The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis or "Norðurljós" in Icelandic, are a breathtaking natural phenomenon that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. If you're planning a trip to Iceland and want to optimize your chances of witnessing this awe-inspiring display, you've come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we'll provide you with all the information you need to make the most out of your Northern Lights adventure in Iceland. From understanding what causes the Northern Lights to the best time and places to see them, as well as essential tips for capturing this magical spectacle on camera, we've got you covered.
The Northern Lights occur when gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere collide with electrically charged particles from the Sun. This collision is a result of the Earth's magnetic field and the dark winters at the North and South poles. However, the aurora is more visible in these polar regions due to variations in the Earth's magnetic field. The intensity of the aurora display is determined by solar activity and the speed of the charged particles.
While the Northern Lights can appear in various colors, they are predominantly green in Iceland. The color of the aurora borealis depends on the types of particles colliding in the atmosphere. In Iceland, the typical pale green color is caused by low-altitude oxygen molecules, while nitrogen produces purple hues.
The Northern Lights season in Iceland begins in late August and runs until mid-April. The brightest displays are typically seen during the dark Icelandic winter nights, especially between November and February. These months also tend to have higher cloud cover, which can affect visibility. Therefore, planning your trip during this season will give you the best chance of witnessing the Northern Lights dance across the night sky.
Several factors can impact the visibility of the Northern Lights. These include solar activity, cloud cover, and your location on the planet. To increase your chances of seeing the lights, it's essential to monitor the Northern Lights forecast and choose locations with clear skies and minimal light pollution.
To stay updated on the Northern Lights activity during your stay in Iceland, it's recommended to check the Northern Lights forecast provided by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. This forecast is the most accurate indicator of aurora activity and will help you plan your Northern Lights hunting adventures. Additionally, Gray Line Iceland, a trusted tour operator, posts regular updates on their Facebook page, confirming if it will be possible to see the Northern Lights each night. Following them on social media will keep you well-informed and ready to embark on your Northern Lights expedition.
The Northern Lights can potentially be seen from anywhere in Iceland. However, certain factors can enhance your viewing experience. Remote locations, away from the glow of city lights, offer better visibility and a more immersive experience of the Northern Lights. Exploring the Icelandic countryside or venturing to the northern parts of the country, closer to the Arctic Circle, will provide optimal viewing conditions.
Crisp cold evenings with clear skies are prime indicators for aurora displays. Monitoring the weather forecast and choosing nights with minimal cloud cover will increase your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights in all their glory. Be prepared for varying weather conditions, including snow and rain, as these can affect visibility. It's always a good idea to dress in layers and ensure you have appropriate cold-weather gear.
Some hotels in Iceland offer a wake-up service specifically for the Northern Lights. They will call your room if the lights are visible, allowing you to wake up and witness this mesmerizing spectacle without missing a moment. Check with your hotel if they provide this service and take advantage of this convenient option.
To ensure you don't miss out on the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, it's advisable to book your tour early, preferably at the beginning of your trip. The lights are unpredictable, and if they don't appear on your first attempt, you'll have enough time to reschedule your tour at no additional cost.
Iceland's weather can be cold and unpredictable, especially during the Northern Lights season. Dressing appropriately for your Northern Lights tour is crucial to staying comfortable and enjoying the experience. Follow the Icelandic routine of dressing in layers, and don't forget to add scarves, gloves, hats, windproof pants, and crampons to strap onto your hiking boots easily. Here's a suggested clothing list:
Touch screen gloves (to access your phone's camera) and mittens to go over them
Heavy-duty waterproof parka
If you're interested in photographing the Northern Lights, having the right equipment is essential. Here are some tech gear recommendations:
Camera: A DSLR or mirrorless camera will provide the best results, but even a smartphone with a good camera can capture the lights.
Tripod: Use a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposures.
Lens wipes: Keep your lens clean and free from any smudges or dirt.
Northern Lights photo apps: Consider downloading apps specifically designed for capturing the Northern Lights.
Back-up batteries: Cold weather drains batteries quickly, so it's essential to have spare batteries on hand.
