The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that can paint the night sky with unearthly, surreal color. To observers at far-northern latitudes, they’re a frequent occurrence, but many who live in more temperate climates have never seen them, even though they’re sometimes seen as far south as 35 degrees north latitude.
Planning to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
There is no guarantee to see the Northern Lights, even if you are in the best areas. However, a bit of planning will radically increase your chances. In Iceland, good periods are between from late August to mid April.
1. Darkness is required.
2. The time between 6pm and 4am is the most intense period of the day. The highest probability within this timespan is between 10 and 11pm.
3. Clear skies. The weather is probably the most important success factor (up to 80% of all clear nights).
4. The colder the temperature, the brighter the show.
The spectacle of Aurora Borealis requires dark and partly clear skies. Cloud cover forecast is given for the next few days, in maps where white means clear skies. Aurora Forecast from the Icelandic Met Office here.
The information on the page will update accordingly, see the small frames above and to the right.
Taking good pictures of the Northern Lights is very difficult, since they’re fast-moving, often faint and against a pitch-dark background, all of which befuddles consumer point-and-shoots. Here’s what you need for a sporting chance:
– A camera that supports manual exposure (5 to 40 seconds).
– A fast lens (aperture f/2.8 or better)
– Fast film (800 ASA or better), or equivalent ISO setting on a digital camera.
– A tripod to hold the long exposure
– Cable release or self-timer to trigger shots without stirring the camera
As you can imagine, one of the questions we get asked most in wintertime is how, when and where you can see the Northern Lights in Iceland. We really hope you will be able to try out the Northern Lights hunting adventure of your own (you don’t need to pay a “Northern Lights Tour“, do it yourself!).
Berglind Rós, Iceland24