Best Time to Visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis

by | Jan 25, 2024 | Europe, Planning

Aurora Borealis in Iceland

Introduction to Iceland’s Northern Lights

Discover the awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis in Iceland, a natural spectacle that lights up the Arctic sky.

This guide provides key insights into the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis, ensuring you maximize your chances of witnessing this stunning phenomenon.

Experience the magic of Iceland’s Northern Lights, a dazzling display that promises an unforgettable adventure.

Understanding the Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a spectacular natural phenomenon best witnessed in Iceland. This luminous display results from solar particles colliding with gases in Earth’s atmosphere, creating vivid curtains of light.

Common colors range from green to pink, with occasional appearances of red, yellow, blue, and violet. Each color is a result of interactions at different altitudes with various gases, like oxygen and nitrogen. 

Beyond its scientific explanation, the Aurora holds deep cultural significance in Iceland. For centuries, the Aurora Borealis has been woven into the fabric of Icelandic culture and folklore. In ancient times, the lights were seen as omens, signaling anything from impending doom to great fortune.

Some believed they were spirits of the dead, while others saw them as a bridge to the realms of gods.

As you seek the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis, appreciating both its scientific and cultural aspects will enrich your experience of this mesmerizing phenomenon.

Prime Months for Aurora Viewing

Infographic best time to visit iceland for aurora borealis showing average hours of darkness per month

Seasonal Analysis: When to Visit

Identifying the prime months for Aurora viewing is crucial for anyone planning to witness this natural spectacle.

The best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis largely hinges on two factors: darkness and clear skies.

The optimal months are typically from the end of September to April, when the nights are longest. During these months, the extended hours of darkness provide a larger window to view the Northern Lights.

Autumn and spring equinoxes, are particularly favorable. During these periods, the geomagnetic activities are higher, increasing the frequency and intensity of the Auroras. You can read more about this phenomenon in this article by Winter, with its longer nights, can also be an excellent time, but the potential for cloudier skies and harsher weather needs to be considered.

Auro Borealis Iceland

Weather at Different Locations

The coastal areas, particularly in the South and West of Iceland, tend to have more cloud cover due to their proximity to the ocean.

In contrast, inland areas, like Þingvellir National Park, often offer clearer skies. However, Icelandic weather can change rapidly, so flexibility in your travel plans is key. Many visitors choose to stay in locations where they can easily move to different viewing spots depending on the night’s forecast.

In summary, the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is from September to April, with a special focus on the equinoxes. Keep an eye on the weather patterns, and be ready to adapt your plans for the clearest viewing experience.

Planning Your Aurora Viewing Trip

Essential Travel Tips for Best Viewing Experience

When planning your trip to see the Aurora Borealis, timing and location are everything. To enhance your chances of witnessing this celestial phenomenon, consider these essential tips:

  • Travel During Peak Months: As discussed, the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is from September to April. Aim for dates around the equinoxes for optimal chances.
  • Stay Flexible: Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared to adjust your plans based on weather forecasts and Aurora activity.
  • Choose Dark, Remote Locations: Light pollution can significantly diminish the Aurora’s visibility. Opt for locations away from city lights.
  • Stay Multiple Nights: The Northern Lights are elusive, and their appearance can’t be guaranteed on any given night. Staying multiple nights will increase your chances of a sighting.
  • Consult Aurora Forecasts: Regularly check Aurora forecasts to stay informed about potential activity levels during your stay.

Top Locations in Iceland for Aurora Borealis

Infographic where to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland

Iceland offers numerous vantage points for Aurora Borealis, each offering a unique experience:

  • Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park: Not only a site of historical significance but also a place with minimal light pollution, making it an excellent spot for Aurora viewing.
  • Vik: This small village on the south coast provides dramatic backdrops with its black beaches and ocean views.
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: The icebergs and the serene lagoon offer a mesmerizing setting for the Northern Lights.
  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Known for its diverse landscapes, this area offers both mountain and coastal views for Aurora sightings.
  • Reykjavik Vicinity: For those who prefer not to stray far from the capital, areas around Reykjavik like Grotta Lighthouse can occasionally offer good opportunities for Aurora viewing.

