Iceland is one of the best destinations to see the Northern Lights and the reason is really simple: unlike the other Scandinavian countries where you need to reach a specific area of the country to have the possibility of witnessing the phenomenon (i.e. the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland).
Here you can see it everywhere, although it is obviously essential to choose the right period and implement some small precautions to maximize the possibilities.
In this guide you will discover the best time to go to Iceland to see the queen of the skies dance, you will receive some advice to see and immortalize her, you will be able to access a list of the best excursions with local guides and you will see photos of the most beautiful and fascinating locations in which you can search for yourself.
As if that weren’t enough, you can also save the Icelandic site with the forecasts of the aurora to consult every evening.
What do you say, are you curious to learn more? I can’t wait for you to have the information to organize, so let’s get started!!
If what you want is to find out the best time to see the Northern Lights to organize a DIY trip to Iceland, the land of ice, fire and wind (and the Northern Lights), then I’m sure that discovering the characteristics of every month will relieve you of a lot of work.
In fact, you should know that although the months from September to March are dark enough to admire the northern lights in Iceland, each period has characteristics that you shouldn’t underestimate:
- September: it is the first month of the season to be eligible to see it (although in some cases it can happen to see it even at the end of August).
The landscape is devoid of snow, the temperatures are not too cold and the tourists are down compared to the previous months.
September is the perfect month for those who want to experience Iceland’s nature but also ensure they can see the Northern Lights.
- October: October is also good enough for a trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
The chances of seeing it are higher than in September due to the increase in the hours of darkness.
Temperatures begin to drop.
- November: Daylight hours decrease as we approach the end of autumn.
At the end of the month the polar night begins , which means that the sun will not rise until January.
- December: it is the coldest and darkest month of the year.
The hours of light are extremely few and the sun never rises.
If you decide to spend the Christmas holidays or New Year’s in Iceland, my advice is to make a fixed stop in the capital (or choose a good structure in the south of the island), to be able to make the most of the few hours of light per day.
- January: the polar night ends, the hours of light increase day by day and the landscape is covered in snow.
- February/March: the hours of light are getting longer and longer, the sun’s rays kiss the snowy landscape and the nights are dark enough to see the northern lights.
From late February to mid-March, it’s the best time for a trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
In the months of April to August, there are too many daylight hours to see the Northern Lights dance in the Icelandic skies.
However, this does not mean that in these months it is not a good destination for a trip, on the contrary: there are many travelers who visit it in the summer, because the days are long and the climate is perfect for spending a lot of time outdoors and , perhaps, allow yourself the luxury of traveling the entire ring road (the road that goes around the whole island), following a 10-day tour in Iceland (at least).
As I already told you, every place is good for having the chance to see the Queen of Heaven dance, but it must also be said that some locations are more beautiful than others, and this is undeniable!
Before moving on to the list of the best places, however, I want to make a small clarification: although it is quite easy to witness the phenomenon (with a few tricks that I will give you shortly), what will maximize the chances of seeing it is to participate in at least one excursion with a local guide.
In this way, not only will you avoid “wasting” the trip, but you will also keep at arm’s length the disappointment of not being able to find a place clear of clouds in the event of overcast skies (which expert guides are good at doing).
Personally I always choose to go on at least one excursion to see the northern lights during my travels because I am convinced that these experiences enrich the trip.
Here are the best excursions to see the Northern Lights in Iceland:
- Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik (from €50): With this tour departing from the capital, you’ll go on an evening outing to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
The tour lasts approximately 4 hours, in which you will learn more about this phenomenon and have the opportunity to see it dance before your eyes.
Also included is a free ticket to visit the Reykjavik Museum of the Aurora.
- Northern Lights Cruise (from €80): Join a Northern Lights excursion aboard a boat, don the included suit and get ready to admire the city of Reykjavík from the sea and, with a bit of luck , the northern lights.
In case it is not possible to see it, you have the right to participate for free the following evening.
- Golden Circle & Northern Lights (from €106): I recommend this excursion if you’re staying in the capital, but also want to discover Iceland’s best attractions with a local guide by day, and go Northern Lights hunting in the evening, away from the crowds. ‘light pollution.
- Quad Bike & Northern Lights Tour (from €183): Discover the wild Icelandic landscape on board a quad bike.
Follow your guide who will lead you up to Hafnarfjall Mountain, where you can enjoy spectacular views over Reykjavík.
Finally you will abandon the quads and board a bus to go and find the queen of the skies.
The tour will finish at approximately midnight.
