The best time to see northern lights in Iceland is typically from September to April, when the nights are long and dark.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the stunning Northern Lights in Iceland, timing is everything.
But even within that timeframe, there can be variability. Here’s a look at some factors that can affect your chances of seeing the lights and the best time to go.
Factors that can affect your viewing:
– The amount of cloud cover.
– The level of activity on the sun. (Solar activity can actually interfere with visibility of the northern lights.)
– The strength of the geomagnetic storm.
Best chance for seeing the northern lights
Generally speaking, your best bet for seeing the northern lights in Iceland is to visit during the shoulder season in September/October or March/April.
The weather is typically more stable at these times, and you’ll have longer hours of darkness to increase your chances of seeing the lights.
Keep in mind that even if all the factors are lined up perfectly for a great light show, there’s no guarantee you’ll see them.
But if you plan your trip during the best time of year and keep an eye on the forecast, you just might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon.
What are Northern Lights in Iceland
Definition: Northern Lights are also known as Aurora Borealis.
Aurora or aurorae (for plural) are a natural green light, polar light that can be seen on the dark sky of Earth in the northern regions around the North Pole and on the southern regions near Antarctica.
Where does the term “Northern Lights” come from?
Northern Lights is the name given to Aurora Borealis.
Aurora Borealis is formed from two words: Aurora and Borealis. Aurora is the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn. Borealis comes from Boreas, which is the Greek word meaning north wind.
Have you ever asked yourself when is the best time to see northern lights in Iceland Aurora Borealis solar activity ?
If you plan to view Aurora Borealis, you have to know that the best time of year to see Northern Lights in Iceland is in late autumn and during winter if you consider the sun’s activity.
You have my word that it will be an amazing and unique experience that you will remember for the rest of your life!
1. How can you see the northern lights in Iceland?
First of all choose the right period to visit Iceland for the Aurora Borealis, and more important for seeing it is to be at the right time in the best place so you can view the Auroa Borealis in Iceland.
Easier said than done because Iceland Aurora is not so easy to view, especially if you never did this in the past.
No worries though, because I will guide and help you with useful travel tips so you can have the highest chance to see the aurora in Iceland during your itinerary.
We followed these simple rules, and we did not leave the country without viewing Aurora Iceland on the dark clear sky.
2. Do I need a car hire to view the northern lights in Iceland?
First thing you should do when you decide to chase Aurora Borealis is to hire a car.
A vehicle gives you the flexibility and freedom to move around and spot this incredible light show.
You might have to drive during nighttime in total darkness to isolated places to take the best photography and you’ll get very quickly how important it is to have a rented car at your disposal.
Get the best price for your car rental today
3. When is the best time to see northern lights in Iceland?
I say that the best time to experience the Iceland northern light is from September to October.
During this time of the year, you will get friendlier weather conditions, warmer temperatures and way fewer clouds than December and January.
It is possible to experience better solar activity so consider booking accommodation early to get the best price for accommodation near the best spots for aurora.
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4. What is the Best time to view northern lights in Iceland ?
First, let’s clarify what “best” means.
Because it can mean different things depending on different factors.
Some of the months are good because they have more hours of darkness meaning a higher chance of seeing Aurora Iceland.
Some months are best because the temperatures are better because it is not so cold.
Some months are good because there are fewer crowds meaning more perfect photos.
Some months are great because they are easily accessible. (friendlier weather conditions).
Some months are good because they have the highest solar activity.
Some months are perfect because they are cheaper being outside the high season for Aurora Borealis.
5. Which are the best months to see the northern lights in Iceland?
Every little thing depends on your objective of seeing the Aurora Borealis as well as the weather conditions that you prefer and also can endure.
In my opinion, these are the best months to see the northern lights in Iceland:
- July: Spotting the northern light in July is practically impossible since there is not nearly enough darkness. You have to be really fortunate to actually have a really high solar activity at the darkest hour of the evening to see it
- August: Traveling at the end of August as well as you raise your chances of seeing the North Lights in Iceland in August. Examine the solar task as well as the aurora projection on vedur.is.
- September: In September the nights are longer, it is not that cold and solar activity is generally higher at the equinox. September is one of the best months to see northern lights in Iceland, especially because of weather conditions and less cloudiness and higher solar activity.
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- October: Throughout October’s very first 2 weeks the solar activity is usually higher and also the first snowfalls take place in a lot of the island. It is much less cold than in winter months so October is a good month to see the northern lights in Iceland.
