Reykjavik Airport Spotting Guide

Reykjavik Airport (IATA: RKV, ICAO: BIRK) is Iceland’s second largest airport, located just 2km away from the city centre of the capital. It mainly serves domestic flights, as well as some flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Beside some rare  transatlantic ferry flights, you´ll most likely see planes from the “Icelandic Flight Academy” and helicopter movements along with the regular traffic. The airport, which handled nearly 390.000 passengers in 2015, is the main hub for Air Iceland and Eagle Air Iceland and has three runways.

Once you are in the city centre of Reykjavik you should visit the airport, as it is rather spotter-friendly and has several nice locations. Furthermore you don´t need a car to get to various locations and it is easy to link spotting with sightseeing. But due to possible fast-changing weather conditions and long waiting time between movements, you have to dress properly (warm and waterproof) and have some patience.

Disclaimer: Due to much sunlight in the summer (midnight sun) and very short days in the period of winter, the light for each position can vary massively throughout the year. The proposed times mentioned in the guide are for the third week in October. Be aware of that.

Link with movements

Written by Alexander Zur (last visit Oct. 2016)

Rating Movements Visitor Rating
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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Information Runways 01/19 06/34
1.567m (5141ft) 960m (3150ft)
1230m (4035ft)
 Terminals West (Main) East
Air Iceland Eagle Air and Business Flights
Spotting Information Ladder Not needed.
Car Not needed if you stay in Reykjavik
Restrooms Inside the Terminals/as described below
Drinks/Food All around the airport/as described below
Hotels There are various hotels in Reykjavik and even next to the Terminal East.
Season I would visit the airport during summertime, as the weather-conditions in autumn or
winter are very harsh (rain, strong wind, cold, little sunshine)
Runway Usage General Info Runway 01/19 is used most of the time with nearly no expectations.

Spot #1 – Footbridge – 19 Arrivals/Departures
WHERE At the north of the airport is a footbridge which is located in the short final of runway 19. Its next to a petrol-station and Reykjaviks bus terminal. You can park your car at the gas station.
WHAT You can spot 19 arrivals and departures/lineup from there. Find your prefered position on the bridge for different angles.
TIME The light for arriving planes is good all day long. Departures can be made just after sunrise and prior to sunset.
MISC. There is a Subway nearby where you can buy some snacks.
FOCAL LENGTH Approx 70-250mm for arriving planes, at least 200mm for departing traffic.
Spot #2 – GAT Area – 19 Arrivals/Departures
WHERE This spot is located at the GAT-area next to the terminal (west). To get to this point, just follow the road to the terminal and take a left turn when arriving at the airport parking. Than follow the road and you should end on another parking next to some parked small airplanes. Although there is a parking, I am not sure if you´re allowed to leave your car there. Next to the parking is a small hill from where you´re able to take pictures.
WHAT You can spot 19 arrivals and departures as well, but here you´ll have a nice backdrop.
TIME You should use the spot from afternoon until sunset.
MISC. Nearby you´ll find the terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH ~100-220mm are fine there.

Spot #3 – Basketball court – Tarmac overview
WHERE This spot is located on the opposite side of the terminal (west). To get there (according you´re starting at the terminal), just follow the road “Þorragata“, take a left turn onto “Suðurgata” and follow the road until you see a basketball court on your left hand side. The walk takes only 10 minutes.
WHAT From here you´re able to see all actions on the tarmac and have a nice backdrop as well. Runway 13/31 movements are possible too but uncommon.
TIME Light should be good from ~1200-1300 until sunset.
MISC. There is a bus stop nearby, where you can find cover in case of bad weather.
FOCAL LENGTH The picture with the helicopter was taken with 170mm, otherwise at least 300mm.
Spot #4 – Perlan – All movements
WHERE The Perlan is a landmark in Reykjavik and has a viewing deck on the fourth floor. You can get there by foot or by car. If you´re travelling by bus just exit at the bus stop “perlan”. Despite many tourists visiting this place, entrance is still free and you´ll find a restaurant as well.
WHAT You have a great overview over the whole airport and should see most movements. Best for RWY 01/19.
TIME The light is good from sunrise until afternoon.
MISC. You´ll find restrooms and a restaurant.
FOCAL LENGTH 18mm for an airport overview, 300mm are fine for bigger planes (Dash 8-Q400), but I would recommend up to 400mm and more.

Spot #5 – Intersection next to lineup 19 – 19 Departures
WHERE This spot is located on a corner next to an expressway. To get there, just proceed from spot 1 as shown in the map.
WHAT You can see planes using the taxiway to runway 19 (mostly planes from Eagle Air Iceland) and departing later on.
TIME Light should be fine from sunrise until afternoon.
MISC. You have to shoot through a fence, but it´s doable.
FOCAL LENGTH 160-300mm

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One thought on “Reykjavik Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Ian Woodrow

    Following on from the comment about watching out for sun position due to the long summer days and very short winter ones I’d like to suggest the web page which is very good for showing sun location and tracking. Choose the location on the map and pick the date you are interested in.

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