Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

Want to see the northern lights in Iceland? Find out all you need to know about the aurora borealis here.

19. júlí 2022

Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

Want to see the northern lights in Iceland? Find out all you need to know about the aurora borealis here.

19. júlí 2022

Iceland really is the best place in the world to see the northern lights. Alongside its northern location and dark winter skies, the country’s glorious glacial and volcanic landscapes make witnessing the northern lights in Iceland a truly unforgettable experience.

In this post, you can discover everything you need to know about seeing the aurora borealis in the land of fire and ice. Let’s get started.

What are the northern lights?

The northern lights are one of the most incredible spectacles you can witness anywhere on the planet. Famed for their ethereal, mesmerising beauty, the aurora has turned heads toward the night sky for millennia.

It’s a phenomenon that can only be seen at the earth’s poles. In the north, they’re known as the aurora borealis—simply meaning “northern lights”—while in the south they’re more accurately called the aurora australis. At either end of the planet, you’re witnessing the same magical display.

But what actually are the northern lights? It’s time for a little science lesson.

What causes the northern lights?

This shimmering play of light in the night sky is actually caused by events that are happening on the surface of the sun.

Solar storms—huge explosions on the sun’s surface—are the real cause of the aurora. These occur anywhere between once a week and a few times a day, and they release millions of charged particles into space, with many hitting earth.

Yet the earth’s atmosphere protects us from these violent events. Many of the particles simply bounce away. But many are caught in the earth’s magnetic field and are pulled down to the north and south poles, causing the mysterious lights in the sky.

At the poles, the charged solar particles crash into molecules in the earth’s atmosphere, heating them up and making them glow. Ultimately, that’s what we’re seeing in the northern lights. The closest glowing particles are about 100 miles (160 kilometres) above our heads, but it can happen at a height of thousands of miles.

But why does the aurora look like waves or draped curtains? That’s down to the earth’s magnetic field, which changes where and when the lights appear.

What are the colours of the northern lights?

NL myndir

The most common colour of the northern lights is green. However, they can be many different colours—from red to yellow and blue—depending on precisely what’s going on up there.

For example, the different colours can be caused by particular gases in the atmosphere, the altitude of the molecules that glow, and the density of the atmosphere. The amount of energy from the solar storm will have an impact too.

Here are some of the most common colours—and the conditions that create them:

Green. The most common colour in the northern lights, green can be seen when solar particles hit oxygen molecules between 100 and 300 miles (160 to 480km) above the ground.

Red. When the particles hit oxygen at a greater altitude (above 300 miles or 480km), it produces a red hue.

Pink. You can see pink—or dark red—in the northern lights when solar particles collide with nitrogen at a very low altitude of 60 miles (100km) above ground.

Blue or purple. Finally, while they’re difficult colours to see against the black sky, the northern lights can be blue or purple too. That’s down to the presence of hydrogen and helium particles.

Typically, when seeing the northern lights in Iceland, you’ll glimpse a range of different colours. That’s part of their mesmerising beauty.

Do the northern lights happen every night?

NL myndir3

Whether you’re hunting the northern lights in Iceland or in a different country, there’s never any guarantee of seeing them. Yet the processes that cause the northern lights do happen on most nights—and even throughout the day.

But many factors mean that they can’t be seen. In summer, for example, the northern lights aren’t visible, as the light of the sun will be too strong.

Even in winter, they won’t be on display all the time. Sometimes the night sky will be cloudy, or the light of the moon will be too bright. At other times, the aurora just won’t be strong enough to be visible.

The strength of the northern lights often depends on the power of the solar storms that cause them. Those storms become more intense and frequent every 11 years, at what is called “solar maximum”, while at other times they might not happen so often. For northern lights hunters, the good news is that solar maximum is due in the next few years.

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland

NL myndir6

Now you know the science behind the phenomenon, what should you know about a northern lights experience in Iceland?

When can you see the northern lights in Iceland?

You can see the northern lights throughout the winter in Iceland. Typically, Iceland northern lights tours run from September through to April. However, as the nights are darkest between November and January, you’ll have most luck glimpsing the aurora at this time.

Yet just like the northern lights everywhere else in the world, though, you might not see them every night. For your best chance, you’ll need the stars to align for the right conditions.