- November: Snow and Ice start the winter season in Iceland. Weather is more unstable, but you get an increased number of hours of darkness so you have a higher chance to see the northern lights in November.
- December: Enjoy many hours of darkness, fewer tourists in most places, higher solar activity, so December is the best month to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
- January: If your goal is to take photos of the northern lights with the snowy winter wonderland scenery, then January is one of the best months to see northern lights in Iceland. Dress warm and have your camera ready, the whole island is already in Arctic winter.
- February: More tourist comes in February, though snow and cold are still present and constant. Many small waterfalls are still frozen so February might be the perfect time to capture the Northern Lights in Iceland.
- March: End of March comes with warmer temperatures, it is the end of winter and the spring equinox which means higher solar activity. More and more tourist visit Iceland as March is one of the best months to photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland.
- April: Spring is here, so the number of hours of light increases a lot, and the scenery of Iceland changes with the thaw. You have a higher chance to see the Aurora Borealis in April during the first two weeks. Chances lower as you approach the end of April.
- May: May is close to summer so the long days, and lesser hours of dark translate into very very low chances, which means May is not the best month to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland.
The best period for Aurora Borealis in Iceland starts in September and ends in March, sometimes ending at the beginning of April.
We still consider the best season for Northern Lights to be in autumn and early winter, that is from September to December.
6. Where to stay when chasing the Green Lady
Before starting your Northern Lights hunt, make sure you have booked the best accommodations for your trip.
The hotels must be far from any light pollution and city lights, in remote areas from where you can observe perfectly the night skies and any trace of the Green Lady appearing.
The most popular places to spot this unique phenomenon are located on the south coast, from Reykjavik to Vik.
No matter if you choose to hunt the lights on your own of you book a Northern Lights tour, you definitely have to stay in these amazing places from Iceland:
- Reykjavik area- Midgardur By Center Hotels located close to city centre attractions with private parking and free Northern Lights wake up call
- Northeastern region- Vogafjos Farm Resort Myvatn featuring individual cottages far from any light pollution and close to Myvatn Natural Pools
- Southern region- Seljavellir Guesthouse Hofn with private terraces from where you can spot the Green Lady dancing on the sky
7. You have a higher chance to see Northern Lights in Iceland during winter
You should know that Aurora Borealis period in Iceland is tightly associated with late fall as well as winter season, which is the period of the year with the most darkness hours, as well as likewise the coldest.
If you were thinking to check out Iceland in spring for Aurora Borealis, think again, as this may not give you the highest opportunity of spotting the Green Lady.
The main reason is that the days are much longer, there is fewer hours of dark, so fewer minutes with complete darkness.
During winter time one of the best things do in Iceland is watching the northern lights as they are such a beautiful and unique phenomena, I cannot properly express what I felt when I first saw it.
During wintertime, best locations to see the northern lights in Iceland are not so quickly accessible as there can be shut roads due to weather conditions so better book your trip in autumn.
When the roadways are not shut you will most likely discover ice as well as snow when driving so you must drive meticulously as it is not a pleasant experience.
Though numerous travellers will certainly take into consideration November as well as December as the very best time to see the northern lights in Iceland, my recommendation is to visit Iceland in October or in late September.
In these months the weather is a lot more friendly and also you still have plenty of darkness after 6-7 pm to detect the aurora borealis.
More than that, the solar activity is higher during fall as well as winter season.
You can additionally consider to visit Iceland in February or March for comparable factors.
If you choose to visit Iceland in December or in November, days will be short, nights will be long so you have more chances to spot the Aurora Borealis, because it is the best time to see northern lights in Iceland.
8. Historical Data of Northern Lights in Iceland by Month in 2019
You can use this calendar for reference, but please keep in mind that the KP is a random factor, and will vary from one year to another.
The below calendar does not show cloudiness, which is a key factor for determining your chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland.
Nights with KP ≥ 3
Dark Nights ≥ 4 hours
Northern Lights Nights
|Northern Lights in Iceland in January||21||31||21|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in February||20||28||20|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in March||21||31||21|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in April||20||0||0|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in May||19||0||0|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in June||10||0||0|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in July||16||0||0|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in August||17||0||0|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in September||26||17||16|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in October||19||31||18|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in Novemebr||18||30||18|
|Northern Lights in Iceland in December||16||31||17|
*KP is the value related to the Aurora forecast and ranges from 0 to 9. To see Aurora Borealis in Iceland, you usually need a KP 3 or higher, though rarely you can spot it even at KP 2.
Additionally consider the aurora forecast from https://vedur.is as well as other official websites.
