Northern Lights in Iceland: When and Where to See the Aurora Borealis

Seeing the Aurora Borealis up close and personal is one of the biggest dreams of almost any traveler. They imagine themselves watching the celestial lights as they dance in vivid shades of green, pink, and red in the sky while snuggling cozily under the warm blanket.

If this is a moment you have been dreaming of, then you are not alone. Thousands of tourists visit Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice, annually for one reason, and that is to see the acclaimed northern lights.

The good news is that you can witness the legendary light show with your own two lights with careful planning, patience, and a stroke of luck.

But if you want to make your dream of seeing the northern lights a reality, here is a quick guide on when and where to see the Aurora Borealis.

Northern Lights in Iceland: When and Where to See the Aurora Borealis

When Should You Go to See the Aurora Borealis?

Two main factors affect the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland: time of day and time of the year. The ideal months would be from October to March, while the best time of the day is around midnight.

  • Aurora Borealis season in Iceland

Anytime between October and March is the best month to have a higher chance of seeing the northern lights. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t or won’t see these elusive lights during other months of the year. It is just that you have better chances during these months.

Winter is the perfect time to see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland because the season tends to have longer nights. Some parts of the country even get up to 19 hours of darkness during the year’s shortest day, offering tourists more chances to spot these amazing lights.

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Since the daylight hours are longer during the summer season in Iceland, which includes the famous phenomenon called the midnight sun, it might be trickier to see the northern lights if you schedule your trip during the summer months.

  • The best time of the day

The Aurora Borealis usually shows up in the sky during the darkest hours of the night, with most sightings occurring between 11 in the evening and 2 in the morning.

You can enjoy the night gazing at the vast star-filled sky while waiting for this out-of-this-world display to appear. Some hotels in the area even provide a special wake-up service to notify guests when the northern lights appear at midnight.

Northern Lights in Iceland: When and Where to See the Aurora Borealis

Where to See the Aurora Borealis

You can see the northern lights from any part of Iceland, including Reykjavik, the capital city. However, if you really want to increase your chances, it is best to stay away from street lights and other sources of light pollution.

Artificial light can make it more difficult to clearly see the colors of the Aurora Borealis in the sky. This is why it is often recommended to travel to more remote areas away from the city center where there is minimal light pollution.

Check out the following places where you can best see the northern lights:

  • Þórsmörk

If you want to truly immerse yourself in the unspoiled wilderness during your Iceland vacation, go to órsmörk. The nature reserve is found in the highlands of the country, where glaciers and volcanoes reign supreme. 

órsmörk is one of the few places in the highlands that can be reached by super jeep in the winter. The remote location of the area means you have better chances to enjoy a clear night perfect for seeing the Aurora Borealis. 

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While touring the Icelandic highlands, don’t miss the chance to see the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and the Ggjökull glacier tongue.

Northern Lights in Iceland: When and Where to See the Aurora Borealis
  • Reykjavík

If your time is a bit limited or you don’t want to leave the biggest city in Iceland, don’t worry because you still have the chance to witness the dancing lights. You can choose from the few parks in Reykjavk that are ideal for getting away from the artificial lights of the city.

You might want to go to the Seltjarnarnes peninsula’s Grotta Lighthouse, one of the darkest spots in the capital of Iceland. You can also find a geothermal hot tub here, where you can pamper yourself in the warmth for a spell while waiting for the start of nature’s famed light show.

You can also participate in an aurora-watching tour from Reykjavik and then head over to the countryside from there. An expert guide can pick you up from the hotel and then drive you to the perfect spots where you can catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

  • South Iceland and Vik

The basalt columns and black sand beaches of Vik offer Aurora Borealis hunters a wonderful backdrop. The good news is that it is just a few hours’ drive via the Ring Road south from the capital.

Vik is an authentic fishing village and is one of the perfect spots to visit during your South Iceland tour. Stroll along the black sands of Reynisfjara, which is one of the country’s most dramatic beaches. Keep an eye out for the rock arch of Dyrhólaey and Reynisdrangar’s basalt columns.

When nighttime comes, you can also admire the jagged black rocks that jut out from the ocean while the Aurora Borealis is dancing above you in the sky. From Vik, you can travel via the Ring Road to get to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Admire the colors of the northern lights above the breathtaking setting’s sparkling ice.

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Northern Lights in Iceland: When and Where to See the Aurora Borealis
  • North Iceland and the Westfjords

The Westfjords and North Iceland regions are located somewhat further north than the capital, which means you can expect long hours of darkness here. It increases the likelihood of seeing the northern lights.

The areas also provide the benefit of smaller urban populations that reduce any possible impact on your Aurora Borealis viewing experience.

While waiting for the northern lights to show up during your Westfjords trip, you can go on a snowshoe walk in Heydalur valley or hike to the Drangajökull glacier. Of course, you should also go to Safjörur, the capital of the Westfjords.

On your North Iceland tour, you can also explore the volcanic sites surrounding Lake Mývatn, visit the majestic waterfalls such as Dettifoss, and even go watch the whales.

Are you ready to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis on your next Iceland getaway?


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