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What to Pack for a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland: Your Guide

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland is one of the most magical experiences you can have on earth

March 20, 2023

What to Pack for a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland: Your Guide

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland is one of the most magical experiences you can have on earth

March 20, 2023

But the beauty of the experience aside, it’s important to address some practical considerations before your northern lights tour in Iceland. Namely, if you’re going to be out late on an Icelandic evening, what should you take with you?

In this article, you’ll find the answer. And while you're here, discover some of the best northern lights tours in Iceland too.

When can you see the northern lights in Iceland?

The northern lights are an incredible display of colour against the dark sky. Given that Iceland enjoys so many hours of daylight during the summer months (up to 20 hours a day), that’s not the right season to enjoy this breathtaking experience.

Instead, if you want to see the northern lights in Iceland, the winter is your best option. Northern lights season runs from September to March, when the days are shorter and the sky is darker for longer.

Most Icelanders say that it’s specifically November, December, and January, the darkest months of the year, when you’ll have the best chance of seeing the northern lights. That’s definitely true. In December, for example, Iceland enjoys fewer than four and a half hours of daylight each day—giving you plenty of opportunity to see them.

However, the season lasts a lot longer than just those three months, and the northern lights have been since as early as August and as late as April. As long as the skies are dark, you always have a chance on an Iceland northern lights tour.

The important thing is, though, that you will only see the northern lights during the night. If you’re thinking about what to pack for your tour, it’s worth bearing that in mind.

What will the weather be like?

To see the northern lights, you need to have a clear sky. If it’s overcast—or, worse, raining or snowing—you won’t be able to see this amazing spectacle.

That means that your hunt for the northern lights will inevitably be very weather dependent. And, as you might be aware already, Iceland’s weather is pretty volatile, particularly in winter. One day you can enjoy gorgeous sunshine only to be caught up in a blizzard the next day. In fact, it very often happens that we have both on the same day. Welcome to the life of Icelanders!

By the way, that’s why when you book a northern lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions, we’ll give you a guarantee. If you don’t see the northern lights that day, you can join another tour for free to increase your chances of success.

If the conditions are right and the skies are clear above your head, that usually means it will be particularly cold. So, you’ll likely be wrapping up warm for Iceland in winter already, but you’ll need to be extra snug on a northern lights tour.

Find out more: Your guide to the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland


The best places to see the northern lights


eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland

Iceland is one of the world’s best places to see the northern lights. The conditions are perfect. It’s in the far north, where the northern lights occur (hence the name!). It has very long winter nights. And, as Iceland is so sparsely populated, there are many places where it’s very, very dark. As such, light pollution is lower and the northern lights can be seen in all their glory.

So, in Iceland, you’ll be spoiled for choice of places to see the northern lights. In fact, often you can see them by accident if you’re out in the evening.

However, get out of the bright lights of the city and you’ll have a much better chance to see them. For example, the Golden Circle or the Snæfellsnes peninsula are both great northern lights destinations.

Alternatively, if you want to add a bit of luxury to your northern lights experience, why not head to a spa? The combination of relaxation and ethereal beauty is something really special.

Find out more: Your guide to the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland


What to pack for your Iceland northern lights tour

You now know a little bit about what to expect on your northern lights tour in Iceland. So, what should you make sure you bring with you? Let’s take a look at how to dress as well as some other things you’ll need to bring along too.

How to dress for a northern lights tour

The most important thing about dressing for your northern lights tour is that you’ll want to stay warm.

Average winter nighttime temperatures in Reykjavik are about -2°C (28.4°F). However, it can get a lot colder—the record low is -24.5°C (-12.1°F) in Reykjavik—and that’s particularly true outside of the city. So, pack your warmest clothes, including:

  • Lots of layers. Wearing many thinner layers keeps you warmer than wearing just one big layer.
  • A windproof jacket. Even if the air is still, it will keep some of the chill off.
  • Warm boots. It could be icy, so some robust shoes with grip is important. They’ll help to keep you warm too. Long johns or tights, for underneath your trousers.
  • Hat, gloves, and scarf, to keep those extremities warm. Woollen socks. We recommend Icelandic woollen socks, as they’re what the locals wear to keep their feet warm.
  • Swimwear and a towel. This one’s only for those of you who want to see the northern lights from the comfort of a spa.