• Clear skies. Cloud cover will make seeing the northern lights impossible. Meanwhile, any rain, snow, or strong wind will mean that sitting out at night won’t be very comfortable.

• Very low light. The darker the better, as this is when it’s easiest to make out the colours of the northern lights against the sky. That means that winter is best. But also, remote places are usually better than big cities—as there’ll typically be less light.

• Strong solar activity. As they’re caused by solar activity, the northern lights are best seen when that activity is at its strongest. The Kp-index measures how the earth’s magnetic field is affected by solar activity. When it’s high, you have the best chance of seeing the northern lights. (You can find the Kp-index on the northern lights forecasting tools below.)

What month is best to see the northern lights?

The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is deep winter. While the weather is more volatile—meaning that there’ll be risk of clouds—this is the season when the aurora are at their finest.

But other months between September and April can also be good opportunities too. For example, in the late autumn and spring, the evenings are milder and the weather is more stable, while nights are still dark. Many lucky visitors get a glimpse of the aurora throughout these months.

Typically, we recommend visiting Iceland for the northern lights at the winter solstice (21 December). At this time, light levels will be lowest—and you’ll experience winter in Iceland in all its gorgeous glory. Expect snow cover, Christmas celebrations, and the very best of Iceland’s winter traditions.

What is the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland?

The long nights in winter mean that the northern lights are visible often from early evening to mid-morning. However, the best hours of the day are usually between 10pm and 12am, when the night is darkest.

This is typically when most northern lights tours set off in Iceland. It gives you the best chance of seeing the aurora, while ensuring you can get home to bed in time to fully enjoy your next day.

Which part of Iceland is best to see the northern lights?

NL myndir2

As Iceland is so far north, the whole of the country offers the opportunity to see the northern lights—if it’s dark enough and the night is clear. You can enjoy the northern lights from any of the following destinations:

Snæfellsnes National Park

Snæfellsnes holds a mythical status among Icelanders—as the site of folk tales, spiritual experiences, and some of the most gorgeous landscapes in western Iceland. Of course, it’s also a fantastic and convenient place to see the northern lights, too.

Thanks to its size, there are many places to catch a glimpse of this spectacle across the national park. The aurora makes for an astonishing backdrop of the magical mountain of Kirkjufell, for example. Alternatively, witness the northern lights across Snæfellsnes’s fjords, Kolgrafarfjörður or Hvalfjörður.

The Snæfellsnes National Park is less than two hours’ drive from Reykjavik, making it a perfect place for a northern lights experience.

Iceland’s south coast

The south coast of Iceland is one of the most visited regions in the country, spanning hundreds of miles east from Reykjavik. With its incredible scenery and easy access, it’s an ideal place to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

Witness the wonder of the northern lights from some of south Iceland’s most impressive sites, in the Golden Circle, for example. Or else try the little village of Vík, for example, with its black sands and the looming presence of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

Jökulsárlón

Another of the many jewels of Iceland’s south coast, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is created by the meltwater from the Vatnajökull glacier. It’s a dreamy, serene place, full of floating icebergs and peaceful sea life.

During the winter, the glacial lagoon doubles up as one of the most arresting scenes of the northern lights there is in Iceland. Here, you’ll see the shimmering colours in a sky above the glacier and with the roar of the ocean in the distance.

Iceland’s Highlands

While most visitors to Iceland stick to route 1—Iceland’s ring road—around Iceland’s coast, the country’s wild interior holds sublime, rugged landscapes that often go unseen. Given their remote location, miles from any lights or settlement, the Icelandic Highlands are one of the most exciting places to see the northern lights.

Of course, they’re not the easiest place to access. But an adventure across Iceland’s interior makes for an unforgettable experience.

Northern Iceland

Remote and sparsely populated, northern Iceland could be the perfect place for seeing the northern lights. What’s more, following the route 1 around the country, you’ll have a real adventure on the way too.

Can you see the northern lights from Reykjavík?

NL myndir10

Yes, Iceland’s capital city often enjoys spectacular views of the northern lights—even though there can be a bit of light pollution throughout the night. What it does offer is convenience, because it’s very easy to return to your accommodation afterwards.

Head to the darker parts of the city to have the best chance of seeing the aurora. The Seltjarnarnes Nature Reserve—with its peninsula that emerges from the west of the city—is a popular place for northern lights hunting among locals. Alternatively, the hill of Öskjuhlíð or Videy Island are both ideal spots to stargaze from the city.