Staying warm during your Northern Lights tour is essential, especially if you're spending extended periods outside. Bring an insulated travel mug filled with your favorite hot beverage, such as hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. Sipping on a warm drink will not only keep you cozy but also enhance the overall experience.
Remember that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and their appearance is not guaranteed. Patience is key when hunting for the lights. Sometimes they appear as soon as you venture out, while other times you may have to wait for hours. Embrace the mystery and beauty of the night sky, and be prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Regardless of whether you're using a professional camera or a smartphone, take the time to familiarize yourself with its features and settings. Understanding how to adjust exposure, ISO, and focus will greatly improve your chances of capturing stunning Northern Lights photos.
For the best results, experiment with manual settings on your camera. Adjusting the exposure and ISO settings will allow you to capture the intricate details and vibrant colors of the Northern Lights.
Keeping your camera steady is crucial for capturing sharp and clear images of the Northern Lights. Invest in a sturdy tripod that can handle different terrains and easily fit into your backpack.
To minimize light pollution and maximize the visibility of the Northern Lights, venture as far away from city lights as possible. The darker the sky, the more vibrant the aurora will appear in your photos.
Once you've captured your Northern Lights photos, don't hesitate to enhance them further through editing. Simple adjustments to brightness, contrast, and saturation can bring out the full beauty of the lights hidden in your images.
There are several dedicated apps available that can assist you in capturing the Northern Lights. These apps offer features such as long exposure settings, noise reduction, and real-time alerts for optimal shooting opportunities. Consider downloading and using apps like NightCap, Cortex Camera, and Northern Lights Photo Taker App.
To stay informed about Northern Lights activity in Iceland, you can rely on the expertise of Gray Line Iceland's team of Northern Lights spotters. They provide real-time updates on the ground and interpret the Northern Lights forecasts. Booking a tour with Gray Line Iceland ensures that you have experienced guides who can guide you to the best spots for witnessing the Northern Lights.
Gray Line Iceland offers a variety of Northern Lights tours to suit different preferences and travel styles. Here are some options to consider:
Northern Lights Tour: Ideal for families, this tour provides a comprehensive Northern Lights experience with knowledgeable guides.
Northern Lights Private Tour: Perfect for solo travelers seeking a more personalized adventure, this private tour allows you to customize your experience and enjoy the lights at your own pace.
Northern Lights Cruise from Reykjavik: Couples and romantics can embark on a magical cruise that combines the mesmerizing Northern Lights with the stunning backdrop of Reykjavik's coastline.
Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour: Indulge in relaxation and natural beauty by combining a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon with a Northern Lights tour.
Golden Circle Classic Tour and Northern Lights Tour: For culture enthusiasts, this tour offers a blend of Iceland's iconic Golden Circle attractions with the chance to witness the Northern Lights.
Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland is a truly extraordinary experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. By understanding the science behind the Northern Lights, planning your trip during the optimal season, choosing the best viewing locations, and following essential tips for capturing the lights on camera, you can maximize your chances of witnessing this captivating natural phenomenon. Whether you join a guided tour or embark on your own Northern Lights adventure, the magic of the dancing lights in the night sky is sure to leave you in awe of the wonders of our planet. So pack your warm clothing, charge your camera batteries, and get ready to be enchanted by the beauty of the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Experience the mysterious Northern Lights tour in Iceland with their ghostly dance in the winter night sky and learn about the science behind the magic!
Come for the Golden Circle and stay for the Northern Lights. Join us on this day-and-night combo tour and discover the essence of Iceland.
Experience the best of Iceland´s South Coast with an evening Northern Lights Tour.
Enjoy a relaxing visit to the Blue lagoon and then head out into the night to search for Northern Lights.
Stand and watch in awe as the Aurora Borealis dance across the sky above you with a perfect experience of our private tour.
Join us on a Northern Lights Cruise tour and watch breathtaking Aurora Borealis from a boat cruising off Reykjavik’s coast, in the dark blue yonder of Faxaflói.