Remember, the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is during the darker months, and selecting the right location can significantly enhance your experience of this stunning natural display.

For those keen on experiencing the Northern Lights against the stunning backdrop of black beaches, further insights can be found in the article Discovering the Best Black Sand Beach Locations in Iceland.’

Photography Tips for Capturing the Aurora

Capturing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland is a dream for many photographers. To take stunning photos of this natural wonder, you need the right techniques and equipment.

Cheat sheet infographic for aurora borealis photography

Techniques for Capturing the Northern Lights:

  • Use a Tripod: The Aurora Borealis requires long exposure shots. A sturdy tripod is essential to avoid camera shake and blur.


  • Manual Settings: Switch your camera to manual mode. Auto settings are typically not sensitive enough to capture the Northern Lights effectively.


  • Long Exposure: Start with an exposure of 15-30 seconds. This allows your camera to capture the movement and colors of the lights.


  • Wide Aperture: Use a wide aperture (low f-stop number) to allow more light into the lens. An aperture of f/2.8 or lower is ideal.


  • High ISO, But Not Too High: Begin with an ISO around 800. Going too high can result in grainy photos, so adjust as needed based on your camera’s capabilities and the light’s intensity.


  • Focus to Infinity: Since the Aurora is far away, set your focus to infinity. Check if your lens has an infinity symbol (∞) and use it as a guide.
Photographer taking pictures of the Auro Borealis in Iceland

Equipment for Aurora Photography:

  • DSLR or Mirrorless Camera: A camera with manual setting capabilities is necessary. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are preferred.


  • Wide-Angle Lens: A wide-angle lens captures more of the sky and landscape, enhancing the Aurora’s grandeur.


  • Extra Batteries: Cold weather drains batteries quickly. Bring extras to ensure you don’t miss out on a great shot.


  • Remote Shutter Release: This helps in preventing camera shake when pressing the shutter button.


  • Warm Gear for Yourself: Dress warmly in layers. You’ll be standing in the cold for extended periods.

Remember, photographing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland requires patience and practice. Experiment with different settings to find what works best for your camera and the current Aurora conditions.

Accommodations and Tours

When planning your trip to see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, selecting the right accommodation and deciding whether to take guided tours are crucial elements.

Choosing Where to Stay

  • Proximity to Viewing Locations: Choose accommodations near prime Aurora viewing spots. Rural areas away from city lights offer darker skies, which is essential for observing the Northern Lights.

  • Range of Options: Iceland offers a variety of lodging options, from luxury hotels and cozy guesthouses to camping sites and cabins. Consider places that offer a clear view of the northern sky from their premises.

  • Flexibility and Comfort: Given the unpredictability of the Aurora and Iceland’s weather, look for accommodations that offer flexibility in bookings and comfortable amenities for possibly extended stays.

  • Local Advice: Opt for places where the staff can provide local insights on Aurora viewing. Some hotels even offer Aurora wake-up calls if the lights appear.
Northern lights in Iceland

Selection of Accommodations Options for Aurora Viewing

  • Hotel Rangá, South Iceland: This luxury hotel, located in a remote area, is perfect for viewing the Northern Lights. It offers a cozy atmosphere, high-quality service, and even has an observatory with telescopes. 
  • Aurora Cabins, Jökulsárlón: For a more intimate experience, these cabins near the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon provide a private and serene setting, perfect for watching the Aurora dance overhead. 
  • Skyrhusid Guest House, Northern Iceland: Situated in a prime Northern Lights viewing location, this guest house is known for its hospitable service and home-like comfort, offering a great base for Aurora expeditions.

Whether to Take Guided Tours:

  • Expertise and Local Knowledge: Guided tours are led by experts who understand the best times and locations for Aurora viewing. They often use real-time data to find the best spots each night.
  • Convenience: Tours handle the logistics of transportation and provide equipment like thermal suits and cameras, making your experience more comfortable and convenient.
  • Safety and Accessibility: Tours ensure safety, especially in Iceland’s winter conditions. They can also access remote areas which might be challenging to reach independently.
  • Learning Experience: Many tours provide educational insights about the Aurora Borealis, enhancing your overall experience.

