How to Catch the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Updated: 30.10.2017

You probably ended up here because you’re trying to find a way to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

You have arrived at the right place. I will help you out with that! ūüôā

First I will talk about the tools that you can use to monitor the Northern Lights activity. Then we will get into tour options and general information about how those tours are operated.
northern lights in iceland gif

When is the best time of the year to see the Northern Lights?

Northern Lights are there, somewhere in the sky all year around.

But there is one problem.

If you visit Iceland anytime between the middle of April to the end of August there’s a phenomenon that will prevent you to see them. It is called¬†the midnight sun. Around that time there is very little darkness. And actually no darkness at all between June to the end of July.

If it happens that you’re visiting Iceland in the summertime, for the general knowledge you can visit¬†Aurora Reykjavik exhibition.

So when is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

If looking at it from a perspective of the rainfall, the least rainy time is in October, November, and April.¬†But don’t worry. Even though other months tend to have a higher amount of rainy days, there are usually days in between when it is favorable to go on the Northern Lights hunt.

northern lights activity levels in iceland by months

When is the best time of the day to see them?

It usually visible between 22:00 and midnight. In some occasions you can spot it earlier or later into the night.

How to track the Northern Lights activity?

There are various of websites that you could use. I’ve listed some the best ones right here below:

  • ¬† Aurora forecast¬†– not only provides information about the Northern Lights activity level but also includes the map that shows cloud coverage for each day.¬†To avoid confusion,¬†dark green color is the cloud coverage and the white parts are the clear sky. This website is widely used¬†by locals, including me.
  • Geophysical Institute¬†–¬†Offers a very straightforward map of the area all over the world where Northern Lights are visible. They also allow you to check the forecast for upcoming days.
  • Service-Aurora¬†– Shows current estimated Northern Lights activity and how it will behave within the next hour. Great tool if you’re planning to hunt them by yourself, but not sure what time to leave the city. If you are into geeky stuff, scroll down the page. There you will find more advanced graphs that show predictions of how solar activity will affect aurora borealis visibility.
  • Auroral-oval¬†¬†If you do not get a chance to see the Northern Lights during your stay in Iceland, on this website you can check the possibility of seeing them in other countries.

Check our video blog about the Northern Lights:

How does the Northern Lights tour work?

Most of the Northern Lights tours start at 21:00 o’clock (some at 20 and 22) and run for 3h, except combo and multi-day tours are longer.

Does it run daily?

Yes, but it relies on weather forecast. Chances that the tour will get cancelled are usually high.

How do I know if my tour will be running?

Usually, tour operators decide 3-4 hours ahead of the tour if the weather is favorable and send out confirmation letters to all hotels and in some cases to the customers (depends on how you booked the tour).

I personally wouldn’t count on email confirmations.

Rather check with¬†hotel’s¬†reception or any tourism information center to see if they haven’t received any update from your tour operator.

What if my Northern Lights tour gets canceled?

In case of cancellation, you can  reschedule it for another day or receive a full refund.

Please note if you book it through the third party like Expedia, Flight Center, Viator, Iceland Air and etc., reimbursement is provided by them and not the local tour operator.

However, if you book it through the tourist information center in Iceland or the tour desk located at your hotel. You will receive full refund from them.

Northern Lights tour options

Alright, now when you have a decent knowledge how the Northern Lights works, it is time to jump into choosing a tour that fits your needs:

  • Northern Lights & Stargazing¬†is a small group, jeep tour run by Happy World. Guides are¬†knowledgeable about how to take aurora borealis photos. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a professional camera. They will take photos of you and send it to your email the following day.
  • For an evening combo, Secret Lagoon and Northern Lights Hunt¬†is a good delight. After bathing in the Secret Lagoon, the tour continues to the restaurant where you will receive light buffet-style dinner. Then it will come the time for the Northern Lights hunt!
  • If you’re fit, love nature and can tolerate the cold, there is a very nice 4-day¬†Northern Light trekking tour run by¬†Arctic Adventures. ¬†In four days you will get a chance to hike through one of the most stunning landscapes that Iceland has to offer. Part of the trekking is a 2h walk around the glacier and a hike to the famous Eyjafjallaj√∂kull where the famous volcano erupted in 2010. Because of little to no light pollution, each night (as long as weather allows) you will have a chance to see the aurora.
  • If you’re a group of 4 or more, you can take a small group tour¬†that we actually run by ourselves. It includes hot chocolate and traditional Icelandic sweets.
  • If the weather forecast on the land seems does not seem to be promising, you could join the Northern Lights tour by boat.
  • All other big bus tours can be booked with companies such as – Reykjavik Excursions, Gray Line, Bus Travel Iceland, Sterna or Reykjavik Sightseeings.
  • I hope this post was useful for you!

    p.s. If you have any other questions, feel free to message us on our Facebook page.

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