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The Northern Lights are visible in Iceland for most parts of the year. But what is the best month to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

 

Let’s find out!

 

What are the Northern Lights?

Let’s start with the basics. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Solar flares emit charged particles that are bounced away by the Earth’s magnetic field. This magnetic field is weaker around  the North and South pole so the particles reach through and collide with atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere. These collisions create countless burst of lights that are the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. Fun fact! In the Southern hemisphere the lights are called Aurora Australis.

man standing outside under the Norhern Lights
It’s important to dress well when hunting for the Northern Lights

When are the Northern Lights visible in Iceland?

The Northern Lights are happening all year round but are only visible during winter. In Iceland they can be seen from September until April. These are the months with the most darkness. Sometimes the lights can be seen as early as mid August, as soon as the midnight sun is gone.

The best time to see them is often between midnight and 2 am. They can sometimes been seen from as early as 9 pm.

There are a number of web pages that offer Northern Lights forecasts, The Icelandic Met office has a good one.

screen shot from the icelandic met office of an aurora forecast for des 17th 2018
This how the forecast looks like. In the top right corner are the level of activity. The green color represents cloud cover.

 

What is the best month for Northern Lights viewing?

Here is where things get tricky. The level of activity for the Northern Lights can vary greatly from year to year. If you are keen on seeing the lights we would recommend staying in Iceland for at least 6-7 nights. That should maximise your changes. The weather place a big role. If there is cloud cover you will not see anything and in winter there are often storms or heavy winds that could disrupt your travel plans.  By using the aurora forecast you can “chase” the lights and drive towards the area that has the biggest potential at each time.

 

That being said, September and October have been great Aurora months in the last few years. December and January also have a good track record. But it is important to keep in mind that this is a natural phenomenon so there are no guarantees.  

 

Happy hunting!

 

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