Northern Lights Tours

It's the moment you've been waiting for

You won't believe your eyes! Witness the most spectacular show on earth in the most beautiful place on earth. Surrounded by incredible nature, Iceland is a magical place to watch in awe as the green, red and purple aurora borealis dance across the night sky. Join us as we take you on a hunt for the Northern Lights. Check out all you need to know about the Northern Lights in Iceland by scrolling down the page.

Northern Lights Tours

Northern Lights Tours

 
Best Seller

Northern Lights Mystery Tour

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!

Duration: 4 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 38
Easy Cancellation
4.3 Stars from 1043 reviews
Select
 
Best Seller

Secret Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour

Have a rewarding open-air bath at the Secret Lagoon and enjoy the rugged charm of it with unforgettable moments watching the magical dance of the Northern Lights.

Duration: 7 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 114
Easy Cancellation Select
 

Northern Lights Deluxe

Experience the magic of the Northern Lights on this special extended Northern Lights tour that features our very best coaches and lots of treats

Duration: 8 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 105
Easy Cancellation
4.6 Stars from 77 reviews
Select
 

Golden Circle Classic and Northern Lights

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

Duration: 11 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 92
Easy Cancellation
4.7 Stars from 89 reviews
Select
 

Northern Lights Mystery Private Tour

Stand and watch in awe as the aurora borealis dance across the sky above

Duration: 5 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 286
Easy Cancellation Select
 

Northern Lights Cruise from Reykjavik

Join us on a Northern Lights Cruise and watch the amazing Aurora from a boat cruising off Reykjavik’s coast, in the dark blue yonder of Faxaflói...

Duration: 2 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 96
Easy Cancellation
4.4 Stars from 14 reviews
Select
 

ATV and Northern Lights

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

Duration: 7 hours
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Fr
  • Sa
From: € 178
Easy Cancellation
4.7 Stars from 6 reviews
Select
 

Answers to frequently asked questions on the Northern Lights

Everything you need to know about Aurora Borealis

  1. Where can I find useful information I need to know about the northern nights?
  2. What’s the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland in 2019?
  3. How to check the forecast for northern lights in Iceland?
  4. What is the Kp Index?
  5. How close to Earth are the northern lights?
  6. What causes the northern lights?
  7. What is the origin of the name aurora borealis?
  8. What causes the aurora borealis?
  9. Where in the world can I see the northern lights?
  10. How much does it cost to see the northern lights?
  11. What is the best place to see the northern lights?
  12. Which hotels are the best to see the northern lights in Iceland?
  13. Is there a honeymoon package that includes the aurora borealis?
  14. Is seeing the northern lights guaranteed?
  15. How long do the northern lights last?
  16. Is aurora borealis viewing best with a moon or no moon?
  17. Are the northern lights and southern lights the same?
  18. What is the most common color of the northern lights?
  19. How many colors are in the aurora?
  20. Why are the northern lights different colors?
  21. Why is the aurora borealis only in the north?
  22. What’s the difference between the aurora borealis and the northern lights?
  23. Why are the northern lights called aurora borealis?
  24. Why are the shapes of the northern lights are so different?
  25. What is the history of the northern lights?
  26. Why see the northern lights?
  27. Does it have to be cold to see the northern lights?
  28. How can I get a photo of the northern lights?
  29. What kind of photo gear do I need for the northern lights?
  30. Do the northern lights make a sound?
  31. How do the aurora borealis affect Earth?
  32. Are the northern lights caused by pollution?
  33. Are the northern lights radioactive?
  34. Are the northern lights harmful to humans?
  35. Is aurora borealis dangerous?
  36. Do other planets have aurora borealis?
  37. Can I see the northern lights from U.S.A.?
  38. Are the northern lights in Alaska like the northern lights in Iceland?

Where can I find useful information I need to know about the northern lights?

We have prepared a long list of the most frequently asked questions related to the aurora borealis to help you make the most of the Northern Lights in Iceland

Back to the list of Questions

What’s the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland in 2019?

Northern lights season in Iceland is from late August until late April. The darker and clearer the skies, the better for seeing the aurora borealis. With that in mind, October and November 2019 and February and March 2020 are your best bet to see northern lights in Iceland this winter.

Back to the list of Questions

How to check the forecast for northern lights in Iceland?

You have several options when it comes to checking the Northern Lights forecast in Iceland including veður (weather in Icelandic), Aurora Forecast, and Gray Line Iceland posts daily updates on Facebook.

Back to the list of Questions

What is the Kp Index?