You need the solar eruptions forecast, the KP factor as well as the low and mid-level clouds, lower clouds, mid clouds as well as high clouds, every one of which can significantly influence your chance of seeing the aurora borealis.
In one word, you could have a KP factor higher than 7 (which is very rare) and you will not see anything if the sky is full of clouds (the lower and mid clouds are the ones causing the most overcast).
Clouds cover the sky might ruin your chances of seeing the lights on the sky even if there are strong solar winds and solar maximum activity.
9. Weather factors that will influence your chances of seeing the northern lights
You need to also consider various other variables like weather.
Snow as well as a snowstorm can close several roadways, causing the unfeasibility to go to those best spots to see the northern lights.
Cloudiness is another very vital aspect to consider, December normally can have much more clouds than November or October and also this may be a trouble.
Solar activity the “engine” that produces the aurora borealis is at a higher intensity at equinoxes.
Of course, there are 2 equinoxes, however, only one that has a darker sky which is the fall equinox which can be your best bet.
The closer you are to fall equinox when you see Iceland for Northern Lights the greater are your chances to see the green lights on the sky.
10. Best time of year for northern lights in Iceland
Best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland also named aurora borealis, take its name from the Roman goddess of the dawn whose name was Aurora Borealis word comes from Boreas which in Greek means north wind.
During winter nights with clear crisp skies, you can identify the stunning Northern Light amazingly dancing on the skies, illuminating the landscape everywhere near you.
Seeing this remarkable light show on the evening sky composed of coloured waves of light dance above you is something entirely one-of-a-kind and also absolutely a remarkable experience.
In my viewpoint booking accommodation in fall, in September or October is better because it is the best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland because the weather is better so you have extra opportunities to move from one area to one more.
View the aurora forecast from https://vedur.is and likewise look for the weather report for clouds as you can not see the aurora borealis if the skies are full of clouds.
If you wish to know when is the best time to view Northern Lights in Iceland, you should know some important facts first.
We consider the best time to visit Iceland is during October because winter has not come yet, the roads are still drivable and you can still do the Iceland ring road itinerary by car.
To chase Northern Lights you need a car. It offers you the flexibility and freedom needed when chasing Aurora Borealis.
Get the best price for your car rental today
October could be one of the best months to visit Iceland for northern lights.
Northern lights can be seen during October, November and December but in my opinion, the most accessible months are September and October, almost everyone considering it to be the best time of year to see Northern Lights in Iceland.
Please take into consideration that November and December are winter months that could mean most of the main roads are closed, or that they are full of ice and snow and hard to drive on.
You might think it is better to visit Iceland during November and December because there is more night time during these months but the true fact is that you might end up doing less because you can move less, or move with higher risk considering the bad winter weather.
11. When is the best time of year for northern lights in Iceland?
Best time to see northern lights in Iceland known also as Northern Lights season might also be during early spring in March or April.
During these months the winter is almost over and the longer days and gradually higher temperatures make it easier to explore and plan a trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
When you plan your trip, consider knowing the astrological events, as they happen all month in the Arctic Circle.
The new moon could come just when you visit Iceland and that could be a special event to see Northern lights in Iceland.
Strong moonlight is generally amplified by snow, especially when you take long exposure photos with your camera, and that could lead to beautiful photos of the landscape at night, but at the same time, it could mean it would be harder for you to spot and photograph faint aurora borealis which will translate in not so perfect opportunities to shoot the northern light in Iceland.
The lack of the moon could mean more perfect photos of the Iceland northern lights, so it could be the best time of year for northern lights in Iceland.
From my experience, when you plan a trip and wish to choose the best time to view northern lights in Iceland, you should consider these 5 things:
- Don’t plan a trip for the Icelandic Aurora Borealis, plan for the destination as travelling to Iceland definitely should be on your bucket list
- The Green Lights are unpredictable
- It does not have to be cold to see the Iceland Northern Lights, it just has to be dark outside
- You need a clear sky with no low clouds
- Northern lights are not “on” all night, they can be seen only for a short period when the “activity” is above 3 (please see the aurora forecast from vedur.is)
- The weather could change in a blink of an eye
If the aurora forecast is above 3 and the map looks white it could be the best time to view Northern Lights in Iceland.
Pro travel tip when you search for aurora forecast: On Vedur.is you should look for “aurora forecast” activity above 3 and please note that the map should be white (and not green, blue or orange).
The green means that the sky has clouds on it, it does not mean that aurora borealis can be seen, on the contrary, it might be the best time of year for Northern Lights in Iceland.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.