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Exploring the Icelandic Northern Lights

Posted May 25, 2016

The Northern Lights are a natural wonder known the world around as a must-see phenomenon. The image of ethereal colors dancing across the night sky draws visitors to various northern locales, but Iceland is considered one of the best places to experience the Icelandic Northern Lights for yourself.

Not only does it offer an excellent chance of seeing the Lights, but there are also plenty of other incredible experiences available to occupy your time during the daylight hours.


As the sun spins, charged particles escape its magnetic field and go spinning off into space, sometimes entering the earth’s atmosphere at the northern and southern poles. When they collide with gaseous particles in the atmosphere above the North Pole, the result is the emission of colorful lights we call the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. The same phenomenon occurs above the South Pole and is known as Aurora Australis.

The Northern Lights have been reported to manifest themselves as patches, scattered clouds, streamers, arcs, and shooting rays of light, in addition to the rippling curtains of color often present in photographs. The specific colors seen at any given time depends on which gaseous molecules are involved in the collisions. The most familiar color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules about sixty miles above the earth.


While the Northern Lights are one of Iceland’s most beautiful and desirable attractions, there is no guarantee you will be able to see them on any given night. Typically, they will be active for two to three nights and then less so for four to five nights after. To maximize your chance of witnessing this extraordinary event, plan on spending at least five to seven days in Iceland.

To ensure you will have the advantage of fully dark nights, plan your visit from September to mid-April. Be sure to check the weather forecast frequently to find a clear evening. There is even a website that offers an Aurora forecast to help you determine which night you are most likely to view the phenomenon.

If you are staying in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, head out to the countryside and away from the bright lights of the city and cars. Then settle down and watch for the stunning display. Be sure to dress warmly, since the clearest nights also tend to be coldest - with temperatures frequently below freezing.

While witnessing the Northern Lights might be the dream of a lifetime for you, be sure to take in some of Iceland’s other attractions as well. From the glacier at Solheimajokull to the Leirhnjukur volcano, Iceland is a country of endless wonder and beauty.

When you set out on a luxury tour to experience the world firsthand, you should be filled with a sense of awe and adventure. The Northern Lights, seen on a clear, dark nights during Iceland’s winter, is certainly an awe-inspiring experience that will leave you thinking of this incredible destination for years to come.