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Ultimate Guide to Northern Lights – How to catch them in Iceland

Ultimate Guide to Northern Lights – How to catch them in Iceland

Most people come to Iceland to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Are you one of them? Then keep reading to find out where you can see auroras in and around Reykjavík and how to get lucky on your trip.

No Northern Lights during Summer

The best months to see them in Iceland are from November to February. That’s the time with the shortest days, and therefore least daylight. In general, it is possible to see auroras between September and April.

There is no guarantee to see Auroras

After all, they are a natural phenomenon. If you don’t expect to see Northern Lights on your trip, your vacation will be much more enjoyable.

Did you reach your last day in Iceland with no luck so far? Take the second-best option and watch Áróra in Perlan’s Planetarium.

I saw the most amazing and bright Auroras when I expected it the least, on a walk home or while soaking in the pool.

Steffi

Essential Websites to check

The Icelandic Weather Page/ Northern Lights Forecast. In the upper-right box, you can see the kp number. This number indicates the strength of the geomagnetic storm from the sun. In Iceland, you can see the auroras at kp 2&3, and preferable more. The higher the number, the brighter the lights will appear. On the map below, green means cloud coverage, white means clear skies. Don´t mistake the green color with aurora coverage.

Aurora forecast Iceland
Aurora forecast on vedur.is

Aurora Forecast: This is the ideal website for you to check. It is customized to Iceland and tells you the best times when the activity reaches its peak. We recommend checking around midday when the maximum is supposed to be and then check again before you leave on your hunt.

Aurora Forecast Iceland
Screenshot of auroraforecast.is

Three Things have to come together for a successful aurora hunt.

Darkness: Get away from the city lights. Read about the best spots in Reykjavík here.

Clear Skies: Check the weather forecast and cloud coverage. Cloudy: not good. A few clouds: better. No clouds: best. You can check both pages we recommended above.

Aurora Activity: As mentioned above, check the kp index number in the morning and before you leave as it can change during the day.

Often asked: Should I book a tour or try by myself?

If you are on a budget, don´t book a tour. Most of the less pricey ones travel on a big bus with many people to places with even more coaches and people.

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Northern Lights Bus Iceland
Photo by Juan Encalada

However, tour companies will offer you a voucher to try again if you haven’t got lucky. Big bus tours are no problem for you? Then go for it. Smaller tours are more expensive and range from around 12.000 ISK to 20.000 ISK (75 USD to 125 USD, conversion rate from August 2020).

If you have a rental car, you can drive many places yourself. Make sure to not stop in the middle of the road when northern lights appear. Find a safe spot to park and avoid being a hazard for other drivers on the road.

If you don´t have a rental car, you can take the public bus or find places within walking distance (link).

Northern Lights Reykjavík
Northern Lights seen from a balcony in 107, Reykjavík

If I would be a first time visitor with the knowledge I have now, I´d take all possible layers and start by walking to less light-polluted places by myself before booking a tour.

That guarantees a more intimate magical experience than waiting with 80 other people on a big parking lot.

And then, if you are lucky to get a glimpse of Northern Lights dancing in the sky, starting as a faint band and then turning into green dancing ribbons, you call yourself one successful aurora hunter!

Steffi & Aðalbjörn
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