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

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

    • Sólveig Gunnlaugsdóttir
    • 20 March 2023

    A question we get asked all the time, and quite rightly so! Making sure you go at the right time, to the right place and you do everything to maximise your chances of seeing the lights is key.

    And that’s where we can help you.

    We’ve put together a handy guide to seeing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, in Iceland based on your questions. So get comfy, get the notepad ready and let’s dive right in.

    What is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights?

    Technically, the Northern Lights are always there but clouds or daylight blocks the visibility of the lights. That being said, you'll need to visit Iceland during the aurora season. The lights start being visible from the end of August as the days get shorter, and can be seen until mid April when the days become longer again. A dark, clear night with decent activity levels (more on this later) is what you need so cross your fingers for no rain, snow or cloud coverage!

    What is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

    A common misconception is that you must travel North to see the Northern Lights. That's not the case in Iceland. You can see them from any part of the country. You can even see them from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland if conditions are right and you're in a nice dark spot away from light pollution. If you're super serious about catching them though, statistically the west Iceland most frequently sees the lights when the weather is right.

    How can I photograph the Northern Lights?

    You can capture the Northern Lights on your phone if they are particularly strong. But we spoke to Björn who is a keen photographer as well as an Iceland Travel specialist and he had this to say.

    "First of all, consider the tech you have want to capture them. If you have a phone, switch it over to night mode and always turn off the flash. If you've got camera equipment, setting the shutter speed according to the speed of the aurora is key. Generally, shutter speed between 5-10 seconds is great for bright and active aurora. And make sure you have a tripod."

    Our top tips for catching the Northern Lights in Iceland

    Finally, here’s some top tips from us to maximise the chances of seeing the Northern Lights. After 10+ years of arranging winter tours to Iceland, we’ve learned a thing or two:

    • The longer you stay, the more chances you have - stay just 3 nights, you only have 3 chances. If you stay 7 nights or more, you’d have to very unlucky not to see them. Statistically, in a typical week the lights show at least once during the season.

    • Stay a few nights outside the city - Being away from the city lights means you are away from light pollution. In addition, many hotels in the countryside offer Northern Lights wake up calls so should they appear whilst you sleep, the option is there to be woken up to witness the phenomenon.

    • Go with a guide - our guides are particularly skilled in “hunting” for the Northern Lights. They closely monitor forecasts and know the aurora “hot spots”. Consider going in a small group or even jeep tour as these can take you off the beaten track,

    • Get clued up on the weather and aurora forecast - there's a number of different websites, apps and guides out there but here's two that we'd recommend:

    Icelandic Met Office

    The Aurora Forecast

    Ready to plan your Northern Lights trip to Iceland?

    The Northern Lights sadly can’t be guaranteed (we wish we could!), it's all about a bit of luck. But what we can guarantee is that if you go to Iceland, you'll 100% have a fantastic time. The Northern Lights are just the icing on the cake.

    The Northern Lights season might be coming to a close, but book early for 2023-2024. Get in touch with us today.

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