Northern Lights in Iceland – The Ultimate Guide

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Northern Lights in Iceland

Everything you need to know about the Northern Lights in Iceland

Here you can find everything you might want to know about the Northern Lights in Iceland. Remember to check our Q/A chapter below to see if we have answers to your questions. If we don’t have an answer to your questions, we would love to hear your question in the comments and we will make sure to answer you as soon as possible.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

The Northern lights, or aurora borealis, are vinorsible in Iceland from the beginning of September to mid April. Over the last years we have had great northern lights activity in September even though September is usually a warmer month than the other winter months. This is great for us northern lights enthusiasts since we can be out searching for the aurora while it´s not freezing cold.
The Northern Lights are not visible during the summer months. The main reason is that its bright almost 24/7 during the summer months and it needs to be completely dark outside so that you can see the northern lights. Another reason is that it’s not as cold as during the winter months and the aurora activity is usually better when its cold outside.
The best circumstances to see the northern lights in Iceland is when its completely dark outside, it´s cold and the skies are clear. So basically the best way to see the aurora is to get away from all light pollution on a cold day when the skies are clear.

Northern Lights Forecast in Iceland

If you are going to search for the northern lights on your own you need to check the weather forecast and the aurora forecast. If you go on guided tours the northern lights experts will be checking these forecasts all day to see where the aurora is most likely to show up for each night. When you are checking the weather forecast you should look for clear skies and when you check the northern lights forecast you should check aurora activity in the locations where the skies are clear. Weather Forecast Aurora Forecast
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Taken on the Northern Lights Iceland tour

What causes the Northern Lights in Iceland

 

Maximize your chances of seeing the Northern Lights

Everyone wants to maximize their chances of seeing the northern lights right? Some people even come to Iceland only to see the magnificent lights so we understand that it can be a bummer to have traveled all this way and not see them. Therefor we want to help you maximize your chances of seeing the beautiful lights. Of course we can not choose when the northern lights will appear because they are caused by nature but there are some things that you can do to maximize your chances of seeing the northern lights.
  1. Go on a guided northern lights tour. If you join a guided northern lights tour you will have northern lights experts that know the area and have spent their days checking the forecast to see where and when you will be most likely to see the northern lights. This will absolutely maximize your chances of seein Photo of the Northern Lights from the Northern Lights Iceland tour g the northern lights as you will be on the best location to see them. You can read more about our most popular northern lights tours below.
  2. If you don’t want to go on guided tours, you should at least make sure to check the weather forecast and aurora forecast to see where the northern lights are most likely to show up.
  3. Get out of the city and away from all city lights.
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Photo from the Northern Lights Explorer

The most popular Northern Lights Tours in Iceland

You can find plenty of Northern Lights tours in Iceland but it can be hard to choose which one is the perfect one for you. If you join a Northern Lights tour you can make sure that the  Northern Lights guides work hard throughout the day, checking on weather data and aurora activity, in order to find the best location for the tour each night. The best location is where the lights should be clearly visible. The locations visited are different from day to day. On the tours you will always head in the direction with the most chances of seeing Northern Lights.

What happens if I don’t see the northern lights on my guided tour?

Of course the northern lights are weather dependent and sightings can not be guaranteed. If you don’t see the aurora on any of these tours, you can reschedule them for the next available departure free of charge. Therefor we recommend to go on a northern lights tour on the first day of your trip so you will have the chance to reschedule for another night if you don’t see the lights on your first trip.

Northern Lights Deluxe Cruise: 

This cruise is one of our best selling tours and for a good reason. On this tour you will join us on a cozy evening cruise from Reykjavik Old Harbor in search for the Northern Lights. You will cruise along the beautiful coastline of Reykjavik and enjoy the city lights from a different view. You will sail away from the city lights in search for the Northern Lights. This is a deluxe cruise on a Yacht and offers more personal service than many other northern lights tours. Read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/northern-lights-deluxe-cruise/

Northern Lights Explorer: 

This northern lights tour is more like a luxury northern lights tour. You will both get to experience the magnificent northern lights and you will also ride in a Super Jeep. This also means that you will be able to go to places that regular car or buses can not go to, which means that you will have more chances of seeing the northern lights in a magnificent landscape. Read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/northern-lights-explorer/

Northern Lights Iceland:

This tour is the most affordable northern lights tour that you will find. The main difference between this tour and the Northern Lights Explorer is that you will be going on a larger bus with more people. Therefor the guidance is not as personal as in the Northern Lights Explorer. However, you can also have a great time on this tour and it comes at a great price as well. If you don’t see the aurora on this tour you can reschedule the tour as many times as needed until you partake in a successful northern lights tour. You can continue to do this within a 2 year period of going on the first tour.  Read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/northern-lights-bus/

Northern Lights Private Tour

Are you coming to Iceland with a group of family or friends? Or do you just want to have the evening to yourself? Then the Northern Lights Private tour is for you. In this tour our guides will take you to the best northern lights spot for the evening and you and your family or friends can enjoy the aurora borealis. If there is anything better than just seeing the northern lights, it’s seeing them with your friends. Read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/private-northern-lights/ You can also check all our Northern Lights tours here, including some combo tours at a better price.

Northern Lights combo Tours

Many people want to maximize their time while traveling to Iceland. That´s when our combo tours will be perfect for you. With our combo tours you can add all kind of activities to one tour. Everything from sightseeing to snowmobiling to snorkeling to the crystal ice caves. You can both find one day combo tours and multi day combo tours.

Multi Day Combo Tours

The multi day combo tours will 100% maximize your days in Iceland as you will be traveling with your group around some beautiful locations and doing some great activities. Accommodation is included in the price of the multi day tours so you will not have to worry about finding accommodation while you are on the tour. During the evenings you will go northern lights hunting over the winter time. 

One day combo tours

The one day combo tours are also great and will maximize your day in Iceland. On these tours you are usually picked up in the morning and do some beautiful sightseeing during the day. You can also add some great activities like snowmobiling, snorkeling and more. During the evening you will go northern lights hunting and see the magnificent lights dance around the skies.  We can not think of a better way to spend your days in Iceland than joining one of the combo tours. Here below you can find some of our most popular combo tours that include the northern lights. 

Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights

This is one of our most popular winter tours. The crystal ice caves are extremely popular. This is the only tour that will take you on a one day tour all the way from Reykjavik to the amazing blue ice caves in Vatnajokull. The drive to the ice caves is around 5 hours so this will be a long day. You will explore some more beautiful locations on the way,  including the magnificent Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the diamond beach. On the way back to Reykjavik you will also search for the northern lights.  It’s easy to say that this tour includes the top 4 things to see in Iceland during the winter time.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/crystal-ice-cave-northern-lights-reykjavik/

Golden Circle & Northern Lights

The Golden Circle is the most popular route in Iceland and most travelers go there on their trip to Iceland. You can say that the Golden Circle is a must see when in Iceland. The sightings on this tour are extremely beautiful. They include the famous Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. Did you know that the English word “Geyser” comes from the Geysir in Iceland?  In the evening you will go searching for the northern lights.  This tour is perfect for everyone that has a short time in Iceland and want to see some of the most famous locations and see the beautiful aurora.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/golden-circle-northern-lights/

South Coast & Northern Lights

This tour is similar to the Golden Circle tour above. The south coast is often told to be the most beautiful part of Iceland and for a good reason. On this tour you will see all the beautiful waterfalls that you have probably seen in the pictures and dreamed of seeing one day. You will also go to the beautiful black sand volcanic beach and Vík village.  During the evening you will go northern lights hunting. The perfect day if you ask me.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/south-coast-northern-lights/

5 Day South Coast, Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Northern Lights

Do you have 5 full days in Iceland? Do you want to make the most of your time in Iceland? Then this is the tour for you. On this tour you will go to all the most popular locations in Iceland. Like we said above, the Golden Circle is the most popular route in Iceland. The south coast is often told to be the most beautiful part of Iceland. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often told to be the most unique part of Iceland. On this tour you will get to experience all of this.  This tour includes accommodation for 4 nights in the most popular areas you can find in Iceland.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/5-day-south-coast-golden-circle-snaefellsnes-crystal-ice-cave-northern-lights/

3 Day South Coast, Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon, Glacier Lagoon, Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights

So you don’t have 5 days in Iceland but you still want to maximize your time and see as much as possible. If you have 3 full days, I would recommend this tour for you. In the 3 days you will see all the beautiful locations of the south coast and the Golden Circle. This tour even includes the Secret Lagoon.  You will go all the way to Vatnajokull and see the magnificent Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. The Crystal Ice Caves are of course amazing and a good reason for traveling to Iceland during the winter time.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/3-day-golden-circle-secret-lagoon-south-coast-ice-cave-jokulsarlon/

