July 12, 2024
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When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Always wanted to go and see the Northern Lights in Iceland?  Want to know the best time to visit this beautiful country, and the best time of night to see the Aurora Borealis?  Me too!  It’s a dream I’ve had for years.

The Northern Lights are one of Iceland’s main attractions, and thousands of people head to the country every year to experience them in person.  That said, they can be fickle and require certain conditions to be visible.  Because of this, visiting during the right time is essential to increase your chances.  In this article, I’ll explain more.

When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland?

You can only see the Northern Lights in Iceland during the winter months.  The prime season for seeing them is from November through to January.  However, winter storms can make the visibility poor during these months, and some of these last for weeks at a time. So, most Northern Lights holiday operators start offering tours from September and run them until April.  The weather is more stable in the spring and autumn.  There is less chance of cloud cover, although the nights are shorter.

During the deep of winter, Iceland only receives between two and four hours of daylight.  Luckily, you need the pitch black of night to see the Northern Lights in all their glory, and, in the winter, it is possible to see them any time between 3pm and 9am.  If you choose to take a guided tour, these tend to take place between 10pm and midnight as this is generally viewed as the best time.

Can You View the Northern Lights in Summer?

During the summer months, the sun never sets in Iceland.  If you’ve visited the country during these months, you’ll notice that it seems to touch the horizon yet never sinks below it.  Because you need pitch black skies to view the Northern Lights, it’s therefore not possible to view them in Iceland in the summer.  From May until the beginning of August, the sky is too bright to see them clearly.

If you do want a small chance of getting to see the Northern Lights while enjoying Iceland’s milder weather, it’s recommended to visit in late August or September.  During these months, you may get to see the Northern Lights against a dusky sky.  This can be truly beautiful, but it’s important to note that it’s not guaranteed.

How Can I Improve My Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights?

It’s important to note that getting to see Iceland’s Northern Lights does require a degree of luck.  You could travel at the perfect time of year and book a trip with a renowned tour guide, yet still not see them. That said, there are some things you can do to improve your chances.

First of all, you want to avoid the large cities like Reykjavík. Here, there is a lot of light pollution which has a dimming effect on the marvel. Instead, book a tour that takes you to an isolated area.  Two good options are the Seltjarnarnes Nature Reserve and Viðey Island. The latter is located just a few minutes away from Reykjavík by boat.  It offers some unique views of the city, and incredible photographic opportunities for the lights.

Another great idea – if you have the means to do so – is to visit Iceland for a couple of weeks.  If you can only visit for a long weekend, you only have 3 or 4 chances to see the lights. It goes without saying that a two week holiday will give you plenty more opportunities.  This is especially true if you can visit different parts of the country during your stay.

Finally, while Reykjavík is the most popular place for tourists to visit, Northern Iceland is a better option for those desperate to see the Northern Lights.  The further north you travel, the longer the nights are, and the skies are less cloudy.  You’ll also avoid the crowds.  If visiting Northern Iceland, check out Goðafoss, a spectacular frozen waterfall, and Lake Mývatn. The latter is situated in an area of active volcanoes and is truly a sight to behold.

Have you experienced the Northern Lights in Iceland?  I’d love to know what time of year you visited and whether you would recommend it.  Please do let me know in the comments.

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