The best places to watch the Northern Lights from, in Iceland

nordurljos-vid-jokulsarlon-fon-130-1

Ever since I was a little girl I remember hearing about this fantasy land where on the sky full of stars magical green lights start to dance over the icy ground underneath. When I grew up I’ve learned that the magic green light is real and it has a beautiful name: The Aurora Borealis.

During the history of the world, the Aurora has been the subject of many myths and legends all around Scandinavia but also reaching Greece and China. In Iceland, people believed that the Northern Lights were forces that were easing the process of childbirth. However, women weren’t supposed to look at them to prevent their newborn babies to be cross-eyed.

 

But what are the Northern Lights

Science tells us that the Northern Lights are caused by the collision between electrically charged particles released from the sun, which enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with the oxygen and nitrogen. This phenomenon occurs close to the magnetic poles of the Earth and it can’t be visible if there is light pollution in the area from where you are watching. The closer you are to the North Pole, the more chances you have to spot the magic lights in the sky, this is why Iceland is the perfect location for chasing the Aurora Borealis.

 

Prepare your trip to Iceland with Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Iceland travel guide, 10th Edition May 2017 by Lonely PlanetIceland's Ring Road Road Trips - Southeast Iceland Trip (3.787Mb), 1st Edition May 2017 by Lonely PlanetScandinavia travel guide, 12th Edition Jun 2015 by Lonely PlanetPocket Reykjavik, 2nd Edition May 2017 by Lonely Planet

 

Chasing the Aurora Borealis

The perfect conditions for seeing the Aurora are from September until March, on a dark clear night. The Auroras are very difficult to predict more than two hours before they happen. The optimum time to observe the Aurora is between 9:30 PM and 1 AM.

 

Find the cheapest flight to Reykjavik

 

Reykjavík

The capital of Iceland is a charming city, bursting with life but also a hub for history lovers, with a museum dedicated to the Vikings. It is the world’s most northern capital and a very popular destination for tourists. Reykjavik is also famous for its great nightlife, with over 100 different bars and clubs for a population of only around 123,300 people.

If you are flying to Iceland only for a weekend, then Reykjavik is the best place to base yourself. During the day you can enjoy what the city has to offer and during the evening you can book a tour to take you out of the capital for a chance to see the Northern Lights.

hofudborgarsvaedid-nott-nordurljos-5-1

Probably the most famous landmark of Reykjavik is Hallgrímskirkja church, with its tower visible from everywhere in the city. Built in 1937 by Guðjón Samúelsson who was inspired by the different shapes the lava creates when cools down, the church is the home of an outstanding 15m tall pipe organ.

Reykjavík is also the home of the largest whales exhibition in the world, featuring 23 life-size models of the species found in the Icelandic waters.

If you don’t fancy staying in the capital, there are other options as well. From Reykjavik, you can always book a Golden Circle Day Tour or go to the Blue Lagoon (make sure to pre-book).  You can even go horse riding in Iceland before hopping on a boat to go hunting for the aurora, alongside the coastline of Reykjavik, to avoid the city lights.

blue-lagoon-013

 

Prepare your holiday in Reykjavik with Thomson:

To help you experience Iceland at its best, all Thomson holidays include a day-long Golden Circle tour and a Northern Lights trip. They also throw in all your transfers to and from the hotel.

Holiday to Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura in REYKJAVIK (ICELAND) for 3 nights (BB) departing from LGW on 28 JanHoliday to Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura in REYKJAVIK

 

Vík

Vík is a remote village next to a glacier covered volcano. It is famous for its black sand beaches and the natural environment, being the only village in Iceland by the sea without a harbor. In winter, you can explore the area around Vik in a fun way, by snowmobile, experiencing the wilderness of the glacier. There is even a golf course just outside of the village.

husavik-maerudagar-juli-436-1

Vik is also the home of a small hand-made ice cream company which sells their products at every restaurant in the area using local milk. Make sure to order some Fossis for dessert when you dine out in Vik.

 

Thingvellir National Park

A World Heritage Site since 2004, Thingvellir National Park lies 40 km from Reykjavik and is the home of the largest natural lake in the country. The scenery of the National Park is unique because of its positioning at the border between the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American one. The landscape is grooved by cracks with the largest one being a canyon. Many earthquakes take place here as well.

alftanes-nordurljos-2012-303-1

The Thingvellir National Park is perfect as a base for the Northern lights due to its million stars hotel, The Buubble.  This hotel has 5 transparent “bubbles” located in the forest, with completely see through walls and only a bed inside. It is the perfect place to admire the Aurora from whilst in the comfort of a warm location and a comfy bed.