2 Day Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Northern Lights

Explore the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula on a 2 day tour. See the famous Kirkjufell mountain and the volcanic glacier. One of the unique things about Snæfellsnes Peninsula is that you can see both black sand beaches and golden beaches. When driving around the peninsula you will see a black sand beach in Djúpalónssandur. 10 minutes later you will see a golden sand beach in Búðir. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and your two days will be filled with beautiful sightings and great activities.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/snaefellsnes-peninsula-northern-lights/

2 Day South Coast, Jokulsarlon, Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights

This tour is very similar to the one day tour above. However, this tour is for 2 days and it also includes all the beautiful places on the south coast. On the one day tour you wont have much time to explore when driving to the crystal ice caves. On this tour you will have more than enough time to see all the beautiful places on the south coast. Search for the northern lights in the evening.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/jokulsarlon-south-coast-ice-caving/

2 Day South Coast, Glacier Hike, Jokulsarlon & Northern Lights

This tour is very similar to the one above. The only difference is that this tour includes a glacier hike instead of the Crystal Ice Cave. If you would rather like to hike the glacier, this is the tour for you.  You can read more about the tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/2-day-south-coast-glacier-hike-jokulsarlon/

6 Days Around Iceland

See the full ring road of Iceland in 6 days. If you want to 100% maximize your 6 days in Iceland, this is the tour for you. See all the most beautiful places in Iceland in one tour. During the winter time, we will search for the northern lights in the evenings.  Accommodation for 5 nights is included in this tour so you don’t have to worry at all about finding hotels.  You can read more about this tour here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tour/around-iceland/

Northern Lights Self Driving – Searching for the Northern Lights on your own

Do you want to skip the tours and go searching for the northern lights on your own? We do understand that. It can simply be too much fun to drive around and search for the northern lights. However, you will most likely not have as much chance of seeing the northern lights as if you would join a tour. The perfect combination is to join one northern lights tour and then go searching for the northern lights on your own the other nights. If you don’t see the northern lights on your tour, you can also reschedule the tour for another night. If you decide to go searching for the northern lights on your own, you might want some local help with planning your trip. Our Personalized Road Trip Plans are perfect for everyone that wants to rent a car and drive around and explore Iceland on their own.
Iceland Luxury Tours in Northern Lights

Photo from the Northern Lights Deluxe Cruise

Iceland Northern Lights Hotels

It’s the perfect idea to stay in a hotel in the country side where you can see the northern lights. Here below you can find some hotels that we recommend. The hotels have that in common that they are perfect for watching the northern lights during the nights. Relax on the balcony or even in a hot tub and watch this natural phenomenon dance through the skies. Could you think of a better evening? You can click on the links to check out the hotels. The links will take you to a site where we manage all the hotels that we recommend. The site will compare prices on all major booking engines to make sure that you get the best price possible.

Hótel Rangá

Hotel Ranga is one of the first hotels in Iceland that specialized in aurora experiences. At Hotel Rangá you can enjoy the view in hot tubs filled with mineral rich volcanic water. The staff at the hotel can wake you up if the lights appear, so you wont have to stay up all night and wait for the northern lights. This hotel is in a great location in south Iceland, close to the small town of Hella. It would be perfect to drive the Golden Circle and end the day at Hotel Rangá where you can bathe in one of the hot tubs while you watch the Northern Lights. The next day you can explore some of the most popular locations of the south coast before you keep on going the ring road or back to Reykjavik.

ION Adventure Hotel

The ION Adventure Hotel is not only great for the northern lights, it’s a great all year accommodation located not far from Thingvellir National Park. The hotel includes a Northern Lights Bar with double height glass walls with panoramic views over Lake Thingvallavatn. Relax in their comfortable sofa, enjoy an Icelandic beer and watch the northern lights dance through the skies. You can also go to the outdoor geothermal pool and swim through the northern lights.

Black Beach Suites

The Black Beach Suites are on one of the best locastions in Iceland. The hotel is located on Reynisfjara black sand beach, the most famous beach in Iceland. If you have both northern lights and the black sand beach on your bucket list then you should definitely check out this hotel. The suites are studio apartments with a kitchenette. Check in at the hotel after a full day of sightseeing some of the most magical places in Iceland. Cook a good dinner and sit down, eat your dinner and watch the aurora borealis dance through the skies. We can not think of a better day. Amazing views to the black sand beach and the ocean.