Guided Tour Options for Aurora Borealis

  • Superjeep Northern Lights Tour: This tour offers a thrilling Aurora hunt in a super jeep, allowing access to off-road locations. Highly rated for its knowledgeable guides and the ability to reach remote areas.
  • Reykjavik Excursions – Northern Lights Tour: A popular choice for those staying in Reykjavik, this tour combines comfort with expert knowledge, taking you to the best spots based on real-time weather conditions.
  • Guide to Iceland – Northern Lights Minibus Tour: This tour is perfect for those who prefer a smaller, more intimate group setting. Their minibuses can navigate to areas larger buses can’t, increasing your chances of a great viewing.

Each of these options combines comfort with the potential for an incredible Aurora Borealis experience, making them excellent choices for your Icelandic adventure.

Whether you choose self-planned accommodations or guided tours, remember that the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is during the darker months, and being in the right place at the right time is key to a successful viewing experience.

Godafoss waterfall in Iceland

Goðafoss waterfall

Balancing Aurora Viewing with Icelandic Attractions

When planning your trip to see the Aurora Borealis, it’s a fantastic opportunity to also explore the other wonders Iceland offers. While determining the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is your primary goal, balancing this with visits to Iceland’s top attractions can enrich your experience.

Here’s how you can combine the Northern Lights with other Icelandic highlights:

  • Golden Circle Tour: If you’re visiting during the prime Aurora months, add a day trip to the Golden Circle. This route covers Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. You’ll experience geological marvels by day and hunt for the Northern Lights by night.
  • Blue Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Baths: Schedule a relaxing dip in the geothermal waters. The Blue Lagoon is close to Reykjavik and can be a soothing end to a night spent under the Northern Lights. Myvatn Nature Baths, in Northern Iceland, also offer a serene setting and a chance to potentially view the Aurora from the warm waters.
  • South Coast Adventure: The South Coast of Iceland is replete with black sand beaches, like Reynisfjara, and stunning waterfalls such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. These sites are breathtaking during the day, and the areas around them are often great for Aurora viewing at night due to low light pollution.
  • Glacier Tours and Ice Caves: Combine your Aurora hunt with a glacier hike or an ice cave tour in Vatnajökull or Langjökull glaciers. The contrast of Iceland’s frozen landscapes by day and the vibrant Northern Lights by night makes for an unforgettable experience.
  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Known as ‘Iceland in Miniature’, this area offers diverse landscapes, including the famous Kirkjufell mountain, which is a fantastic backdrop for Northern Lights photography.

By planning your itinerary smartly, you can enjoy the full spectrum of experiences Iceland has to offer. Remember, while the Aurora is a highlight, Iceland’s natural beauty extends far beyond its night skies.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland

Preparation and Safety

When planning for the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis, it’s crucial to focus on preparation and safety. The right gear and knowledge can make your Northern Lights experience both enjoyable and safe. Here’s an essential packing list and safety tips:

Essential Packing List

  • Warm Clothing: Pack layers of thermal clothing, including a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Temperatures can drop significantly at night.
  • Good Quality Boots: Choose insulated, waterproof boots with a strong grip for icy conditions.
  • Headlamp with Red Light: A headlamp with a red light mode is essential for navigating in the dark without ruining your night vision.
  • Insulated Flask: Carry a flask with hot beverages to stay warm during your nighttime adventures.
  • Portable Power Bank: Keep your devices charged, especially your phone for safety and communication.
  • Camera Gear: If you plan to photograph the Aurora, bring appropriate camera gear, including extra batteries and memory cards.
Iceberg in Iceland

Safety Tips

  • Stay Informed about Weather Conditions: Icelandic weather can be unpredictable. Always check the weather forecast and Aurora activity before heading out.
  • Inform Someone about Your Plans: Let your accommodation staff or a friend know about your travel plans, especially if you’re venturing into remote areas.
  • Understand Road Safety: If you’re driving, be aware of Iceland’s road conditions, especially in winter. Some roads may be icy or closed.
  • Respect Nature: Stay on marked paths and respect local guidelines, especially when in unfamiliar or rugged terrain.
  • Emergency Contact: Know the emergency number in Iceland (112) and have it saved on your phone.

