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The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are one of nature's most breathtaking spectacles. This ethereal light show graces the polar night skies, casting a dreamy luminescence that has captivated the hearts and souls of countless observers.
Two people looking at nothern lights in the sky in Iceland.

Recognized as a bucket-list phenomenon, many people from around the globe travel to Iceland solely for the chance to witness this celestial dance. The allure of the auroras transcends borders and cultures, drawing enthusiasts, photographers, and dreamers, all eager to experience the mesmerizing beauty of these shimmering lights.

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Reykjavik Excursions bus and dancing northern lights on the background.
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Northern Lights Tour

See the majestic Northern Lights dancing across the sky. If the skies are shy, try again free of charge as many times as you need until you see them! Learn about the phenomenon by visiting the Aurora Centre - Northern Lights Exhibition in Reykjavík; admission is included in this tour!

From €51/person
Three people watching northern lights dancing in the sky in Iceland
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Northern Lights - Small Group Tour

Catch the stunning Northern Lights in the sky, and if they're shy, rebook for free until they show. Included admission to the Aurora Centre's Northern Lights Exhibition on the tour date. The small group size ensures an intimate experience and personalized attention from your expert guide.

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Northern lights dancing ovar a mountain landscape in Iceland
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The Golden Circle & Northern Lights - Combo Deal

Want to see the sites of the Golden Circle and hunt for the northern lights but have a limited amount of time? Consider this express Golden Circle/Northern Lights tour! Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Thingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After your return to Reykjavík, a guide will lead you on a search for the elusive northern lights!

From €109/person

Understanding the Phenomenon

Beneath this celestial dance lies a fascinating scientific phenomenon. Let's unravel the mysteries of the Northern Lights, exploring their origin, the role of the sun's activity, and the myriad colors and shapes they manifest in.

The Northern Lights are the result of charged particles colliding in Earth's atmosphere. These charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, originate from the sun and are drawn towards the Earth's poles by its magnetic field. When these charged particles interact with the gases in our atmosphere, they create the vivid lights we recognize as the auroras.


The Sun's Role

The sun, our life-giving star, is the primary catalyst for the Northern Lights. It continuously emits a stream of charged particles called the solar wind. When there are disturbances on the sun's surface, such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the solar wind intensifies, sending a greater number of charged particles toward Earth.

When these particles reach Earth's magnetic field, they spiral along the magnetic field lines towards the polar regions. It's here, in the ionosphere, that they collide with atmospheric gases, producing the light emissions we see as the Northern Lights.

Colours of the Aurora

The distinct colors of the auroras are determined by the type of gas and the altitude at which the collision occurs:

  • Green: The most common color, green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the Earth.
  • Red: At even higher altitudes, approaching 200 miles or more, oxygen can produce deep red hues.
  • Blue: Nitrogen molecules can produce blue or purplish-red auroras.
  • Purple and Pink: A mix of red and blue, these colors typically appear at the lower edges of the auroras or as a separate hue beneath the main green belt.

Shapes and Patterns

The Northern Lights don't just manifest as random splashes of color. Observers often report seeing various shapes and patterns:

  • Arcs: The most common form, these are semi-circular streaks of light.
  • Coronas: These are starburst shapes that seem to radiate from a central point in the sky.
  • Curtains or Draperies: Resembling a folded curtain, these are parallel rays and pleats that cover the sky.
  • Rays: These are the individual light streaks that make up many of the shapes listed above.

Optimal Conditions for Witnessing the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are notoriously elusive. Though they occur throughout the year, seeing them requires a combination of the right geographical location, atmospheric conditions, and solar activity. If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of this majestic light show, understanding the optimal conditions can significantly enhance your chances.

Location, Location, Location

The Aurora Borealis predominantly occurs in a ring around the polar regions, known as the auroral oval. The closer you are to the North Pole, the better your chances:

High-Latitude Regions: Places like Iceland, Norway, Canada, and Alaska are well-situated within or near the auroral oval.

Darkness is Essential

Auroras are best viewed under dark skies:

  • Time of Year: Winter months offer longer nights. In places like Iceland, the period from November to February is often touted as the best time because of the extensive darkness, however, dark nights occur between late August and early April, making it possible for us to perceive the Northern Lights.
  • Time of Night: Auroras can appear at any time after sunset, but the prime window is generally between 10 pm and 2 am.
  • Avoid the Full Moon: Although the Northern Lights can be visible even on nights with a full moon, bright moon can overshadow (or overshine) weaker auroras. For the best experience, aim for nights when the moon is below the horizon or during its crescent phases.

Clear Skies

Cloud cover is the nemesis of aurora seekers. Without clear skies, even the most brilliant displays remain hidden:

  • Weather Forecast: Always check local forecasts and seek out areas predicted to have minimal cloud cover.
  • Escape City Lights: Light pollution can significantly diminish the visibility of the Northern Lights. Head to remote areas away from city lights.

Heightened Solar Activity

Strong solar activity can lead to more vibrant and widespread auroral displays.

  • Solar Flares & CMEs: These solar events can amplify the intensity of the Northern Lights.
  • Solar Wind:A strong solar wind can push the auroral oval further south, allowing more regions to witness the lights.

Elevated Points

While not a strict requirement, being on higher ground can sometimes offer a more unobstructed view, especially in places where trees, buildings or other terrain features might obstruct the horizon.

Duration & Patience

Sometimes, the Northern Lights can be a fleeting event, only lasting a few minutes. Other times, they might dance for hours. Patience is crucial. It's not uncommon for avid watchers to spend several nights waiting for a glimpse.

In conclusion, while the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and can never be guaranteed, understanding and seeking out these optimal conditions can greatly enhance your chances of witnessing nature's grandest light show.

Guided Northern Lights Tours in Iceland

To increase the likelihood of witnessing this mesmerizing display, many opt for guided tours, led by experts who know the terrain and the phenomenon itself.

Local guides offer an advantage with their deep knowledge of ideal viewpoints away from city lights and expertise in reading the forecasts and navigating winter roads. Moreover, they enrich the experience by sharing the science and folklore associated with the auroras.

There's a variety of tours to choose from. Bus tours cater to larger groups, Superjeep tours provide an off-road adventure to remote spots, boat tours present a unique view from the sea, and combo tours mix aurora hunting with other Icelandic attractions.

A significant benefit of these professional tours is their adaptability to the day's cloud cover and Aurora forecasts. If conditions aren't right, many offer rebookings or refunds.

For a more tailored experience, travelers can opt for private tours or even multi-day excursions that dive deep into Iceland's landscapes, increasing the chance to witness the Northern Lights multiple times.

In essence, while Iceland offers myriad experiences, a guided Northern Lights tour, with its blend of expertise and comfort, can make the aurora viewing truly unforgettable.

The ethereal dance of the Northern Lights, shimmering across the Icelandic skies, is a testament to nature's wondrous artistry. As the colors weave their tale of solar interactions and atmospheric ballet, onlookers are reminded of the beauty that exists beyond our earthly realm.

Whether you venture out independently or rely on the expertise of local guides, beholding the Aurora Borealis in Iceland is an experience that lingers in the soul, a vivid memory of the universe's magnificent splendor. We sincerely hope that you, dear reader, will be fortunate enough to witness and cherish this celestial wonder firsthand.

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