Northern lights in Iceland

THINGS TO KNOW about the Northern lights in Iceland

 

1. What are the Northern Lights ?

Definition: Northern Lights is generally called Aurora Borealis. Auroras or aurora, aurorae (plural), is the term used to describe northern lights (aurora borealis), green lights  on the polar circle or aurora australis, known as southern lights. It  is a natural light phenomenon that can be seen in the dark sky. Most often it can be seen in the Polar Circle region and in Antarctica.

northern lights from above
northern lights from above

The Northern lights in Iceland are produced by the electrical particles of the sun that collide with each other in the upper atmosphere near the North Pole. The reaction produced by the collision creates a beautiful green light efect on the sky, known as Aurora Borealis. The light can be pink, blue, yellow or purple.

 

2. When doES ICELAND Northern Light APPEAR ?

 

North Lights show up on the Iceland sky in September around the equinox and they can be seen up until late March, relying on the solar activity and weather conditions. Very rarely they can be observed throughout late August, only if there is an extreme solar explosion. If you want to be sure that you will see the Northern Light in Iceland, my suggestions is to think about going to Iceland late September or very early October, as you have the highest possible opportunity of seeing the Aurora Borealis, due to the fact that the solar activity is the highest possible during the two Equinoxes.

 

3. What are the optimal conditions to see northern lights in Iceland

If you wish to observe aurora borealis in Iceland you need patience, some luck and the optimal conditions to see the lights:

  • Plan to go to Iceland from September to March
  • Go out on a dark sky night (avoid full moon, as it diminish the aurora)
  • It is important to choose a location with low light pollution
  • Clear skies without any clouds
  • Higher solar activity means more visible aurora

The last 2 conditions are essential and you should research them prior to going to see the lights. You can easily do this by looking up the aurora forecast and the cloud cover forecast. The bad thing with the forecasts is that you can only see the forecasta a few days ahead. The aurora forecast is scaled from 0 to 9, and if it is above 2, it means you have some chances of seeing the northern lights.

Check the cloudcover here: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/cloudcover/

Check the aurora forecast here:  http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

 

4. Which part of Iceland is best for Northern Lights?

Normally the best part of Iceland that is ideal for Northern Lights is the Northern part, followed by the South-western part of Iceland, followed by the South.

On the Northern part of Iceland the very best areas are around Akureyri as well as the Eyafjordur (Eyjafjörður).

On the South western part of Iceland the very best places to see the northern lights in Iceland are Vik, Jokulsarlon, Thingvellir National Forest, Reykjavik.

best places for Northern Lights
best places for Northern Lights

As you can possibly think of, the Northern Lights start showing up from the north part of Iceland, and as the intensity boosts, you can additionally see them in the south. This is why everybody claims the most effective places to see the North Lights in Iceland are the ones dealing with North, mountains, waterfalls, coastlines or any other location that is dealing with North.

Iceland Northern Lights KP map
Iceland Northern Lights KP map

The required KP in order to see North Lights in Iceland is slightly lower in Northern part compared to Southern part, as you can see in the picture below, the KP map of Aurora Borealis in Iceland.

KP Index Map of Northern Lights in Iceland
KP Index Map of Northern Lights of Iceland

As it is displayed in the picture over, the Northern Lights are visible all over Iceland from a KP 3. However in Northern Iceland, you could easily see the Northern Lights if the KP is above 2. All you need is dark skies without clouds and you have to be away from any type of light sources as well as have little to non light pollution. The higher the KP index the extra noticeable the lights will certainly get on the clear dark sky. See also: The best 5 places to see northern-lights in Iceland

 

5. What is the best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland?

Best time for seeing north lights in Iceland is during mid September and mid March as these months are the ones the 2 equinoxes take place. October and November are also very good months to see the Aurora Borealis because there is more darkness due to winter time. “Best time” is hard to define simply because it can mean many different things depending on different factors. Some months are good because they have more hours of darkness meaning a higher chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis.

Best time for northern lights in Iceland is from September to March because of equinoxes

Some months are best because the temperatures are more friendly (not so cold). Some months are good because they have less crowds translating into more perfect photos. Some months are great because they have friendlier weather conditions and are easily accessible for taking photos of the Northern Lights.

 

6. Best guided tours for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

We would recommend you consider getting a guided tour and stay on the safer side, since you will have a more pleasant and less stressful experience and you will come back from it with more beautiful memories on your mind and on your camera. We picked the tours we had to choose from when we were in Iceland, and the choice was not easy as all of the guided tours offer a great experience, knowledgeable guide and they have the highest positive reviews. We highly recommend taking any of the tours below as we’ve carefully selected them based on the experience, high review rate from tourists and we know they are reliable and professional.

Iceland Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik

Experience one of the world’s most beautiful natural phenomenon on a 4-hour evening bus tour in Iceland. Depart the bright lighting area of Reykjavik to search for the Northern Lights of Iceland (Aurora Borealis).

