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. 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 417.000 passengers in 2016, is the main hub for Air Iceland Connect 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.
Written by Alexander Zur, Ola Carlsson and Severin Hackenberger. Last Update: March 2019
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|1.567m (5141ft)||960m (3150ft)|
|Air Iceland Connect||Eagle Air and Business Flights|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Needed at a few spots. See desription in the MISC box.|
|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 handles the majority of the traffic, but runway 13/31 can be active a lot as well due to strong winds occuring sometimes. Be prepared that the runway usage is unclear sometimes, so that planes land and depart differently and without a clear system.|
|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 – Grasshill – Runway 13 activities
|WHERE||This spot is located not far from the terminal. Follow the road “Þorragata” as you would do to get to location #3. You´ll pass a bus stop and see two elongated mounds on your right side.|
|WHAT||From here you´re able to see runway 13 departures and arrivals. Smaller aircraft´s departing on runway 13 might not use the whole length, so keep that in mind. However, business jets and the Air Iceland jets will do a backtrack at the end of the runway, allowing you some nice face to face shots.|
|TIME||Light conditions for arriving planes are only good right after sunrise. Departing planes can be spotted until noon.|
|MISC.||You don´t need a ladder and the terminal is only 5 minutes away by foot. If it rains you´ll find cover in the bus stop nearby.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Everything between 150-250mm for both landing and departing planes is fine.|
|Spot #4 – Suðurgata pathway|
|WHERE||This spot is located by the roadside so on the pathway or in the nearby park-/beacharea next to “Suðurgata” road. Parking your car is a bit difficult and limited possible mostly only possible by the roadside in the neighbourhood here. Then just search your favourite position in the area here.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 13.|
|TIME||Light should be good from late morning until afternoon.|
|MISC.||Nothing directly here just living houses and the “beach”.|
Piper PA44 = 280mm
|Spot #5 – 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. You can photograph over the fence from here. In the case you have a ladder you can continue from there all along Einarsnes Road and look for other positions at the fence (see last three sample photos).
Bus nummer 12 from downtown (not the airport) stops here.
|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.|
Helicopter shot = 170mm / GA on runway =/> 280mm
|Spot #6 – University mounds|
|WHERE||This spot is located on one of the dirtmounds, which can be found infront of the university. Depending on what you wanna spot exactly you may switch between the northern and the southern one. The overview shot shows the northern one at the front and was taken from the southern one.|
|WHAT||Runway 01/19 and nearby taxiways as well as 13 departures and 31 arrivals – the last activities are better from the northern one.|
|TIME||The light is good from sunrise until afternoon for runway 13/31 and for 01/19 from sunrise till midday.|
|MISC.||Just the university nearby, where you can find a bus stop, but no real facilities for food or drinks. View is quite disturbed by all the lightpoles, buildings and trees.|
Dash 8 (Q400 series) on 01/19 = 180mm / Do328 on 01/19 = 290mm —— GA/sport aircrafts (like Cessna 172s) on 13/31 = 330mm
Example shots were taken from the northern mound mostly except the first shot (Dash 8 Q400 arrival), which was taken from the southern:
|Spot #7 – 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”. Entrance costs around 4 Euros, but it’s worth the price due to the awesome view (city and airport).|
|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 #8 – Flightschool apron
|WHERE||This spot is quite easy to reach from the mainroad running east of the airport called “Nauthólsvegur”. Just before you would cross runway 13/31, take the exit on your right on the opposite site of the school/kindergarden. Then park your car in the parking area on your left infront of the hall/apron or somewhere else nearby here. Now you have two options:
|WHAT||Mainly all aircrafts on the apron infront here, which is normally used by private and flightschool sportaircrafts. You can also see runway 13/31 and even runway 01/19 a bit farer away.|
|TIME||Light should be fine from sunrise until late morning for runway 13/31. For runway 01/19 the sun is good from sunrise till midday and the light on the apron depends on the angle aircrafts are parked in, which vary a lot.|
|MISC.||There is just the hotel quite a few meters away. Runways can be seen from the footpath without ladder, but therefore a ladder is useful for the apron, although you can also shoot through the fenceholes directly.|
|Spot #9 – FBO/Eagle Air|
|WHERE||Get to the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura. Behind there is the Eagle Air base and the FBO with is a small access gate where you can easily take photos over the fence or through. So this spot is located infront of the Eagle Air apron at the southern end of this fence, which ends up in the Eagle Air hangar. There are public roads all the way around the Hotel Reykjavik Natura (former Hotel Loftleidir).|
|WHAT||Very limited gap for aircrafts on the runway 01/19 and taxiway due to buildings and aircrafts though – that’s why spot #10 is better for the runway!
