Iceland is one of the best places in the world to be amazed by the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Each winter, people travel from around the world to witness the northern lights here in Iceland. It's a truly unique experience that will fill you with wonder.
Here, we've answered your main questions about making this dream come true.
What are the northern lights?
Magnetically-charges particles from the sun come smashing into the Earth's magnetic field, creating a 'solar wind' that funnels toward to the northern and southern magnetic poles. The funnels turn shades of green, red and blue through particles that seem to dance across the sky, especially here on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
Why are there northern lights in Iceland?
There are two main factors to why this makes such a great place to see them. First, the northern lights generally appear north of 66 degrees north. Iceland, which sits at a latitude of approximately 65 degrees north, is perfectly situated. Secondly, and also due to the northern latitude as well as a general low amount of light pollution, Iceland has a lot of darkness. Between the long winter nights and the lack of urban development, there are plenty of dark nights here. And with the relatively moderate coastal climate, being less cold than some of the other parts of the Arctic world, making Iceland a great place for aurora watching.
When can you see northern lights in Iceland?
From late August through mid-April, it's possible to see them. But your chances are best after late September when darkness falls at 6 PM. Prime time is during the darkest months without a full moon (a full moon brightens the sky and dims the aurora).
Where's the best place to see the northern lights in Iceland?
To see the northern lights, you need clear, cloudless skies. So your chances are better if you head inland away from the coast. Head to Þingvellir National Park. Also, the further from the main city you go in Iceland, the darker the skies are likely to be. So put the Westfjords and North Iceland on your itinerary as well. As we've said, aim for clear skies—and in a country known for stormy maritime weather, that can be tricky. In general, the weather is usually clearer the farther north east you go in Iceland.
Where's the best place to see the northern lights in Reykjavík?
If you're in Reykjavík, you'll find lots of dark skies (and places to warm up nearby) at the Grandi neighbourhood. Grandi is within the city center but still surrounded by the ocean which makes it a great place to inspect the night sky. You could also walk down the Sæbraut walkway from Harpa Concert Hall or to the Grótta lighthouse for amazing photo opportunities.
Seeing the northern lights by boat
Another option altogether is to chase the northern lights from a boat in the North Atlantic. Special Tours runs a tour departing from Reykjavík's Old Harbour that spends a few hours out a sea. It runs from September through April.
Once you've seen the northern lights, you'll never forget them!