  • Duration 4 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup optional
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts
Aurora Borealis Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik

Northern Lights are a spectacular natural light phenomenon, often seen dancing around in green, pink, purple colors across the Icelandic Arctic sky. You can spot them for yourself on this 3-hour tour from Reykjavik.

  • Duration 3 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup optional
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts
Iceland Northern Lights Bus Tour

Head out to search for the elusive northern lights in a comfortable bus with a qualified and knowledgeable guide. A hot cocoa cup will keep you warm while your guide tells you interesting stories about Iceland on your way!

  • Duration 4 hours
  • Instant confirmation
  • Live tour guide English
  • Pickup included
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts

 

7. Hunting the Northern Lights by car – Driving yourself in Iceland

If you have a driver’s license valid in Iceland, written with english characters, you can hire a car in Iceland and start hunting the Northern Lights by yourself. This means that you will be by yourself without any crowds or other group members interfering between you and the northern lights on your tour. No limit for how long can you stay waiting for the northern lights and you are the one choosing the place where you go hunting for the aurora borealis.

Get the best price for your car rental today

Before you decide on choosing this option, it is important to know about the restrictions in Iceland. Even if in September, October and in March and April the roads are mostly clear of ice, they can be hard to navigate and very dangerous from November to March. Iceland authorities can decide to close a road from one hour to another, and you have to be prepared to take another longer route if available or spend some extra days and wait for weather conditions to improve.

See also: 3 Reasons why rent a car to chase Northern Lights in Iceland

If you have little or no experience of driving on snow and ice roads, narrow, dark or rural roads, the best thing you should do is to look at alternative ways of hunting for the northern lights. If on the other hand you do feel comfortable driving a car rental in Iceland, it is essential to hire a 4×4 car for the icy roads.

To be safer and feel more secure when you rent a car the best thing you could do which gets you out of trouble is to buy an extra insurance. Usually, the insurances offered by the rental companies does not have full coverage. So, to protect your wallet and to be prepared if something unpredictable would happen, buy extra insurance.

Do you like to travel without any worry that an incident might ruin your holiday? Stay on the safe side and buy extra insurance!

Don’t forget! Even if you have extra insurance bought, it is imperative to always check the weather forecast on vedur.is and to check what roads are open and closed on road.is before you leave your accommodation and start your own driving journey. Be sure that roads are open and that your destination point is accessible. Vedur.is is a very useful online tool that will help you get the best results when hunting for aurora borealis.

You can find all the information about the aurora forecast scaled from 1 to 9, any forecast above 3 is worth driving out to see it. You also get information about the cloud cover all around the island, so you can see where you can find clear skies. Don’t get fooled like us by vedur.is, the green colour does not mean there is aurora activity (we thought so when we entered the website first), it shows up where “low and mid level clouds” are, so green means a no-no for seeing the northern lights, white spots are the ones you should be looking for when aurora forecast (on the right side) is above 3.

Driving yourself for the northern lights give you freedom and privacy, but this option is not perfect and has its own disadvantages. One thing you will miss is the useful information a knowledgeable guide will give you during a guided tour. They not only know the Northern Lights spots and weather well but they also know the most common places to watch Aurora Borealis.

A second unpleasant thing is the stress of driving in Iceland in winter on the narrow icy roads, which can be an important inconvenient for those tourists seeking for a relaxed holiday, a travel to unwind and just forget about the daily stress and problems. Anyway, renting a car in Iceland and hunting for the Northern Lights is still a good option for the adventurous travellers that are not holding back from any obstacles on their way and always find a way to do what they have set themselves to do.

See also: The Ultimate Guide for Iceland Car Rental

 

8. Best accomodation for Northern Lights in Iceland

I have selected for you top accommodations from each area so you can easier book your accommodation for your personal travel itinerary in Iceland: Iceland Regions:

 

Book your overnight stay in Capital Region:
  • Close to Reykjavik main attractions
  • has parking place for the car
  • Northern Lights wake up call services
  • Close to Reykjavik main attractions
  • very modern rooms and great breakfast
  • assist in preparing an unforgetable Northern Lights tour
  • Close to Reykjavik main attractions
  • tasty breakfast
  • pick up and drop off from the hotel for Northern Lights tours

 

Book your overnight stay in Northeast Region:
  • individual cottages far from any light pollution
  • close to Myvatn Natural Pools
  • great breakfast and cozy rooms
  • located in Akureyri
  • the capital of the North
  • with nice rooms and great breakfast
  • staff very helpful will give you good tips for chasing Northern Lights
  • remote location
  • 13 km away from Husavik
  • offer nice rooms overlooking the beautiful scenery
  • each room have a terrace from where you can see the Northern Lights

 

Book your overnight stay in Southern Region:
  • right near the Ring Road
  • far from any light pollution
  • cozy rooms and great breakfast
  • each room have a terrace from where you can see the northern lights
  • modern rooms with Nordic design
  • far from any light pollution
  • Views of the lava-fields
  • black sand river and even Vatnajäkull Glacier
  • next to Keflavik marina
  • Blue Lagoon is 20 minutes drive
  • good place after a long night of chasing Northern lights

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