Tools to use to predict northern lights in Iceland

NL myndir8

There’s inevitably a bit of luck involved in seeing the northern lights in Iceland—or anywhere else, for that matter. Yet there are tools out there that can take the guesswork out of the experience.

These are the ones you need:

Icelandic Met Office. The website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office is one of the best tools you can use for predicting the northern lights. It shows the forecasts for the strength of solar activity—the Kp-index—as well as cloud coverage.

While it does only give a three-day forecast, it’s one of the most reliable tools out there for aurora-hunters.

Aurora Forecast. Another excellent and highly readable tool for predicting the northern lights in Iceland is auroraforecast.is. All on a single clear page, it gives you information on solar wind, the magnetic field, Kp-index, and cloud cover. There’s nothing else you need.

SolarHam. A very detailed website that provides information on many metrics relevant to the northern lights, Solarham can be a little bit intimidating at first. But it provides an incredibly detailed insight into everything you need to track the northern lights.

Northern lights alerts app. While it’s not a prediction tool, the Northern Lights Alerts app helps you receive live information on when people in your area are seeing the aurora. For example, set your local area to Reykjavik and if anyone sees the northern lights from the city, they can tell the app and you’ll be notified.

By the way, if you take a northern lights tour, you’ll be led by an expert guide who will be highly trained in predicting the best places to see the northern lights. They’ll know the best spots and the best times of the day, so you won’t really need these tools yourself. But they can be fun and informative to explore!

The best Iceland northern lights tours

NL myndir4

There are many different types of northern lights tours in Iceland. Depending on the way you like to travel and the amount of time you have available, you’ll find different tours to suit you.

If you book a northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions, we’ll give you a guarantee. If you don’t see any northern lights during the tour, you’ll be invited to join the tour again, free of charge—to double your chances of seeing them.

Northern lights classic tour

On a classic northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions, you’ll be taken to the destination where you’ll have the best chance of seeing the northern lights on any given night.

You’ll be led by one of our expert guides, who will have studied the weather conditions and solar forecasts to increase your likelihood of seeing the aurora. On the trip, you’ll receive a hot drink and a snack too, while your guide explains the science behind the spectacle.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of a sighting. But when the clouds are clear, expect glimpses of the Milky Way and Iceland’s gorgeous nocturnal skies, too.

Northern lights small group tours

Alternatively, smaller group northern lights tours give you expert guidance with a more intimate feel. Again, locations can change depending on the forecast, but you’ll be taken to the place where a glimpse of the aurora is most likely.

The Golden Circle and northern lights

Alternatively, combine your northern lights experience with a visit to some of Iceland’s most popular sights.

The Golden Circle and northern lights tour is one of the most popular options. On this journey, explore the Golden Circle, home to some of south Iceland’s most special landforms, including the Geysirs, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.

After your adventure, your guide will take you to the best spots in the area to see the northern lights. It’s a special experience, at a distance from Reykjavik—making a glimpse of the northern lights even more likely.

Northern lights by boat

A unique way to experience the northern lights is by taking to the water. We’ve said that the lights of the city can make the northern lights a little more difficult to see. But sail away from Reykjavik into the Atlantic and you’ll be surrounded by darkness and the mystery of the ocean.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we can organise a boat tour from Reykjavik for you that will show you the wonders of the night sky from the serene sea.

Northern lights and a spa

Another special way to see the northern lights is by glimpsing the northern lights from the luxurious comfort of one of Iceland’s spas. Unwind in the warm waters—or in the sauna—and wait for the aurora to reveal themselves. It’s a perfect way to relax at the end of your trip. Our Warm Baths & Cool Lights tour combines a visit to the geothermal baths at Laugarvatn Fontana with a Northern Lights hunt.

Self-drive tours

Sometimes you want to head off by yourself and enjoy your own adventure. We understand that. That’s why at Reykjavik Excursions, we can help you organise a self-drive tour of Iceland, on which you can see the northern lights all by yourself.

Driving by yourself gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want. However, without the help of an expert guide, you may miss some of the best opportunities to see the aurora in all their glory.

Discover more options among our northern lights tours in Iceland.

