Catching Northern Lights

One of the most magical places to take in a Northern Light show is in Iceland, a Nordic island nation which is often defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields.

Have you ever, as a kid, dreamt of sleeping under the dancing stars? Well, as an adult it is still on my bucket list of things to do, but only the dancing stars are the famous Northern Lights. If you are not familiar with the term ‘The Northern Lights,’ here is a short explanation.

The Northern Lights are the result of electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing displays of bright, colourful dancing lights, ranging from white, green, pink to purple. They are visible in the magnetic polar regions of the northern and southern hemispheres. In the northern hemisphere, the lights are best seen from Iceland, Greenland, northern Norway, Siberia, the Canadian territories and Alaska. And at this moment, it seems that the Northern Lights are one of the biggest attractions for visiting Iceland. However, they are also one of the most elusive and unpredictable attractions the country has.

There are lots of variables to consider if you want to see them; season, weather, the length of stay, location, and luck. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April, these are the months where there are full dark nights. The second most important factor is the length of time you choose to stay in the country. For the best odds of seeing the dancing lights, it is recommended to stay a minimum of seven nights. The Northern Lights usually tend to be very active for two to three nights, then low for four to five nights, in ongoing cycles. Checking the weather forecast regularly in the days leading to your trip to Iceland will give you an idea of your chances of seeing the lights – as to see it, the skies need to be very clear. That is also the reason why it is good to avoid the city. Once in a while, the Northern Lights takes Reykjavik the capital city of Iceland by surprise, and they are so strong that the city lights don’t matter, but most of the time, it’s best to get away from all the street lights and car brights. There are many great small towns to visit around Iceland with beautiful country hotels and guesthouses, just steps from pure un-modernized nature where there is no light pollution.

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Text by Dennis Latief | Photos by Promote Iceland