Fosshotel Vatnajokull

Fosshotel Vatnajökull is located next to the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull. Imagine sitting at the hotel with magnificent views of the northern lights dancing above the glacier. Just magical. The hotel has been designed to make your stay as peaceful and relaxing as possible so you can make sure that you will have an enjoyable moment and hopefully you will be companioned by the northern lights.

Hotel Grimsborgir

Hotel Grimsborgir is on the perfect location close to the South Coast and the Golden Circle. The hotel is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and is only a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik. The hotel is situated far away from all light pollution. Therefor you will have the perfect chance of seeing the spectacular Northern Lights. The hotel has a brand new restaurant with a broad a la carte menu with both Icelandic and international dishes. Enjoy the sightings of the Golden Circle, have an Icelandic dinner and enjoy the northern lights from one of the hot tubs at the hotel.

Hotel Búðir

Hotel Búðir is the perfect location if you want to be have views of black lava fields all over while the northern lights are dancing in the skies. At the hotel bar you can find floor to ceiling windows that looks over the volcanic shoreline, over the Snæfellsjökull glacier and the mountains beyond. Top this with the northern lights and you have the perfect view! The hotel is located on Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The perfect day would be to explore the beautiful surroundings of Snæfellsnes and enjoy the evening at Hotel Búðir with the northern lights dancing above you.

Northern Lights Inn – Reykjanes

As you can probably tell by the name of the hotel, it specializes in northern lights experiences. You will be provided with detailed northern lights forecast when you arrive at the hotel. The panoramic views from the hotel’s restaurant are perfect for seeing the northern lights. The Northern Lights Inn is located close to the airport and the famous Blue Lagoon. It’s the perfect first or last hotel on your trip to Iceland as the drive to the airport is only 15-20 minutes. The drive to the Blue Lagoon is even shorter, or just around 3-5 minutes. Enjoy the day in the Blue Lagoon and end the night at the Northern Lights Inn.

Sel Hotel Myvatn

Myvatn is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. It is located pretty far away from Reykjavik but if you have the chance to go up north to Myvatn, we can highly recommend the Sel Hotel. You can see the northern lights from one of volcanic pools or you can join a northern lights search with one of the guides that will take you through the highlands of the north. There are so many beautiful places to visit when in Myvatn so we definitely recommend that you spend some time there. The Myvatn Nature Bath is a must as well as Krafla Crater, Hveravellir and Dimmuborgir.

How to get to the Northern Lights hotels

You usually have to rent a car and drive to the hotels on your own. We can highly recommend this car rental. You will get winter tires with the car rental so it´s safe to drive the car during the winter time in Iceland. Car Rental: http://www.wiiceland.com/rent-a-car/car-rental/ If you decide to rent a car, it’s always a great idea to do some sightseeing during the day. If you want locals to help you plan your road trip or sightseeing in Iceland you might want to check out our personalized road trip plans.

How to Capture the Northern Lights in Iceland?

When you finally see the northern lights in Iceland, you will definitely want to get the perfect photo. That’s why it’s important to prepare your camera or smartphone so you will be ready when you see the incredible lights dance through the sky. To capture the northern lights in Iceland you will need a few equipment.
  1. Number one is the Tripod. The northern lights are only visible during the nighttime, so you will have to take long exposure shots. The camera needs to stay still for some time and this is the moment when a tripod is a must. The weather during the winter nights is also pretty cold so your hands might be shaking if you are trying to take the photo without a tripod.
  2. Camera. Of course you need a camera when capturing the northern lights. You can use a DSLR camera or an iPhone if you have the settings adjusted accordingly. Make sure your camera has a Manual function where you can control the shutter speed.
  3. Lenses. It’s great to have good lenses when capturing the northern lights. The wider the lens the more of the sky you can capture. You can still capture the northern lights without some extra lenses but your photos can be more magnificent if you have the right lenses.
  4. Batteries: Have your camera or phone fully charged. It can be very cold outside when you are capturing the northern lights and the batteries tend to last shorter when it’s freezing.

Northern Lights Camera Settings

When you have all the equipment needed you will want to make sure that you have the basic photography settings right so that your camera will adapt to darkness and successfully capture the lights. We recommend that you handle these preparations in advance, so you will be ready when the lights appear.
  1. Set the focus on your camera. The northern lights are so far away from us that you will want to start with setting your camera’s lens focus to infinity. To set the focus to infinity you should use the Live View Mode of your camera and zoom in. Focus on the most distant point in your composition. Start testing your camera by taking a few shots with an aperture of f/8 to f/11.
  2. Make sure that the format of the image is raw and choose a mode suitable for nighttime photography.
  3. When it comes to setting the exposure and ISO it depends on how bright the northern lights are and how fast it is moving. If the northern lights are moving fast, a 5-7 seconds exposure will work. If they are moving slow a 25-30 second exposure time will work better. Start the ISO from 400-800 and work your way up from there. Increase the value until you reach the photo that you are looking for, but try to stay below 1200.
  4. Set the aperture to f/2,8.
  5. Adjust the white balance at the moment of shooting the northern lights. Set the ideal values in the K mode somewhere in between 2.800 and 4.000.
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How to Capture the Northern Lights with an iPhone?

