Thursday, 2 December 2010

Best way to see northern lights

Northern lights are present above Iceland nine days out of ten. Sound too good to be true? Well, technically it is correct but there are several factors to consider.

1. Darkness – it must be dark. In summer it is 24 hour daylight in Iceland.

2. Cloud cover – it must be clear to be able to see the northern lights since they exist far above the clouds.

3. Solar activity – there must be solar activity for particles to be ejected towards the Earth.

4. Solar cycle – the activity of the Sun performs in 11 year cycles. In 2010 a new cycle has just begun.

5. Magnetic field – the right magnetic conditions must prevail around the poles.

6. City lights – can be a problem if the northern lights are faint. Best is to drive away from the city to a dark secluded spot, wait and watch.

7. Moon – can also be a problem, especially when it is full, because it can be quite bright and it may overpower the light from the northern lights.

8. Timing – as mentioned before, the northern lights are elusive. One day they may occur for a minute, or dance in the sky for hours.

I’ve been giving northern lights tours for decades and always enjoy the last one just as much as the first one.


  1. Hi, we're coming to Iceland in March 2011 and will be renting a car and would like to know a good spot to go in our rental to try to get a good view of the northern lights. Any suggestions? We're staying in Reykjavik. If you could email me your opinion I'd really appreciate it...

    Thx, Sue

  2. There's several places to go but it all depends on the cloud cover at the time. Sometimes you do not have to go too far away from the city but at other times it is necessary to drive for several hours.

  3. Thanks for the reply, late as it was! We did get to see the Northern lights and take pictures of them too! We happened upon a great time to see them, the locals were even raving about how great they were. You can check out our pictures of our trip in our smugmug album - check out this link

  4. Hello Sue, sorry how very slowly I've responded. I only visit my own blogpage every so often. Obviously, not often enough.

    I checked out your pictures and can see you visited Reykjavik, South coast of Iceland including the village of Vik, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Geysir geothermal area and probably Gullfoss waterfall too.

    In Reykjavik I see you visited Hallgrimskirkja Memorial Church, Grotta lighthouse and more.

    These photos are my favorite in your collection:!i=1218600776&k=SyiRT!i=1218601759&k=ee3Pn

    Happy travels!