Northern Lights Iceland


Aurora chaser Iceland.jpgThe northern lights occur in the northern hemisphere from mid-September to mid-April but are only visible when the sky is clear and free of clouds. The northern lights, also called Aurora Borealis, can only be seen when there are

  • Dark nights (it is not possible to see the northern lights during the summer when there are 20-24 hours of daylight)
  • Clear sky (no rain, no clouds, no snow, no fog)
  • Solar explosions that actually create the Northern Lights

Northern Lights Skaftafell.JPG

When all these elements come together there is a realistic chance of seeing the northern lights about twice a week. The rule is simple; the longer you stay in locations away from cities and light pollution the higher is the chance to see the northern lights. Tours that stay 2 nights away from light pollution have about 20-25 % chance to see the northern lights. Tours that stay 4 nights away from cities have about 60 % chance to see the northern lights. Tours that stay 5 nights or longer away from light pollution have 85 % plus chance to see the northern lights. Like many of natural wonders, the northern lights are Aurora Iceland (6).jpgephemeral – they may be visible, they may appear for a bit and then be gone. It is not a TV show that you can just turn on and off. If the perfect northern lights happen at noon, you will not be able to see them because it is not dark. If the perfect northern lights dance in the sky at 11 o'clock at night but it snows or it is cloudy, then again it is not possible to see them. But the patience, which is required, is totally worth it! As they are a winter event, you need to be prepared to wait outside away from light pollution while looking for them. It is best to dress very warmly, in layers, with good footwear, gloves, hats and whatever else that will make you comfortable while you await patiently this truly outstanding event. Note that Iceland is the warmest country of all the northern lights destinations. Due to the Gulf Stream, the average temperature in Icelandic wintertime approaches 0°Celsius (32 F), which is often warmer than you might encounter in New York, London and even in Continental Europe! As a comparison, temperatures in Finish and Swedish Lapland can be minus 20-25 degrees and in Greenland, Canada and Alaska anywhere from minus 30-40 degrees.

Northern Lights, Iceland.jpgImportant note: December and January offers only about 4,5-5 hours of daylight which could affect your day tour sightseeing and activity program if longer than 6 hours. The time for mid-September to mid-November and February to mid-April offers an good balance between daylights and darkness, as ideally you wish to have a minimum of 10 hours of daylight for your day program and also a minimum of 10 hours of darkness to maximize the chances to see the Northern Lights. For the best photos we recommend using a tripod.


Northern Lights Iceland (copy right shutterstock).jpgMost GJ Travel northern lights programs stay only for the first and last night in Reykjavik. All other nights are spent in the countryside at hotels that are located away from towns and light pollution. This helps to maximize the chances to see the northern lights as we use the garden of the countryside hotels to look out for the auroras. Additionally we minimize the daily driving and therefore utilize well the available day light. Day time itinerary has the focus of nature sightseeing, cultural experiences and soft adventure while evenings are used for the northern lights activities. Most programs include a combination of presentations, lectures, film and guided northern lights searches during the evenings. Most accommodations in the countryside offer a northern lights wake up call for guests that register for that special service at the reception. Also included is the use of winter & northern lights explorer equipment: simple non-slip snow & ice gripper spikes for shoes and a flash light that is helpful when walking in the dark and operating your photo camera at night.