The key objective of my recent trip to Iceland was to see Aurora Borealis Iceland. It was a friend’s “important” birthday and her key goal was to see the lights – and hopefully on her actual birthday! I did a lot of research on Iceland Northern Lights hotel options when planning the trip.
The two I came up with were Hotel Ranga Hella and the Northern Lights Inn Iceland. I stayed at both and my reviews are below – and most importantly I saw the lights at both!!! These are definitely the best hotels in Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Or if you would like to look further across Scandanavia check out these great ideas.
1. Best Hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights: Hotel Ranga
The key appeal of Hotel Ranga Iceland for me was the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights. And I also liked that it is the only 4-star accommodation in South Iceland – making it the best of the luxury hotels in Iceland for Nothern Lights! Hotel Ranga is located about 5km outside of Hella heading towards Vik.
This more remote location increases the chances of seeing the Hotel Ranga Iceland Northern Lights as there is less air pollution. Most importantly Hotel Ranga had a reputation for being one of the best hotels in Iceland to see Northern Lights.
You absolutely need a car if you are staying at Hotel Ranga. There are local taxi services but I think this would be quite painful and unnecessarily expensive.
Hotel Ranga Iceland – Layout and facilities
Hotel Ranga Hella is a good size and has a ranch type layout and feel. There is a large restaurant where both breakfast and dinner are served. The restaurant has is almost entirely windows and provides a 180-degree view.
There is a small bar area just before you reach the restaurant. The highlight here is the fun bar stools. They are basically carved to be like a pair of legs so quite amusing once someone is sitting on them! There are also a few couches.
My favourite area was upstairs above the bar. This is a large area with loads of comfortable couches and tables. I had to do some work while I was there and this was such a lovely area to sit in. We also had dinner up here our first night from the bar menu.
There is another drinks/lounge area on the side of the hotel where there are 2 hot tubs. This area provides direct access to the hot tubs and is perfect for pre-dinner drinks.
Hotel Ranga Iceland – Eating and drinking
Breakfast at Hotel Ranga Hella was a highlight!! There is a huge buffet offering of great quality food. Loads of delicious smoked salmon and either soft or hard-boiled eggs, a variety of other seafood, salad items, cheeses – basically you name it they had it! There were little “shots” of skyr topped with some granola which I highly recommend!
One of the highlights for me was the do it yourself waffle irons. The batter had been pre-mixed and portioned. All you needed to do was spray the iron, pour in the batter (in the middle), close the top and 2 minutes later a perfect waffle!
On hand to serve with your waffle was Nutella, peanut butter, maple syrup, and jams. There was then normal cream, caramel cream, and strawberry cream.
As part of your breakfast at Hotel Ranga, there are also hot items on the menu. The omelets were my highlight. There is also a full breakfast, poached eggs with salmon and hollandaise and scrambled eggs.
Also included in breakfast at Hotel Ranga is proper espresso coffee. I had 2 cappuccinos each morning and this was the best coffee I had in Iceland outside of Reykjavik Roasters!
There are 2 dinner options at Hotel Ranga Hella. The first is the bar menu. This is quite limited – only a few items. I had the seafood soup which was nice but not particularly filling. The burger and the salmon and bread options looked a lot better. We ate this in the upstairs bar. You can also have any items from the main menu up here as well.
The 2nd option is the main restaurant menu. This is not cheap but wow the food was brilliant!!!! We decided to share three starters so that we could try a few different things. We had puffin which wasn’t great – very chewy and the flavour was not very pleasant. The reindeer carpaccio was a pleasant surprise – full of flavour! Our third safe option was some lovely salmon.
I had the arctic char for my main which was absolutely delicious.
We also had dinner at Restaurant Strond during our stay. This is the closest restaurant to Hotel Ranga Iceland – about a 2-minute drive along the A1. The food was very nice so if you are staying several nights definitely check this out.
There are a bakery and a bottle shop Vinbudin in the town of Hella.
Hotel Ranga Iceland – Activities
There are SO many activities that are possible from Hotel Ranga Hella! We chose to stay here for 4 nights to as based on my research on hotel Northern Lights Iceland this would give us a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
It is a big drive 3 hours West to visit the amazing Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. If you can possibly do this you should absolutely try as it is a don’t miss for me. It is much closer to head West to Vik where you can check out its famous black beach and Dyrholaey for some amazing views.
Hotel Ranga Hella is a great spot from which to do the infamous Golden Circle Tour. This can be done with a tour company or you can drive yourself. The Golden Circle Tour covers Gulfoss (about a good one hour drive), Geysir and Pingvellir National Park. This is a full day with some fantastic scenery.
