There are very few natural phenomena which have the dynamism to keep you spellbound for the rest of your life. Once observed, Aurora Borealis imprints your memory with its multifarious colours which are hard to erase. 

A Guide to the Northern Lights in Iceland – Where to Stay, What to Expect

If you're looking for a once in a lifetime experience that simply takes your breath away, Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, is it. Here's what to expect and how to make the most of your Northern Lights experience in Iceland...

If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience that simply takes your breath away, Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, is it. Here’s what to expect and how to make the most of your Northern Lights experience in Iceland

What is Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)?

Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights is the greatest light show on earth, caused when electrically charged particles emitted from the Sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as Nitrogen and Oxygen. When different particles collide with different gases high above the Earth, there’s a spectacular show of an array of colours in the sky.

Particles colliding with oxygen atoms create a yellow or green colour through interaction with higher altitude oxygen can cause an all red show in the sky too. Similarly, particles interacting with atoms from Nitrogen are responsible for the more vivid blue and purple lights. Only countries in the tips of the Northern and the Southern hemispheres (such as Iceland) as are blessed with these lights dancing around in the sky.

What to Expect of the Northern Lights in Iceland?

If you ever happen to watch the Northern Lights, it will instantly transfer you into the land of fairy tales. One moment your eyes are relinquishing the lucid green blanket covering the sky which then abruptly gives way to an eloquent purple.

This theatrical show of colours, as if having a mind of its own, then suddenly decides to disappear only to reappear at a different horizon in a more dramatic shape. It might appear in all its glory one night and might not show up at all the next. One attribute that she expects from the travelers is patience

View of the Aurora from Iceland

Aurora Borealis definitely varies in colour and intensity at any given time. Different people with perspectives of their own decipher the shapes in their own way…

Some say it looks like flickering curtains or a dancing Sea-horse or a crescent moon twisting and curling across the sky. The longitudinal extent of this arc of light can be as long as several thousand kilometres, but the width is usually narrow. 

How to Make the Most of the Northern Lights in Iceland

So, now that you’ve traveled as far as Iceland and ready to catch a glimpse of Aurora Borealis (which is marked in bold and in capitals in your bucket list), there are a few pointers you need to remember to make sure you have the best experience of viewing these lights.

The first and the foremost rule is to avoid light from any source around you. That means you have to get away from whichever city you are in. The darker the area around you the better the chances of you viewing them in all the prominent colours. If you’re in Reykjavik, Grotto lighthouse is your best bet for catching a glimpse. 

The second important factor is the cloud cover. So there could be a spectacular dance show going on in the sky but if there is a thick blanket of cloud over you, forget about it. So always make sure that before you plan your trip, you keep a keen eye on the weather forecast over the region you’re planning to stay.

Related Reading: 6 Winter Places Around The World To Try Ice Swimming

Planning the time of the year when you’re going to visit is of equal importance, if not more, to improve your chances of a sighting. The best months for viewing the Northern Lights are August to April with the most intense colours visible in October and April.

These are some useful links which will help in planning your quest for the Northern Lights in Iceland:

Where to Stay to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

Whether you want to experience a unique stay in an igloo, or sleep up high in the tree-tops at a treehouse hotel, there are no shortage of accommodation options throughout Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights.

Here is a list of the best Northern Lights hotels to stay in if you want to enjoy spectacular views of the sky.

Northern lights hotel Kakslauttanen
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort – Igloos and Chalets (photo: HotelsCombined)

The Mythical Lights

In the pre-scientific era, the Northern Lights were a profoundly unsettling experience. Imagine the mystery created by a massive blanket of bright lights up in the sky dancing away to glory or fiercely depending upon how you look at it, made the people in the region uncomfortable.  They came up with myriad stories about the Northern lights.

Among the inhabitants, the stories that came up were from their own religious beliefs. Some claim that the lights shine from the armour of war-like virgins riding horses in the sky, while the others say it is a fire bridge across the sky built by the Gods. Native Americans call in the Dance of the Spirits. Some consider it as omens from God.

Some Fun-Facts about the Northern Lights

  1. The closest the Northern Lights ever came to earth was 80 km above the surface.
  2. Contrary to common notion, the Northern Lights can be seen even on a full moon night.
  3. It doesn’t have to be cold to view the Northern Lights; it just needs to be dark.
  4. The Northern lights are here to stay; they are not going to disappear as claimed by many a click-bait websites.
  5. So when in Iceland, bundle up, get out of town, stay up late and be patient to tick-off the most significant box on one’s bucket list. 

Happy Northern Lights sighting!

Related Reading: Top 10 Best (And Safest) Travel Destinations For Solo Travelers In 2019

Author Bio

Saumya Tiwari works at The Villa Escape – Iceland Packages From India as editor. She is a 20-something fun-loving and ambitious female who loves traveling and loves to share her traveling experiences. She loves solo travel trips. If not traveling you can find her behind her laptop playing games.

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Hannah is an Australian nomad and the Founding Editor of StoryV Travel & Lifestyle. After finishing her studies in Business Administration Hannah took off to Thailand with her father for a life-changing volunteer experience that shaped the way her future panned out. The day she returned home she took up 3 jobs and booked her next ticket out. 3 months later she had quit the rat race completely and was off to Thailand once more - this time, on her own. Little did she know, that solo adventure would lead her to meet the love of her life and go on to explore the rest of the world as a digital nomad. With a thirst for experiencing unfamiliar cultures in exotic destinations around the world, Hannah most enjoys chasing sunsets, lazing on tropical beaches and getting lost among a myriad of crooked buildings and small alleyways. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook!