The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

When it comes to spectacles of nature, the otherworldly Northern Lights are top of the list. One of the best places to see them happens to be one of our favourite European destinations: Iceland. As soon as winter arrives, aurora hunters arrive in their thousands to get front row seats for the show. If this is your first time going to see the Northern Lights, you’ve probably got some questions, like when is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland? Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Read on for a crash course in all things Northern Lights…


When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Wrap up warm, because winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. It’s possible to see the aurora from September to March and sometimes as early as August to April, however, the heart of winter, which is around January, is the month when the chances of seeing them are the highest. At this time of year, the sky is often clearer and the nights are long and dark, which means you have a better chance of seeing the sky light up, particularly around 5 or 6pm.


Is there a weather forecast for the aurora?

Before setting off to see the Northern Lights, it is best to check the Icelandic Meteorological Office website. The official Icelandic meteorological service has a reliable tool that calculates the aurora borealis activity index on a scale from one to nine. A word of advice: if the index stays on one, there's no need to rush outside wearing your winter jacket. In this case, it's better to stay by the fire and have a glass of Brennivín, the local brandy. On the other hand, if the index indicates a probability of seven or eight out of nine, grab yourself a handwarmer because it’s going to be a long night of Northern Light watching.


How can you spot the Northern Lights?

Uninformed travelers often mistakenly believe that they can recognise the aurora borealis at first glance. While experts have sharpened their eyes over time, it can be difficult for a novice to catch the first signs of the Northern Lights. If you are alone when the phenomenon occurs, grab your camera and point the viewfinder at the sky. If you see streaks of color in the image, bingo, you've got an aurora. Photographic sensors are more sensitive than the human eye, so you won't miss them!


How should you photograph the Northern Lights?

If you’re a photographer, don't miss the chance to capture the Northern Lights in all its splendor. Have your camera and tripod close by, set your ISO sensitivity to maximum, and set your shutter speed between ten and 30 seconds. If possible, avoid nights when the moon is full, as the extra lighting will compromise your shot. After that, you're ready to go!