When to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Sweeping across the Icelandic skies in waves of vivid color, the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights – or the aurora borealis – illuminates the striking landscapes below. This breath-taking annual phenomenon generally takes place between September and April, giving you eight months to catch it.

Believed to be signals from the spirit world (or solar chemical reactions), their mysterious unpredictability continues to entice travelers to seek them out. And because Iceland is close to the North Pole and offers crisp clear skies, it’s one of the best destinations to catch a glimpse of this otherworldly phenomenon.

After countless trips to this alluring island, one thing is for certain – there’s nothing quite like chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland. On our ventures, we’ve perched atop rugged cliffs and embarked on husky safaris through frozen terrain. Even floated in a lagoon or two. We’ve seen dramatic black sand beaches transform under their glowing hues and sweeping snow-covered glaciers gleam with colorful reflections.

And you can too. This is luxury travel in Iceland, Black Tomato style. Whether it’s a family trip or solo adventure you’re after – we’ve got the low-down on precisely when and where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland – and what to do in the interim.

In this detailed guide all about when to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, you’ll find the following sections. If you’re needing to start from scratch, then read from top to bottom. But if there’s some specific insight you’re looking for, you can click on the individual links below.

When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
Where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
Where to stay – the best hotels for the Northern Lights in Iceland
How to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
The best conditions for seeing the Northern Lights
What is the Northern Lights forecast?
Our favorite luxury Iceland tours featuring the Northern Lights

The best family vacations in Europe

When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

When is the Northern Lights Season?

Running from September to April, the Northern Lights season coincides with delightfully longer nights. This means more time for you to witness the wonder of the Icelandic skies. And with up to 19 hours of darkness during the winter solstice, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so.

Whether you wish to build your luxury Iceland tour around seeing the lights or simply want to include it as an exciting addition to your itinerary – we’ll help you seek out the ethereal glow of the aurora borealis by snowmobile, sled, or skis.

Can you see the Northern Lights in spring and fall?

Technically – yes, you can see the Northern Lights in spring and fall. But the chances of spotting this beautiful natural occurrence are a lot slimmer. Longer days and a higher chance of cloud cover and rain makes them rather difficult to spot.

If seeing the Northern Lights is high on your wish list, then we’ll organize your trip around optimum times to guarantee you the best chance of catching them. If you’re still not sure when to visit Iceland, take a look at our guide here.

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

With long periods of darkness and falling during the peak of the Northern Lights season, the best time to see the Northern Lights is November to January. You’ll savor around 4-5 hours of daylight before heading out under the cover of darkness on the hunt for the mystical aurora.

But to increase your chances even further, we’ll ensure you arrive before the new moon (the bright light of a full moon can make them more difficult to spot).

Prime viewing time? Our experts prefer the window between 9.30pm and 1am.

Watch the Northern Lights
Iceland lights

Where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Northern Lights near Reykjavík

While Reykjavík is a city and therefore has a fair amount of light, it is a great spot to use as a base. Our experts will show you the best trails to wander as you gaze up at the wonders of the skies above. Nearby parks like Thingvellir and Laugardalur are just a few of our favorite spots.

As part of your visit, we can also arrange for an indulgent stay in The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon. In our opinion, one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. Here, you’ll kick back and relax in its warm thermal pools while you await the colorful hues of the lights.

On Iceland’s black sand beaches

Beautifully dramatic landscapes, sweeping views of the night sky, and remarkably remote coastline. Far away from any source of light pollution, we’ll curate an unforgettable trip that combines two of Iceland’s most famous sights: black sand beaches and the Northern Lights.

A particular favorite of ours? Reynisfjara. Not only is it one of the most beautiful black sand beaches in Iceland (we’ve checked), but it’s also one of the best for glimpsing the aurora. On one of our luxury Iceland tours, you’ll explore the beach by day before watching the unusual arcs of color light up the night. Check out our guide to black sand beaches to learn more.

The best hotels for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

If we detailed all the charming Icelandic hotels we love, the list would go on. And on. So instead, here are three of our top picks for spotting the Northern Lights.

Hotel Ranga

Bordering a glistening river filled with jumping salmon and set among the wilds of South Iceland, lies a luxurious country lodge. Or Hotel Ranga, as it’s also called. Fresh food, continent-inspired suites, and incredible views of frozen landscapes. The staff can even arrange a personal “Northern Lights” wake-up call to ensure you don’t miss this spectacular event.

As a prime location for some of the best sightings, it’s no wonder it’s one of our most popular hotels for Iceland. The restaurant’s delectable cuisine combining modern Nordic flavors with a Mediterranean twist might have something to do with it too.

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon

We’ve already mentioned this particular hotel, but The Retreat at Blue Lagoon is most certainly a place worth mentioning twice.

After all, nowhere does wellbeing quite like this. Soothing geothermal waters with rumored healing powers, revitalizing spa treatments, and your own private terrace with steps directly down into the Lagoon. Cozied up in one their suites, you’ll enjoy mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling views of moss-covered lava fields, strikingly blue waters, and that ever-important glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Want a fresh perspective? Head outside for a relaxing dip in the lagoon whilst you marvel at the dancing colors of the aurora. Here, you’ll soak in the magic of it all. Literally.

