Northern Lights - Iceland in Autumn

People often ask what is the best time to see the northern lights and the simple answer to that is after dark.
August 20, 2019
Kári Gunnlaugsson

People often ask what is the best time to see the northern lights and the simple answer to that is after dark. They go on all year round but this far north about 3-4 months of the year the night is too bright to make them out should they appear. We have seen them on our tours as early in the season as the last week in august and as late as the last week in April. Of course the longer the night the better the chances but then again a proper display can not be ordered or guaranteed, so it´s partly down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. A clear sky and a dark night are the conditions needed, and then wait and hope for activity. No two nights are ever the same. The activity can last from a few seconds up to a couple of hours. The brightness, the colors,the shape and the movements are never quite the same. 


A big part of the adventure of going to meet the northern lights is that it is very often just gambling on odds. Checking the weather forecast first to make sure that there is some chance of a clear sky and then the activity forecast,knowing that they can easily both be wrong, but also that all you need is a rift in the clouds and magic might ensue. 


Be foregoing on a northern lights hunt it is important to check the northern lights forecast and find out about road conditions. For those that wish to photograph the northern lights it is good to be aware that so-called light pollution caused by electric lights, although you can of course see them well, even within the city limits, despite some light pollution. The idea on any hunt for the northern lights is simply to create the best possible conditions to experience the phenomenon. 


Visitor swill often come full of expectations and it is important to keep those realistic and perhaps do a little research into what it is that might or could actually happen. Coming to any place where there is a chance to see a natural phenomenon it is important to manage one´s expectations and remember that nature has a mind of its own and gives no promises. Often the weather comes in as the biggest factor, not just in terms of cloudy or clear skies, but also when temperature drops and the wind picks up, this can be a major factor for example in areas close to glaciers. 


Tour operators that offer guided tours to witness the aurora borealis in Iceland do tours for those months that the midnight sun does not outshine them. Northern Lights Tours are usually worked around the cloud forecast but everyone has their favorite stops such as, The Reykjanes Peninsula, Thingvellir National Park and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Keep in mind that the northern lights are caused by solar winds which are the result of solar activity on the surface of the sun controlled by the 11 year solar cycle and sunspot activity. During the winter months in the northern hemisphere auroral displays are fairly frequent although they can never be counted upon, being a natural phenomenon. Our best advice for those who are going for this particular bucket list item is to stay up, stay out and keep looking at the sky.


In the southern hemisphere they are referred to as the  southern lights or aurora australis.

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