The Kp Index comes from the German, Kennziffer Planetarische, which means planetary index number. The Kp Index was developed by German geophysicist and statistician Julias Bartels around 1939.

It is a scale used to express disturbances in the horizontal component of the Earth’s magnetic field caused by solar activity. The scale ranges from 0 to 9 with 9 being the highest level of disturbance.

In Iceland, the Kp Index usually means the following:
  • 0-2 Low: Little to no activity. This doesn’t mean there will be absolutely no lights but it’s unlikely.
  • 2-3 Moderate: It’s likely that there will be some aurora activity.
  • 4-6 High: There will be northern lights. Cross your fingers and hope you’re in the right place at the right time under clear skies.
  • 7-9 Very High: It’s your lucky day! The skies will likely be filled with a dazzling display at some point during the night.

It is important to keep in mind that the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and therefore ultimately unpredictable.

Back to the list of Questions

How close to Earth are the northern lights?

The Northern Lights occur high in the upper atmosphere. They can appear as low as 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Earth’s surface and up to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the Earth. To give you a better idea of just how high that is, commercial airplanes generally fly at about 9-11 km (6-7 miles) above Earth.

Back to the list of Questions

What causes the northern lights?

The Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, are caused by solar activity including solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME). These are all forms of electrically charged particles ejected by the sun. It takes a solar flare about 8 minutes to travel from the sun to the earth and collide with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. Due to variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and the dark winters at the north and south poles, the lights are more visible near the poles than anywhere else in the world.

Back to the list of Questions

What is the origin of the name aurora borealis?

The name aurora borealis was coined by Galileo in 1619 and comes from Latin. Aurora means dawn or refers to Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn and borealis means north. Literally translated it means dawn in the north. Galileo believed the lights were caused sunlight reflecting through the atmosphere. He wasn’t exactly right but he wasn’t too far off either.

Back to the list of Questions

What causes the aurora borealis?

Aurora borealis is another name for the northern lights. You can find your answer under question number 5. What causes the northern lights?

Back to the list of Questions

Where in the world can I see the northern lights?

You can see the northern lights in Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Norway and other places in the world. It is important to keep in mind that the polar latitudes have the best view of the northern lights. Anywhere above or north of magnetic 55º with low light pollution is a good place to catch the lights. The 55th parallel north runs through northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America.

Back to the list of Questions

How much does it cost to see the northern lights?

It doesn’t cost anything to see the northern lights. However, knowing the best spots to see the aurora borealis when they are visible takes knowledge of Iceland, which our expert guides have acquired over time. Additionally, tours like our Northern Lights Mystery tour, allows you to focus on capturing the best photo of the northern lights while we do all of the driving and share the science behind the mysterious lights that appear in the sky.

Back to the list of Questions

What is the best place to see the northern lights?

The best place to see the northern lights is in Iceland, of course, or anywhere dark in the Arctic region. Iceland does have the advantage of being a beautiful place to visit with plenty of things to do and see before spending your night chasing after the lights.

Back to the list of Questions

Which hotels are the best to see the northern lights in Iceland?

Hotels located far away from light pollution are the best to stay in if you want to have a good chance of seeing northern lights. As part of our private tour, Gray Line can make arrangements at suitable countryside hotels.

For the more adventurous traveler Gray Line also offers the Hveravellir Winter Adventure Tour which takes you on a 72 hour Super Jeep excursion through Iceland’s wilderness with plenty of opportunities to see the northern lights.

Back to the list of Questions

Is there a honeymoon package that includes the aurora borealis?

Gray Line offers the Northern Lights Mystery Private Tour which is perfect for honeymooners and those that want a northern lights tour with a more personal touch.

Back to the list of Questions

Is seeing the northern lights guaranteed?

No, seeing the northern lights is not guaranteed. They are a naturally occurring phenomenon and their visibility is determined by many factors beyond human control including solar winds and cloud cover.

Back to the list of Questions

How long do the northern lights last?

Northern lights season (the time when they are most likely to be visible) lasts from late August to late April in Iceland. As for how long they last when they appear in the night sky can vary greatly from just a few minutes up to hours at a time. During those few minutes to hours the lights can also vary in intensity.

Back to the list of Questions

Is aurora borealis viewing best with a moon or no moon?

Aurora borealis or northern lights viewing is best with no moon. Most of us don’t think of the moon as a light polluter but in the case of the northern lights it is. Aurora can be dimmed by moonlight, especially from a full moon, unless the northern lights are intensely bright.

Back to the list of Questions

Are the northern lights and southern lights the same?