Photographing the northern lights

NL myndir5

Finally, we’ll end our guide to seeing the northern lights in Iceland by showing you how to take the best images you can of the spectacle. There’s nothing like taking home a spellbinding photo of your experience. But the northern lights can be difficult to capture if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips to help you take better pictures:

On a smartphone

Start with the right app. Not every phone camera has the features to take a good photo at night. Apps like Nightcap, Cortex Camera, or the Northern Lights Photo Taker help to make getting the right conditions really easy.

Remove flash and any filters. Make sure that you’ve disabled the flash and that you’re not using any filters to change the effect of the image.

Night mode. When in night mode, cameras capture more detail and tend to make contrast more distinct. That’s exactly what you want when capturing the northern lights.

High exposure. Lengthening the exposure on your phone camera can ensure you’re picking up light that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Your camera might have this option—or you can download an app like Manual Camera DSLR to make it possible.

Get a tripod. If you’re taking a photo by hand, you may be a little shaky—and this can affect the image. A tripod can give you some stability.

On a digital camera

Alternatively, if you’re using a digital camera, try the following tips.

No flash. Just as on a smartphone, disable flash before photographing the northern lights.

Lowest f-setting. The f-setting on a camera is the focal length of the lens. The lowest settings allow more light into the camera.

Use infinity focus. Infinity focus means that there’s no specific point on your camera that is in focus. It’s simply a very wide lens or depth of field. A very slow shutter speed will help capture more light.

Use a steady tripod. For the same reason as with a mobile phone, a tripod will be indispensable.

Whichever you are using, make sure the battery is charged! You can find more information on northern lights photography in our article, Capturing the Northern Lights.

Take a northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions

NL myndir9

Come and see the northern lights for yourself in Iceland. With its sublime glacial landscapes, wonderful winter traditions, and long winter nights, there really is no better place to see the aurora borealis than Iceland.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we’re committed to making your travel around Iceland safer, easier, and more enjoyable—whether you’re here to see the northern lights or not. We run a wide range of tours from Reykjavik every day of the year, with northern lights tours throughout the winter.

Get started by browsing our selection of northern lights tours in Iceland.

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Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

In this post, you can discover everything you need to know about seeing the aurora borealis in the land of fire and ice.

Lesa blogg

Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

Want to see the northern lights in Iceland? Find out all you need to know about the aurora borealis here.

19. júlí 2022

Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

Want to see the northern lights in Iceland? Find out all you need to know about the aurora borealis here.

19. júlí 2022

Iceland really is the best place in the world to see the northern lights. Alongside its northern location and dark winter skies, the country’s glorious glacial and volcanic landscapes make witnessing the northern lights in Iceland a truly unforgettable experience.

In this post, you can discover everything you need to know about seeing the aurora borealis in the land of fire and ice. Let’s get started.

What are the northern lights?

The northern lights are one of the most incredible spectacles you can witness anywhere on the planet. Famed for their ethereal, mesmerising beauty, the aurora has turned heads toward the night sky for millennia.

It’s a phenomenon that can only be seen at the earth’s poles. In the north, they’re known as the aurora borealis—simply meaning “northern lights”—while in the south they’re more accurately called the aurora australis. At either end of the planet, you’re witnessing the same magical display.

But what actually are the northern lights? It’s time for a little science lesson.

What causes the northern lights?

This shimmering play of light in the night sky is actually caused by events that are happening on the surface of the sun.

Solar storms—huge explosions on the sun’s surface—are the real cause of the aurora. These occur anywhere between once a week and a few times a day, and they release millions of charged particles into space, with many hitting earth.

Yet the earth’s atmosphere protects us from these violent events. Many of the particles simply bounce away. But many are caught in the earth’s magnetic field and are pulled down to the north and south poles, causing the mysterious lights in the sky.

At the poles, the charged solar particles crash into molecules in the earth’s atmosphere, heating them up and making them glow. Ultimately, that’s what we’re seeing in the northern lights. The closest glowing particles are about 100 miles (160 kilometres) above our heads, but it can happen at a height of thousands of miles.

But why does the aurora look like waves or draped curtains? That’s down to the earth’s magnetic field, which changes where and when the lights appear.

What are the colours of the northern lights?

NL myndir

The most common colour of the northern lights is green. However, they can be many different colours—from red to yellow and blue—depending on precisely what’s going on up there.

For example, the different colours can be caused by particular gases in the atmosphere, the altitude of the molecules that glow, and the density of the atmosphere. The amount of energy from the solar storm will have an impact too.

