What are the northern lights?
If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, chances are you already know what the northern lights are. But just in case, here’s a quick lesson. The Aurora Borealis occurs when gas particles from the sun’s surface drift towards gas particles on the earth’s surface, which causes a reaction. This reaction forms a curtain of colours in the sky known as the northern lights! The distance from the surface of the reaction, and the gases colliding is what determines the colour – which can be anything from pink, red, purple, blue and green!
Why is Iceland a great place to see the northern lights?
The northern lights can be seen from any country which lies in the auroral band: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. Whilst these are all great places to witness the Aurora Borealis, Iceland is the place which holds our hearts.
The northern lights in Iceland are visible for a total of 8 months, but the darkest months are your best bet which are from October – March. But as amazing as the northern lights are, they do only come out at night, meaning you have ample free time in the days to explore – and Iceland is the perfect adventure playground! From towering mountains, thundering waterfalls, spurting geysers, natural hot springs, black beaches, diamond beaches and boiling mud pools. It’s natural diversity at its best.
Where are the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland?
In general, you can usually catch the northern lights anywhere where there’s no light pollution. To maximise your chances of seeing them, the skies also need to be clear which generally means the temperature is much lower – so wrap up warm! A reliable source for determining when the northern lights might occur is the Aurora Forecast. Here are a few of the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is one of the best places to see an Aurora Borealis show. The park is far from any source of artificial light, and the scenery around you is out of this world. The largest lake in Iceland is within the park which provides an incredible background for photos, with the green lights bouncing off the reflection of the lake. There are also some incredible lookout spots on top of lava rock hills, covered in moss.
If you are staying in Reykjavik, Grótta is a great place to see the northern lights. Situated at the tip of Seltjarnarnes peninsula, it’s only a 10 minute drive from the capital but just far out enough that there is no light pollution. And what can be better than gazing out to sea to watch the northern lights creep across the sky.
Öskjuhlið hill is one of the best lookouts for capturing the northern lights. It’s 61 meters above sea level with a dense forest running underneath. And just outside of Reykjavik, it’s a great location if you’re staying within the city. On top of the hill is Perlan, a stunning museum with a giant rotating glass dome, but the best bit is on the top. 3 floors up provide incredible all-round views – a great place for watching the Aurora Borealis.
If you are renting a car and happy for a bit of a drive, Vik is also a really great place to chase down the northern lights. A traditional, tiny village along the southern coast. Eerie black sand beaches line the shore, looking out onto the lava formations that, legend states, are trolls turned to stone! The entire place has a magical, eerie feel which just adds another layer to the mystical northern lights display.
A little different to the others, but equally as amazing is the Seljavallalaug Pool. A natural hot water spring, nestled amongst the rolling hills in southern Iceland. This secluded spot is absolutely perfect for northern lights chasers. Relaxing in a natural hot spring, far away from any sort of civilisation whilst the Aurora Borealis streaks across the star-studded sky is surely nothing short of magical.
Tucan Travel offer a range of tours to Iceland. For the money-conscious, there’s the 5 day Iceland on a budget tour. For the nature lovers there’s the 8 day circuit of Iceland tour, and for the Aurora Borealis enthusiasts there’s the 8 day northern lights tour. If you’d like to know more about the elusive Aurora Borealis, visit our northern lights page.
Roxy is part of the marketing team for Tucan Travel. She has been travelling solo for years, predominantly around Asia, Indonesia and Europe. You can find her on LinkedIn here.