Do you dream of seeing the aurora borealis? Whether you are making a special trip to Iceland to see the northern lights or you live here and you just want to make the most of it, here are some tips and resources for finding and photographing the aurora in Iceland with or without a guide.
The easiest way: with a guide
If you are only in Iceland for a short time or you don’t have your own transportation, a number of tour companies offer Northern Lights Hunt tour. No one can ever guarantee that you’ll see the wonderful natural phenomenon that is the aurora borealis on any particular night, but if it’s visible, their experienced guides will take you to the best spots to see it.
The adventurous way: do it yourself
If you’ve got more time, or you’re an independent person who would rather not be part of a group tour, or if you want to take a lot of pictures, read the guide below for some handy tips so you know when and where to go to make the most of your aurora hunting. We recommend going down to the black sand beach east of the campground in Eyrarbakki for 360º views free from light pollution. Plus, the sailing markers on the shore make for interesting elements in pictures. The restaurant Hafið Bláa just outside the village of Eyrarbakki and across the Óseyrar bridge, about 5 minutes’ drive from us, is another excellent option.
When to go:
Broadly speaking, the northern lights can be seen in Iceland in autumn, winter, and spring, from the end of September to the beginning of April. In summer months, the sky is simply not dark enough.
When planning your trip to Iceland, it’s important to remember that the length of the days (and nights) varies greatly from season to season. From June through August, even though the sun does set, it doesn’t get truly dark at all. At the beginning of September, astronomical twilight only lasts an hour. By the end of the month, there are 7 hours of complete darkness, and that number increases until the end of December, and decreases again from January through March. Check
So, you’ve planned your trip, and you’re here in Iceland. What time am I most likely to see the aurora borealis?
As a general rule, the optimal time of night for the Northern Lights is 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and the northern lights can be hard to predict. Most visitors head out to begin their watch around 10 p.m., after a leisurely dinner at the Red House.
What day should I go?
Check the aurora forecast. The aurora forecast, a special page on the Icelandic weather website, vedur.is, shows both the predicted strength of the northern lights on a given night in a week, as well as the predicted cloud cover around the whole country.
Other sources for aurora forecast include:
Alaska aurora forecast
Aurora Forecast iPhone app
How to photograph the northern lights:
They’re not always in the north—it would be great if they were, because then we’d always know exactly where to point the camera to set up the great picture we want. That said, when the aurora is low on the horizon, it will be in the north. If you’re lucky, though, the aurora will be right overhead and covering the whole sky, north, south, east, and west. On a night with a lot of activity, they will be literally everywhere, like a veil over the whole sky, or as bright stripes or swirls or spears moving across the sky.