Northern Lights in Iceland - Guide
The Northern lights are a main point of attraction in Iceland in winter time.
This natural phenomena should be seen at least once in your lifetime. It is something truly beautiful which will amaze you while you are here!
We get many questions from travelers who wonder when is the best time and place to see them.
In the text below you will find all useful information to make your dream come true
Time: Northern lights are seen from mid-September til mid-April.
Every year can be different than the other because activity on the Sun can change.
It all depends on that. If the activity on Sun and solar wind is predicted as low for the year, there might be less northern lights. However, as it is very difficult to know it 100%, don’t lose your hope.
There is always some activity and the northern lights are still visible!
You can see them between 9pm and 5 am. But from my own experience you can expect them sometimes from 8 pm or even 7pm! Once I saw them at 6 am too!
My tip: Be prepared from 6 pm to 1 am. They can appear any time! But most of the time I saw them from 9 pm to 1 am.
Place: People have often asked me if the northern lights are visible in Reykjavik. And my answer is “yes they are!” but there is one small but important term. The activity on the sun needs to be very high and solar wind should be extremely fast that day with no clouds. If so then yes you could see them in the city.
But from my experience the most incredible northern lights I saw were out of the city. Far away from city lights.
There is no need to be up on the hill if it’s too slippery and dangerous to hike. You should remember that in winter time, weather can be difficult and walking up the hill or hike on the mountains just for northern lights is too risky. You can still see them from ground 😊
My tip: Find a good spot on the map during the day and try to get there on time. Driving a camper during the night and trying to find good spot can be stressful because you are in hurry! You never know when the northern lights will show up so plan you trip earlier, go there and wait. Take camping chairs, hot tea and enjoy the sky. What is also important: service on your phone, good winter tires, and being aware that a good parking lot for your camper is very important. If you get stuck in the snow, you won’t be relaxed and happy waiting for northern lights. The best website for status of the roads is www.road.is where you can follow conditions on the road and avoid troubles. You might not necessarily need a 4x4 campervan but if you would like to rent one we have them as well in our fleet of campers.
Equipment: Universal things for everyone? Warm clothes, THERMAL LAYERS!, good winter shoes, hand warmers, headlamp, charged phone with service and hot tea.
Equipment for photographers: Tripod, camera with possibility of manual settings, wide bright lens, charged battery and good gloves which you can use to operate the camera, memory cards.
Pro tips: So, after all that information still there is the part of “how to predict if something is going on tonight”
Check our local website: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/ On the bottom of the map you have hours – move the slider with hours to 8pm and check it until time which you can wait and hunt the lights.
If the area which you chose as your final destination for this night is under green color, unfortunately this means that the sky will be covered with clouds. You won’t see them and you should change your destination. On the left from this map you can see “aurora forecast” if the number is higher then it’s better! You can see them even from level 2.
Check www.road.is for road conditions. If your first destination is in a cloudy area, check another one but remember to drive only on open roads and good conditions.
You can also find some groups on Facebook with Northern Lights alerts!
http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/thingvellir/ Here you can check live cam from Thingvellir National Park, where you can spot Northern Lights, and yes you can see them from web camera (if forecast is very good and strong activity). Here you have more detailed cloud coverage forecast.
Is it possible to see northern lights only with naked eye? Yes and no.
- If forecast is very good with high activity you can see them with the naked eye! They can be white, green, pink and sometimes purple.
- Don’t expect huge dancing super green auroras, they are occasionally! If you don’t expect you will not be disappointed.
- Sometimes they are just bright “clouds” on the sky… and sometimes are extremely huge and dancing for 30 minutes on the sky.
Everything depends on solar activity and cloud cover. We can’t turn them on and off (we wish 😊)
I recommend a minimum of 7-10 days to give you a chance to see the Northern lights.
By Michalina Okreglicka