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March 10, 2017

Aurora Borealis Iceland

The goddess of dawn dancing elegantly in all her beauty with the northern wind. As you get closer to the Arctic Circle you can witness the magical displays of the Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights. Iceland is one of the countries, where you can see this natural phenomenon with its hues of pink and green, interspersed occasionally with red, yellow, blue and violet.

Northern lights Iceland from Made By Iceland music by Biggi Hilmars

What are the Northern Lights?

The most common explanation to why the northern lights occur is that the the particles charged by the solar winds hit the magnetic field surrounding the Earth, colliding with gases such as nitrogen and oxygen. This creates the dancing magical light shows that so many people go on the hunt for.

When is best to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Theory aside, if you want to experience this incredible light-show, heading to Iceland is already a good decision and winter is the best time to do it. The nights are dark and long so if you plan to visit between September and March, you have the highest chance to witness the display.

Where is best to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

You can enjoy the Aurora from any place in the country, however it is always best to be as far as possible from all other lights and of course keep an eye on the forecast. Good place to start is Thingvellir, Nesjavellir or somewhere around that area. There are aurora forecast sites and apps that will let you watch closely when the best conditions are. It’s also important to have clear skies , so you don’t have the clouds get in your way to marvel at the show. But remember that any forecast is just a forecast and they don´t tell the whole story. There are many times I have been out when the forecast is great and no lights show up and vice versa :) 

Night Vision

If you are not used to nightly outdoors activities (and pub-crawls don’t count as such strictly speaking), then you might find it interesting to read a bit more about ‘night vision’ and how the human eye adjusts to it. To get the best experience out of watching the northern lights, it’s not only recommended to go away from light pollution, as far as possible from any populated areas, but it’s also good to let your eyes adjust to the dark for at least 30 to 50 minutes before. So, our advice, when the forecast is for good, head out on your Aurora hunt with plenty of time to spare. The sky will truly open up for you and the view will be incredible. Don´t turn on the flashlight and let your eyes adapt to the darkness... Don´t worry you will soon see like a cat it the night.

Do the Northern Lights make a sound ?

Yes, that’s right. The Aurora can offer not only a spectacular display to tease your visual senses, but on very very rare occasions you can actually hear it. It’s not just a myth, there is some research to back it up and I have personally been lucky enough to experience this incredible addition to the northern lights illuminations.

If in doubt, go with the locals

Many people who come to Iceland are not used to driving on icy or wet roads, in far from perfect conditions, especially in the dark. Add the confusion of finding the best spot away from human-generated lights. And also trying to fit all this into a sometimes very short visit to Iceland. So even if you are not one for joining organized tours, perhaps you should consider trusting the locals when it comes to the northern lights hunt. There are many trips to suit any budget and preference, and if you add the thrill of riding for example in a super jeep , the tour will be well worth it.  

Depending on where you are staying, if you are lucky you can just wander out of your hotel or cabin, hike for a while and witness the bewitching lights moving in the night skies on your trip to Iceland. Most accommodation providers will be happy to offer a wake-up call and will help you with information about the aurora forecast. So don’t wait, go for a hunt for the Aurora Borealis when you are in Iceland next.

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