How Can You Experience the Northern Lights in Iceland?



A co-founder of Local Adventures and guide, Arnar has a degree in physical education and is certified glacier guide. Along with his education he has worked in tourism for 20 years.

Almost everyone I speak to has Northern Lights on their bucket list. You probably know those beautiful photos and videos from northern Scandinavia. I want to see that too! Unfortunately, if you’ve booked a winter trip up north, you can’t take the natural phenomenon for granted. Of course, clouds are disastrous. But sitting by the fireplace and occasionally looking through the window with a sideways glance is also not going to do it. There are apps and websites, but I have more tips at the bottom of the page!

Photo taken by our friend Elvar

What exactly is that, that Aurora Borealis?

A simple explanation of a complex thing. Solar wind, well that speaks for itself I think. When our sun erupts from plasma clouds, very small particles are sent into space in all directions. These particles have a magnetic charge. When they come near our planet they are attracted to the poles. The magnetic north and south poles. They release so much energy and collide with particles in the atmosphere near Earth. This can create all kinds of shapes and colors that we call the northern lights. Because those particles deflect towards the pole, you often get that ‘dancing’ effect.

My experience

I had already seen the Northern Lights several times, but it wasn’t much more than a white line that turned green due to the long shutter speed of the camera, until the end of August (!) 2015. The group I guided had only been in Iceland for two days and we camped at an almost deserted campsite in the Golden Circle in southwest Iceland. It drizzled in the afternoon but in the evening the skies cleared, and it was pretty cold. We decided to go to Geysir early the next morning so we called it a night early. One of the girls wanted to walk a bit to get warm before getting into her sleeping bag (tip!).

Fine, I said, as safe as Iceland is, but just tell me at my tent that you’re back.

She did.

I’m back and I’m seeing Northern Lights!

In no time everyone was outside their tent marveling. It just got better and better. Green, orange, yellow, everything on display. Also, all kinds of shapes and it just kept going. No one from that group will ever forget this, including myself!

Photos taken with the group at the end of August 2015


There are often signs that the Northern Lights are active. A line that looks like clouds on a clear night. It looks like a plane has flown, a line like that. If you focus on that you often see some movement. At least now you know for sure that it can happen.

There are also various apps to spot the northern lights. They also have an indexation, the so-called KP index. The higher the number, the greater the chance!

I use this app but this is also a good one, both for IOS.

Veður is the climatological service in Iceland. In addition to an excellent overview of the weather, including rain radar, you can also predict more easily where you might see the Northern Lights. The site is very extensive and also available in English. You can even watch earthquakes here!

Well, fingers crossed!

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