I also did the Inside the Volcano trip from Hotel Ranga. I drove 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the meeting point and drove myself back. This made it about an 8-hour return trip but this worked really well.
⇒ Top Tip: This tour tends to book up quickly so Book your Inside the Volcano tour here before you go.
Hotel Ranga Hella can then assist you with snowmobile tours and any other adventure activities you would like to do! The ladies at reception are so helpful. I sat down with one with my big map and basically asked for slightly off the beaten track places to photograph and she was brilliant.
There is no need to organise an Iceland Northern Lights Tour as you are constantly on one whilst at Hotel Ranga once it is dark!
There are a million brochures and so many options here – there is little you can’t do in terms of Icelandic options from Hotel Ranga Hella!
Hotel Ranga Iceland Resort – The hot tubs
When you look at the Hotel Ranga Hella website you will not miss the hot tubs! A key part of the hotel’s appeal is the notion of sitting in a hot tub sipping champagne whilst watching the northern lights! Well, this didn’t actually happen to me – would have had to be a lot of luck to make those events all happen together! But we did try out the hot tub and it was lovely!
There are 3 hot tubs at Hotel Ranga Hella. 2 of them are on the east side of the hotel and can be accessed through the sitting area for drinks I mentioned above. It is first in best dressed but they were not super busy when I was there and the hotel was full. You can take a drink in but of course plastic glasses or cups only!
Hotel Ranga Iceland – The rooms
This was my one disappointment with Hotel Ranga Hella. I had expected much nicer and larger rooms. I was quite surprised when I entered the room. It was nicely done out in a rustic way but the design did feel tired – particularly the kind of 1970s floor tiles. We had a twin room and the beds were very comfortable to be fair. However, the room was quite small.
The bathroom had a special spa bath which took up most of the room. This was great but it meant that when you had a shower you did end up spraying water across the whole bathroom as there was no screen. There were quite a few toiletries but not named brands.
There were, however, loads of nice thick towels which I love and nice bathrobes. The room was very cosy with lots of lamps. It was also possible to open the window a touch which was good.
Hotel Ranga – Northern Lights Iceland Hotel!
The key reason I stayed at Hotel Ranga was that I read it was one of the best hotels in Iceland to see Northern Lights. All of Hotel Ranga is set up to be one of the best places to stay in Iceland for Northern Lights. One of the first things you see at reception when you arrive is the Aurora Borealis wake up board where you mark your room if you want to be woken up for a Northern Lights viewing.
There weren’t many Iceland hotel Northern Lights wake up call options when I looked at other Iceland hotels so this was a key feature of Hotel Ranga.
When we jokingly said who were the strange people who did NOT want to be woken up for the Northern Lights Iceland lights viewing we were told that they were the guests from Iceland!
Near reception are a large number of super warm all in one suits to wear when watching for the Northern Lights. These were toasty warm and very very comfortable! I would have quite liked to sleep in one! I think the suits alone make Hotel Ranga one of the best Iceland hotels Northern Lights!
The staff understood our excitement about being in a Northern Lights hotel Iceland and were great keeping us updated. We did get to see the Northern Lights on one of our four nights at Hotel Ranga. We were waiting for our main meals when the call came that the lights were out! At Hotel Ranga Iceland all food and drink are put on hold when the lights show up which is great!
We ran out to the car park and got our cameras ready to go. I did manage to put a warm suit on first which was helpful! We got a nice display for about 10 minutes. We then came back and had our meals which were fantastic. The lights came out a second time and we were treated to a longer display this time which was amazing!
⇒ Compare Prices & Book a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland
Hotel Ranga Iceland – Service
The staff were brilliant. Super friendly and super helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. The service was fast, prompt and cheerful. Our coffees were quick at breakfast each morning and we had a delightful night the evening we ate in the restaurant. They could not have been more lovely!
Hotel Ranga Iceland – The Verdict
Apart from the rooms, I loved everything about the Hotel Ranga. The location is brilliant, the staff so lovely, the food is brilliant and I loved the atmosphere in the Hotel – it is warm and friendly – very Danish hygge! And based on my experience this is definitely one of the best places to stay in Iceland for Northern Lights. Also, very few hotels offer a Northern Lights wake-up service as I mentioned earlier.
The rooms were a disappointment but they were still very nice. I plan on doing a 4th trip to Iceland at some point I will definitely come back and stay here again which I guess is the key test!