 

Vatnajökull National Park

Another great national park from where you can admire the Northern Lights in a different, white scenery, is Vatnajökull. The National Park shares its name with Europe’s largest glacier, with the ice cap rising in some parts to over 2,000 meters above the sea level. It covers almost 10% of Iceland’s entire land and it covers quite a few volcanos underneath the thick ice.

Vatnajökull National Park is a great place to chase the aurora from if you don’t like cold weather. The temperature here rarely goes below -10, even in winter.

hedinsfjordur-auroraborealis-iceland

If you are watching Game of Thrones then you will probably recognize Vatnajökull National Park as the filming location of the land beyond the wall.

 

Where would you go to chase the Aurora from?   

 

 

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

74 Comments

  1. This is something I would love to do, probably when the girls are older. I would probably base myself in Reykjavík, we haven’t been on a city break in years and we do love what comes with them. Food, drink, culture. The whale exhibtion sounds really interesting.
    Loved the facts about the northen lights, if only they helped with the pain of childbirth! x

  2. I really love your last picture! It feels like a lost soul is floating around searching for his family. I dont need to tell you right that both the northern light AND Iceland is on my bucket list! We are going for a long term travel starting next spring and hopefully we will see some northern ligh in northern scandinavia. But unfortunally Iceland is not possible for this trip. We are saving it for when we return to Europe next time!😁

  3. Oh Gosh! Your post has struck not one but two chords with me! Firstly, I have been wanting to see the Northern Lights for the last 3 years and this winter , I just have to go to Iceland or Finland ANYHow! Secondly, I am obsessed with myths and legends and I am thrilled to read about the myths associated with Aurora. Btw, what a pretty name would Aurora be!O K – too many emotions right now. I’ll go back to looking up cheap flights to Iceland haha

  4. Iceland is such a magical place and is definitely on our must-see places. It’s great that there are always travel deals to be had. We will definitely bookmark this for when we do go!

  5. At uni I did the Scandinavian Studies and we were told all about the Northern Lights, however, I’ve never had a chance to see them in real life. I’ve been to Sweden and Norway (and loved both) but now, I’m definitely adding Iceland to my list! x

  6. Oh I hope that I can go to Iceland soon because it looks so beautiful! Your images are beautiful and I have always wanted to see the Northern lights so it is handy to know what places would be the perfect vantage points. Funnily enough I am actually in the middle of writing a post about Iceland as it has been on my bucket list for quite some time. Of course there is street art there as well!

  7. That’s for sure, I’m gonna visit and see in coming years. I’ve had fascination for these Northern lights and this list is just so apt.

  8. Waah I would love to go to see the Northern Lights! Thanks for taking the time out to tell us the best places to watch them depending on where we would like to go!

    It looks so beautiful!

  9. I have ALWAYS wanted to go & see the Northern Lights, I cannot believe how stunning they are.
    So natural & just amazing! I don’t think people sometimes appreciate the naturally beautiful things in life!

    I’d love to go & see them at Vatnajökull National Park, it looks like a great place to visit as its so stunning just on its own! Lovely post darling x

  10. Would love to go to Iceland one day and see the northern lights, looks like such an amazing place. Had no idea there were so many amazing locations within Iceland to see the northern lights from.

  11. Please don’t share such posts. I just love Iceland and seeing northen lights is my dream. You are making me jealous about it. Never mind, I’ll visit it as soon as possible.

    1. Haha I am jealous too and the photos are giving me serious wanderlust. I would love to watch the Northern Lights from Reykjavík, especially as it has street art in the city as well x

  12. Wow! Witnessing the northern lights is one of the top most things on my list, I so want to visit Iceland and experience this magical phenomenon myself. Thank you so much for sharing all the details for places to view northern lights.

  13. OMG seeing all these pics just makes me want to go to Iceland again! Unfortunately I never got to see the lights that time as it was too cloudy 🙁 will hope to see them soon though on my next visit!

  14. I can only imagine living in a place where you can see the northern lights, I’ve always wanted to see them but never had the time to take the trip to Iceland.

  15. I would love to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights! The places you picked looked beautiful on their own as well!

  16. Iceland is really on my bucket list. I have been researching about it and seeing the Northern lights makes my eyes “WOW” and the wanderlust in me saying, I must see it with my own eyes.

  17. I am a huge Game of Thrones fan. I would love to travel to Vatnajökull National Park to explore and watch the Northern Lights.

  18. What fabulous photography! Iceland is a place I can only visit in my dreams. For a few minutes I’ve lived vicariously through your post. Thank you for sharing your latest adventures!

  19. This is gonna be on my bucket list – I’ll make it to Iceland to see these exquisite lights! Staying in the capital is a good idea too, with all places you suggest. Thanks a lot for this article, and by the way I love your page’s name -theworldinmypocket sounds amazing!

  20. It’s been on my bucket list for a while to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. I have time constraints at the moment but I plan on getting there! The tips on staying in the capital are helpful as well.

