Iceland – The Northern Lights

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Iceland – The Northern Lights

Travelling to Iceland to see the Northern lights is on the top of many people’s bucket lists. The high latitude and long dark nights make Iceland one of the premier destinations in the world for viewing the aurora borealis.

There are plenty of options for travellers as in recent years Iceland has become a well developed tourist destination. At Our Local Tour we can tailor-make a trip to Iceland using our specialist local partner.

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights also known as aurora borealis is nature’s most incredible light show. This incredible phenomenon, dancing in ribbon-like waves of purple, green, and gold, must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

The show begins when electrically charged particles travelling from the sun reach Earth and then collide with oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere. The varieties of colours that can be seen depend on the type of gas particles that are colliding.

The most common colour to be seen in the Northern Lights is green. This colour effect occurs when the suns particles collide with oxygen molecules at an altitude of about 60 miles.

Much rarer is when the suns particles collide with oxygen at high altitude, usually 200 miles above the earth, and produce a red aurora. A blue or purple colour is made when nitrogen collides with the suns particles.

Why Iceland?

You may not believe it, but Iceland is a year round destination. With so many attractions and each at it best at varies times of year, it is not surprising that the country has become one of the world’s tourist hotspots.

A safe and welcoming country, many travellers are able to hire a car and explore for themselves. If you do not want to drive, you will find regular bus services as well as options for cycling and walking.

There are also plenty of good local tour operators that can arrange trips and expeditions from the capital, Reykjavik.

Good, clean and comfortable accommodation is available in most areas of Iceland and travellers will find that most of the population will speak good English.

Of course, what we are really asking is why travel to Iceland to see the Northern lights? There are many other countries that offer great views, including Norway and Finland, but Iceland can offer so much more.

The dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields instantly makes it feel like you are on the set of a Hollywood film. You can explore Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks (even if you cannot pronounce them!) which are home to massive glaciers.

As well as the incredible scenery and geographic features, Iceland is a wonderful wildlife destination.

Whale watching is a must for any keen wildlife enthusiast visiting Iceland. Over twenty species call the Icelandic coastal waters home, ranging from the small harbor porpoises to the earth’s largest animals, blue whales. Wild mammals that can be found in Iceland include the Arctic Fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer.

Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland.

When is best to visit Iceland for the Northern lights?

Winter in Iceland is the best time, when the nights are long and dark. The best time to view the Northern Lights would require travelling to Iceland between September through to March. You could get between 10 to 20 hours of darkness depending on the exact month that you visit, considerably increasing your chances of a great light show.

In addition to the time of year, there are actually better years than others for viewing the northern lights. The sun runs through approximately 11-year cycles and at the height of these cycles, known as the solar maximum, the aurora borealis becomes bolder and brighter.  Then, a few years later, the sun relaxes into what is known as the solar minimum.

The Northern Lights still sparkle during this period, but not quite as much. Solar minimums can actually make the Northern Lights much easier to predict, so you’ll be able to find them with greater success.

There are some great websites available to help you predict when the aurora borealis will be on show. One of the best of these focussing on Iceland is

Whenever you decide to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, contact Our Local Tour. Our partners knowledge and understanding of the local conditions will ensure that you get the best possible chance to see the aurora borealis on your trip.