Seeing the so-called aurora borealis is on many people’s bucket lists. And for a good reason too. This magical yet natural phenomenon that only occurs rarely is truly a beautiful sight to behold. And sharing the moment with loved ones, friends and family can make the moment even more special.
But where should you go, and what should you do, if you want the best chances of seeing the northern lights for yourself? Stick around, and we will discuss how you get the best chances of being enchanted by the polar lights, as well as educate you on what they are and more.
What are Northern Lights
The northern lights are a beautiful and somewhat rare phenomenon that occurs naturally around the south and north poles. In short, the northern lights appear as massive hanging lights in the night sky, often with a green coloration to it. In the age of vikings and norse mythology, the aurora borealis was believed to be created by the gods, but today we know better than that.
What creates the Northern Lights
The reason we experience northern lights are due to the winds from the sun. These strong winds carry electrons that are propelled by immense heat, and then enter our atmosphere with a high velocity. This causes oxygen and nitrogen to be charged from the electrons, but the gaseous forms do not store the energy. Instead the gas releases the energy in small bursts of light, causing the beautiful northern lights to become visible.
Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland
In theory it is possible to see northern lights almost anywhere in Iceland, as long as the weather conditions are right, and there is not too much light pollution from big cities, or other heavy-duty sources. It is naturally occurring, so not at all easy to predict, though there are forecasts that attempt to track the northern lights activity.
Best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland
In theory it is possible to see the northern lights in any given month, but to increase your chances we recommend you visit Iceland between October and March, as conditions are slightly better here, than the rest of the year. In part, this is because the cold climate has less moisture in the air, and thus creates less of a visual barrier for the lights to be visible.
Once you’ve arrived in Iceland, you will also need to choose a time of day to go hunting. It is generally agreed that between 9pm and 2am is the best time for a chance of seeing the northern lights in action.
Where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
You don’t have to travel far from civilization, if at all. In fact it’s possible to experience the awesome feeling of the night sky illuminated by the northern lights even in downtown Reykjavik, when the weather conditions are perfect. But often tourists are recommended journeying to nearby areas, all within a comfortable driving distance from Reykjavik, so when you are planning your adventure, don’t worry too much about distance.
You could choose to go on a northern lights guided tour in Iceland, complete with experienced guides, transportation and even a cup of hot chocolate. This can help you find the best location to see the northern lights, without much effort on your part, but it is also possible to drive to a good spot all on your own. It is often advised to visit one of the many parks or open areas in such a case, just remember to stay safe. If possible, choosing a night where the moon is not at its fullest is also to be preferred.
Best Place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
There’s many places that offer excellent spots for enjoying the northern lights in Iceland. So many that it can be difficult to name our favorite. So instead, we name a few different options.
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula can be a great place to hunt for the polar lights, as the elevation from the mountain provides decent altitude, and the surrounding area is very low on light pollution. The area itself is also beautiful, in fact Game of Thrones filmed some scenes here, which means that even if you are unlucky enough not to witness the northern lights, you will still get a memorable day out of your troubles.
- Another great place could be Akureyri. In this fourth largest city in Iceland, conditions are often great for seeing the lights, and the size of the city makes light pollution less of a worry, than in Reykjavik for instance.
Best place to see Northern Lights in Reykjavik
If you don’t wish to leave Reykjavik in your search for the aurora borealis experience, you can sometimes get lucky on a cold, clear winter night. If possible try to stay away from the largest artificial light sources, and try to gain some altitude.
A rooftop on the outskirts of Reykjavik can provide an excellent vantage point if conditions are right. In short, the less light you have around you that is coming from buildings or vehicles, the better your chances. Pair that with a cold and clear night and you might just get lucky.
Northern Lights Forecast
While not always 100% accurate, on our website we have a forecast for the northern lights at the bottom of our website. If you’ve already arrived in Iceland, it can be a great helping tool when you decide what day you want to hunt for the beautiful experience.