Your Guide to Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Green northern lights appear above snow-capped mountains under dark night sky.

Photo above shows the beauty of the northern lights as seen from Northern Europe.

Every year, adventurers from all over the world flock to Iceland to see the northern lights. According to this Forbes article, the northern lights are the top sought-after bucket list experience, surpassing the Great Barrier Reef and cruising Norway’s fjords 

Even though the northern lights are always present, they are not always visible. Sightings require dark, clear skies and that is why you can’t see them in summer.  

Iceland’s Northern Lights Season  

In Iceland, the northern lights season is between September and the beginning of April, as the sky is too bright during the rest of the year. If you’re trying to see the northern lights via cruise, a late-August to September Northern Europe cruise is your best bet, though there are never guarantees.  

Check out the 14-day Northern Isles or 25-day Northern Isles & Iberian Adventure itineraries that leave in mid-August.  

Even if you don’t see the northern lights, a cruise to Iceland delivers otherworldly terrain, Viking history and the ultimate spa day at the Blue Lagoon. Summer cruises experience the midnight sun, another phenomenon unique to the Arctic and Antarctic.  

The Northern Lights in Folklore 

Galileo coined the term aurora borealis in 1619, aurora meaning goddess of the dawn and borealis for Greek god of the North Wind. He figured that the dancing lights were caused by the sunlight reflecting off the atmosphere. Today, we know that charged solar particles reacting to the earth’s atmosphere cause the aurora, but they still maintain their mythical quality.  

During long winter nights in the frozen north, storytelling was a primary means of entertainment. In parts of Scandinavia, the northern lights signify good fishing to come as the fishermen believed they were light reflecting off schools of live herring. In Finland, they are fire foxes, running across the sky with flaming tails. In Iceland, they are thought to be spirits.  

 Northern Lights Viewing Tips 

  • Get familiar with your phone or camera’s settings before your trip.  
  • Sign up for alerts from the KP index, which will alert you if conditions are ideal. 
  • Ask for an aurora wake-up call when visiting Iceland during the Northern Lights season. 
  • Go aurora hunting in the middle of the night when it’s clear. 

Tell us your northern lights stories in the comments below! For more information, please read our article on the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. 

Article by Amanda Halm


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