As we said, in Iceland, the weather is always changeable. So, it’s always a good idea to have a waterproof with you just in case.


northern lights bus

Other items to bring with you

  • Warm clothes are not all you’ll need for your northern lights tour. Consider bringing the following to make your Icelandic experience complete.
  • A camera. Whether you want photos or video—or both—a quality camera is a must to capture the true beauty of the northern lights.
  • A tripod can help you take even better photos. Battery packs. There’s nothing worse than running out of power when you need it most.
  • Spare batteries are a savvy thing to pack, but an Icelandic adapter is clever too.Snacks.
  • A Thermos flask and a bite to eat will keep you warm and full of energy while you’re out and about.
  • Friends! Why not see the northern lights in a small group? If you and your loved ones want a more intimate and flexible experience, head out on a private group tour.

Find out more: Your guide to what to pack for your Iceland trip


Why visit Iceland during the winter


eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland

Winter in Iceland is a time of snow-covered landscapes, unique festive traditions, and of course the northern lights. Many of the incredible things that you’d enjoy in Iceland in summer are possible in winter too—but with an extra something special. For example, on the Golden Circle, you’ll see geysers shoot water high into the sky above snowy fields. Or witness the plunging torrents of waterfalls shrouded in ice. Alternatively, head out onto the vast icy worlds of glaciers. Whether on foot or by snowmobile, a glacier tour will show you a landscape you’ve likely never seen at home. Don’t miss a glimpse under these mighty expanses on an ice cave tour. Then there’s Christmas in Iceland. With joyful light displays, unique cuisine, and not just one Santa, but 13 Christmas trolls, it’s a reason all by itself to visit Iceland in winter.

Find out more: Why visit Iceland in winter: Your guide


The best northern lights tours: Your options

When planning your Iceland adventure, it’s good to know that there’s not just one kind of northern lights tour. Instead, you have many different thrills and experiences to choose from. Pick the one that’s right for you.

  • The classic northern lights tour. On a classic tour, you’ll journey to the destination where you’ll have the highest chance to see the northern lights on any given night. You’ll be led by an expert guide who will have studied the conditions to ensure the best experience for you.
  • The northern lights by boat. Take to the sea and get away from the lights of the city. On a boat tour, you’ll experience the northern lights from the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a mesmerising and tranquil experience.
  • The northern lights spa experience. There’s only one thing more soothing than kicking back in an Icelandic spa. That’s to enjoy the northern lights as you do it. You have a few options for a northern lights spa tour with Reykjavik Excursions:
  • Bathe in the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon as the northern lights dance above you.
  • Visit the Sky Lagoon and witness the northern lights across wide views of the Atlantic Ocean.See the northern lights from Laugarvatn, a spa in the heart of the Golden Circle.
  • Combination tours.Combine a northern lights experience with a trip to either the Golden Circle or the Snæfellsness peninsula, two of the most spectacular sights in southern Iceland.
  • Small group tours. Keep it intimate on a smaller-group hunt for the northern lights. You’ll get more flexibility and more dedicated time with your local guide.

Explore our northern lights tours to find out more.


northern lights bus

Frequently asked questions about packing for Iceland

Do you have more questions about packing for your northern lights tour in Iceland? Here we answer some common questions. ### What should I bring to the northern lights? When you’re taking a northern lights tour, you’ll likely have two priorities. Firstly, you’ll want to stay warm. That means warm layers, wind- and waterproof clothes, and a hat and gloves are all essentials. A flask of hot tea might be a good idea too.

Then, you’ll likely want to remember your experience forever. A camera is usually a smart thing to bring, along with everything else you might need for that. That could be spare batteries, a tripod, and a waterproof case too. ### What should I pack for a northern lights cruise? If you fancy a northern lights tour by boat, you’ll need to bring many of the same things you would if you were taking a classic tour. That means warm clothes and a camera.

That said, at sea, temperatures can be a little cooler and there’s likely to be a breeze. Make sure you bring a windproof outer layer.

How do people dress for the northern lights in Iceland?

