Where can I see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Where can I see the Northern Lights?
5 min
December 2, 2023

Iceland lies in the aurora belt so Northern Lights Sightings can happen at a KP index of 2 and above. (KP measures intensity of the Northern Lights from 0-10).

International flights arrive at, Reykjavik Keflavik airport and for those short of time basing yourself in the city and doing day and Northern Lights Trips out from there will allow you to see a lot in a short time. Most Golden Circle Tours start from Reykjavik and will take you to see the erupting Strokkur Geyser, the mini-rift valley Thingvellir and the dramatic Gullfoss waterfall. Other key experiences are a visit to the geothermal Blue Lagoon on the way to, or from, the airport and all year round whale watching where the key species are humpbacks.

To give yourself the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights book a tour that takes you out of the city and away from the heavily polluting artificial light. There are many Northern Lights Tours ranging from a Northern Lights Hunt by boat, Coach, minibus and SuperJeep. They vary tremendously in cost and the number of people they take so you have a choice on how exclusive a tour you would like. The smaller the vehicle the more personal and adaptable the guide can be, and if in a SuperJeep the more ability you have to go off-road and see secret spots!

As the critical thing for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is clear skies away from artificial lights it is advisable to head to locations in rural areas and in areas with a higher incidence of clearer skies.

The Northern Lights are never guaranteed and it would be a disappointing holiday if you spent the day just waiting for the night to come in order to see the Aurora Borealis, which then don’t show as it is cloudy. We would always recommend you head to areas where there is plenty to see and do during the day so if the Northern Lights don’t make an appearance you have still had a wonderful holiday.

Our focus is on two areas that offer a great mix of daytime activities as well as good Northern Lights sightings.

A couple of hours drive from Reykjavik is the Hvolsvöllur and Hella regions in the South East. These vast areas vary from the highlands to the sea, with many volcanic geological wonders including the UNESCO Katla Geopark. The waterfalls Skógafoss, known for its size and Seljalandsfoss which you can walk behind are particular features.

A trip to Þórsmörk valley is like stepping into a set from Lord of the Rings when Bilbo Baggins goes to Mordur! It is possible to take a SuperJeep tour up the famous volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010. Glaciers offer snowmobiling, glacial hiking and secret Ice Caves and the black volcanic beaches with its basalt columns are stunning, so there is plenty to keep you occupied during the day.

At night in your quest to see the Northern Lights you can self-drive or book a Northern Lights tour. The benefit of a Northern Lights tour is that the local guides will know the best places to take you resulting in the best chance of seeing and aurora display. One Northern Lights tour has the thrill of taking you high up to the glacier on top of Eyjafjallajokull Volcano so you feel as if the Auroras are “just above your head”, whilst another takes you to the black volcanic beaches to watch the Aurora Borealis reflected in the sea. Local guides know where the “holes” in the sky are most likely resulting in a better chance of seeing the auroras.

At the other end of Iceland, we would recommend the area of Myvatn in North Iceland flying into Akureyri or Husavik. This is a wonderful and totally unspoilt destination for a Northern Lights Trip. It is still relatively unknown and gives the feeling of discovering a part of Iceland ahead of the crowds. The Volcanic wonders are again plentiful with pseudo craters, live & extinct volcanoes, dramatic waterfalls & canyons and the many wonderful lava flows of previous volcanic eruptions.

There are two distinct Northern Lights Seasons for the North- the shorter 6 week autumn season running from Sept to mid-October where you can self-drive and self-explore, and the winter season which runs to early April.

During the Northern Lights winter season in the North of Iceland we do not recommend you self-drive as the weather can mean extreme road conditions so take a Super Jeep Aurora adventure instead.

There are various informative and entertaining northern lights hunts out of Myvatn and again you have the choice of minibus or SuperJeep depending on your budget and level of required personal experience. There are so many options for the Aurora tours to stop at but Dettifoss waterfall and Dimmuborgir with its bizarre lava shapes make for fabulous photographs with the Northern Lights behind.

Of course, there are other areas in Iceland you can visit on an Icelandic Northern Lights Trip.

You can stay in the heart of Iceland in hostel like accommodation surrounded by the majestic Highlands, or in the west of Iceland in a spellbindingly beautiful area staying at Hotel Budir. The East of Iceland takes time to get to with rather standard hotels and it really needs more of your time than is suitable for a short Northern Lights break.

A growing trend is to combine north and south Iceland into one amazing Northern Lights Trip. This way you can experience Iceland’s many varied volcanic wonders with further opportunities of witnessing the northern lights.

A Geographers dream!!

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