Here are some of the most common colours—and the conditions that create them:

Green. The most common colour in the northern lights, green can be seen when solar particles hit oxygen molecules between 100 and 300 miles (160 to 480km) above the ground.

Red. When the particles hit oxygen at a greater altitude (above 300 miles or 480km), it produces a red hue.

Pink. You can see pink—or dark red—in the northern lights when solar particles collide with nitrogen at a very low altitude of 60 miles (100km) above ground.

Blue or purple. Finally, while they’re difficult colours to see against the black sky, the northern lights can be blue or purple too. That’s down to the presence of hydrogen and helium particles.

Typically, when seeing the northern lights in Iceland, you’ll glimpse a range of different colours. That’s part of their mesmerising beauty.

Do the northern lights happen every night?

NL myndir3

Whether you’re hunting the northern lights in Iceland or in a different country, there’s never any guarantee of seeing them. Yet the processes that cause the northern lights do happen on most nights—and even throughout the day.

But many factors mean that they can’t be seen. In summer, for example, the northern lights aren’t visible, as the light of the sun will be too strong.

Even in winter, they won’t be on display all the time. Sometimes the night sky will be cloudy, or the light of the moon will be too bright. At other times, the aurora just won’t be strong enough to be visible.

The strength of the northern lights often depends on the power of the solar storms that cause them. Those storms become more intense and frequent every 11 years, at what is called “solar maximum”, while at other times they might not happen so often. For northern lights hunters, the good news is that solar maximum is due in the next few years.

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland

NL myndir6

Now you know the science behind the phenomenon, what should you know about a northern lights experience in Iceland?

When can you see the northern lights in Iceland?

You can see the northern lights throughout the winter in Iceland. Typically, Iceland northern lights tours run from September through to April. However, as the nights are darkest between November and January, you’ll have most luck glimpsing the aurora at this time.

Yet just like the northern lights everywhere else in the world, though, you might not see them every night. For your best chance, you’ll need the stars to align for the right conditions.

• Clear skies. Cloud cover will make seeing the northern lights impossible. Meanwhile, any rain, snow, or strong wind will mean that sitting out at night won’t be very comfortable.

• Very low light. The darker the better, as this is when it’s easiest to make out the colours of the northern lights against the sky. That means that winter is best. But also, remote places are usually better than big cities—as there’ll typically be less light.

• Strong solar activity. As they’re caused by solar activity, the northern lights are best seen when that activity is at its strongest. The Kp-index measures how the earth’s magnetic field is affected by solar activity. When it’s high, you have the best chance of seeing the northern lights. (You can find the Kp-index on the northern lights forecasting tools below.)

What month is best to see the northern lights?

The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is deep winter. While the weather is more volatile—meaning that there’ll be risk of clouds—this is the season when the aurora are at their finest.

But other months between September and April can also be good opportunities too. For example, in the late autumn and spring, the evenings are milder and the weather is more stable, while nights are still dark. Many lucky visitors get a glimpse of the aurora throughout these months.

Typically, we recommend visiting Iceland for the northern lights at the winter solstice (21 December). At this time, light levels will be lowest—and you’ll experience winter in Iceland in all its gorgeous glory. Expect snow cover, Christmas celebrations, and the very best of Iceland’s winter traditions.

What is the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland?

The long nights in winter mean that the northern lights are visible often from early evening to mid-morning. However, the best hours of the day are usually between 10pm and 12am, when the night is darkest.

This is typically when most northern lights tours set off in Iceland. It gives you the best chance of seeing the aurora, while ensuring you can get home to bed in time to fully enjoy your next day.

Which part of Iceland is best to see the northern lights?

NL myndir2

As Iceland is so far north, the whole of the country offers the opportunity to see the northern lights—if it’s dark enough and the night is clear. You can enjoy the northern lights from any of the following destinations:

Snæfellsnes National Park

Snæfellsnes holds a mythical status among Icelanders—as the site of folk tales, spiritual experiences, and some of the most gorgeous landscapes in western Iceland. Of course, it’s also a fantastic and convenient place to see the northern lights, too.

Thanks to its size, there are many places to catch a glimpse of this spectacle across the national park. The aurora makes for an astonishing backdrop of the magical mountain of Kirkjufell, for example. Alternatively, witness the northern lights across Snæfellsnes’s fjords, Kolgrafarfjörður or Hvalfjörður.