When people head out to see the northern lights, they typically dress as warmly as possible. Consider wearing lots of warm layers, a winter jacket, and all the accessories you’ll need to keep the cold out. Gloves, a hat, scarf, and warm socks are all a good idea. ### How do you prepare for the northern lights? To prepare for the best northern lights experience possible, follow some simple steps:

  • Check the weather forecast. It’s best to choose a day when the skies are clear.
  • Use a northern lights forecasting tool to check the sun’s activity. The northern lights are caused by activity on the sun. Apps and websites such as the Icelandic Met Office and Aurora Forecast both have tools to help you see how strong the northern lights might be.
  • Book a northern lights tour.You’ll increase your chances of seeing the northern lights by joining a tour.
  • Make sure you pack well. Bringing plenty of clothes to keep warm as well as your camera will ensure you’re well prepared.

What do I need to photograph the northern lights?

Whether you’re using your smartphone or a digital camera, you’ll need the right settings to get the best photos of the northern lights. - Get a good app. For example, Cortex Camera, Nightcap, or the Northern Lights Photo Taker can help you get the right settings effortlessly. - Switch to night mode. Contrast tends to be better in night mode, which is helpful when capturing the northern lights. - Turn the flash off and use long exposure. Flash is useless for the northern lights, but long exposure can ensure your camera is picking up as much light as possible. - Use infinity focus. You don’t want a specific point to be in focus. Infinity focus uses a very wide lens or depth of field. - Choose a steady tripod, to keep your camera steady. A tripod allows you to take sharp pictures with a longer exposure time.

Do northern lights look better in photos?

There’s nothing quite like witnessing the northern lights with your own two eyes. Being there beneath the dark sky is an experience that you just can’t get from a photo.

However, many of the photos that you see of the northern lights may exaggerate the colours. With high contrast and a bit of post-production, some photos can even look a little unrealistic. Ultimately, it’s always better to see the northern lights for yourself. ## See the northern lights in Iceland with Reykjavik Excursions Come to Iceland and see the exquisite display of the northern lights for yourself. You won’t have a more magical experience anywhere else in the world.

Book a northern lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions and we’ll take you to the very best places to see this spectacle. Whether you want to witness the northern lights by boat, from the comfort of a spa, or out in the Icelandic scenery, we’ll make it easy.

So, what are you waiting for? Explore our Iceland northern lights tours and book your trip today.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.

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Once again, the enthralling spectacle of Iceland's Reykjanes volcano is back in the limelight! After 11 months of peaceful dormancy, the volcano is now alive and kicking, treating locals and tourists to another captivating visual performance. If you've been yearning for an adventure that's truly out of this world, this might just be your calling!

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What to Pack for a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland: Your Guide

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland is one of the most magical experiences you can have on earth

March 20, 2023

What to Pack for a Northern Lights Tour in Iceland: Your Guide

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland is one of the most magical experiences you can have on earth

March 20, 2023

But the beauty of the experience aside, it’s important to address some practical considerations before your northern lights tour in Iceland. Namely, if you’re going to be out late on an Icelandic evening, what should you take with you?

In this article, you’ll find the answer. And while you're here, discover some of the best northern lights tours in Iceland too.

When can you see the northern lights in Iceland?

The northern lights are an incredible display of colour against the dark sky. Given that Iceland enjoys so many hours of daylight during the summer months (up to 20 hours a day), that’s not the right season to enjoy this breathtaking experience.

Instead, if you want to see the northern lights in Iceland, the winter is your best option. Northern lights season runs from September to March, when the days are shorter and the sky is darker for longer.

Most Icelanders say that it’s specifically November, December, and January, the darkest months of the year, when you’ll have the best chance of seeing the northern lights. That’s definitely true. In December, for example, Iceland enjoys fewer than four and a half hours of daylight each day—giving you plenty of opportunity to see them.

However, the season lasts a lot longer than just those three months, and the northern lights have been since as early as August and as late as April. As long as the skies are dark, you always have a chance on an Iceland northern lights tour.

The important thing is, though, that you will only see the northern lights during the night. If you’re thinking about what to pack for your tour, it’s worth bearing that in mind.

What will the weather be like?

To see the northern lights, you need to have a clear sky. If it’s overcast—or, worse, raining or snowing—you won’t be able to see this amazing spectacle.

That means that your hunt for the northern lights will inevitably be very weather dependent. And, as you might be aware already, Iceland’s weather is pretty volatile, particularly in winter. One day you can enjoy gorgeous sunshine only to be caught up in a blizzard the next day. In fact, it very often happens that we have both on the same day. Welcome to the life of Icelanders!

By the way, that’s why when you book a northern lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions, we’ll give you a guarantee. If you don’t see the northern lights that day, you can join another tour for free to increase your chances of success.

