The Northern Lights are truly one of the most magical gifts of nature, but they are also super unpredictable. However, despite how unpredictable the aurora borealis may be, this guide will help you maximize your chances of seeing this spectacular light show in Iceland.
Before going on a Northern Lights tour, you should know that the aurora borealis is only visible under specific conditions and within a few months in a year. Knowing this gives you the best chance of enjoying this one-of-a-kind experience. So, when does the Northern Lights season end in Iceland, and when are the best times to see them? Time to find out.
What makes a typical Northern Lights season?
For the Northern Lights to come out in all their magical glory in the skies, the weather conditions need to be just right. Basically, there are three conditions necessary: clear skies, strong solar activity, and a very dark night. There are several locations in Iceland where you can find these clear skies without cloud covers. Also another major contributing factor to the appearance of northern lights is the solar wind.
You can check the Aurora Forecast in Iceland for the Kp-index forecast with an optimum level of higher than three. This shows that there is high solar activity in that area, and it drastically increases your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Finally, the darker the skies are, the easier it is to spot the lovely aurora borealis. A huge tip to make your search for the Northern Lights easier is visiting the remote countryside.
Sure, it’s possible to view them when you’re in major cities, but the remote countryside almost always has dark and clear skies without obstructions from taller buildings. So, while your chances of seeing the northern lights depend on not just the right season but also the right meteorological conditions, keeping these tips in mind will make your search less stressful and more fruitful.
The Northern Lights Season
The Northern Lights season in Iceland ends on the 3rd of May. Therefore, the best time to see the aurora borealis is between August and start of May. During these months, the skies are dark enough at night to see the colorful display. This is truly when the Northern Lights dance in the skies of Iceland.
Although tours run throughout these months, you can narrow down your choices to November, December, and January, as these are the months that experience the darkest nights. So, your search can start from late afternoon until around noon the next day. It’s highly recommended that you visit Iceland in March, October or September as these months give you the best chance of spotting the aurora borealis. However, if you’re not so lucky to sight one before April, it’s a long wait until the season starts again on the 16th of August.
Coming around in midwinter has diverse advantages. It’s an amazing opportunity to view Iceland under a blanket of snow. So, take advantage of the winter months to explore the crystal blue ice caves and other magnificent places while you hunt for the northern lights. Since the northern lights appear when there’s solar activity but can only be spotted when it’s dark, most tours are available only during the winter months. These months have longer nights that make spotting the northern lights easier. So, aim for those weeks around the winter solstice.
Best places to see the Northern Lights
While all of Iceland is perfect for viewing the Northern Lights, there are specific places that will make the experience more worthwhile and enjoyable. In these areas, there is minimal light pollution and vast lands without obstruction. Here are a few spots to check out:
Skogafoss waterfall is one of the most notable waterfalls in Iceland, and that makes Skogafoss a top spot for viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland. It’s not just about seeing the aurora borealis but also about the amazing views when seen alongside the flowing waterfall. You also don’t have to worry about any light pollution as this waterfall is located in a remote area close to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. However, it’s not surprising that this is a popular spot for viewing the northern lights. So, there’s a good chance that you’ll be distracted by camera flashes from more than a dozen photographers. If you’re not a fan of crowds, this is not the location for you.
On the upside, Hvitserkur is a not-so-popular location for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. This impressive basalt rock formation is commonly referred to as The Rhino and gives you one of the biggest opportunities to witness unfiltered aurora displays. Of course, there’s also the huge plus of getting beautiful pictures of the northern lights alongside the unique shape of the rock formation. It’s truly one-of-a-kind.
This is a huge favorite for anyone who wants an unforgettable pleasant experience in Iceland. Apart from seeing the northern lights, you can take a boat tour on the waters of Jokulsarlon and see the beautiful mountain formations up close. This is a natural water body that ranks as one of the best places to see the Northern Lights during its booming season.
Even more breathtaking are the ways the bright colors of the aurora borealis reflect on the surface of the lagoon. Need pictures that will help you relive one of the best moments of your life? You should consider visiting this lagoon area to see the Northern Lights.
Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without talking about Reykjavik. Yes, it’s the capital city of Iceland and experiences light pollution. However, there are cool spots, including the Sun Voyager sculpture a few minutes away from the city center, which will give you the opportunity to see an intense display of the aurora borealis. Be sure to look towards the north coast after checking the forecast for the northern lights sighting.
Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland should definitely be on your bucket list. Be sure to take as many photographs as you can and enjoy every moment.