At the top of many peoples’ bucket lists is travelling to Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis phenomenon is visible in extreme northern locations and is caused by an interaction between the sun’s solar particles and the earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. Essentially, the sun’s particles react at the earth’s northern and southern poles and as a result, they light up. This creates the Aurora Borealis.
All this rather scientific talk basically means that in northern countries, including Iceland, you might be lucky enough to see dazzling lights of green and pink displayed across the night sky. If you’re travelling to Iceland in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, we have all the information you’ll need to get the best chance of viewing them.
When to See the Northern Lights in Iceland
If seeing Aurora Borealis is one of the activities high on your list for your visit to Iceland, you’ll want to make sure you visit when it’s actually visible. The Northern Lights occur in Iceland between late in the month of August through to the middle of April, so somewhere between these dates are the best time to visit Iceland if you want to see the Aurora Borealis.
Beside the time of year, you’ll want to make sure that you seek the Northern Lights at the right time of day. While the Aurora Borealis can be present during the day, the light of the sun renders them invisible. The sky needs to be completely dark to view the Northern Lights, meaning you’ll want to wait until the sun has set to try and see them.
Tips for Glimpsing the Northern Lights
You are never guaranteed to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, because conditions have to be perfect. This means that if the weather conditions are not ideal and you are not far enough away from light pollution, you’re unlikely to see this unforgettable display. Here are our top tips for glimpsing the Northern Lights:
1. Check the Conditions – You’ll want to make sure that viewing conditions are optimal for the Northern Lights. You can check if the Northern Lights are likely to be visible on a given day by checking the Aurora Forecast. Conditions should be clear and you’re more likely to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland when there are little to no clouds in the sky.
- Get out of town – Though the Northern Lights can be viewed from cities like Reykjavik and Akureyri, your chances can improve if you move away from light pollution. Street lights, car headlights and lights emitting from windows of houses and businesses can make it more difficult to actually see Aurora Borealis. There is no perfect spot for seeing the Northern Lights, as they appear all over Iceland, but you want to try and find the right conditions, which tend to be in more remote areas.
- Be Patient – Don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch a sight of the Northern Lights on the first night that you try. The Aurora Borealis is elusive, so it’s best to allow yourself a few nights to try and see them. Check the Aurora Forecast regularly, and you can even join a Northern Lights tour. Again, a Northern Lights tour will not guarantee that you will see the Northern Lights, but your guide will have a better idea of how to catch them in the sky.
You can find more tips for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland here.