A traveler not only lives places, but moments. That is why seeing northern lights in Iceland is an experience that can change your experience and that you will remember as unique.
It’s cold! The wind that hits your face is leaving your skin red and those fat gloves seem to be not enough. And still you stay there, surrounded by snow because you have a more important mission to warm your body.
And you realize what happens. A light appears and becomes more intense until you stop believing it is a cloud. The air moves it like silk curtains.
What you feel, what goes through your body and your mind is something intimate that every one of those who traveled to the north knows and could find this phenomenon. It is something that you will know if you meet an aurora.
Northern lights are a luminous phenomenon that occurs in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. The cause of auroras attracting thousands of travelers every year to Iceland is the solar wind, a flow of particles that cross space and are harmful to the life of living beings.
Iceland has very good conditions to see northern lights.
Life on Earth exists thanks to a magnetic shield that protects organisms from these radiations.
Thanks to the magnetosphere the Earth is as we know it, but this defensive system does not conform a perfect sphere, nor does it cover the surface of the planet equally.
In the central Latitudes of the Earth the shield is thicker and more powerful, they are called centurions of Van Allen. In contrast, in polar areas the magnetic shield is weaker, so that solar particles are able to get closer to Earth.
The impact of these particles against the upper layers of the atmosphere creates the spectacular Northern and Northern Lights.
In Iceland as in the rest of the northern hemisphere, the best time to see northern lights in Iceland is autumn and winter, from September to April. The causes are simple, simply the daylight hours are smaller and this makes auroras visible more easily and for a longer time.
Where to see the northern lights in Iceland?
The essential thing to enjoy the northern lights is that it is at night and that there are good weather conditions.
The northern lights are seen in winter, when the nights are longer, and the icy cold creates less clouds of water vapor.
The sky has to be clear, although if there are clouds they are not a big impediment to see them, and the light pollution must be minimal or nonexistent.
The best hours to see northern lights in Iceland are between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
In Iceland as it is known, the night is almost total and only Reykjavik and its peri-urban zone constitutes a true city. So if you move away from the capital you can enjoy this majestic natural spectacle with pleasure, one of the main reasons to visit Iceland.
Why you should not go on your own
My personal advice is that if you do not know where to go to see them, hire a guided tour that will take you. I am one of those who think that if you went there you will not save some coins for not spending and lose a unique experience. It can be saved but in some cases it does not.
Another advice I can give you is to be very careful if you are going to drive in the winter because the roads are only for experienced locals. Every year there are accidents of tourists who thought they could move around the island without problems and ended up surrounded by snow or off the road?
While you can find the tours that best suits you by price or dates, my advice is to take a look at the tour from Reykjavik that will take you to an area without light pollution, or the tour that includes the Golden Circle to see geyser, waterfalls and auroras.
If you are not convinced by those tours, look on the internet because you will surely find more than one.
Every winter there are dozens of tourist accidents driving in Iceland? It is not advisable to do so.
If you visit Iceland with time during the beginning of spring, autumn or winter, and you are touring the country, you will surely find yourself unwittingly with the wonderful spectacle of the famous Northern Lights.
If, on the other hand, you visit Iceland for a few days, or you want a trip organized by professionals, you can hire one of the excursions offered by the different tour companies that exist in Reykjavik. or in the north of the country.
Shapes and colors of the northern lights in Iceland
As in the rest of the world where they can be appreciated, the shapes are changing and capricious.
They generally form arcs, circles and nebulas, with rapid mutations and outbursts of intensity. Their colors change depending on the type of particle that collides with the magnetosphere and the height it is in the atmosphere. The rays of light appear and disappear and the colors change.
The tones range from yellow to violet red, through all shades of green. The latter being the most common color known in the Northern Lights when they are 95 kilometers high.
The oxygen in higher altitudes (about 320 kilometers) gives the red color.
In contrast, nitrogen at lower altitudes produces blue auroras, and if it collides with particles at higher latitudes, the auroras are violet or purple. They are pink when these tones are mixed in the sky.
Forecasts to see northern lights
Although an accurate prediction is impossible, just like meteorology, the Northern Lights have their own short-term forecasts.
The Kp index, a scale of numbers ranging from 0 to 9, measures geomagnetic activity and tells us when it is more likely to appear. The higher the solar energy index, the higher the probability of seeing an aurora.
Tips for observing northern lights in Iceland
It is important to keep warm, since winter nights on the island are long and temperatures are quite low, and if you want to see an aurora, you have to be patient, so being well protected against the cold and wind is essential.
You must look north, you can find it with traditional methods, with a map, a compass, with a mobile application or by eye, what you should always keep in mind, is that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
At first you can confuse an aurora borealis with a cloud.
At first the human eye captures a kind of grayish clouds, but once accustomed, you can distinguish halos of light and colors.
If you have a camera and you want to photograph the northern lights, a tripod is essential, since you have to shoot at long exposures, preferably using a remote control or programming the camera. ISO is necessary, but it should not be too high to avoid noise.
Northern lights seen from an airplane
Some of the best views of the northern lights are from planes, because at high altitude it is better, since they are produced in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Ideally, travel to Iceland or return at night.
As you can see this is a majestic natural spectacle that you cannot miss while traveling to this wonderful and magical land, it is something beautiful and unique, worth seeing and enjoying in all its splendor. I assure you that it will surprise you and make you feel unimaginable. So do not wait any longer and pack, Iceland and all its wonders wait for you.