The Northern Lights in Iceland in the Winter

Found at the top of many a travelling bucket list, the Northern Lights

are one of the most enthralling sights of the natural world. Captivating,

mystical and somewhat other-worldly, the lights offer one of the most

distinctive sky shows on the planet, dancing across the atmosphere in

shades of violet, red, green and blue.

What are the Northern Lights?

Known by the scientific name of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are

formed as electrically charged particles collide in the night sky. They

occur in areas that are known as auroral zones, which can be found in the

high latitude northern part of the globe.

Where can I go to see them?

Iceland sits within an auroral zone, and so it is the perfect destination

to try and spot the Northern Lights. Although many people visit to try

and catch sight of this natural wonder, they are notoriously

unpredictable and elusive, so unfortunately you can’t guarantee that your

trip will include sight of them. That said, there are a few variables to

take into consideration when planning your trip.

What is the best season to see the Northern Lights?

The lights are more likely to appear over the winter months, so if you

book your holiday to Iceland between September and mid-April you will

have the best chance of seeing them. They are also more likely to be seen

amid complete darkness, therefore the long winter nights lend themselves

well to catching them.

What are the best weather conditions?

Iceland is a small island, and so it’s susceptible to rapid weather

changes. Clear skies are the ideal condition when it comes to spotting

the lights, and so the freezing winter nights are more likely to produce

the perfect atmosphere.

If you’re chasing sight of the lights, be sure to check the Aurora

forecasts to see where the clearest spots are likely to be once the sun

sets.

How long should I stay?

The lights tend to appear in cycles, staying active for two to three

nights and then disappearing for four to five nights. This typical cycle

means you might miss them if you’re planning on having just a short break

to Iceland. A minimum stay of seven nights is recommended if you want to

ensure you see them, but the longer you’re here, the better your chances.

Where is the best location for spotting the Northern Lights?

Although the lights can sometimes be seen by the city dwellers of

Reykjavik, they are more likely to be spotted in areas of complete

darkness. Travel into the countryside to escape any light pollution. You

will find an array of guesthouses and hotels in quiet towns and villages

that make ideal bases for aurora spotting.

Shall I join a tour or self-drive?

There are two main options when it comes to visiting Iceland to see the

Northern Lights, and that’s to join a tour or to hire a car. Self-drive

excursions are ideal if you want to travel across the country at your

leisure and enjoy a private experience, but in the winter you should be

weary of treacherous road conditions, and should only drive across some

of the lesser known spots if you have experienced driving in ice and

snow.

A tour, on the other hand, will give you access to the experts, who will

be constantly checking the forecast and will be in the know when it comes

to the best spots to travel to. Many tours also combine other sightseeing

opportunities across Iceland, giving you the chance to enjoy an array of

interesting highlights even if the lights happen to evade you!