Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see colorful lights dancing in the night sky. Learn how to find & photograph the amazing Northern Lights in Iceland.
Northern Lights In Iceland
Before I visited Iceland, I’d only witnessed the Northern Lights one other time. They dazzled the sky one night in Montana back when I was in college. The lights transfixed me for hours, watching the eerie green glow of the Aurora Borealis dance over a high mountain range.
Chasing and photographing the Northern Lights in Iceland was a top priority for me — as it is for many visitors to the country.
However many people don’t realize that this incredible phenomenon is elusive and unpredictable. Yes, even in a place like Iceland.
So to help you improve your chances for finding the northern lights in Iceland, I wanted to share a few tips and photography techniques from my recent adventure there.
How To Find The Northern Lights
So why are the northern lights so difficult to see? Well, it’s because there are many different factors involved. For a perfect northern lights experience, you need a combination of dark skies, clear weather, and strong aurora activity.
Find Dark Skies
For the same reason star-gazing is better when it’s dark out, viewing the northern lights is best in the dark too. Light pollution from cities & towns hinders the experience. Yes, you can sometimes see the lights from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. However you’ll have more luck in the countryside away from man-made light sources.
Find Clear Skies
If the sky is totally covered in clouds, you won’t be able to find the northern lights. So pay attention to the weather forecast, especially cloud cover (infrared satellite maps). While you can still see the lights if it’s partly cloudy, you’ll have the best chance when there are no clouds at all.
Check out cloud cover conditions around the world on MeteoStar.
Best Time To See Them
The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to April. The darkest months in Iceland are between November & February, but these months also have the worst weather. Remember you need a combination of darkness, clear skies, and strong activity.
Witnessing Iceland’s northern lights during the summer is pretty rare, due to almost 20 hours of sunlight per day.
The more time you spend in Iceland, the better your chances are too. If you’re only visiting on a 2 day stopover, you’ll need a LOT of luck to see them. I recommend spending at least 7 days if you want to find the lights.
Even then it can be difficult. As an example, my photographer friend Ken Kaminesky has visited Iceland 5 times now and has never seen them.
You also won’t see the lights if you’re bar hopping in Reykjavik. A primary reason why I was able to capture such great photos of the aurora borealis is because I stayed outside all night, for multiple nights, searching for them!