When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights have long been near the top of the must-see wonders of the world.  When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland?

When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in IcelandAny country near the North Pole will potentially provide you with great views of the Northern Lights.

Iceland has so many adventures to experience, so you can be busy during the day and spend the darkness (and there is a lot of it!) searching for the Northern Lights.

Here’s some handy tips for the best chance to see the Northern Lights.

When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Pre-Planning Your Visit

They are visible from September through to May with December and January being the darkest months, which potentially gives you the best chance to spot them.

When we mention the darkest months, they really are very dark!  December has the Winter Solstice on the 21st and on that day, in Reykjavík, that means sunrise is around 11:30 and sunset is around 15:30!

This extended night sounds tough, BUT it means that it could be the best time to see the Northern Lights from November through to March. (see below for why it might not be the best time!)

If you are looking for cheaper alternatives, then you will find flights and hotels are less costly in September/October and April/May.  The Northern Lights may still be visible and potentially the weather will be better to help you in your search.

Pro Tip:  You may want to contact a local tour company in Iceland.  If you do so, make sure to read about this company.

How to Best View the Northern Lights

First, make sure to know the monthly weather in Iceland.  This is a huge part of the equation and will allow you to plan what to pack better.

Planning Your Visit Once You’ve Arrived

The Northern Lights are one of the most common reasons for visiting Iceland, AND they are also one of the most elusive and unpredictable attractions that Iceland has.

Even with careful pre-planning you will need to be in the right place at the right time, with the best weather and a lot of luck.

One of the major reasons that people go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights is that if they are unlucky and don’t get to see them, at least their vacation will have been packed with lots of other adventures to talk about.

What are Your Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights?

Factors To Consider

  • Darkness is the most important factor for seeing the Northern Lights, so November through to February/March should be ideal and are often recommended
  • BUT what is not mentioned is that these months are also likely to have the worst weather, with lots of rain and snow – and you also need clear skies to see the lights.
  • Think about your length of stay in Iceland, for the best chance of seeing the lights.  The Northern Lights tend to be cyclical in nature, with two or three nights when they are very active and then four or five nights when they are less so.
  • If the lights are on your bucket list, stay as long as you can so that you have the best chance of all the factors being in alignment
  • Location is important too, move away from any cities and the light pollution they cause.
  • Is a guided tour or a self-drive tour better?  There are pros and cons, the guided tours are run by experts and they also know how to navigate the hazardous roads.  Having said that, there is nothing like chasing the lights without having to stay with a guided tour!  This factor depends on what sort of person you are.
  • You can also think about chasing the lights by boat.  This is a great option if you really want to stay in Reykjavik, the whale watching boats also offer Northern Lights trips and will take you out to sea, away from light pollution and into the great unknown.
  • In an ideal world, you could do both – go on a guided tour to begin with and then head out on your own and do a self-drive too.
  • One last thing to remember – it is Winter – so dress appropriately as it will be cold! The best Northern Lights sightings are when the skies are clear and that is likely to also be when the temperature is at it’s coldest!

It’s quite impossible to make predictions, but hopefully this information helped you.



3.5/5 - (2 votes)


Originally from the UK, Liz has a passion for traveling. Liz writes for several blogs and is working towards being able to take her trusty Mac and work from anywhere. She loves exploring different cultures & countries, including some of Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the US & some of Europe. Her next big adventure will be 2023, when the Rugby World Cup is beckoning in South Africa. Highlights so far are diving with sharks in the Bahamas & bungee jumping in New Zealand.

Leave a Comment