Hotel Húsafell

Hidden among the enticing wilderness of glacial lagoons and ancient lava plains, Hotel Húsafell beckons. Sustainable luxury, modern design, and geothermal baths. This charming hotel boasts seasonal cuisine, local art décor, and hiking trails dotted with waterfalls and hidden canyon baths.

It’s also regarded as one of the best spots in Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Why? They say it’s due to their unique location near the snow-covered peaks of Langjokull glacier, ensuring crisp, cloudless skies. But we think it might also have something to do with their eagle-eyed watch team who are on hand to give you a call whenever the lights appear. We’ll let you decide for yourself.

Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland
blue lagoon iceland

How to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Now you’ve decided when to go and where to stay, let’s look at how to know if you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights.

The best conditions for seeing the Northern Lights

Properly speaking, the Northern Lights operate on an 11-year solar cycle linked to perturbations of the sun. The more restless the sun becomes, the greater the aurorae. That being said, the lights remain a yearly phenomenon.

Minimal light pollution

An out-of-this-world experience. Quite literally. The Northern Lights are a result of charged particles in the solar wind colliding with molecules in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This means that there needs to be solar activity for there to be any chance of seeing this natural spectacle.

Strong solar activity

As with any solar activity, the less light the better. All of the tips above should mean you’re already set for this. And even if you’re choosing to look for them elsewhere, our knowledgeable guides will ensure that you’re taken to low light areas.

Good weather

The less cloud cover, the better. Similarly to stargazing, the clearer the skies, the higher your chances are of seeing the Northern Lights. This can require some patience as you may be in the ideal spot and just waiting for some clouds to pass. The reward is worth the wait.

What is the Northern Lights forecast?

In short, this is the best way to get a quick idea of the likelihood of seeing the lights. Based off the Kp index, it can provide a forecast for the next three days with location-specific details on solar activity. And with a scale of 0 to 9, anything above a 2 is promising. No need to stay glued to it though. Our luxury travel guides use it when planning your trip and can adjust the itinerary accordingly.

Snorkelling in Iceland's Silfra Fissure
The best time to visit Iceland

Our favorite luxury Iceland tours

Here, we’ve cherry-picked some of our favorite experiences in Iceland. This enchanting island offers so much more than just the Northern Lights – and so do our bespoke luxury Iceland tours. When you’re not off chasing these distinct arcs of color, there’s heaps of activities to dive into. In some cases, quite literally.

Discover Iceland’s Golden Circle

On a completely tailor-made trip to the famed Golden Circle, our luxury travel experts will show you not only the marvels of the skies, but also the natural wonders of the seas. If you wish to of course, after all this is your trip. But just to give you a taster – imagine whale watching among the waves of the Atlantic, diving in electric blue waters, dolphin spotting, and even swimming with humpback whales. Staying at Hotel Ranga, you’ll be perfectly placed for each activity. And with a Northern Lights viewing from the comfort of your private suite – who could want for more?

Discover Iceland’s Golden Circle

A luxury family trip to Iceland

Creating the perfect family trip to suit everyone can be tricky, which is why we’re here to help. Whether you’re planning a luxury family vacation for the little ones, teenage rebels, grown-up kids, or even sisters, cousins, grandparents, and great grandparents – we’ve got you covered.

And because our trips begin with you, our luxury travel experts will really get to know you – all of you – learning what really makes each one of you tick. Or smile. Or relax. You get the idea.

An adventure deep inside Príhnúkagigur Volcano? Sorted. Snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra? Just dive on in. Savor freshly made pancakes washed down with steaming hot chocolate beside Lake Kleifarvatn. Even enjoy VIP access to the warm healing waters of the Blue Lagoon, where we’ll ensure you and your family have it all to yourselves.

One thing’s for sure – we’ve got something to keep every member of your clan happy. After all, this is what family travel is all about. And having scoured this dream-like land from top to bottom with our own families in tow – we’ve found the very best experiences for travelers of all ages.

Discover family trips to Iceland

Explore Iceland in the summer

The Northern Lights may not be visible in summer, but you can still witness another glowing spectacle – the Midnight Sun. With endless hours of daylight, you’ll get to embrace every second of it on one of our private Iceland tours. We’ll take you quad biking across black sand beaches, horseback riding through the remote Flijot Valley, and hiking across crevasse-riddled glaciers.

Want a break from the sunlight? We’ll bag you exclusive access to head deep into Vatnshellir cave as you begin your very own Jules Verne-esque Journey into the Centre of the Earth.

But that’s not all. Situated on the Troll Peninsula and surrounded by gloriously wild landscapes, lies the luxuriously modern Deplar Farm. Seemingly blending into the dazzling wilderness that encircles it, this adventurer’s paradise serves as an excellent base for action-packed activities. And for off-the-grid relaxation. Beautiful gallery suites complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor pool overlooking majestic mountains, and a restaurant that dedicates itself to excellence – it’s one of our favorite (rather hidden) hotels.

Explore Iceland in the summer

Between glittering ice formations, secret waterfalls, epic buggy adventures, and husky safaris – this is a country that keeps travelers coming back for more, whatever the weather. Rain or shine. Glowing aurora or endless daylight.

Ready to chase the northern lights?

Explore one of Europe’s most beautiful countries with a frozen adventure to the heart of Iceland, catching the Northern Lights on dog sleds as you go.