The Secret to Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik

Northern Lights in Reykjavik

The Northern Lights are a phenomenal sight that need to be seen to be believed. I mean, how often can you say that you’ve seen the sky transform into shades of emerald green? There’s a reason the Northern Lights in Iceland make so many people’s bucket list. It’s magical.

Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik is totally doable – you just need the right information – cue this guide.

Sure you can see them from lots of places in the world, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to do so and can actually team your visit with lots of other exciting activities in Reykjavik, let alone the rest of Iceland.

The Secret to Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik Iceland
The Secret to Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik

Can You See the Northern Lights in Reykjavik (And If So, How?!)?

You’re going to need to escape the city lights of Reykjavik, which is actually really rather easy. You don’t need loads of time or money – just a bit of patience. And luck, because let’s face it, it’s nature’s show.

I’d recommend a tour as the easiest way to get a glimpse. They’re experts and they know the best places to go – you don’t have to worry about getting lost. They also have access to the best resources to predict when and where they might appear.

Recommended Reading: Visit Iceland! The Ultimate Guide to Reykjavik

Northern Lights Excursions From Reykjavik

There are quite a few Northern Lights excursions from Reykjavik, so which one do you for for?

First decide if you want to go on a bus tour or boat tour. With a bus tour you get to hop off, so don’t feel like you’ll be cramped on a bus the whole time.

Go for one that will do its best to get you out there. Seeing the lights is weather dependent, so book your tour for your first night. If the tour gets cancelled because of the weather a great excursion operator will rebook you for the next night and so on until you see them or your stay runs out.

Tours will vary in length – generally three to five hours. The longer the tour the more chance you have to see them because you can wait about. However, it is just that. A lot of waiting.

Don’t assume more expensive means a better tour. Basically you just want someone knowledgeable who will take you to a good sight and share their wisdom with you.

Northern Lights Bus Tour

My Northern Lights excursion from Reykjavik cost around £30 (including entry to the Aurora Museum Reykjavik). I was picked up from my apartment in Reykjavik, dropped straight back there, and had the most interesting Icelandic tour guide who told fascinating stories all the way to the location.

He even said that the lights that evening had been one of the best he’d seen in a long time, but maybe he says that to all of his favourite travellers.

We were out for a good few hours, chasing the lights. You can read about what I saw further down.

Northern Lights Super Jeep Tour

If you want to stick to wheels, but want something a little bit different and with less people why not try a super jeep tour? You’ll have to splash the cash to make it work, but it does look fun!

Northern Lights Boat Tour Reykjavik

You can hop on a boat tour to see the Northern Lights for around £60. You can even opt for a luxury cruise tour for around the same price if that’s your style.

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Aurora Museum Reykjavik

If you want to learn more or perhaps the weather scuppers your plans to see them, visit the Aurora Museum Reykjavik. Wander through interactive exhibitions, learn how to capture the lights, get advice on the best camera for the Northern Lights, view them on the big theatre screen and even cheat in the Northern Lights photo booth!

Entry costs around £11. Tickets can be brought in advance or on the day. Some excursions also include entry to the museum, so check your tour details.

The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Reykjavik

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik is from September to March. This is partly because it gets darker earlier – from about 6pm. Your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is at nighttime, away from any light pollution.

In my opinion the best month to see the Northern Lights is January. I could be biased, but that’s the month I saw them. The tour was cancelled for the first night and then rescheduled for the next night. Thankfully they appeared and pretty clearly.

Best Places to See Northern Lights in Reykjavik

The best places are as far our of the city centre as possible. You need to escape as much as artificial light as you can.

The lights appear in different places each evening, so it’s hard to pinpoint where to see the Northern Lights in Reykjavik.

Northern Lights in Iceland

Reykjavik Northern Lights Forecast

Wandering how to check if the lights are likely to appear? Most tour organisers will give you a phone number to call on the day of your tour, where you’ll hear a message or speak to someone to confirm either way.

If you’re not using a tour company or want to see for yourself, you can check the forecast here.

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Northern Lights Breaks

Do you need to book an overpriced package to see them? Most definitely not and in fact I’d highly recommend booking the hotel, flights and excursion separately.

Budget airlines like easyJet fly direct from London to Reykjavik. Transfers from the airport to the city centre are easy and affordable.

You have loads to choose from when it comes to Reykjavik accommodation and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all really expensive. My apartment was an absolute steal and in a great location.

You’ll find lots of things to do in Reykjavik in this post.

What are the Northern Lights?

Imagine a contemporary dance of the legendary Icelandic imps and elves, but up in the sky, and you have the Northern Lights. Colours jumping pretty pirouettes around your face. Appearing and disappearing in the briefest of moments. It’s essentially an incredible natural light show.

Also known as the Aurora Borealis, it’s caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun. They enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases. The lights are seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

You can see them from lots of places in the world, including Iceland.

My Experience of aNorthern Lights Excursion From Reykjavik

Eyes wide with anticipation, we approached the pebbled icy water edge and nervously scanned the sky for the so called dancing lights. Excited whispers travelled in the wind, increasing the already heightened levels of curiosity. Tripods were erected and shivering hands fumbled with camera settings, determined to capture the elusive Northern Lights.

Glassy eyes struggled to adjust from the lit coach to the velvety dark skies. Straining, peering, staring; we fixed our intent gaze up to the sky, desperate to see a flicker of the bright coloured lights.

Minutes passed and camera lenses snapped shut. Perhaps the camera screen would show a different image to that presented to our bare eyes. Nope, nothing on mine.

I glanced to my right and spied the glitzy huge camera had captured a faint green streak.  Was it in fact true that those rumoured crisp fluorescent pink and daring green swirled flashes in the sky were just the result of Photoshop? Had the tour group just simply wanted our money and ignored the poor weather?

Frozen to the bone, an hour had nearly passed when we were asked to make our way back to the coach. No longer than we had sat down, we heard rushed murmurs and were ushered off. Was someone making a complaint about not seeing them?  Were we now being sent back into the cold?

We stepped off the coach and were instantly catapulted into a graceful dance of the legendary imps and elves. The sky was transformed into an emerald green and burning oranges.

I craned my neck as far back as it would go and stared into this mesmerising show. I felt delirious and giddy with happiness, like I was the iris in a beautiful storm of bright lights.

Northern Lights, Iceland

I stole a fleeting glance at my sister and bestie, and in that second we exchanged a knowing look; an understanding that this was one of those moments that would be remembered forever. We didn’t need our cameras and picture-perfect photos. We had the secret to seeing the lights – to experience them. Thank you beautiful Iceland.

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The Secret to Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik Iceland
The Secret to Seeing the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, Iceland

I would absolutely love to hear about your experiences of seeing the Northern Lights, so please do share your comments in the post. If you haven’t been, please feel free to ask me as many questions as you like. X

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