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When and how to see the northern lights in Iceland

By Samantha Fergusson

Witnessing the ethereal beauty of the northern lights - also known as the aurora borealis - is on many a bucketlist. The rippling ribbons of green, purple, blue and sometimes even red or pink are simply breathtaking, and there are few better places to see them than in Iceland. If you are hoping to take a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice to view the spectacle then here are a few pointers to help you in your decision making. Of course if you would like a hassle-free holiday, our local experts in Iceland are always ready and waiting to plan your perfect trip for you.

Northern lights in Iceland

When is the best time to see the northern lights?

Contrary to popular belief the northern lights are actually present year-round, but since they generally only exist at a latitude of 60 degrees and above, the long summer days mean that you simply won’t be able to see them outside of a few key months. The best time to head to Iceland to see the aurora borealis, therefore, is from September to April. The nights are closing in, the skies are darkening properly and the dancing lights are finally visible…

Northern Lights Iceland

Is it guaranteed that I will see the northern lights if I visit Iceland in winter?

Unfortunately it is not guaranteed. Like any natural phenomenon, the appearance of the northern lights is dependent on conditions both when it comes to solar activity in the atmosphere and the weather on the ground. Luckily, there is a handy forecast that predicts cloud cover and solar activity to help you know when on your holiday to look out for them. It is also worth bearing in mind that a full moon may produce enough brightness to dull the glow of the aurora, so planning your holiday around dates where the moon is not at its fullest is wise.

Northern lights over Skogafoss, Iceland

Where is best to see the northern lights in Iceland?

Depending on the quality and strength of the northern lights, they can be seen all over Iceland. Even in the cities there are spots where you can get far enough away from the light pollution to see them. If the aurora forecast looks promising, try heading to the larger parks - like Klambratún or Laugardalur - or to the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula by Grótta Lighthouse for the best, non light-polluted views.

Northern lights over Eillidavatn, near Reykjavik, Iceland

Alternatively, you can arrange to be in a more rural location for a good part of your holiday in order to maximise your northern lights experience. Wander the black beaches, hike across a glacier or scale a volcanic crag during the daylight hours, then wrap up warm and settle down at night to watch the magical spectacle unfold with no unnatural light to tarnish your view. Another popular option is to view them from the deck of a boat. Set out from Reykjavík into Eyjafjörður Fjord or Akureyri into Faxafloí Bay and marvel at the reflected beauty of the lights in the water.

Autumn northern lights in Iceland

Make it happen

Our local experts from Iceland are lucky to have the northern lights dancing over their heads year-round, so there’s no one better placed to plan a perfect trip for you to see them. Simply send an enquiry and they will be back in touch to create your tailor-made holiday to Iceland. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.