Iceland car rental Show menu

Northern Lights in Iceland - Aurora Borealis

You can see the northern lights in Iceland from late August to mid-April but you stand the best chance during the winter months. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the green lights dance around the sky and are one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.

There’s no doubt you will have seen images of these spectacular lights that dance around in the sky before and they can be seen from many places in the northern hemisphere. The lights are most commonly green in colour but can also sometimes be white, pink and purple. However, Iceland is a popular destination for watching the northern lights, as it needs to completely dark for you to have a chance of seeing them. During the winter there is very little daylight in Iceland and it is dark most of the time. This creates the perfect conditions for seeing the northern lights.

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

There really isn’t one best month to see northern lights in Iceland, as they are a natural event that depends on the right weather conditions. There is no guarantee that you will see the northern lights on your trip to Iceland but the best chance is by heading between late September and early March. Although you do have a chance of seeing the northern lights at others times during the year, the country is dark after 6 pm during these months so you have the best chance of seeing the lights. The lights can only be seen when it’s dark and you stand the best chance from 9:30 pm to around 1 am. The northern lights usually occur in spells as well so you should visit for at least 5 days to stand a good chance of seeing them.

What are the Northern Lights and why do they occur?

Northern lights are a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sun’s electrically charged particles collide with gas particles in the earth’s atmosphere. These aurora lights not only occur in the north but also in the south too. Many people don’t know this but there are both northern and southern lights, known as Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis respectively. It only occurs in these regions due to the magnetic poles in both regions. The northern lights actually occur throughout the day but sunlight makes it impossible to see the rays.

Where can I see the northern lights in Iceland?

You can actually see the northern lights all over Iceland including Reykjavik, but it is better to try and see the northern lights away from towns and populated areas. This is because when the northern lights are not particularly strong, light pollution can affect your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. Heading to a more isolated part of Iceland, without lights from cars and buildings, give you a better chance of seeing the northern lights even at their weakest. Some great locations you can head to see the lights include;

  • Grótta – located close to downtown Reykjavik, this isolated area is perfect for watching the northern lights. It’s great for wildlife in the day too like birds.
  • Öskjuhlið – this region is similar to a forest, located in Reykjavik and doesn’t have much light pollution. The building called Perlan, shaped like a dome, has a glass observation deck on the top floor which is perfect for viewing the northern lights.
  • Thingvellir National Park – known in Iceland as þingvellir, this national park is a great place for viewing the northern lights still relatively close to Reykjavik.