Few places on earth offers better opportunity to experience the Northern Lights (the Aurora Borealis) than Iceland. The conditions in Iceland to see this amazing phenomenon are very good, the Northern Lights are visible for eight months a year and you can see them from almost everywhere in Iceland. The experience of watching the unbelievable colours dancing around the Arctic sky is on many travelers bucket list.

What causes the Northern Lights?

What causes this dazzling natural phenomenon is a collisions between electrically charged particles that is released from the sun. The temperature at the center of the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius) and when the temperature on the surface rises and falls the sun releases these particles into space. When they enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen, they can cause the dramatic displays known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.

The intensity of the Northern Lights depends on the activity of the sun and the acceleration speed of these particles, therefore even if it’s dark, clear night there could be no activity of the Northern Lights. If you are lucky enough to experience them you are in for a treat, they appear on the sky as dancing lights and even though they are usually green they can vary in colour for example red, pink, purple and blue.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The Northern Lights are visible in Iceland from September to mid-April. However the best time to see them depends on special conditions. Of course we have to keep in mind that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and thus they can’t be guaranteed. It is no way to know for sure when the Northern Lights will appear because these special conditions need to be met. So what conditions do you need to see the Northern Lights?

First of all there needs to be enough solar activity, we recommend you visit the Icelandic Met Office website every day in Iceland for a great Northern Lights forecast. You should also make sure there is little or no clouds in the sky because the clouds will block the visibility of the Northern Lights. Darkness i also very important to see the Northern Lights and therefore it’s better to go as far away from any unnatural light as possible, like the light pollution from the city.

According to these conditions the best months in Iceland for Northern Lights Hunting is probably November to February. During these months we have the most darkness and that gives you the longest possible window to see them. But like said before the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and there is no way to guarantee if and when they will show.

You can read more about the weather and daylight for each month in Iceland here.

Where can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

You can see the Northern Lights from all over Iceland, if of course the above conditions are met and you are lucky enough. For the best chances and visibility you should go as far away from any light pollution as possible.

Is one place better than other in Iceland to witness the Northern Lights? It’s hard to say, you can be lucky and see them from your Hotel in Reykjavik and you can be unlucky, be in the best place possible with enough time and still you don’t see them. Even so you might have better chance to see the Lights if you visit North Iceland or the Westfjords. There you have longer hours of darkness and more opportunities to witness the Northern Lights Show.

Northern Lights Hunting in Iceland

Guided Northern Lights Tours
You can find vast selection of Northern Lights tours in Iceland, it’s probably the most common way to explore the Lights. If you book a Northern Lights tour there will be a guide with you who is an expert in finding the Northern Lights. He will take you out to the countryside away from the city lights to the best locations to spot them. The guide can also help you photograph the Lights. If the tour is cancelled or you won’t see the Northern Lights then you get to go on another tour for free.

The Northern Lights tours usually depart around 8PM in the evening and you can choose between a group tour or a private tour as well as a bus tour, super jeep tour or a boat tour.

You can book your Northern Lights Tour here.

Hunting for the Northern Lights on your own.
Of course you have the opportunity to hunt for the Northern Lights on your own in Iceland. You can rent a car and explore at your own pace and with all the freedom you want. But there are few things you need to keep in mind if you decide to go out on your own.

During winter in Iceland we have very unpredictable weather and sometimes icy roads. If you are not used to winter driving we recommend you join a guided tour instead. You can read more about driving in Iceland here. If you go on your own you also need to be familiar with the Northern Lights forecast so you don’t waste your time.

Here is a list of few things we recommend you bring with you on a Northern Lights Hunt:

  • Bring warm clothes, layers and more layers!
    • Base layer: Wool
    • Mid layer: Fleece or thicker wool
    • Outer layer: Breathable windproof and waterproof jacket and pants.
    • Also bring hat, gloves, scarf, thick socks and good hiking shoes.
  • Another smart things to bring:
    • Hot drinks and water
    • Food and snack
    • Headlamp
    • Camera and Tripod
    • Batteries, memory cards and power bank for your phone