Yes, the northern lights and southern lights are the same type of phenomena but are called different names depending on where they appear on the planet. In the northern hemisphere they are called northern lights or aurora borealis (dawn of the north) and in the southern hemisphere they are called southern lights or aurora australis (dawn of the south).

Back to the list of Questions

What is the most common color of the northern lights?

The most common color seen in the northern lights is green. This is because the solar wind usually collides with the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude rich in the oxygen. When the particles are excited they emit the color green which is also more detectable to the human eye.

Back to the list of Questions

How many colors are in the aurora?

Most of the colors that are visible to the human eye can appear in the aurora including red, yellow, green, pink, blue and purple. Green is the color most commonly seen in the aurora. Ultra violet colors are also produced by the northern lights but can only be seen with special camera equipment.

Back to the list of Questions

Why are the northern lights different colors?

Northern lights appear in different colors depending on the kinds of particles that are colliding or being “excited” in the Earth’s atmosphere and how high up they are in the atmosphere. The typical colors, pale green and yellow, are caused by oxygen molecules. Oxygen molecules can also create reddish northern lights at especially high altitudes, while nitrogen produces blue and purple lights.

Back to the list of Questions

Why is the aurora borealis only in the north?

The aurora borealis are created by solar winds coming from the sun which are drawn to the Earth’s north and south poles. This means the lights are more visible near the north and south poles. The lights are called different names depending on where they appear.

In the north they are called aurora borealis or northern lights because they occur in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere this same phenomenon simply goes by different names; aurora australis and southern lights.

Back to the list of Questions

What’s the difference between the aurora borealis and the northern lights?

There is no difference between the aurora borealis and the northern lights. They are two names for the same natural phenomenon.

Back to the list of Questions

Why are the northern lights called aurora borealis?

Aurora borealis is an older Latin name for the northern lights meaning dawn in the north.

Back to the list of Questions

Why are the shapes of the northern lights are so different?

The shapes of the northern lights are so different due to the variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. The main shapes of aurora can be described as arc, glow, patches, rays, coronas and curtains.

Back to the list of Questions

What is the history of the northern lights?

Whether you call them northern lights or aurora borealis they have fascinated people for at least as long as we have recorded history and probably well before. There is even speculation that prehistoric Cro-Magnon cave paintings that date back to 30,000 BC may depict the aurora.

The earliest mention of the northern lights in recorded human history can be found in Chinese writings that date all the way back to 2600 BC. And in many ancient cultures it was thought that the northern lights were the souls of the dead ascending to the afterlife. The aurora have even been seen as omens of good by some and evil by others.

It wasn’t until 1790 that Henry Cavendish was able to use triangulation to determine that the light from the aurora was produced at 100-130 (60 miles) above the surface of the Earth. And around 1901, through his terrella experiment, Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland concluded that the lights were caused by currents flowing through gas in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Back to the list of Questions

Why see the northern lights?

The northern lights can sometimes appear as a faint green glow that fills the sky. The faint green glow may gradually narrow into a undulating band that arcs across the sky. And as the color deepens into a more intense green edged in faint pink or yellow the ribbon of illuminated color stretches high into the sky, rippling into the darkness above, a dancing curtain of light moving back and forth across a black canvas sprinkled with distant stars. Very few people in the world get to witness this remarkable natural occurrence. When granted the opportunity to witness such an awe inspiring phenomenon, one should definitely take it.

Back to the list of Questions

Does it have to be cold to see the northern lights?

No, it doesn’t have to be cold to see the northern lights but as the aurora are most visible during the winter, it is usually quite cold out. What matters most for seeing the northern lights is darkness.

Back to the list of Questions

How can I get a photo of the northern lights?

