This is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

The Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, is one of the planet’s greatest natural spectacles. Iceland, close to the North Pole and blessed by remarkably clear skies, offers one of the best places to catch sight of this otherworldly phenomenon. After countless trips to this rugged island in the north, we’ve got the low-down on the best places to see the lights in Iceland, and the ideal time to travel in order to maximise your chance to witness the wonder.

When to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

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 (2013 was the last ‘high’ point). Unsurprisingly, clear, crisp winter nights are the best annual time to see the lights – which means you should travel between late August and early April to optimise your chances to see this otherworldly sight. Settle into your preferred spot after 6pm (more on that below) and get ready to be wowed.

Of course, the lights are a natural phenomenon – and thus are unpredictable and elusive. This only adds to their charm, and the wild surprise you’ll encounter on seeing these recklessly unusual arcs of colour race and warble across the night’s darkness. Our experts prefer the window between 9.30pm and 1am. Once you’re on the ground, the aurora forecast – which would give you only a couple of days forewarning – measures the aurora likelihood on a scale of 0 to 9. Anything above a 2 is promising.

Where to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

The aurora is best seen the further you are away from sources of light pollution.

It follows that you’ll want to strike out into Iceland’s hinterland and natural parks. Gladly, a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik will often suffice. To ward off the cold, you can make use of the country’s mass of geothermal pools, such as those on the wider Reykjanes peninsula.

Others opt for the area surrounding the mighty Eyjafjalljökull volcano, which has a generous offering of naturally heated hot tubs to kick back in while you await the lights. The vast, marmite-black spread of black lava and teal-blue ice provide a perfectly prehistoric setting to glimpse what many cultures perceive as being signals from the spirit world.

Finally, the area around the marvellous Thingvellir national park offers an idyllic spot to spy for the aurora. Almannagjá, the area where the nation’s first parliament was held over 1,000 years ago, has towering cliffs that act as perfect and picturesque viewing platforms.

Ready to chase the northern lights?

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

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