    Sarah

  21. Iceland is up there on my bucket list, partly for the northern lights and partly because I’ve heard/seen it is just breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for this post, so insightful!

  22. I admire how gorgeous your photographs! Iceland is indeed a must visit place and I wish to experience this wonderful beauty.

  23. Oh wow! The Northern Lights are something that I really want to see in my lifetime! I’d love to go on an Iceland vacation to see them, everyone I’ve spoken to said it’s the place where they really seem to be the best and brightest! Living in Canada I’ve caught glimpses of aurora glows but not the full dancing lights and colours yet.

  24. My husband went to Iqaluit, Nunavut on a fishing trip a few years back with a few of his friends. He said it was the best view of the northern lights he’s ever had. Not to mention the Arctic activities of polar bear-viewing, kayaking and ice fishing. (Sounds like a boy trip all the way!) x

  25. Oh my god these pictures! They look so surreal. I was supposed to visit Iceland this year for the northern lights however the plan fell through and I was so disappointed. Thanks for the tips here, I’m definitely going to Vatnajokull National Park next year, it looks so breathtaking in the picture above!

  26. Nice post! Still on my bucket list! I am even more inspired now.
    Beautiful photos and good content.
    Sorry if my question is stupid one but how did you make it with the search for cheap flights? Do you have some contracts with scyscanner? I would love to implement this kind of search on my blog related to local airways in Bulgaria 🙂
    Waiting for your answer!

    Good luck!

    1. Hi Petra,

      If you sign up with Sky Scanner as an affiliate you will be able to display the search on your blog as well. I hope this helps! 🙂

      Have a lovely day,
      Joanna

  27. Awesome pictures, Joanna. Iceland has been for a while on my bucket list, especially for nightsky photography (I read somewhere that there are some airplane wrecks on this Island… maybe visit one and combine things?) & scuba diving. I really want to dive in between the two tectonic plates one day…

    I really need to go on a trip soon… (writing this from my office desk while on a break)

  28. I LOVED my trip to Iceland a few years ago and did most of the things in your piece but I’ve never even heard of Vik – it looks absolutely stunning! Sounds like an excuse to go back…

  29. I have always dreamed about seeing the Northern Lights! It’s on my bucket list! Didn’t realise there were a few good places in Iceland to see them. I heard Tromso in Norway is good to see them too.

  30. These pictures are absolutely gorgeous! I went to Iceland last April and didn’t really get a chance to see them… super bummed about that! I loved looking through this post, it really takes me back to Iceland!

  31. This has always been one of my all time favourites! The Aurora Borealis! It’s so mystifying and magical, I had no idea it could be viewed from so many different places in Iceland. Your pictures are amazing and so is this post!

  32. I love you photos, its good to know about Aurora’s information indeed september is that starting point of its appearance, that would be lovely to see it in my own eyes. I hope I could go here one day It is one of my birthday wishlist.

  33. What great photos! Iceland is somewhere we need to get to but there’s so many place on our list! I have managed to see the Northern Lights in British Columbia though, so I have that.

  34. This is a very beautiful post, and a great guide for getting to witness the lights at any point in Iceland. Your photo are beautiful and your trip looked perfect. I’ll have to look into when the whale season begins too, as I love whales and had no idea 23 species can be found out here.

  35. This is gorgeous!!!! I just love the way you’ve captured the Northern Lights. Here’s hoping I get to witness them sometime soon. Cheers!!

  36. The northern lights have been high on my list for so long, I know there are other places I can see them from but I really want to see them in all their glory from Iceland. So cool that you got to experience them, I’m enjoying your posts on Iceland (I’ve been bookmarking them haha) Looking forward to your next one 😀

  37. I didn’t know about the myths related to Aurora Borealis! It truly is something wonderful, wish I could see it one day and with the list you provided now I can make sure I’m in the right place. Have you seen it in one of them? What was the experience? Just as you imagine as a child I guess – it does look like pure magic!

  38. AMAZING!!! You just validated my desire to go visit this country. SHould you say, safe for the kiddos? I have 6 and 7yr old and defintiely planning tot ag them along when we travel to Iceland. Thanks

  39. Iceland has always been one of the countries I’d love to visit. I imagine it clean and crisp and judging by your photos it seems that’s the case. As for the northern lights. I bet there incredible.

  40. I’d love to go to Iceland one day and particularly want to see the Northern lights, I never really knew much abbout this. Great post

  41. I was lucky enough to visit Iceland in February and on our last night we saw the Northern Lights. They were truly spectacular and I’ll forever feel so lucky that we managed to see them first hand 🙂

  42. I’ve always dreamed of seeing the northern lights. They look so majestic and beautiful.
    The places you recommend look so picturesque! Also, I would HAVE to visit the land beyond the wall!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *