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Northern Lights auroras in Iceland

The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland [2024/2025]

Traveller sat at Park Guell, Barcelona

By Sarah Hemsley

Last updated: 5th July 2024

Remember back in May 2024 when the Northern Lights featured on almost everyone’s Instagram stories? Well, that was evidence that 2024 is the ‘year of the aurora’. The scientists weren’t making it up! 

It’s said that 2024 and 2025 are the best years in over a decade to spot the breathtaking auroras of the Northern Lights at their brightest and most active. So if experiencing this spectacular moment, where you’ll be saying “Look up. Look up!” as you spot them dancing across the sky, is top of your bucket list, then don’t miss one of our trips to Iceland.

You may have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them already but nothing beats an awe-inspiring show lighting up the skies above the land of fire and ice. So when’s the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland in 2024/2025? 👇

What Are the Northern Lights and What Causes Them?

The Northern Lights in Iceland

It all starts with our closest star. The sun constantly produces a solar wind, aka a geomagnetic storm or in simple terms, space weather! This wind streams into the solar system and interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, protecting us from space. Without it, space weather would’ve blown the atmosphere away! Some of the electrically charged particles from the sun get trapped in the magnetic field at each axis and react with the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere creating the swirling rivers of green and purple lights we know as the Northern Lights. These spectacular auroras move and dance unpredictably, so no appearance is ever the same! 

2024 and 2025 promise the best sightings of this phenomenon as the sun enters its ‘high season’, and unless you’re an astronaut or own a spaceship, seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is the closest most of us will get to experiencing space. 🔭🧑‍🚀

The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Iceland in 2024 & 2025

Northern Lights over travellers in Iceland

In Iceland, you’ll need dark clear skies to see the Northern Lights, so the best time naturally falls within an hour or so of midnight (11 pm to 1 am). As the winter months are known for dark, long nights, you’ll have the best chance of seeing them between late September and late March. Although chilly, Iceland makes a great winter destination - there’s something about an Icelandic feast that hits differently in winter. Just remember to pack warm layers!

Top tip: For the best chance to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, download the My Aurora Forecast app. It will tell you where they are strongest that night and give you a prediction of the best time to see them. 💫

Northern Lights in January

January is the peak time to see the Northern Lights! With dark, long days come more chances to see the astonishing auroras shimmer across the sky. There’s no better way to start the year. Get booked onto our 6-day Incredible Iceland tour for January 2025 before dates fill up. It really will be incredible!

Northern Lights in February

February’s nights tend to be the clearest of the winter months so if you’re travelling to Iceland this month then there’s a very good chance of spotting the auroras, even from the capital of Reykjavik.

Northern Lights in March

March is one of the best times to visit Iceland! It’s still very much a winter month so your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are likely. Plus, it’s still Iceland’s low season, meaning fewer tourists and cheaper flights. It’s a win-win.

Northern Lights in April

The first half of April is still a great time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland and you’re in luck because our 6-day Incredible Iceland tour starts on the 7th of April 2025! There’s a good chance you’ll get to tick them off your bucket list with a new group of mates by your side.

Northern Lights in May

In May, the weather begins to transition into summer and with longer daylight hours, there’s not a big enough window at night to spot them. More daylight hours means more time for exploring Iceland’s natural beauty from the incredible canyons to active volcanoes to the stunning glaciers.

Northern Lights in June

Have you heard of the midnight sun? It’s another natural phenomenon in Iceland where the sun doesn’t set! With unlimited daylight hours, it makes seeing the Northern Lights almost impossible. If you enjoy warmer temperatures and outdoor activities such as hiking, it’s the perfect time of year to visit Iceland.

Northern Lights in July

In the peak of summer, you can’t spot the Northern Lights but July is ideal for other activities like exploring parts of Vatnajökull that aren’t accessible during winter. Whale watching is also very popular this time of year.

Northern Lights in August

It’s rare to see the Northern Lights in August but they have been spotted before! Just don’t get your hopes up. As one of Iceland’s hottest months, there are plenty of unique bucket list activities to see instead such as discovering the black sands and unique rock formations of Reynisfjara beach.

Northern Lights in September

As winter approaches, the Northern Lights start to make an appearance. You’ll just need a dark cloudless sky to spot them. September is a great time to visit as you can still enjoy the milder weather too.

Northern Lights in October

As the days get shorter in October, the Northern Lights are easier to see. Plus, with more rainfall compared to summer months, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls are a sight to behold!

Northern Lights in November

November is the perfect time to book that trip to Iceland. As a favourable winter destination, you’ll enjoy exploring frozen glaciers by day and hunting for the Northern Lights by night. You can spot them easier on dark, clear nights so November is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights in December

As you know, December is the most wonderful time of the year, and what makes it even more magical is spotting the Northern Lights. The best chance to see them is on the shortest (and darkest) day of the year -  the 21st of December. 

How Long Will the Northern Lights Last?

Northern Lights in Iceland

Remember that geomagnetic storm I was talking about? Well, how long the Northern Lights last depends on the severity of the solar wind. Sometimes auroras can last just a few glorious minutes, other times they can go on for 15-30 minutes and if you’re lucky they can even last a couple of hours. As the sun reaches its high season, the chance of a long-lasting display is more likely in 2024/2025 - so don’t wait! ⏰ Incredible Iceland is calling you...

How to Photograph the Northern Lights

Of course, you’ll want to capture the moment on your phone or camera! We don’t blame you. Here’s how to take the perfect photo:

Top tip: Our biggest tip for a mindblowing photo is to find a spot far away from city lights! The darker the better so the auroras can glow at their brightest. To truly capture the beauty of Iceland, look out for a stunning landscape that you can use as an interesting foreground.

Photograph the Northern Lights With a DSLR

Set up your camera on a tripod and change to manual mode, with an ISO between 800-3200 (increase if you want more light), the widest aperture (e.g. f/2.8), and a shutter speed of 10-20 seconds. If the auroras are especially active you’ll need to shorten the shutter speed. Manually focus your lens on a star or the moon and shoot in RAW format for the best editable quality.

Photograph the Northern Lights With a Phone

Night mode is your best friend! If your phone doesn’t have this feature there are plenty of apps you can download which allow you to set up your camera manually. When using Night mode, keep your phone steady on a tripod or lean it against a rock or something to stabilise it. You can also use the timer in your camera settings to give you a few seconds to place down your phone.

Summary

No wonder this extraordinary experience is at the top of your bucket list! For your best chance to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, visit between late September to late March. Find a dark clear spot and search the skies from 11 pm to 1 am. Join one of our trips to Iceland to experience the beauty of Iceland and, fingers crossed, see the Northern Lights! 🤞

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