Planning on seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland? We’ve got you covered with this extensive guide that will ensure that you have the best view of witnessing this natural wonder.
There is no shortage of jaw-dropping sights and awe-inspiring moments when looking at the Northern Lights in Iceland, but we want to make sure you are prepared to know what the Northern Lights are, what tours you should take, what conditions are prime for seeing them, and more.
This should make planning so much easier, and will hopefully ease the stress and worry of missing this spectacular sight. So, before we send you on our way, here are a few things you should know about seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland!
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How to See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Table of Contents
What Are The Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights in Iceland, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are bright dancing lights that echo in the sky. These lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern hemisphere and can display different colors such as green, pink, yellow, red, blue, and violet.
Most often, these lights appear in forms and patches that are scattered throughout the clouds in arcs, acting like streamers that glow in the night sky alongside stars.
We can see the Northern Lights in Iceland because they are a result of collisions between gas particulars in our Earth’s atmosphere. They are charged with particles that have been released form the sun’s atmosphere, and as a result, the molecules produce colors at high-altitude oxygen levels.
Aurora Borealis, which means drawn the the north, seems fitting, as seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is truly a unforgettable moment: a captivating natural phenomenon, you don’t want to miss the magic at the magnetic poles.
When is the Best Time to See The Northern Lights in Iceland?
The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is dependent on the amount of darkness. Because Iceland is located so far north, at a high latitude, there is no darkness from mid-april to mid- August, and therefore, no lights can be observed.
The best month to see the northern lights in Iceland is, therefore, definitely March! This is the best time for maximum chances to see the lights, and September has been well known for a great opportunity to observe the lights, due to the September equinox.
Also make sure you are aware of the time of day, as the best time of day to see the Northern Lights occurs between 9:30 pm and 1:00 am. This is prime due to the darkness!
Proper Conditions Needed to See The Northern Lights
If you want to see the Northern Lights as part of your Iceland itinerary, this is the section for you!
There are a few things to consider about the proper conditions needed to really see the northern lights in Iceland, and these things are: Aurora activity, darkness (as previously mentioned), and clear skies!
When there is more aurora activity occurring, the more likely it is that you will see the lights! In our next section we will talk about the Aurora forecast that helps predict how high or low the activity is for any given day!
As mentioned earlier, darkness is also needed to really witness the northern lights in their prime! Despite that you may be able to see them during daylight, you want to ensure that you witness them at night as well, as the darker it is, the more bold the colors! This also means it is a fall, winter and spring activity.
Lastly, make sure you are trying to see the northern lights in Iceland with clear skies! Unfortunately and despite contrary belief, Reykjavik is usually cloudy, so you want to go out of the city and away from the town to witness clear skies. And as a rule of thumb: sub-zero temperatures typically go hand in hand with clear skies, so if it’s cold, you’ve got a chance of visibility!
The Icelandic Northern Lights Forecast Website
As mentioned earlier, you want to track Aurora activity in hopes of seeing the northern lights in Iceland! Thankfully, there is a forecast website that will let you do this with ease!
The Icelandic Met Office allows for you to view the forecast on any evening, at any time. It provides cloud levels, a map of cloud cover, and the timing of sunset, darkness, sunrise and moonrise for your needs!
It may be helpful to check out the Icelandic Met Office Forecast site when planning your tours and trip, just to ensure that there is activity and clear skies set up for your night-time activity!
Best Northern Lights Tours in Iceland
One of the best opportunities to see the Northern Lights is to take a tour and get out of the city to witness the natural beauty. If you are looking for our more detailed tips, we have an entire post on the 10 Best Northern Lights Tours In Iceland!
Below we have listed some of the best Iceland Northern Lights Tours!
1. From Reykjavik: 3-5 Hour Northern Lights Mystery Tour
This Iceland northern lights tour takes you on a late, dark night winter adventure! Hunting for the Aurora Borealis, this From Reykjavik 3-5 Hour Northern Lights Mystery tour takes you out with an expert guide who will lead you to the best locations to witness the dramatic shapes, colors and more of the lights.
2. Iceland: Northern Lights Bus Tour From Reykjavik
This Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik lets you experience the great natural phenomena of the Northern lights in Iceland during a 4-hour evening bus tour of Iceland. Departing from the bright city of Reykjavik, this tour offers free entrance to the Aurora Museum and stops at the best places to see the view of the dancing lights!
3. Small Group Premium Northern Lights Tour
The Small Group Premium Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik is a nightly intimate tour that lets this small group marvel at breathtaking displays while hunting and traveling to the best locations to see the Northern Lights in Iceland! This quest is fun, breathtaking and adventurous, and you get to stop at the Aurora Museum as well!
Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Because one of the best prime conditions to see the Northern Lights in Iceland includes darkness, dark areas away from the the city and towns are some of the best places to see the lights in all of their glory!
We recommend checking out locations such as: Thingvellir, Threngsli, Djúpavík and Hvammsfjordur. These good sports are great and popular for photos.
