Looking for a fun winter activity? | Check out these tours!

Best Time and Places to See the Northern Lights in Iceland - 2023 Update

What is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

|December 15, 2022
Gabija is passionate about traveling and writing. In her free time, she likes to read, try out different cuisines, or embark on outdoor adventures.

Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is one of the most memorable experiences. Check out the best time and places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland!


What is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The best time of the year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between September and April. It is when the skies are dark enough for them to be visible. The daylight lasts for only about 4-5 hours during midwinter which provides a lot of opportunities for Northern Lights views.

The best time of the day to see the Northern Lights is around midnight – that’s when the sky is the darkest. That’s why most Northern Lights tours leave at either 20:30 (8:30 p.m.) or 21:30 (9:30 p.m.), depending on the season.

To get the best chances at seeing the Northern Lights, check out the aurora forecast. The main factors for them to appear are high solar activity and clear skies, and it shows that specifically.

Man Watching Green Northern Lights in Iceland

Is it possible to see Northern Lights year-round?

Even though technically Northern Lights are present for a bigger part of the year, there’s simply not enough darkness for them to be seen during the summer months, from May to late August. So, to answer this question, it is very unlikely that you’ll see the Northern Lights during the summer. To get the best chance at seeing them, pick a winter month from September to April.

What are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Iceland has plenty of amazing places to watch the Northern Lights from. Here are a few of them:

Westfjords and North Iceland

Westfjords and North of Iceland have longer hours of darkness which means more chances to see the Northern Lights. It is also farther from Reykjavik and the city lights, and its remoteness also offers great conditions to spot the beautiful auroras.

Kirkjufell Snaefellsness Penisula at Night with Northern Lights in Iceland

Kirkjufell mountain is a scenic location to watch Northern Lights in Iceland

The only place we’d advise avoiding is Akureyri, which is the second-largest city in Iceland. The light pollution might make it difficult to see the Northern Lights in the city.

To get the best chances at seeing the Northern Lights, check out these North West Iceland tours:

Vik and South Iceland

Vík is a charming fishing village located on the south shore of Iceland. It has numerous famous attractions, including Reynisfjara black sand beach with basalt columns of Reynisdrangar. The dramatic, sometimes unpredictable, waves of this beach are the main attraction.

Northern Lights over Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland

Northern Lights over Skogafoss waterfall in South of Iceland

Not far from Vik, further along, the Ring Road is yet another attraction. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon attracts tourists from all around the world. Watching the Northern Lights dancing over the iceberg-filled lagoon is an unforgettable experience!

Check out these popular South Coast tours:

Best Places Close to Reykjavik

There are a lot of places to catch beautiful auroras not far from Reykjavik. One of these places is Thingvellir National Park, located on the Golden Circle route. Admire the beautiful lights while standing in the national park filled with history and incredible rock formations.

Northern Lights by Sea Shore in Iceland

Hvalfjörður, a scenic fjord located in the west of Iceland, is another popular place to go when searching for the Northern Lights. The fjord is surrounded by beautiful landscapes with majestic mountains and is a perfect place to admire the Northern Lights.

Catch the Northern Lights with these day tours from Reykjavik:

Want to watch Northern Lights straight out of your window? Check out the best hotels in Iceland for Northern Lights!

Seeing the Northern Lights each month

January

January is a perfect time for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. One of the reasons is fewer daylight hours, which allows a bigger window in a day to see them. The daylight on the 1st of January is around 4.5 hours and by the end of the month is around 7 hours.

Northern Lights in Iceland during Winter Time

You can usually see the aurora borealis even from Reykjavik, but the best chance to see them is outside the city and away from light pollution. One of the best places to watch the Northern Lights show is Thingvellir National Park, located just a short drive away from Reykjavik. Here you will be able to witness this amazing natural phenomenon surrounded by the historic site and the picturesque cliffs.

February

As a winter month, February is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights. Early sunset assures that you’ll get plenty of time to hunt for magnificent aurora borealis! At the beginning of February, we’re getting around 7 hours of daylight while by the end of the month it’s already hours. 

The Northern Lights tend to be especially visible in February, compared to other winter months. On very clear nights, it is possible to see them even in the capital, but the best chances are in the countryside. Head out of the city into a more remote location to see them. Don’t have a car? No worries! Just book a Northern Lights tour, and we’ll take you to the best spot to see the show.

March

In March, it is still possible to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Though it is the last full month when they are visible. When the sky is clear and dark, and there’s a sufficient amount of solar activity – that’s when the chances of seeing them are at the highest.

