Northern Lights in Iceland: An Introduction

Welcome, to an exploration of one of nature’s most captivating phenomena – the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis. Join us on this journey to discover the northern lights in Iceland, where the night sky comes alive with an otherworldly display of color and movement. Prepare to be enchanted as you witness the dance of the auroras in the land of fire and ice.

Why do we get Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights, scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis, have intrigued and inspired humanity for centuries. This celestial spectacle occurs when charged particles from the sun collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, creating luminous displays of green, purple, and pink hues that seem to dance across the night sky. Northern lights occurs in high-latitude regions of the world. Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, due to its location close to the Arctic Circle and its low levels of light pollution.

What do they look like?

No two displays of the Northern Lights are ever the same, making each encounter a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience. As darkness falls and the stars begin to twinkle overhead, keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs of an impending aurora – a faint green glow on the horizon that gradually intensifies into a shimmering curtain of light. From gentle undulations to frenetic spirals, the auroras’ movements are as unpredictable as they are mesmerizing, casting an ethereal spell upon all who behold them.

When can I see the Northern Lights?

Northern lights can occur all year around. However, ideally we need dark, cloud free skies as usually the Northern lights are not bight enough to be seem during the day or through cloud cover. Therefore, the time to hunt the Northern Lights in Iceland is from September to April, when the nights are long. The most active Northern Lights are usually around the equinox in March and October every year. Always check weather conditions, cloud coverage and Aurora activity on the Icelandic Met Office Website, also on the website and on the app My Aurora Forecast & Alerts, which also send you a notification when activity is high.

Where can I see the Northern Lights?

The short and easy answer is anywhere…if they are strong enough. If you are lucky enough to get a very strong display you can even see them in the capital city of Reykjavik. However, if you would like to maximise you chances you are better of finding a place with less light pollution. Many say they are hunting Northern lights because they are looking for a location with the best back drops and lowest cloud cover.

To find Northern Lights you can either:

  • Walk somewhere: If you are staying in the countryside you do not need to go far, just away from the lights of buildings. If you are in Reykjavik head to the shore or Grotta Lighthouse.
  • Book a tour: An expert guide can take you to the best location and taking all the planning stress away from you, tell you stories about the Northern Lights and Iceland, given you photography advise tailored to the conditions of the night and even get some good photos of you. You can even sleep on your way home.
  • Rent a car to explore yourself: Check the weather forecast and the road conditions and head out. If you can find somewhere that had a great backdrop for photos like lakes, mountains, waterfalls, churches or lighthouses. Head to Kleifarvatn Lake on the Reykjanes peninsula, Thingvellir National Park or the Snaefellsnes peninsula for some perfect locations.

How can I get a good photo?

If you would like more defined photos equip yourself with a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings to capture the vibrant hues of the auroras. Remember to bring a tripod to stabilise your shots and experiment with long exposures to capture the intricate dance of light across the night sky. There is no on setting fits all cameras that ensures great captures. If you can change your camera settings manually, have a play with experimenting with various combinations of ISO, aperture, and exposure settings. As a rule of thumb, ISO settings between 400 and 3200, aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6, and shutter speed at between 15 seconds and 30 seconds have proven effective. You can read our full photography guide here.

If you are shooting on a smart phone experiment with the settings. Many newer models have night modes, RAW settings and ways to adjust the exposure. we also high recommend also using a tripod of that steady shot. You can read our full iPhone Photography guide here.

Remember to bring some touches, so that you can play with some light painting shots while you wait for the Northern Lights and test your camera settings.

What do I need to wear/ bring with me?

Before embarking on your Northern Lights adventure, it’s essential to come prepared. Dress warmly in layers, as Iceland’s winter nights can be chilly. Don’t forget to pack a sturdy pair of boots for exploring rugged terrain. The perfect way to stay warm is with rechargeable handwarmers. Take a flask of hot chocolate to keep you warm. Travel with a little flashlight, so you can safely navigate while you explore. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and aurora predictions to maximize your chances and reduce your time in the cold. Also, don´t forget your camera and spare batteries!

Join the Northern Lights Adventure

Are you ready to embark on a journey to the edge of the Arctic and witness the Northern Lights in all their splendor? Join us as we explore the mystical landscapes of Iceland and unlock the secrets of the auroras. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious novice, the Northern Lights await, beckoning you to discover the magic that lies beyond the horizon. So pack your bags, set your sights on the Icelandic sky, and prepare for an adventure you’ll never forget. The auroras are calling – will you answer?

If you have any questions or want Iceland travel advice please get in touch.