The northern lights are a natural phenomenon and they don’t appear on a fixed schedule. Also, because the lights appear in the thermosphere, above the clouds, they can’t be seen on cloudy nights. A northern lights sighting is never guaranteed but if you follow these tips and tricks, you can maximise your chances to see them!
Wait until dark
The northern lights are not very bright and certainly not bright enough to outshine the sun! You must wait until it’s dark to go out and hunt for the northern lights, but the good news is, during winter in Iceland, you don’t have to wait that long!
(…and that means no Northern Lights in summer)
Icelandic winters are long and dark but during the summer, the sun hardly sets. This means that during the summer, it never really gets dark enough for the northern lights to appear.
Get out of town
As we’ve mentioned, the northern lights aren’t bright enough to overpower other sources of light, so if you want to see them at their best, getting away from the city lights is key! On a good night, you can still see the lights within the city limits but the light pollution from the city will always dull their brightness a little.
Check the aurora forecast
If you want to avoid disappointment, check out the aurora forecast published by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. They predict the cloud cover and the level of aurora activity. They’re not infallible but following the forecast is a good rule of thumb.
Make sure the sky is clear
The lights appear high in the sky, which means that clouds can cover the view of the lights from the ground. It’s best to look for them on a clear, or at least partially clear night, just like the stars.
Consider taking a tour
If you don’t have a car, taking a tour can be a convenient way to get out of the city lights. Most tour companies offer northern lights tours by bus, boat or jeep and if you don’t see any lights you can take the tour again the next night for free.
Bring a camera
The northern lights are unforgettable, but you still might want to take some photos as souvenirs of your trip to Iceland. Don’t forget to bring your camera but be aware that taking great photos of the northern lights can be tricky. Ask your guide for help or turn to the next page to find some basic instructions.
Wear warm clothes and be patient!
The northern lights are a natural phenomenon so they’re not dependable. Sometimes they come out early in the evening, clear and bright, but sometimes they don’t appear until the middle of the night or just appear as a blurry fog of lights. Bring a jacket and some mittens and have patience.