You’ll need two things to make sure you capture the northern lights perfectly: a camera (even just your smartphone will do) and a tripod. Neither your camera nor your tripod need be top of the line, you just need to know how to get the most out of them. If you’re using your smartphone, these tips will help you get a great shot of the lights. If you’re using a regular camera you’ll need to keep these things in mind:
  • Make sure your camera has a manual setting. Set both your camera and lens to manual mode so that you can manually change the aperture and focus.
  • A wide angle lens is preferable but not necessary. Having a wide angle lens is a plus as it will allow you to capture the full scope and grandeur of the lights.
  • Turn OFF your flash.
  • Turn off image stabilization.
  • Use a remote, self-timer or an app to remotely release the shutter. Because you will be using a long exposure, even the slight movement caused by pressing the shutter can blur your image.
And then use these simple settings to get started photographing the northern lights:
  • Set the lens’ focus to infinity. Because the lights are so far away, you’ll want the camera to be focused on the furthest possible point. This can be a challenge in the dark so it’s best to do this before it gets dark out.
    Using manual mode on your lens, focus to infinity. If need be, use tape or a marker (brightly colored to show up in the dark) to mark the setting. If you end up having to do this at night simply pick the furthest light source around (you can use a flashlight for this too) and focus on it.
    Be careful not to change the focus setting while waiting for the lights.
  • As for metering, different cameras work best using different modes. For Nikons you’ll want to set it to matrix or center-weighted average metering and for Canons use evaluative metering.
  • Using manual mode, set the lens aperture or f-stop as wide as possible, that is the lowest f-number that your lens can go.
  • Set your exposure according to the movement of the lights. For particularly active lights 5-10 seconds will do but for more subtle and/or slow moving lights you can try 20-25 seconds.
  • Your ISO setting will depend on the intensity of the lights. If the lights are quite bright, start off with ISO 800 and go up from there should the lights be more dim or begin at ISO 1600 if they are dim and go down from there.
  • In order to capture the colors of the lights as accurately as possible, custom set your white balance to Kelvin 3,000 or so and adjust accordingly.

Back to the list of Questions

What kind of photo gear do I need for the northern lights?

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to photograph the northern lights. All you really need is a decent camera, a tripod and possibly a flashlight. Bundle up, because it’s sure to cold out, escape the light pollution and check out this handy list to help you prepare for your northern lights hunt.

Back to the list of Questions

Do the northern lights make a sound?

Yes, the northern lights can make a sound, several as a matter of fact. Scientists have dubbed the sounds vox aurorae or voice of the aurora. While aurora enthusiasts have claimed to hear rumbling, crackling or hissing sounds accompanying the lights for years, it wasn’t until recently that scientists confirmed that there is indeed a sound associated with the lights.

Back to the list of Questions

How do the aurora borealis affect Earth?

The northern lights don’t affect the Earth however the solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field to cause the aurora can affect our technology and infrastructure. The electrically charged particles (electrical current) carried to Earth by solar flares and CMEs can adversely affect electrical power grids, radio signals, computer networks (cloud storage for example) and oil and gas pipelines.

Back to the list of Questions

Are the northern lights caused by pollution?

No, solar winds or flares are the cause of the northern lights, not pollution. You can read more about what causes the northern lights in the answer to question number 5. What causes the northern lights?

Back to the list of Questions

Are the northern lights radioactive?

Solar flares and CME release large amounts of radiation into space and our magnetic field deflects most of these harmful rays. The small amount of energy from solar flares that enter the Earth’s atmosphere excite the particles found there creating the northern lights.

Back to the list of Questions

Are the northern lights harmful to humans?

No, the northern lights are not harmful to humans. The interaction between the electrically charged particles from the sun and the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t produce anything harmful to humans, only a beautiful light show.

Back to the list of Questions

Is aurora borealis dangerous?

No, the aurora borealis are not dangerous. In questions 32-35 you’ll find answers to similar questions regarding the northern lights.

Back to the list of Questions

Do other planets have aurora borealis?

Yes, other planets have aurora. The requirements for aurora are solar activity and a magnetic field or some other magnetic activity such as magnetized rocks (in the case of Mars) or a magnetotail (in the case of Venus). And other planets in our solar system certainly meet those requirements. Aurora have been observed around Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.

Back to the list of Questions

Can I see the northern lights from U.S.A.?

Yes, you can see the northern lights from the USA. The far northern states, including Alaska, Idaho (panhandle), Maine, Minnesota and Michigan (Upper Peninsula) have regular northern lights appearances. If there is especially high solar activity, such as a coronal mass ejection or solar storm, the northern lights can be seen as far south as Hawaii which is at the 21st parallel. It is incredibly rare but has happened at least once.

Back to the list of Questions

Are the northern lights in Alaska like the northern lights in Iceland?

No, the northern lights in Alaska are not like the northern lights in Iceland. Just as the sun shines on every place on Earth and yet doesn’t shine exactly the same in all places, so the northern lights are not the same in all places. Iceland is a bit warmer than Alaska in winter and we don’t have any pesky bears, moose or wolves that might interrupt your northern lights viewing experience. And just as you will find in Alaska, we also have mountains, lakes and glaciers and we also have glacier lagoons, geothermally active areas, volcanoes, amazing waterfalls, stunning bird cliffs and so much more. Why not come for a visit and see for yourself?

Back to the list of Questions