By packing the right items and following these safety tips, you can ensure a comfortable and secure experience while searching for the Aurora Borealis in Iceland.

Icelandic ponies in Iceland

Additional Resources

For those seeking the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis, having the right tools and resources for planning and forecasting is essential. These tools and websites can enhance your chances of a successful Aurora viewing experience by providing real-time information and expert advice.

Tools and Websites for Planning and Forecasting

  • Aurora Forecast Websites: The Icelandic Meteorological Office’s website provides reliable Aurora forecasts and cloud cover information. 
  • Photography Apps: For those keen on photographing the Aurora, apps like PhotoPills help in planning your shoot, showing you the best times and angles for photography based on your location.
  • Northern Lights Alerts: My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app offers Northern Lights alerts, notifying you when conditions are favorable for an Aurora display in your area.

Using these tools and websites will help you in effectively planning your trip and increase your chances of witnessing the majestic Aurora Borealis in Iceland.

Northern lights in Iceland

Conclusion: Best Time to Visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis

In conclusion, determining the best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis is key to experiencing one of the most stunning natural phenomena on Earth.

Remember, the optimal months are from September to April, with the equinoxes often providing the most spectacular displays. However, this journey is more than just about timing. It’s about immersing yourself in the raw beauty of Iceland, respecting its delicate environment, and embracing the unpredictable nature of both the Aurora and Iceland’s weather.

As you plan your trip, equip yourself with the right information, choose sustainable travel options, and prepare for the diverse Icelandic landscapes. Whether you’re capturing the Aurora with your camera, soaking in a geothermal spa under a starlit sky, or exploring the majestic landscapes by day, Iceland offers an unparalleled adventure.

So, pack your bags, plan wisely, and get ready for an unforgettable journey in the land of fire and ice.

Looking to explore more of the continent? Take a look at our other blog posts about countries in Europe to help you plan your next trip.

FAQs Norhern Lights Iceland

How likely is it to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland varies but is generally good during the peak viewing months from the end of September to April. Clear, dark skies increase your chances, so monitoring weather and Aurora forecasts is crucial.

Is Norway or Iceland better for Northern Lights?

Both Norway and Iceland offer spectacular Northern Lights experiences. Iceland, with its unique landscapes and geothermal activities, provides a diverse backdrop for Aurora viewing. Norway, especially Tromsø, is also renowned for its Northern Lights. The choice depends on your travel preferences.

How many days do you need in Iceland?

A minimum of 5 to 7 days is recommended for a fulfilling trip to Iceland. This duration allows you to explore various landscapes and increases your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

What is the best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland 2024?

The best time to visit Iceland for Aurora Borealis in 2024 is from late September to early April. During these months, the nights are longer and darker, providing a better canvas for the Northern Lights.

Where can I find the Northern Lights forecast in Iceland?

The Icelandic Meteorological Office website is a reliable source for Northern Lights forecasts in Iceland. Additionally, Aurora forecasting websites and apps can provide real-time information.

What is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The best places to see Northern Lights in Iceland are remote areas away from city lights. Locations like Þingvellir National Park, the southern village of Vik, and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon are highly recommended.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in July?

It is highly unlikely to see the Northern Lights in Iceland in July due to the midnight sun. The nights are too bright for the Aurora to be visible.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in May?

Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in May is rare. The nights start to get shorter and brighter in May, making it difficult to witness the Aurora.


Written by Stefanie

I'm Stefanie, your adventurer-in-chief at She Roams Free, and solo travel enthusiast. The world has been my playground since I first hopped on a plane from my home in the Netherlands to South Africa by myself, way back in 2002. Solo travel has been my preferred way to see the world ever since, with South Africa, Namibia and Botswana being my favorite destinations. It has been a baptism by bushveld, a crash course in self-reliance, and a love affair with the unknown. My goal is to inspire other solo female travelers through my stories, and provide tips to explore the world safely and experience the same freedom!

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