Guide To The Northern Lights In Reykjavik

Learn about the best times to see The Northern Lights in Reykjavik, tours, tips and more

|October 12, 2020
Vita has hiked glaciers in Alaska, climbed fourteeners in Colorado and is all about sharing her stories and promoting responsible tourism. These days she is often wandering the streets of Vilnius with a film camera in her hand or reading.

Reykjavik and the Northern Lights are inseparable. In fact, at a latitude of 64.1466° N, Reykjavik is the northernmost capital city on Earth and the only one where you can actually see aurora borealis. Learn about the best times and locations to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, check the forecast and book a Reykjavik Northern Lights tour for an ultimate experience!


THE BEST TIME TO VISIT REYKJAVIK FOR THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

When speaking of the perfect geographical location for auroras, Reykjavik got lucky. Because it is so far up north, an 8-month period, late August to early April, offers a chance to see the Northern Lights.

That does not mean you are equally likely to see them no matter when you go. Your best shot at getting truly lucky is late September or March. Both of these months offer long enough nights for the skies to get pitch black. Plus, they have the highest likelihood of clear skies. Dark skies and no cloud coverage are the necessary combinations if you want your Northern Lights to hunt to go as planned.

TOP LOCATIONS TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN REYKJAVIK

Although light pollution in Reykjavik is reduced down to a minimum, the effect is undeniably stronger when you get to see the Northern Lights surrounded by complete darkness. Your best shot are parks and other places with no nearby lights. Alternatively, here are some locations around Reykjavik you can drive to in 30 minutes or less and settle down for a spectacular show in the sky. 

Grótta lighthouse - located only 5 minutes in a car from downtown Reykjavik, this location is a go-to for numerous tourists and locals alike. If you don’t mind sharing your Northern Lights show with a group of other enthusiasts, don’t hesitate to visit this small lighthouse. Any photographer shouldn’t miss out on this location. The lighthouse combined with auroras will result in mind-blowing pictures.

Lake Hvaleyrarvatn - a tiny lake 25 minutes away from Reykjavik. Park your car, follow the trail along the south shore, pick a spot of your liking, and enjoy the Northern Lights in peace and quiet. If you’re lucky, the auroras will position themselves so that you can also see their reflection in the crystal clear water. Now that’s a truly unforgettable sight.

Garður - this small fishing village takes about an hour to get to, and has two lighthouses that can elevate your Northern Lights experience and pictures to a whole new level.

Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park - quite a few people will spectate the Northern Lights with you. But if you don’t mind the crowd, the remains of the old parliament are a memorable place to experience the Northern Lights phenomenon.

No car? Don’t worry, keep reading to find out what Northern Lights tours you can join.

 

REYKJAVIK NORTHERN LIGHTS TOURS

Choose a guided Northern Lights tour and free yourself from any concerns related to planning or driving. You can choose a Northern Lights bus tour as a solo adventure or combine it with other activities into day or multi-day tours. All the tours leave from Reykjavik.

FORECASTS AND WEATHER CONDITIONS FOR THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

With the weather in Iceland changing every few minutes, the predictions aren’t always a sure deal. In general, the sightings of the Northern Lights happen when these conditions are met:

  • The sky is very dark - even a full moon or some light pollution from nearby buildings will dim the show.
  • The sky is very clear - clouds equal no auroras because they appear higher up. The skies tend to be clearer on nights when the temperature is below zero. You can check the cloud cover forecast on the official site of Iceland’s meteorological office. The tab you want to choose is low and mid-level clouds because these are the ones that obstruct the sightings of the Northern Lights. Find the location you chose for watching them on the map and then use the slider underneath to find out what cloud coverage will be there at any given time.
  • The level of solar activity is promising - on the scale 0-9, 2-3 is the most frequent but 4-9 is the most desirable. Check out auroraforecast.is to see whether the upcoming couple of days show something promising. What you want to look at is the Kp-index aka the 0-9 scale.

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN REYKJAVIK

Why Reykjavik out of all the places? Here are some irrefutable reasons:

  • No other capital is far enough north to be within the aurora zone. Being so close to the North Pole, Iceland has 8 whole months to enjoy the auroras and is the only capital city blessed with this phenomenon. Plus, ocean currents keep the average daily temperature above freezing even in the dead of winter, so you won’t be as cold as you may think watching them.
  • Light pollution is almost non-existent. Being such a clean and green city, Reykjavik keeps light pollution to a minimum. If you head up to Öskjuhlíð Hill, you’ll catch the Northern Lights show from the middle of the city.
  • It’s one of the cheaper destinations for Northern Lights hunts. Other locations, such as Northern Canada, Northern Scandinavia or Alaska, are quite far from international airports and traveling there will be costly. Reykjavik, on the other hand, is just a plane or two away!
  • There are numerous tours that will ease your Northern Lights experience planning. Hop on a bus that will take you outside Reykjavik and observe the spectacle from an exclusive location. The guides are experts at reading the forecasts and will take you to places in remote wilderness with the highest chances of a Northern Lights sighting.
  • Reykjavik and surrounding areas offer numerous other attractions. Combine your Northern Lights tour with other adventures, such as glacier hiking, exploring the South Coast or ice caving for an ultimate Icelandic holiday.

Related blog posts