The Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis. Or, if you want to say it in Icelandic: Norðurljós.
No matter what you call them, they’re breathtaking, a “bucket-list” experience everyone wants to see. So we’ve gathered all the information you need to have the best chance to enjoy the Northern Lights while you’re in Iceland!
The Northern Lights occur when gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere collide with electrically charged particles from the Sun. Due to variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and the dark winters at the North and South poles, the aurora is more visible in those regions than anywhere else. Solar activity and the speed of the charged particles determine the intensity of the aurora display, so your Northern Lights experience relies heavily on solar activity, the weather, and your location on the planet.
While the color of the Northern Lights can vary — appearing blue, white, or even purple or red — they are usually green. This is because the color of aurora borealis is determined by the kinds of particles colliding in the atmosphere. The typical color, pale green, is caused by low-altitude oxygen molecules, while nitrogen produces purple hues.
The best time to see Northern Lights is when the skies are clear and dark. Gray Line’s Northern Lights tours begin in late August and run until mid-April. The brightest displays occur during the dark Icelandic winter nights, especially between November to February. These months are also the cloudiest, with higher chances of snow and rain. So take a chance on a Northern Lights tour for an unforgettable experience!
Viewing conditions for Northern Lights depend on many factors, including geography, weather, and the time of day, to name but a few. The Northern Lights are potentially visible from anywhere in Iceland. Crisp cold evenings with clear skies are prime indicators for aurora displays. Remote locations, away from the glow of city lights, give you a better view of the Northern Lights and their magic in the night sky.
The Northern Lights forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office is the most accurate indicator of aurora activity during your holiday in Iceland. Additionally, the Gray Line Iceland team post updates on our Facebook page, confirming if it will be possible to see the Northern Lights each night. So follow us there to keep up to date!
When you see the Northern Lights streak across the sky for the first time, you want to enjoy the moment without worrying about being cold or getting a good photo. You want to be prepared! Here’s what you’ll need to remember:
Before you do anything else in Iceland, book your Northern Lights tour as early as possible during your stay. The Northern Lights and the Icelandic weather are very unpredictable. So if you go on a tour at the beginning of your trip and the lights are a “no-show,” you’ll still have plenty of time left to re-book the tour to try again at no additional cost!
Follow the usual Icelandic routine of dressing in layers, adding scarves, gloves, hats, windproof pants, and crampons to strap onto your hiking boots easily.
Also, make sure to wear the following:
Bring an insulated travel mug filled with your favorite hot beverage — hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. You may be out in the cold for a while looking for the lights, so a hot drink and your layers will help keep you warm while you wait.
Remember, the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, so you must be patient. The Northern Lights do not follow a schedule, nor does the weather. Some nights the lights fill the sky with a dazzling display as soon as you leave the city. Sometimes, the clouds roll in and then suddenly part when you’re about to give up, revealing a showstopper of celestial delight. Be patient, and you might just see the show of a lifetime.
The first time you see the Northern Lights will be a magical moment you’ll want to capture forever. So, follow the tips to photograph the lights whenever they appear, even if you’re just using your phone.
For more information on how to photograph Northern Lights in Iceland, read our blog post on the subject.
Gray Line Iceland’s team of Northern Lights spotters let us know about Northern Lights activity in their area. In addition, some websites track aurora activity. Booking with Gray Line Iceland gives you access to on-the-ground spotters and local experts to check and interpret the Northern Lights forecasts.
The brightness of a full moon is enough to dim the Northern Lights. The darker the sky, the better your chances of seeing the lights. While it’s possible to see the Northern Lights in the skies above Reykjavik, they won’t appear as brilliant as in the countryside. Light pollution is not a friend.
If you can’t make it out of the city, Öskuhlið — the hill where Perlan sits — is an excellent place to try and spy the lights. Just outside the city, on the edge of the light pollution zone, is the Grótta lighthouse on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula. The view there is beautiful, and it becomes spectacular if you add in the Northern Lights. But if you want a great view, you’ve got to get far enough from the city to see the stars. Then, when you run out of fingers and toes to count the stars in the sky, you’ll know you’ve gone far enough.
There are lots of Gray Line Iceland Northern Lights tours to choose from. So no matter your tastes and preferences, there’s sure to be a tour that’s ideal for you.
● Northern Lights Tour is ideal for families.
● Northern Lights Private Tour works well for solo travelers seeking a more individualized experience.
● Northern Lights Cruise from Reykjavik tour is perfect for couples and romantics. Whether you’re honeymooning or celebrating a special anniversary, the lights in the sky and reflecting off the water are a stunningly romantic backdrop.
● The Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour is a perfect way to relax.
● Finally, a Golden Circle Classic Tour and Northern Lights Tour are great for the culture vulture who wants the cultural context of the must-see sites along with their Northern Lights.
Northern Lights Tours
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.
Ride an ATV to the top of Mt. Hafrafell, enjoy a spectacular panorama over Reykjavik city before embarking on an exciting hunt for the Northern