What is the Best Time to See Northern Lights in Iceland?

Shining armor of the Valkyries. Dancing spirits from beyond. Colliding solar particles. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon gracing bucket lists across the world and Iceland Northern Lights tours are growing in popularity. But to see the Northern Lights takes good timing, an inky black sky and … luck. You might see them, you might not. Don’t pick your destinations based on the Northern Lights alone.

The good news is, Iceland has so many natural splendors, such as geysers, waterfalls and hot springs that even if you don’t see the spectacular show in the sky, you will have an amazing trip.

Find out the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland and some tips and tricks that will get you closer to your dream. 

Best Time to View the Northern Lights in Iceland

Like an over-indulged rock star, Iceland’s Northern Lights come out when they feel like it. That said, cruising Iceland the right time of year increases your odds. Clear, dark skies and high solar activity are the perfect combo for these finnicky dancers. The best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between late-August and the beginning of April, as the sky needs to be dark and Iceland is much too bright in spring and summer.

Best Time of Day

Now that you know the best time of year to see the Northern Lights, think of the best time of day. Aim for the coldest, darkest part of the night. Cloud coverage diminishes your chances, so try to avoid the coast and go inland. Sightings occur late in the night, between 6:00 pm and 4:00 am, with the best time after 10:00 pm.

There are phone apps and email newsletters with the KP-index that will tell you when the aurora forecast is high and to be on the lookout. If you’re in Reykjavik overnight, some hotels may offer a Northern Lights wake-up call. 

Solar Activity and Other Factors

Most people don’t think about what’s going on on the earth’s nearest star, but if you want to maximize your chances of seeing the aurora, pay attention to the fiery ball in the sky. Solar flares create energy and that means more Northern Lights activity.

Two factors are important to consider for those take-your-breath-away Iceland Northern Lights display. The equinox and solar cycles.

The equinox: In general, solar activity is highest during equinox months of September and March, as close to the equinox (around the 21st of the month) as possible. Activity is still high in other winter months, but if you’re planning a Northern Europe cruise, or Iceland Northern Lights tour, September is best.

Solar cycle: Sunspot activity is on an 11-year cycle and influences your chances of seeing the lights. The Northern Lights become more active around Solar Maximum, a regular period of more sun activity. According to the National Weather Service, peak sunspot activity is expected in 2025. Solar cycle 25 started in December, 2021 and solar activity is expected to increase with the sun at its most active in 2024 to 2026.

In short, the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland on a cruise is late August and September, any year between 2021 and 2026. Search Northern Europe cruises to find the one for you.