. But most visiting Súgandisey are not coming for the structure itself.
They are coming for the incredible 360-degree views across the ocean and the sleepy seaside town below. Getting to the lighthouse requires a bit of an uphill walk, though.
Although not long (it will take you about 5-10 minutes) it’s worth noting if you have small kids or the elderly in your party. Another interesting fact about Súgandisey is that the lighthouse used to be situated at Grotta and was later moved to its current location.
Straumnes is one of the most impressive of the Iceland lighthouses because of its shape and size. Clocking in at a staggering height of 24 meters, this lighthouse looks more like a strange, orange-colored, linear triangle with a tiny red lid than an active working lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the older lighthouses here on the island, built in 1919, and is a must-visit site if you ever find yourself in the Westfjords.
Iceland Lighthouses; Architectural Gems Seeped in History
As you can see, the lighthouses on the island vary in colors, shapes, and sizes, and most don’t just have photographic charm, but also intriguing backstories that are worth discovering.
Since the lighthouses are so scattered across the island, we highly recommend that you get your hands on a Lighthouses in Iceland map and add these as stops along a road trip (the best way of exploring the island). Simply rent a campervan in Reykjavik once you arrive on the island (this way you’ll take care of both transport and accommodation), and hit the road and the lighthouses all along the way.