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
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
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!