10 Things To Do & Places to Visit In Iceland

10 Things To Do & Places

to Visit In Iceland

By Robert Robertsson - Verified Travel Expert

Discover all of Iceland’s must-see attractions – natural marvels, cultural events or hidden gems alike! Read up and discover where and what await you on your travels in this Nordic nation. Iceland offers too much to keep track of.

Iceland is an intriguing land of stark contrasts: rivers carving through deserts and molten lava bubbling out from an island frozen over by glaciers; while its nature fluctuates between fire and frost with winter nights seemingly never-ending and summer nights boasting sun that never sets.

Before booking, many factors need to be considered: such as accommodation choices offered across Iceland before even considering car rental offers – some offering discounts!!

Where to Go in Iceland

Iceland boasts many natural wonders and cultural attractions to delight any traveller, and no matter the length of your stay in this Nordic nation you are sure to discover incredible destinations that match up perfectly to your interests and travel requirements. Reykjavik will likely be their initial stop when visiting Iceland, arriving via flying into Keflavik International Airport and driving over Reykjanes Peninsula. Iceland’s capital boasts stunning landmarks like Hallgrimskirkja church, Harpa Concert Hall and Perlan’s interactive museum – not to mention wildlife such as whale and puffin watching tours in Faxafloi Bay as well as conservation reserves like Seltjarnarnes and Heidmork!

City offers numerous high-end accommodations that provide an ideal starting point for exploring further. Of particular note is its Golden Circle sightseeing route – easily toured in just one day! On this trail you’ll encounter Thingvellir National Park- a UNESCO World Heritage site between two tectonic plates- as well as Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall- two iconic attractions of which are listed as World Heritage. Additionally, longer excursions could uncover lesser-known but equally beautiful attractions, like Kerid Crater Lake. Reykjavik makes exploring Iceland’s South Coast sightseeing route an accessible endeavor, taking visitors past famous waterfalls like Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss as well as black sand beach Reynisfjara and impressive volcanoes such as Eyjafjallajokull – known for erupting spectacularly in 2010.

Further along Iceland’s South Coast are other incredible attractions such as Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, easily reached within one day from Reykjavik by dedicated travelers; for an enhanced experience however, staying overnight or taking an epic ring road adventure trip are recommended for maximum exploration! The Ring Road offers the ideal holiday for exploring Iceland’s diverse nature and all that its nature has to offer. Travel along its length can introduce visitors to stunning Eastfjords, Lake Myvatn in North Iceland’s geothermal power and other stunning attractions – and more besides.

What is great to see in Iceland

Whenever I think of Iceland, it’s like my mind jumps straight into a storybook. It’s hard to believe a place so magical is real. With so few people around, nature’s had a chance to go wild in the best way. You’ve got these incredible volcanoes and glaciers that look like they’ve been chiseling away at the land for ages. And the waterfalls – they’re not just trickles but epic cascades that could drown out any conversation. Then there are these hot springs, bubbling away and steaming like something out of a fantasy novel. Don’t get me started on the icebergs and that almost alien, moon-like landscape! And the wildlife? It’s like they’re from a different world too, especially those playful whale dolphins and the birds along the coast. Iceland’s just unreal, like nature’s showing off all its best bits in one place

If you’re into birdwatching and find yourself traveling in summer, you’re in for a treat in Iceland. The puffins here are something else – they’re like little clowns of the sea, all decked out in their colorful beaks. They hang out on the islands and cliffs, and honestly, Iceland’s got to be the top spot in the world to catch a glimpse of these quirky birds. And oh, the summer in Iceland has its own kind of magic, especially with the midnight sun. Picture this: It’s July, and you’re there from mid-May to August, and the sun just doesn’t bother to set. It hovers there, on the horizon, all night long. This means you get these insanely long days, where 2 AM looks like early evening and you can just keep exploring, hiking, or whatever tickles your fancy, without worrying about it getting dark. The whole midnight sun thing? It’s a game-changer for sightseeing and soaking up as much of Iceland as you can.

There’s something about Iceland’s winters that feels straight out of a fairy tale, especially with the northern lights, or aurora borealis, painting the night skies. Imagine this: you’re there between September and April, the sky’s dark and clear, and you’re just waiting, breath held, for that magical display. Seeing the northern lights dance above you is a dream come true for almost every winter traveler – it’s like nature’s own light show. And then there’s Mount Kirkjufell, with the northern lights reflecting off the sea like a mirror. It’s a sight you have to see to believe. But that’s not all winter in Iceland has to offer. You’ve got these incredible ice caves, this brilliant crystal blue, hidden away in the glaciers. They’re rare, these formations, and constantly changing. When you step inside and the sunlight hits the ice, the whole world turns this surreal shade of blue. It’s like walking into a fantasy, a whole different realm!

Our Selection of Top Attractions in Iceland

Talking about Iceland’s wonders, I’ve already touched on some big names like Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, the South Coast, and those mesmerizing northern lights. But trust me, there’s a whole lot more to this island than just its headliners.