The Snæfellsnes National Park is less than two hours’ drive from Reykjavik, making it a perfect place for a northern lights experience.

Iceland’s south coast

The south coast of Iceland is one of the most visited regions in the country, spanning hundreds of miles east from Reykjavik. With its incredible scenery and easy access, it’s an ideal place to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

Witness the wonder of the northern lights from some of south Iceland’s most impressive sites, in the Golden Circle, for example. Or else try the little village of Vík, for example, with its black sands and the looming presence of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

Jökulsárlón

Another of the many jewels of Iceland’s south coast, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is created by the meltwater from the Vatnajökull glacier. It’s a dreamy, serene place, full of floating icebergs and peaceful sea life.

During the winter, the glacial lagoon doubles up as one of the most arresting scenes of the northern lights there is in Iceland. Here, you’ll see the shimmering colours in a sky above the glacier and with the roar of the ocean in the distance.

Iceland’s Highlands

While most visitors to Iceland stick to route 1—Iceland’s ring road—around Iceland’s coast, the country’s wild interior holds sublime, rugged landscapes that often go unseen. Given their remote location, miles from any lights or settlement, the Icelandic Highlands are one of the most exciting places to see the northern lights.

Of course, they’re not the easiest place to access. But an adventure across Iceland’s interior makes for an unforgettable experience.

Northern Iceland

Remote and sparsely populated, northern Iceland could be the perfect place for seeing the northern lights. What’s more, following the route 1 around the country, you’ll have a real adventure on the way too.

Can you see the northern lights from Reykjavík?

NL myndir10

Yes, Iceland’s capital city often enjoys spectacular views of the northern lights—even though there can be a bit of light pollution throughout the night. What it does offer is convenience, because it’s very easy to return to your accommodation afterwards.

Head to the darker parts of the city to have the best chance of seeing the aurora. The Seltjarnarnes Nature Reserve—with its peninsula that emerges from the west of the city—is a popular place for northern lights hunting among locals. Alternatively, the hill of Öskjuhlíð or Videy Island are both ideal spots to stargaze from the city.

Tools to use to predict northern lights in Iceland

NL myndir8

There’s inevitably a bit of luck involved in seeing the northern lights in Iceland—or anywhere else, for that matter. Yet there are tools out there that can take the guesswork out of the experience.

These are the ones you need:

Icelandic Met Office. The website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office is one of the best tools you can use for predicting the northern lights. It shows the forecasts for the strength of solar activity—the Kp-index—as well as cloud coverage.

While it does only give a three-day forecast, it’s one of the most reliable tools out there for aurora-hunters.

Aurora Forecast. Another excellent and highly readable tool for predicting the northern lights in Iceland is auroraforecast.is. All on a single clear page, it gives you information on solar wind, the magnetic field, Kp-index, and cloud cover. There’s nothing else you need.

SolarHam. A very detailed website that provides information on many metrics relevant to the northern lights, Solarham can be a little bit intimidating at first. But it provides an incredibly detailed insight into everything you need to track the northern lights.

Northern lights alerts app. While it’s not a prediction tool, the Northern Lights Alerts app helps you receive live information on when people in your area are seeing the aurora. For example, set your local area to Reykjavik and if anyone sees the northern lights from the city, they can tell the app and you’ll be notified.

By the way, if you take a northern lights tour, you’ll be led by an expert guide who will be highly trained in predicting the best places to see the northern lights. They’ll know the best spots and the best times of the day, so you won’t really need these tools yourself. But they can be fun and informative to explore!

The best Iceland northern lights tours

NL myndir4

There are many different types of northern lights tours in Iceland. Depending on the way you like to travel and the amount of time you have available, you’ll find different tours to suit you.

If you book a northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions, we’ll give you a guarantee. If you don’t see any northern lights during the tour, you’ll be invited to join the tour again, free of charge—to double your chances of seeing them.

Northern lights classic tour

On a classic northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions, you’ll be taken to the destination where you’ll have the best chance of seeing the northern lights on any given night.

You’ll be led by one of our expert guides, who will have studied the weather conditions and solar forecasts to increase your likelihood of seeing the aurora. On the trip, you’ll receive a hot drink and a snack too, while your guide explains the science behind the spectacle.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of a sighting. But when the clouds are clear, expect glimpses of the Milky Way and Iceland’s gorgeous nocturnal skies, too.