However, it is important to know that google and google maps is also your friend! If you are interested in seeing the Northern Lights, you can always research the best areas to view the lights, or even ask popular tours or tourist stops where to go– just make sure it’s not too far, and that it’s dark!
How to See the Northern Lights in Reykjavik
It is very hard to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik! Typically, unless the lights are super strong that night, you have to get away from the town, to get to somewhere darker to witness them!
We recommend going out on in a car or with a tour. Here we are going to provide a few places that are ideal for seeing the lights, and easy to travel to outside of Reykjavik.
1. Grotta Lighthouse
This is one of the most convenient places to wait for the northern lights in Iceland! It is just five minutes from Reykjavik by car and the lighthouse itself offers a great backdrop to any photo! Warning though, there are a lot of locals and tourists that may be here as well if they hear it is a high activity night.
2. Thingvellir National Park
Although a bit further (an hour drive), this national park is the perfect places to watch the northern lights in Iceland– and in Europe! This prime location is where the two tectonic plates meet and is well known for it’s vast landscape providing a great backdrop to the horizon of the lights.
It is a part of the Golden Circle and is a must-see at night and during the day!
3. The Lava Tunnel
This is about a 35 minute drive out of the town, but every second is worth it! There is no infrastructure here that can contribute to light pollution, and the evening tours of the Lava Tunnel themselves take you into caves in search of the dancing lights! It is truly one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland!
4. Lake Hvaleyrarvatn
This area is super close by, and there is a tiny car park to the side of the lake that let’s you follow the south shore. So whether you sit in the car and look for the lights reflecting on the lake or get out and walk to further hunt and explore, you can’t go wrong in visiting Lake Hvaleyrarvatn to see the northern lights in Iceland.
Can You See the Northern Lights From the Blue Lagoon?
YES! Many people don’t think they can see the iconic Northern Lights in Iceland from the Blue Lagoon, but you can, primarily in the winter months!
Because the sun sets so early, the dark conditions at the Blue Lagoon are needed and ideal. This prime location and the darkness it allows is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik and is great for a little self-care and relaxation!
We have more tips about vising the Blue Lagoon Here!
How to Take Photos of the Northern Lights
If you are seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in person, you probably also want to document your experiences! Capturing this wondrous beauty on film can be difficult, however, so we want to include some tips on how to take these photos!
First, make sure you set your camera focus to infinity: this is so important for night photography! This simply ensures that your pictures will be sharp even when taking photos that are on the far horizon. Just do this by selecting manual mode and focusing to infinity!
It can also be helpful to make sure your aperture is as wide as possible in addition to increasing your exposure time. In fact, it is beneficial to adjust your exposure time based on the movement of the aurora. If the activity is slow, shoot for a slower exposure (12-20 seconds), but if it is fast, 5 seconds should work!
Lastly, having proper equipment is also really helpful! Bringing a long a tripod, ensuring that your camera has a Manuel setting ability, and a wide-angle lens is so helpful for getting that perfect shot of the northern lights in Iceland!
And don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards– you don’t want lose anything! Don’t forget to check out our Tips For Photographing The Northern Lights!
Best Hotels in Iceland for Seeing the Northern Lights
1. Hotel Ranga
Hotel Ranga is well known for it’s stargazing observatory on site, which makes it one of the best places to stay when looking for the Northern lights in Iceland. This luxury hotel features a remote location, offers wake-up calls for when the lights appear, and will turn off lighting for the lights!
The rooms here are decorated and spacious, and the hotel has a great restaurant. You can also admire the nearby river and volcano if you are looking for something scenic!
Check Rates at Booking.com
2. Hotel Laxnes
This hotel is located just off the scenic Ring Road, making it a central yet coastal location that features spacious rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and more. Hotel Laxnes is known for its scenic views and is well-reviewed by many!
Many people love to stay here because the staff helps with arranging activities like whale watching tours, jeep safaris, horseback riding, and seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland of course!
Check Rates at Booking.com
3. Aurora Cabins
With great views, free wifi, private parking, and secluded units, Aurora Cabins is a great place to stay if you are looking for something more intimate! Each unit features a dining room, living room, private bathroom, and more.
While the lodge itself features a grill, garden, and sun terrace, the natural surroundings really capture the essence of this hotel, and it is the place to stay if you simply want to go outside your room and experience the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Check Rates at Booking.com
4. Hotel Husafell
Although slightly more expensive, Hotel Husafell is a perfect getaway hotel that is filled with luxurious activities that even go beyond seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. Featuring a golf course, hot tubs and more, this contemporary hotel is prime for rest and relaxation!
With a 24-hour front desk, garden, and bar, you won’t be bored, but you can also enjoy relaxing in geothermal pools, hiking, cycling and horseback riding. Better yet? They have a great location for viewing the Northern Lights!
Check Rates at Booking.com
And there you have it! A basic break down of the Northern Lights in Iceland, and some tips and tricks for how to see them, as well as some advice regarding your travels while hunting this natural phenomenon.
Whether you go in March or September, make sure to pack some warm clothes, and don’t forget your camera– we promise that seeing the Northern Lights is something you don’t want to ever forget and that you will want to document! Enjoy!