If the conditions are right and the skies are clear above your head, that usually means it will be particularly cold. So, you’ll likely be wrapping up warm for Iceland in winter already, but you’ll need to be extra snug on a northern lights tour.

Find out more: Your guide to the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland


The best places to see the northern lights


eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland

Iceland is one of the world’s best places to see the northern lights. The conditions are perfect. It’s in the far north, where the northern lights occur (hence the name!). It has very long winter nights. And, as Iceland is so sparsely populated, there are many places where it’s very, very dark. As such, light pollution is lower and the northern lights can be seen in all their glory.

So, in Iceland, you’ll be spoiled for choice of places to see the northern lights. In fact, often you can see them by accident if you’re out in the evening.

However, get out of the bright lights of the city and you’ll have a much better chance to see them. For example, the Golden Circle or the Snæfellsnes peninsula are both great northern lights destinations.

Alternatively, if you want to add a bit of luxury to your northern lights experience, why not head to a spa? The combination of relaxation and ethereal beauty is something really special.

Find out more: Your guide to the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland


What to pack for your Iceland northern lights tour

You now know a little bit about what to expect on your northern lights tour in Iceland. So, what should you make sure you bring with you? Let’s take a look at how to dress as well as some other things you’ll need to bring along too.

How to dress for a northern lights tour

The most important thing about dressing for your northern lights tour is that you’ll want to stay warm.

Average winter nighttime temperatures in Reykjavik are about -2°C (28.4°F). However, it can get a lot colder—the record low is -24.5°C (-12.1°F) in Reykjavik—and that’s particularly true outside of the city. So, pack your warmest clothes, including:

  • Lots of layers. Wearing many thinner layers keeps you warmer than wearing just one big layer.
  • A windproof jacket. Even if the air is still, it will keep some of the chill off.
  • Warm boots. It could be icy, so some robust shoes with grip is important. They’ll help to keep you warm too. Long johns or tights, for underneath your trousers.
  • Hat, gloves, and scarf, to keep those extremities warm. Woollen socks. We recommend Icelandic woollen socks, as they’re what the locals wear to keep their feet warm.
  • Swimwear and a towel. This one’s only for those of you who want to see the northern lights from the comfort of a spa.

As we said, in Iceland, the weather is always changeable. So, it’s always a good idea to have a waterproof with you just in case.


northern lights bus

Other items to bring with you

  • Warm clothes are not all you’ll need for your northern lights tour. Consider bringing the following to make your Icelandic experience complete.
  • A camera. Whether you want photos or video—or both—a quality camera is a must to capture the true beauty of the northern lights.
  • A tripod can help you take even better photos. Battery packs. There’s nothing worse than running out of power when you need it most.
  • Spare batteries are a savvy thing to pack, but an Icelandic adapter is clever too.Snacks.
  • A Thermos flask and a bite to eat will keep you warm and full of energy while you’re out and about.
  • Friends! Why not see the northern lights in a small group? If you and your loved ones want a more intimate and flexible experience, head out on a private group tour.

Find out more: Your guide to what to pack for your Iceland trip


Why visit Iceland during the winter


eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland

Winter in Iceland is a time of snow-covered landscapes, unique festive traditions, and of course the northern lights. Many of the incredible things that you’d enjoy in Iceland in summer are possible in winter too—but with an extra something special. For example, on the Golden Circle, you’ll see geysers shoot water high into the sky above snowy fields. Or witness the plunging torrents of waterfalls shrouded in ice. Alternatively, head out onto the vast icy worlds of glaciers. Whether on foot or by snowmobile, a glacier tour will show you a landscape you’ve likely never seen at home. Don’t miss a glimpse under these mighty expanses on an ice cave tour. Then there’s Christmas in Iceland. With joyful light displays, unique cuisine, and not just one Santa, but 13 Christmas trolls, it’s a reason all by itself to visit Iceland in winter.

Find out more: Why visit Iceland in winter: Your guide


The best northern lights tours: Your options

When planning your Iceland adventure, it’s good to know that there’s not just one kind of northern lights tour. Instead, you have many different thrills and experiences to choose from. Pick the one that’s right for you.