Northern lights small group tours

Alternatively, smaller group northern lights tours give you expert guidance with a more intimate feel. Again, locations can change depending on the forecast, but you’ll be taken to the place where a glimpse of the aurora is most likely.

The Golden Circle and northern lights

Alternatively, combine your northern lights experience with a visit to some of Iceland’s most popular sights.

The Golden Circle and northern lights tour is one of the most popular options. On this journey, explore the Golden Circle, home to some of south Iceland’s most special landforms, including the Geysirs, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.

After your adventure, your guide will take you to the best spots in the area to see the northern lights. It’s a special experience, at a distance from Reykjavik—making a glimpse of the northern lights even more likely.

Northern lights by boat

A unique way to experience the northern lights is by taking to the water. We’ve said that the lights of the city can make the northern lights a little more difficult to see. But sail away from Reykjavik into the Atlantic and you’ll be surrounded by darkness and the mystery of the ocean.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we can organise a boat tour from Reykjavik for you that will show you the wonders of the night sky from the serene sea.

Northern lights and a spa

Another special way to see the northern lights is by glimpsing the northern lights from the luxurious comfort of one of Iceland’s spas. Unwind in the warm waters—or in the sauna—and wait for the aurora to reveal themselves. It’s a perfect way to relax at the end of your trip. Our Warm Baths & Cool Lights tour combines a visit to the geothermal baths at Laugarvatn Fontana with a Northern Lights hunt.

Self-drive tours

Sometimes you want to head off by yourself and enjoy your own adventure. We understand that. That’s why at Reykjavik Excursions, we can help you organise a self-drive tour of Iceland, on which you can see the northern lights all by yourself.

Driving by yourself gives you the freedom to stop wherever you want. However, without the help of an expert guide, you may miss some of the best opportunities to see the aurora in all their glory.

Discover more options among our northern lights tours in Iceland.

Photographing the northern lights

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Finally, we’ll end our guide to seeing the northern lights in Iceland by showing you how to take the best images you can of the spectacle. There’s nothing like taking home a spellbinding photo of your experience. But the northern lights can be difficult to capture if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips to help you take better pictures:

On a smartphone

Start with the right app. Not every phone camera has the features to take a good photo at night. Apps like Nightcap, Cortex Camera, or the Northern Lights Photo Taker help to make getting the right conditions really easy.

Remove flash and any filters. Make sure that you’ve disabled the flash and that you’re not using any filters to change the effect of the image.

Night mode. When in night mode, cameras capture more detail and tend to make contrast more distinct. That’s exactly what you want when capturing the northern lights.

High exposure. Lengthening the exposure on your phone camera can ensure you’re picking up light that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Your camera might have this option—or you can download an app like Manual Camera DSLR to make it possible.

Get a tripod. If you’re taking a photo by hand, you may be a little shaky—and this can affect the image. A tripod can give you some stability.

On a digital camera

Alternatively, if you’re using a digital camera, try the following tips.

No flash. Just as on a smartphone, disable flash before photographing the northern lights.

Lowest f-setting. The f-setting on a camera is the focal length of the lens. The lowest settings allow more light into the camera.

Use infinity focus. Infinity focus means that there’s no specific point on your camera that is in focus. It’s simply a very wide lens or depth of field. A very slow shutter speed will help capture more light.

Use a steady tripod. For the same reason as with a mobile phone, a tripod will be indispensable.

Whichever you are using, make sure the battery is charged! You can find more information on northern lights photography in our article, Capturing the Northern Lights.

Take a northern lights Iceland tour with Reykjavik Excursions

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Come and see the northern lights for yourself in Iceland. With its sublime glacial landscapes, wonderful winter traditions, and long winter nights, there really is no better place to see the aurora borealis than Iceland.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we’re committed to making your travel around Iceland safer, easier, and more enjoyable—whether you’re here to see the northern lights or not. We run a wide range of tours from Reykjavik every day of the year, with northern lights tours throughout the winter.

Get started by browsing our selection of northern lights tours in Iceland.

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Northern Lights in Iceland: Your Guide

In this post, you can discover everything you need to know about seeing the aurora borealis in the land of fire and ice.

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