It is harder to capture the northern lights with your phone but it is still possible. You can definitely photograph the experience of the magnificent northern lights show from your trip to Iceland without a fancy camera. It is necessary to have a tripod or something that will keep your phone steady. This is must for the long exposure and you will also want to use an app to get the long exposure time. You can find some apps that will help you get the long exposure time but you can also use the Live View setting on your camera. The Live View mode will ensure you get a sharp focus at infinity. Set the ISO between 800 and 3200, your aperture between f/2,8 and f/5,6 and your shutter speed between 15 seconds and 30 seconds. Here below you can find some apps that will help you capture the perfect northern lights photo: 1. Northern Lights Photo Taker App ( Apple iOS ) 2. Cortex Camera ( Apple iOS / Android ) 3. NightCap Pro ( Apple iOS ) 4. Slow Shutter 5. Cortex Xam
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Q / A : Popular Northern Lights Questions:

When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The northern Lights are visible in Iceland from the beginning of September to mid April.

Can you see the northern lights during summer time?

No, you can only see the northern lights during the winter time in Iceland.

Can I be 100% sure to see the northern lights on my trip to Iceland?

You can never be 100% sure to see the northern lights in Iceland. The northern lights are a natural phenomenon that do not show up every night in Iceland. Therefor you can never know when they will show up.

What can I do to maximize my chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland?

To maximize your chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland you can join one of our Northern Lights tours. Then you will have a northern lights guide that will know exactly where the northern lights are most likely tho show up so this will maximize your chances of seeing the northern lights. If you do not see the northern lights on your tour you can go on the next available tour free of charge. Check out our northern lights tours here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tourcat/northern-lights/

What is the best place to spot the northern lights in Iceland?

You can never really know where the lights will show up. So there is really no best place to see them in Iceland. However, there are some circumstances that are better than others. For example, it’s best to be get out of the city and away from all the city lights.

Can I see the northern lights in Reykjavik?

Yes you can. We actually see them pretty often in Reykjavik. However, it’s better to go out of the city and away from all city lights. Then you will be more likely to see them and you will see them much clearer than if you were in the city.

What circumstances are best to see the northern lights in Iceland?

No city light or other light pollution, clear skies and cold weather.

How do I know if the circumstances are good to see the northern lights in Iceland?

You can check the weather forecast and the aurora forecast. Then you can see where the lights are most likely to show up for each night.  Check for clear skies in the weather forecast and aurora activity in the aurora forecast. Weather Forecast Aurora Forecast

What are the most popular Northern Lights tours in Iceland?

Northern Lights Explorer Northern Lights by bus Deluxe Northern Lights Cruise Northern Lights Private tour See all Northern Lights tours here: http://www.wiiceland.com/tourcat/northern-lights/ You can read more about each tour and compare them above.

What are the best Northern Lights combo tours?

Here you can find the best and most popular northern lights combo tours: Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights Golden Circle & Northern Lights South Coast & Northern Lights Whale Watching & Northern Lights

What are the best multi day Northern Lights tours?

Here you can find the best multi day northern lights tours: 5 Day South Coast, Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Northern Lights 2 Day Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Northern Lights 2 Day South Coast, Glacier Hike, Jokulsarlon & Northern Lights 3 Day South Coast, Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Glacier Lagoon, Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights 2 Day South Coast, Jokulsarlon, Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights 6 Days Around Iceland

Best app to take a photo of the northern lights on iPhone?

1. Northern Lights Photo Taker App ( Apple iOS ) 2. Cortex Camera ( Apple iOS / Android ) 3. NightCap Pro ( Apple iOS )

How should I set my camera for the perfect northern lights photo?

It mostly depends on how bright and fast the northern lights are moving. The settings range from 30 seconds at f4 ISO 800 to 5 seconds at f4 ISO 5000.  

Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions and our northern lights experts will get back to you and add the questions to the Q/A chapter. 

 

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