Iceland’s Thridrangar Lighthouse: An Eye on the Ocean

Thridrangar Lighthouse is probably one of the most impressive lighthouses in the world. Its desolate and rugged coastal location will take your breath away!

Thridrangar Lighthouse on a cliff

blog authorBy Samuel Hogarth shield verificationVerified Expert

Thridrangar Lighthouse is probably the most remote lighthouse in the world and certainly the most dangerous to reach. Icelanders call it Þrídrangaviti, which means ‘three rock pillars lighthouse’. It’s one of the most inaccessible places in the country and occupies a breathtaking spot on a clifftop, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Read on to learn more about this fascinating place.

Where to find Thridrangar Lighthouse

Thridrangar Lighthouse is located in the Westman Islands of Iceland, locally known as Vestmannaeyjar. This collection of islands sits off Iceland’s south coast. The lighthouse itself is perched on a 34-meter (120 feet) high basalt stack about 6 miles offshore, pounded by the waves of the Atlantic. A 2017 article in the Iceland Monitor pondered whether it might be ‘the most isolated lighthouse in the world’.

How to get to Thridrangar Lighthouse

Because of its isolated location, Þrídrangaviti can only be accessed by helicopter. There’s a helipad beside the lighthouse, on which the maintenance team can land when they need to. But there are no guardrails and a strong gust could send someone into the cold Atlantic. Fortunately, the lighthouse is automated, and in recent years solar panels have been installed to power the light.

Thridrangar Lighthouse was built in 1938 and back then everything had to be brought in by boat. Because of the high waves, delivering building materials was very dangerous: the ground was wet and slippery; strong winds and heavy rainfall battered workers. The construction team camped on the rock in between shifts but even so it still took three years to finish.

Is it possible to visit Thridrangar?

Because of its isolated location, it is not possible to visit Thridrangar Lighthouse as a tourist. You can, however, view it virtually in a fantastic way, with the FlyOver Iceland experience. This is a virtual tour of Iceland, with a wraparound screen and special effects. The scene of a simulated rescue mission from Þrídrangaviti is just one of many places this thrilling journey will take you.

panoramic view of the Westman Islands

In February 2021, a blues rock band from Iceland called Kaleo recorded a video for their single ‘Break My Baby’ on Þrídrangaviti’s helipad. This single is taken from their album ‘Surface Sounds’, and the video can be viewed here. Kaleo has a history of recording videos in stunning locations, including inside a volcano and on top of a glacier.

Other Things to See on Vestmannaeyjar

Although you can’t step inside Thridrangar Lighthouse, there’s plenty more to see and do in the Westman Islands. To reach the main island of Heimaey, the best way is to rent a car in Iceland and catch the ferry from Landeyjahöfn, a port on the south coast of Iceland. The crossing takes roughly 40 minutes to make the journey to Vestmannaeyjabær, Heimaey’s main town. Here are a few things for you to do once you’re there:

  • Take a hike up Eldfell. This small volcano was the result of the 1973 eruption. It was such a disruptive event that it caused the temporary evacuation of the island’s small population. Today, it’s an easy walk from the town center if you’re keen to get a closer look at its red rock and enjoy the spectacular views.
  • Take a boat trip to the surrounding islets. Many of the caves and rocky coves of the Westman Islands are only accessible from the water. Take a relaxing boat trip or a thrilling high-speed ride in an RIB. Highlights include a look at the curiously-shaped Elephant Rock, plenty of seabirds and perhaps seals or whales.
  • In summer, check out the puffin colonies on and around Heimaey. Iceland is home to about 60% of the world’s Atlantic puffins, and a significant number come to the archipelago to breed. You’ll spot them easily on the cliffs beside the lookout on the Stórhöfðaviti peninsula, or during a boat trip.
  • Visit Heimaey’s Beluga Whale Sanctuary. Located close to the harbor, this center rehomed two beluga whales from a Shanghai water park. They now live in the spacious but specially-enclosed Klettsvik Bay. Transporting Little Grey and Little White all the way from China was a meticulously planned operation, but these two creatures are now thriving in their new Icelandic home. 

Experience Þjóðhátíð

If you’re in Iceland for the first weekend of August, head to Heimaey for Þjóðhátíð (its name translates to ‘The National Festival´). It’s a multi-day festival with fireworks, live music and tons of entertainment. It’s one of the largest festivals in Iceland, and most years, it draws a crowd of over 15,000 people.

Embrace the island’s nature: bring your tent and camping equipment to make the most of the site next to the festival valley. Don’t forget your rain jacket and a pair of decent boots for your trip to Heimaey, no matter what season it is. Iceland’s weather is famously unpredictable, even in summer.

Aerial view of Heimaey island

Other Lighthouses in Iceland

Grótta Lighthouse (Gróttuviti)

Closest to the capital, Grótta Lighthouse occupies a westerly spot on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula. You can get there in ten minutes in your rental car from downtown Reykjavík. The lighthouse was built in 1947. The abundant birdlife in the area also makes this a nature reserve. Visitors come here to watch the sunset, but it’s best known as a dark yet accessible place to wait for the Northern Lights.

Akranesviti

This lighthouse is about an hour north of the capital, in the town of Akranes. There are actually two structures. The smaller one is no longer in use, and the larger is open to the public. You can enter the lighthouse and climb to the top, where views of the country and ocean await you. There is a photography exhibition inside and small concerts are occasionally hosted in the building.

Skálasnagaviti

This lighthouse, known also as Svörtuloftaviti, can be found in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, within easy reach of Reykjavík. You’ll find Skálasnagaviti on the very edge of the peninsula, surrounded by black lava cliffs and rough ocean currents.

The drive to the lighthouse will take you away from the main road and reward you with great views. The building itself is bright orange, so you can’t miss it.  For a country where fishing is still such an important industry, these lighthouses remain essential. Over the years, their lights have saved many lives.

Even with advances in seafaring technology, lighthouses like the one at Thridrangar still play an essential role in Icelandic daily life. Why not visit a few on your journey around Iceland? You can find more inspiration in our Top 30 Things to Do in Iceland guide, and don't forget to lock your rental soon. Rent a car with Reykjavikcars.com and drive through the Ring Road to see which ones you spot!

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