Man Watching Northern Lights in Iceland by Lake

The best way of seeing the aurora borealis is by booking a Northern Lights tour. A professional Northern Lights guide will know the right spots to catch them. If you want an even more unique experience, consider picking up the Northern Lights Boat tour.

April

There’s a chance to see the Northern Lights in April if it's early this month. During this month, the daylight hours extend to 13.5 hours at the beginning of the month and more than 16.5 hours by the end of April. A shorter period of darkness leaves fewer Northern Lights hunting opportunities. 

The best way to see the Northern Lights is to head into the countryside, away from the light pollution. Join the Northern Lights with a Super Jeep tour to have the most private and comfortable experience.

May

Unfortunately, May is not the best time to see the Northern Lights. Since aurora borealis is a natural phenomenon, dependent on solar activity and clear skies, there’s simply not enough darkness to see the Northern Lights in May.

Even though the Northern Lights might be out of reach, there are still plenty of things to do in Iceland during May. It is a time when nature comes alive and you can make the most out of it by hiking, whale-watching, or booking one of the puffin tours.

Whale watching tour is a perfect summer activity in Iceland

June

There’s not enough darkness for the Northern Lights to appear in June since this month is known for a phenomenon called the midnight sun. During the summer solstice, around June 21st, the sun technically doesn’t set at all!

Unlimited hours of daylight give plenty of opportunities for exploration (until you get tired, of course)! Enjoy the milder temperatures by going hiking and camping in Iceland during this time. Our trekking tours, such as this one, are also a popular choice during this time of the year.

July

There are no Northern Lights tours operating in July since the bright midnight sun makes it pretty much impossible for them to appear during this month. But you must not be discouraged to visit Iceland during the summer since there are many other natural attractions to explore.

During July in Iceland, our hiking and trekking tours are a hit. Also, we would add horseback riding, whale watching and snorkeling in Silfra to the list!

Small Group Snorkeling in Blue Waters

Guided snorkeling tour with the dry-suits at Silfra Fissure, Iceland

August

Even though August is still considered to be a summer month, there have been some Northern Lights sightings during this month. However, we advise you not to get your hopes too high since August still has plenty of daylight, and as you already know, one of the main conditions for the Northern Lights to be visible is darkness. 

Since August is still one of the warmest months in Iceland, use this opportunity to explore things and places that are unavailable during winter. Such as little villages, which can be inaccessible during winter due to snow and ice, or some of the many festivals taking place in August.

September

September is when the Northern Lights are back on! How to see them? First, you could book accommodation in the Icelandic countryside instead of the big city. Then, you can admire the magnificent lights right outside your room window! 

Staying in Reykjavik? Well, sometimes the Northern Lights appear in the sky over the city, but to have the best chances, book a Northern Lights tour going from Reykjavik every evening!

 

Northern Lights dancing in the Winter Sky | South West, Iceland.

October

October, with around 15 hours of darkness, is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights in Iceland! You can also benefit from the milder weather compared to other winter months. Three conditions are important in order for wonderful auroras to appear – darkness, clear skies, and high solar activity.

You can check the weather forecast and aurora forecast regularly to see where and when the best chances to see them are. Or you can leave it to us and hop on a Northern Lights tour that takes you to the best places to see auroras!

November

With fewer hours of daylight, November is an excellent time to see Northern Lights in action. As the days get shorter and nights longer, you’ll get more and more opportunities to see the magnificent vivid green lights dancing in the night sky. 

The best way to see them is by traveling out of the city and with light pollution. But if you decide to stay in Reykjavik, the Northern Lights can be strong enough in November to be visible even in the city. One of the most popular places to look for them is the capital Grotta Lighthouse or Öskjuhlíð hill, where the Perlan museum stands.

Bright Northern Lights over the Reykjavik city by the Harpa Concert Hall

December

December itself is the most magical time of the year, and seeing the Northern Lights definitely adds to the experience. December is also the darkest month in Iceland, allowing a bigger window for a Northern Lights hunt.

Our Northern Lights tours provide some of the highest chances of seeing the magical aurora borealis. To have the most memorable experience, check out our Magical Auroras Minibus tour or Northern Lights Super Jeep tour.

Planning a trip to Iceland this winter? We’ve prepared these detailed itineraries that include Northern Lights watching:

Conclusion

Northern Lights are visible for a longer part of the year, so coming to Iceland between September and April gives you a pretty high chance of seeing them. If you’re looking for the best place to watch them, the rule of thumb is to pick a remote location that is as far from light pollution as possible. If you’re still hesitating about the best time and place, you can always check the aurora forecast or trust experienced guides and book one of the popular Northern Lights tours.

Best Seller

Recommended Tours

Related Blog Posts


Hi! Can I help you?