Catch the magic when the sun dips out of sight in Iceland
Sunsets in Reykjavik are special. Depending on the season, the sun could be slipping beneath the waves of Faxafloi Bay anytime from mid-afternoon to midnight. During the longest days of the year, the sunset effect lasts all night. While winter visitors won't experience the midnight sun, they might get a better view of the shimmering colors of the aurora borealis. These northern lights sometimes appear not long after the sun has set.
Seasonal sunset times
Keep a close eye on the clock if you want to catch the sunset in Reykjavik. Iceland's capital is in the southwest of this far northern island country, and daylight length swings between five and 21 hours over the course of the year. The capital's location means that sometimes the sun sets up to five or six minutes earlier or later each day as the seasons pass. By the time the summer solstice arrives on June 21, the sun doesn't dip beneath the horizon until midnight. On the winter solstice on Dec. 21, sunset occurs around 3:30 p.m.
To see a midnight sunset, visit Reykjavik during the last couple weeks of June. Early summer is one of the best times to view Icelandic sunsets. The sun dips below the horizon for only a few hours just after midnight, creating long periods of sunset colors. During the rest of the summer, the sky glows, and the nights are bright.
Best places to watch the sunset
Seashore locations are the best places to watch the sunset in Reykjavik. For a wild, natural scene, try Grótta. Lying not far from Reykjavik's center on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, Grótta features a causeway for visitors to walk if tides allow it, and on clear evenings they can see the outline of the Snæfellsjökull glacier in the distance.
The modern sculpture called Sólfarið, or the Sun Voyager, on Sæbraut Street offers a city-side sunset view. The sculpture is an ode to the sun, and it makes an ideal foreground for sunset shots. For a quieter place with fewer tourists, keep on walking past the Sun Voyager to the sculpture garden at Laugarnes and soak up the sea view across to Viðey Island and Mount Esja.
The Old Harbor, Ægisgarður, is an atmospheric place to watch the sun go down. At the day's end, take a walk along the harbor front and watch the boats or visit the lighthouses.
Best view away from city lights
Rekjavik doesn't only offer beautiful sunsets. If you're lucky, that magical phenomenon known as the aurora borealis could appear soon after the sun goes down. The scintillating, shifting lights are easier to see if you travel a few miles out of Reykjavik, where the northern lights aren't competing with light pollution from the city, and if the night is clear and dark.