  • The classic northern lights tour. On a classic tour, you’ll journey to the destination where you’ll have the highest chance to see the northern lights on any given night. You’ll be led by an expert guide who will have studied the conditions to ensure the best experience for you.
  • The northern lights by boat. Take to the sea and get away from the lights of the city. On a boat tour, you’ll experience the northern lights from the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a mesmerising and tranquil experience.
  • The northern lights spa experience. There’s only one thing more soothing than kicking back in an Icelandic spa. That’s to enjoy the northern lights as you do it. You have a few options for a northern lights spa tour with Reykjavik Excursions:
  • Bathe in the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon as the northern lights dance above you.
  • Visit the Sky Lagoon and witness the northern lights across wide views of the Atlantic Ocean.See the northern lights from Laugarvatn, a spa in the heart of the Golden Circle.
  • Combination tours.Combine a northern lights experience with a trip to either the Golden Circle or the Snæfellsness peninsula, two of the most spectacular sights in southern Iceland.
  • Small group tours. Keep it intimate on a smaller-group hunt for the northern lights. You’ll get more flexibility and more dedicated time with your local guide.

Explore our northern lights tours to find out more.


northern lights bus

Frequently asked questions about packing for Iceland

Do you have more questions about packing for your northern lights tour in Iceland? Here we answer some common questions. ### What should I bring to the northern lights? When you’re taking a northern lights tour, you’ll likely have two priorities. Firstly, you’ll want to stay warm. That means warm layers, wind- and waterproof clothes, and a hat and gloves are all essentials. A flask of hot tea might be a good idea too.

Then, you’ll likely want to remember your experience forever. A camera is usually a smart thing to bring, along with everything else you might need for that. That could be spare batteries, a tripod, and a waterproof case too. ### What should I pack for a northern lights cruise? If you fancy a northern lights tour by boat, you’ll need to bring many of the same things you would if you were taking a classic tour. That means warm clothes and a camera.

That said, at sea, temperatures can be a little cooler and there’s likely to be a breeze. Make sure you bring a windproof outer layer.

How do people dress for the northern lights in Iceland?

When people head out to see the northern lights, they typically dress as warmly as possible. Consider wearing lots of warm layers, a winter jacket, and all the accessories you’ll need to keep the cold out. Gloves, a hat, scarf, and warm socks are all a good idea. ### How do you prepare for the northern lights? To prepare for the best northern lights experience possible, follow some simple steps:

  • Check the weather forecast. It’s best to choose a day when the skies are clear.
  • Use a northern lights forecasting tool to check the sun’s activity. The northern lights are caused by activity on the sun. Apps and websites such as the Icelandic Met Office and Aurora Forecast both have tools to help you see how strong the northern lights might be.
  • Book a northern lights tour.You’ll increase your chances of seeing the northern lights by joining a tour.
  • Make sure you pack well. Bringing plenty of clothes to keep warm as well as your camera will ensure you’re well prepared.

What do I need to photograph the northern lights?

Whether you’re using your smartphone or a digital camera, you’ll need the right settings to get the best photos of the northern lights. - Get a good app. For example, Cortex Camera, Nightcap, or the Northern Lights Photo Taker can help you get the right settings effortlessly. - Switch to night mode. Contrast tends to be better in night mode, which is helpful when capturing the northern lights. - Turn the flash off and use long exposure. Flash is useless for the northern lights, but long exposure can ensure your camera is picking up as much light as possible. - Use infinity focus. You don’t want a specific point to be in focus. Infinity focus uses a very wide lens or depth of field. - Choose a steady tripod, to keep your camera steady. A tripod allows you to take sharp pictures with a longer exposure time.

Do northern lights look better in photos?

There’s nothing quite like witnessing the northern lights with your own two eyes. Being there beneath the dark sky is an experience that you just can’t get from a photo.

However, many of the photos that you see of the northern lights may exaggerate the colours. With high contrast and a bit of post-production, some photos can even look a little unrealistic. Ultimately, it’s always better to see the northern lights for yourself. ## See the northern lights in Iceland with Reykjavik Excursions Come to Iceland and see the exquisite display of the northern lights for yourself. You won’t have a more magical experience anywhere else in the world.

Book a northern lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions and we’ll take you to the very best places to see this spectacle. Whether you want to witness the northern lights by boat, from the comfort of a spa, or out in the Icelandic scenery, we’ll make it easy.

So, what are you waiting for? Explore our Iceland northern lights tours and book your trip today.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.