Travel Expert Tip: If you really want to see the Northern Lights then my tip would be to stay at Hotel Ranga for at least 4 nights. There is no guarantee but this improves your odds markedly…
⇒ And check out My Iceland Top Ten Travel Tips Post
2. Best Hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights: Northern Light Inn Iceland
The second of my best hotel Northern Lights options is the well-titled Northern Light Inn! Only 25 minutes from Keflavik International Airport the Northern Lights Inn Iceland is a lovely little hotel. It opened in the 1980s as a very simple hotel for sufferers of psoriasis who came to bathe in the waters of the Blue Lagoon. Both the Northern Light Inn and the Blue Lagoon have moved on considerably since!
The Northern Light Inn is also located just 1km from the Blue Lagoon which is incredibly handy! We arrived at the hotel about 11 am from Hella. We dropped our bags and then got on the hourly shuttle bus to the Blue Lagoon – this takes about 2 minutes. There are then hourly shuttles back to the Northern Light Inn although you could easily walk if it isn’t freezing.
Northern Light Inn Iceland – Hotel Layout and facilities
The Northern Lights Inn Iceland is quite large and in a big U shape. They have a full wellness centre as well as a gym. The gym is free for guests. The Wellness centre is free for deluxe guests and 2500 ISK per person for standard guests. The Northern Light Inn also has the only aurora pods in Iceland. These are basically flotation tanks.
There are several lovely living room type areas throughout the hotel. My favourite was the large room next to the honesty bar. It has tea, coffee and hot chocolate going all day as well as an open fire for the evening.
There is also a comfortable relaxing space in the middle of the hotel upstairs.
Northern Light Inn Iceland – Eating and drinking
Breakfast is served in Max’s restaurant. This is a great full buffet. It features smoked salmon as well as cured meats plus some lovely light scrambled eggs. Fresh bread is ready to be cut and toasted. There was also a massive pot of skyr yoghurt which I used as a spread with my smoked salmon on toast – delicious!
The buffet also has pastries and cakes plus different cheeses, cucumber, tomato, peppers etc etc.
Waffles can be made in the main living room area between 230 and 430 daily. We were at the Blue Lagoon so missed this but they sounded brilliant!
Max’s restaurant (named after the owner’s Golden Retriever) is a well-known spot for fantastic food in the area. The menu was concise but there were enough offerings. There was a BBQ meat option with vegetables and potatoes which were the perfect dinner after lunch at the Blue Lagoon.
I had the BBQ chicken which was lovely. There are also more traditional main meals featuring fish and of course lamb and lobster.
The restaurant is a lovely simple Nordic design. The highlight is the large windows. During the day the light is lovely and this is perfect in case the Northern Lights show up during dinner!
The Northern Lights Inn Iceland also runs a lovely honesty bar. It is open 24 hours a day and has no bartender. You can help yourself to wine, beer and spirits as long as you write down what you have taken.
Northern Light Inn Iceland – The rooms
The rooms aren’t huge at the Northern Light Inn but they are a good size. We had a twin room and like everywhere else we stayed in Iceland the duvet was lovely and soft and warm! We had a great view of the lava fields and the power station.
I am not being ironic here – the power station is actually quite attractive and billows steam throughout the day and evening! We were there on breast cancer awareness day so it was lit up with a pink light!
There were a large screen tv and Icelandic channels as well as the BBC and some UK tv like ITV. The room was attractively furnished in whites and beige and there was enough room for both of us to have our cases out and to still be able to walk quite freely.
The bathroom was small with just a shower but fine. A bonus was the L’Occitane toiletries. These were secured to the wall but they had shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. We only had one medium-sized and one hand towel each plus a shower mat which was a bit disappointing. The towels were not particularly thick. They were fine but could easily have been nicer at this room rate.
The Northern Lights at the Northern Lights Inn Iceland
Expectations are high for an Iceland Aurora Borealis hotel when you go and stay somewhere that is actually called the Northern Light Inn! And luckily we got lucky with a fantastic viewing of the Northern Lights – the best we had on the trip! This is definitely one of the best Iceland hotels to see Northern Lights!
The hotel has a wake-up service for the Northern Lights. They also go around the hotel and tell everyone when the lights come out. We had just finished dinner (it was about 945pm) when we were told that the lights were out!
The Northern Lights Inn Iceland is quite a big area so there was then a lot of wandering around in the dark to find the best spot! The car park was a good area for a while, then behind the wellness centre, then the area outside the hotel on the other side of the car park.