On nights when you don’t have any tours booked, it’s mandatory that you go out (yes, even if you’re dead tired) to look for the aurora on your own.
What are the best locations? Here is a list:
Incredibly, the Northern Lights in Iceland can also be seen from the capital.
But, there is a but: there must be a strong activity for this to happen, as the lighting attenuates the observation of the phenomenon.
To have more chances, just move away from the city center, perhaps reaching the peninsula of Álftanes ( here the directions), to admire the northern lights dancing over the capital, or the Old Akranes Lighthouse ( here the directions), just north of in Reykjavik.
If during the day this strip of land enchants with the beauty of the floating pieces of iceberg, in the evening it turns into a highly coveted spot for admiring the northern lights: imagine finding yourself in front of the glacial lagoon, seeing the pieces of ice moving meander in the water as the green queen dances above your head and reflects her intense green in the lagoon waters.. well, that explains why this is one of the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland!
To reach this place you will have to walk about 7 km round trip and you won’t be able to rely on the warmth of your car: I advise you to arrive here in the evening ONLY if you know what you are doing or if you have already been here during the day.
The beauty of seeing the aurora dancing above the wreck is indisputable, but remember that a photo for social profiles must never endanger your safety, it’s not worth it!
These are the parking signs.
Some photos are particularly popular when it comes to the aurora borealis and, many of these, portray Mount Kirkjufell surrounded by green lights.
To get here you’ll need to make your way to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, north of Reykjavík.
Get directions here.
I’ve said it about a hundred times already that the Northern Lights can be seen everywhere in Iceland, right? Then it will not surprise you to discover that it can happen to admire it while driving along the Ring Road (the main road in Iceland) late in the evening or, if you land after 21, even on board the plane: secure your window seat!
Take a look here if you want to discover an on the road itinerary in Iceland.
Beyond the location, there are some accommodations you should consider staying in if you want to make your trip unforgettable (even just for a few days).
How about cottages in good locations to see the aurora while staying warm, or surprising guesthouses with an outdoor bath? Here are 3 facilities not to be missed:
- Blabjorg Guesthouse (from €101): Located on the east coast of the island and overlooking the ocean, this guesthouse offers rooms and multi-bedroom apartments, as well as a fully equipped shared kitchen.
The real highlight, however, are the outdoor whirlpool tubs from which you can enjoy beautiful views across the bay and, with a little luck, the northern lights while you’re soaking;
- Einishus Cottages (from €144): Located in the north of the island, this is one of the best accommodations to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Here you can choose between one or two bedroom cottages, and count on the possibility of being able to admire the queen of the skies in your private outdoor hot tub;
- Afternoon Cottages (from €147): located about 90 km from the capital, these cottages are immersed in nowhere, but equipped with all comforts.
Most notably, the property offers self-contained one-bedroom cottages, perfect for seeing the aurora.
- Save Iceland Site for Northern Lights Forecasts in Iceland;
- Armed with warm clothing, heating bags if necessary and a headlamp;
- Go to a sufficiently dark place, i.e. away from the lighting of the main cities, between 9pm and midnight.
Remember: if the sky is overcast, go out anyway and use the Icelandic site that I indicated to you in point 2 to check the cloud cover and find the best place to see it;
- Be patient and look north: if the landscape and sky are clear and the aurora density sufficient, you will be able to witness this beautiful dance with your own eyes.
NB Renting a car in Iceland will give you maximum freedom of movement, especially when you go autonomously “hunting” for the northern lights in the evening.
Iceland is one of the favorite destinations to witness this phenomenon even for beginners, as it can be seen from every part of the island (provided it is a dark place, sufficient aurora density and a clear sky) .
Independently or with a guided tour: if you have no experience, choose to participate in at least one excursion to see the aurora at the beginning of the trip, in order to learn practical notions to then attempt the sighting yourself.
Remember that even if it is not your first time, it is always advisable to join tours with local guides to enrich the travel experience and maximize the chances of seeing it.
Incredibly even in Reykjavík you will have the chance to see the aurora, but getting away from the pollution of the cities is highly recommended.
In this regard, the best places to watch the show are: the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, near the abandoned plane wreck, along the road or in conjunction with lighthouses and waterfalls.
After reading this guide, you have every chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, knowing when is the best time, the tips to implement to see the phenomenon and the most scenic places to do it.
If you have any doubts or questions, or just want to share your experience, leave your comment below.
Are you going to Iceland? Read also:
- Discover all our articles about Iceland: all articles about Iceland are listed here.
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- 10 Days in Iceland: Complete 10-Day Iceland Itinerary (With Maps)