Northern lights

Iceland Travel can help you to find the Northern Lights, for we offer some great tours, where you can hunt for this majestic natural phenomenon. 

Iceland is one of the best places on Earth to spot the elusive Northern Lights. Many places, only a short drive away from Reykjavik, offer great opportunities to spot these splendid and majestic lights dancing across the darkened night sky in vivid colors. 

Many people travel to Iceland every year to see the Northern Lights and we often hear the same questions regarding this beautiful natural phenomenon. Here are a few of them and our best answers.

Aurora Borealis means dawn of the north, and in Roman myths Aurora was the goddess of dawn. It suits her well to have this natural phenomenon caused by the sun named after her.

There are many legends about the lights. In medieval times seers and fortune tellers believed that the lights were harbingers of woe, war and famine. The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed the lights indicated where the spirits of great hunters and fishermen, called manabai’wok, could be found. Many different cultures believed that the lights were spirits, either of their people or the animals that they hunted.

One thing is certain, the Northern Lights continue to fascinate onlookers and it’s breathtaking to see them on a clear winter night, as they dance across the sky.

When is the best time to see them in Iceland?

The aurora can be observed in Iceland as early as August and as late as April. The middle of winter is aurora prime time, because it's the darkest time of the year. If you're visiting Iceland in late autumn (e.g. September) or early spring (e.g. April), you might see them, though of course it depends on where you are in Iceland. 

We offer many great tours with local expert guides, who are specialists in finding great spots to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Of course, since this is a natural phenomenon, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see them, for it depends heavily on weather, e.g. how cloudy it is.  

Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?

Iceland is one of the best locations on earth to track down the Northern Lights. Areas that are not affected by "light pollution" are the best places to watch auroral displays. There are many places in Iceland which offer great opportunities to witness these majestic lights, some are even only a short drive from Reykjavik. Many prefer though to drive a little further, to be both in superb condition and great scenery, which offers great photo opportunities, e.g. Kerid crater or Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.

Finding places that have little to none light pollution in Iceland is relatively easy, e.g. only a half an hours’ drive will bring you to the heaths around Reykjavik, where the only lights seen are those of your car. So Iceland is not only ideal for those who wish to see the Northern Lights but also astronomy enthusiasts and other star gazers.

Is there a forecast or can they be predicted?

It's impossible to predict the aurora accurately. One night they may be a pale milky green, spread thinly across the sky; the following night they could be red and violet and so bright that you could read by them.

What causes the Northern Lights?

Electrically charged particles are released from the sun and solar winds push them towards earth. When the particles collide with the magnetosphere, they run into oxygen and nitrogen and form the colour bursts we know as the tranquil auroras.

Why the different colours?

The different colours depend on types of gases and altitude. The common pale green is produced when high-energy particles hit oxygen molecules at an altitude of about 100 km. Ruby auroras are born much higher up, or at around 300 km above earth.