I used a great northern lights apps to take my photos on my phone as I had managed to damage my big camera! It is called the Northern Lights Photo Taker and is the best 99p you will ever spend! We had a fantastic display on and off for about 45 minutes. This was a highlight of the trip!
Northern Lights Inn Iceland – Service
The staff were all very friendly. The woman who checked us in was lovely and kept apologizing that we couldn’t check into our rooms – even though it was only 1115am. She immediately organized our airport shuttles and filled us in on the shuttle to the blue lagoon. We were then taken on a tour of the hotel.
Service at dinner was friendly and fast. Best of all was the guy who came around to tell us that the Northern Lights were out! Check out in the morning was fast and easy.
Northern Light Inn Iceland – The Verdict
I really enjoyed the stay at the Northern Lights Inn Iceland. Having the day at the Blue Lagoon and then staying and being so close to the airport for our 945am flight out the next morning worked perfectly. It is a really comfortable hotel – the large living room areas were a particular highlight.
Although of course nothing beats seeing the Northern Lights! This is absolutely a great place to stay for Northern Lights in Iceland.
And don’t forget to take your fabulous Northern Light Inn pen with you as a souvenir – you can also use it on your phone/iPad etc!
Best Hotels in Reykjavik for Northern Lights
I’m afraid I have some bad news. It is very rare to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik so there are no best hotels in which to stay to maximise your chances to see the lights.
The best way to see the Northern Lights if you’re staying in Reykjavik is to take an evening Northern Lights minibus tour. There are other options like boat tours but the minibus will normally be warmer – and it will have greater flexibility in where it can go to act on the most up to date information on where to see the Northern Lights.
Best Place to stay in Iceland for Northern Lights – Conclusion
So, my research into the best Iceland Northern Lights Hotel paid off! To take advantage of the best hotels in Iceland for the Northern Lights I would spend at least 4 nights at Hotel Ranga Hella and then at least one night at the Northern Lights Inn Iceland. I stayed 5 nights across the 2 hotels and managed to see the Northern Lights twice. This was pretty lucky for an 8 night trip to Iceland!
In terms of the best times to see Northern Lights Iceland, it is all about clear skies – and darkness! Of course in the summer Iceland has nearly 24 hours of sunlight so no Northern Lights! Many people think the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is the height of winter and darkness. This is not the case.
The key to seeing the Northern Lights is a clear sky. They are up there twinkling away the whole time – it is about whether we can see them. This tends to favour the shoulder seasons of March/April and October/November. The trip I have written about above was in October for this very reason.
In addition to being great hotels Iceland Northern Lights, Hotel Ranga, and the Northern Light Inn were two of the best places to stay in Iceland during my stay. If you are looking for the Northern Lights these are where to stay in Iceland in my opinion.
Good luck with your own search for the Northern Lights!!
Keen for more Northern Lights – and Southern Lights? Check out this great post on 6 Amazing Places to Witness the Northern and Southern Lights.
How to Get to Iceland and Get Around:
Keflavik Airport is the main international airport in Iceland. It is located about a one hour drive from Reykjavik (depending on traffic) and is only about half an hour from the Blue Lagoon. It is in the southwest of the country. This is why most visitors tend to visit the Blue Lagoon on the first or last day of their trips. I think it is a great way to end a trip.
⇒ Don’t miss reading My Guide to the Blue Lagoon and is the Premium Package Worth it?
Without question, the best way to see Iceland is to Hire a Car.
Not only will it save you a fortune it is the best way to see most of the sites that Iceland has to offer. Most of the key sites are free eg the Golden Circle so if you have a car costs drop dramatically – especially if you are with a group.
And make sure you read this great post on 12 Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland before you get on the flight!
Check out my Southern Iceland Highlights Video on Youtube
Useful Links for seeing and photographing the Northern Lights:
These are 2 great links for the Northern Lights:
⇒ a fantastic phone app to take photos of the Northern Lights
⇒ great website for Northern Lights Forecasts
And here are a couple more blog posts on Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland:
Iceland Hotels Northern Lights: Some Great Tours
If you’re looking for some serious adrenaline rushes check out these Activities to do in Iceland
Need travel insurance? Click here for a good deal
Who Paid for What with this Post
I paid for everything! This was completely me travelling with friends for a 50th birthday – I wasn’t working with any tourism boards or hotels etc.
However, this post does contain affiliate links. That means that if you click through on them and make a purchase I may well receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you knew.
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Also published on Medium.