Good for the Eagle Air movements if the arrive and leave their ramp or just park here.
|TIME||Light should be fine from sunrise until afternoon.|
|MISC.||There is just the hotel next to you. Ladder recommend as with a small ladder you can get over the fence, which has very narrow ribs and with use of wide angle its hard not to get them in the picture.
Advantage in comparison to spot #10?
|FOCAL LENGTH||From 18-200mm for the apron – for the runway you’d need more, but as this spot isn’t perfect for this we didn’t list the runway focal length.|
Example shots taken along the fence at different positions:
|Spot #10 – Airport parking
|WHERE||This spot is located right at the fence’s kink next to kinda guardhouse, so at the northern end of the Eagle Air apron right at the fence’s end. This spot can be reached by car easily, which can be parked everywhere right at the fence or similar.|
|WHAT||All acitivities on the nearby area here; runways and taxiways.|
|TIME||Light should be fine from sunrise until late morning/early midday.|
|MISC.||Although you have to shot through a fence, there is wodden palette where you can shot over the fence from. You can stand there, although a very small ladder would be perfect.
Advantage in comparison to spot #9?
Dash 8 (300 series) on runway = 150mm
|Spot #11 – 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 and departing later on.|
|TIME||Light should be fine from sunrise until afternoon.|
|MISC.||Although you have to shot through a fence, there is a spot just few meters left where the fence is not that high and the pavement elevated a bit. You can shot from there, although a very small ladder would be perfect.|
|Spot #12 – Hringbraut bridge
|WHERE||This spot is located on a footbridge, which runs above “Hringbraut” mainroad. Parking is a bit tricky in this area as most spots are privately used so the best way is to park your car somewhere else or use the bus – LSH/Hringbraut busstop is just next to the bridge. Anyway, just search your favourite position on this bridge or next to it; depending on all those lightpoles, which may be disturbing.|
|WHAT||Arrivals and Line-Ups on runway 19 and late 01 departures.|
|TIME||From sunrise till midday.|
|MISC.||Nothing directly here a few hotels and shops a few hundred meters away.|
Dash 8 (300-series) arrival = 280mm
|Spot #13 – Hallgirmskirkja – 19 arrivals.|
|WHERE||This spot is pretty unique as its in the tower of the Hallgrimskirkja church, which you can see in the backdrop of some pictures above. It´s quite a distance from the airport but a very stunning view from here! You need a ticket from the shop, then take elevator to the top floor, steps from there to the viewing platform. Rather narrow openings with ribs making it a bit hard for panning.|
|WHAT||When they use 19 its a great view on the aircrafts approaching over the city center. 01 deparutres should be no problem too but we did not test it.|
|TIME||Light should be fine from sunrise until afternoon.|
|MISC.||Keep in mind your are within a church so be respectful, keep calm and use a low profile!
More infos for the tower can be found on their website.
Entrance fee is 1000 ISK (7 EUR)Opening hours:
Winter (October – April): 09:00 – 17:00. Tower closes 16:30.
Summer (May – September): 09:00 – 21:00. Tower closes 20:30.The tower is closed on Sundays from 10:30 – 12:15 during mass at 11:00.
|FOCAL LENGTH||At least 400mm recommend|