Aurora Borealis (northern lights) in Iceland
The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights is a light phenomenon that occurs as a result of solar winds reaching earth’s outer atmosphere and burning different gases to give a range of different colours. The best place to see them would surely be from a very high viewpoint just outside earth’s atmosphere. Where the spacemen float around in the space station is perfect. Here on earth however, we need to travel to cold countries near the point where you would see the midnight sun in the summer and very short days in the winter. Iceland is one of those places. It is just touched by the Arctic circle on its very north isle of Grimsey, but most of Iceland is good for northern lights. There is no real advantage of North over South unless they are in low activity.
Iceland’s best locations
1000s of travellers asked me where the best places to see the aurora borealis are. I often tell them to get out of the city lights. There is not much more to it. Aurora storms tend to follow coast lines and because Iceland is a fairly small island, it is hard to go wrong. I state that the northern lights follow coastlines, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest they do, just that observations have tended to be near coastlines, but remember that humans inhabit the coast. It is possible that most sightings have occurred near the coast because that is where most people happen to be.
Where to go
You wont get shots like these anywhere near the city!!
In Iceland there is a ring road which more or less follows the coast around the entire country. The real challenge is to escape the glow from the city lights and to find clear weather. Clear weather? Yes, you will be in Iceland for the winter months (you can’t see them in the summer) and the weather can be really extreme.
The ideal weather is to have no clouds. A few clouds are ok. If it is raining, forget it! Wind is fine, but you have to be careful with your camera tripod because it is not fun when that blows over. The trouble with Arctic winds is that it feels 50 degrees colder. The other problem with severe weather is that it makes travel very difficult. Those clear skies can bring black ice conditions. Even a careful driver can get into a mess very quickly and especially an in-experienced driver with a large 4X4 who is not used to Winter Driving.
Aurora Forecast links
Iceland in the winter is a total adventure, an unforgettable experience, but it is not for people with a nervous disposition. It is important to check the weather conditions before you travel and ensure that you have enough provisions to survive if you get stuck.
Experience this yourself on one of our Photography Workshops
How to photograph the Northern Lights Tutorial
Multi-day photo tours
We include Northern lights photography on our Multi-day photo tours, if conditions are good. These longer photo tours use hotels near great photo locations to give your Aurora photographs that extra edge.
Northern Lights evening tours
We run Aurora photo tours from Reykjavik and we also sell Northern light adventures and bus tours to suit all budgets.
Aurora Mountain Northern lights surprise This was the first night of our October workshop last week. The forecast was for heavy rain in the evening and we had been treated to better-than-forecast weather on the South coast earlier that day. We had dinner...
Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Night of Ghosts Aurora reflections When you do this all the time it is common to experience a few reality checks. You get used to being at Jökulsárlón and you get used to seeing Northern lights. Let's face it, when you have...
Volcano Northern Lights Glacier Lagoon Volcanic eruption The orange glow in this Northern Lights photograph was from the Holuhraun Volcanic eruption in 2014. The eruption was Iceland's largest fissure eruption for over 200 years. The lava flow was...
Northern Lights Ice Beach Long photo trip This was a 3 day Jokulsarlon photo tour in February 2014. We had a great session in the ice caves in the morning and after a great day with the landscapes near Vestrahorn, we were treated to a fabulous display of...
Northern Lights photo tour Magic Carpet Jökulsárlón Northern Lights This magnificent display over the Glacier Lagoon at Jökulsárlón is one of 2 reasons why we created the Jökulsárlón Multi-day photo tours. The glacier lagoon is stunning in most...
Northern lights photo workshop March Northern Lights This colourful Northern Lights display was taken on a Winter photo workshop. This was a custom photo workshop with great locations in the South and West of Iceland. This nights was St Patrick's night and...