Take the Blue Lagoon, for instance. Picture a steamy bridge crossing over its warm waters. Of all the geothermal spas sprinkled around Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a standout. Right near the Keflavik International Airport on the Reykjanes Peninsula, it’s the perfect spot to either kick off or wrap up your Icelandic adventure.

Then there’s the Snaefellsnes peninsula, affectionately dubbed ‘Iceland in miniature. ‘ Everything you love about Iceland, packed into West Iceland – historic villages, wildlife, mountains that take your breath away, waterfalls, and beaches you won’t believe. The Snaefellsjokull National Park, with its namesake glacier, is a highlight not to be missed.

Ever heard of the Westfjords? This remote, sparsely populated area is like stepping into another time, with dramatic fjords set against enormous mountains. It’s a bit off the beaten path, only really accessible in summer, but oh so worth it for its untouched nature, quaint fishing villages, and wildlife – think arctic foxes, whales, seals, and puffins.

North Iceland is another gem, famous for the Lake Myvatn area and the lovely town of Akureyri. But it’s the Diamond Circle that steals the show, with sights like the Asbyrgi canyon, Husavik for whale-watching, and Europe’s second-most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss. And if you’re up for it, there are plenty of hidden treasures off the main roads here.

The Eastfjords, unlike the Westfjords, are accessible all year round and are part of the Ring Road circuit. Dramatic mountains, charming little bays, and tiny villages abound, and it’s the only place in Iceland where wild reindeer roam. And then there’s Mount Vestrahorn, stunning even in winter’s snow, and Vatnajokull National Park.

Centered around Europe’s largest ice cap, the Vatnajokull glacier, its south side is especially popular, with the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the awe-inspiring Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Lastly, for the true adventurers, there are the Highlands. Untouched, uninhabited, and wild with volcanoes, hot springs, and glaciers – it’s a hiker’s paradise. The Laugavegur trail, linking Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve to Thorsmork Valley, is a journey through some of the most dramatic landscapes you’ll ever see.

10 Best Things To Do in Iceland

Planning your Iceland adventure and wondering how to tackle it? Whether you’re hitting the road on a self-drive journey or opting for a guided tour, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my handpicked list of the top 10 things you absolutely must do in Iceland. From can’t-miss spots to unique experiences, and even a few things to steer clear of, this guide is your ticket to making the most of your Icelandic escapade.

10. Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Craving a taste of all the diverse landscapes Iceland has to offer? A day trip to the Snaefellsnes peninsula might be just what you need. It’s like a microcosm of the whole country, which is why they call it ‘Iceland in Miniature.’ Trust me, there’s so much to see and do there that you’ll want to dive into our ultimate guide to the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

Now, the real star out here is the Snaefellsjokull glacier. Picture this: a majestic twin-peaked glacier sitting atop a volcano, with rugged lava fields and a dramatic coastline wrapping around three sides. It’s so striking that you can’t miss it from other top spots nearby, like the quiet, almost mystical village of Budir or the imposing Londrangar sea stacks.

This glacier isn’t just a pretty face; it holds a special place in the hearts of Icelanders. So much so, that they made it a National Park in 2001, a title shared with only two other sites in Iceland. And the Snaefellsjokull isn’t just famous for its looks – it’s a muse for artists and writers alike. Ever heard of Jules Verne’s ‘A Journey to the Center of the Earth’?

That classic sci-fi adventure from 1864 was inspired by this very glacier. If you’re wondering what’s a must-see in Iceland, put this glacier high on your list. On a clear day, its towering presence is visible all the way from Reykjavik, across Faxafloi Bay. But nothing beats getting up close and personal with it. And while it’s totally doable to drive to and from the glacier in a day, you might find yourself wanting to linger longer. It’s a highlight of many self-drive tours, like a six-day winter trip around Iceland’s Golden Circle & Snaefellsnes. Trust me, you’ll need more than a day to soak it all in!

9. Black Sand Beach in South Iceland

If those places that’s not just a destination, but a journey into a world so beautifully different. If you’re ever in Iceland and wondering where to go, let the South Coast be at the top of your list. This place isn’t like the rest of Iceland’s coastline, which is wild and rugged thanks to years upon years of battling the elements.

Here, it’s as if the past glacial floods wanted to tell a different story, smoothing out the rocks into these vast, mesmerizing stretches of black sand. There’s this one time I remember flying over Reynisfjara beach during the golden hour. The view from above? Absolutely unforgettable.

The black sands shone like a sheet of onyx under the soft glow of the setting sun. When you find yourself on the South Coast, take a stroll along these beaches, especially Reynisfjara near Vik. It’s more than just a popular spot; it’s a testament to nature’s artistry, with its stark beauty and dramatic contrasts. But, as much as these beaches captivate you, remember they demand respect.

The sea here isn’t for swimming – it’s beautiful but perilously cold and unpredictable. Reynisfjara, in particular, is infamous for its sneaker waves. They can catch you off-guard, rushing up the shore faster than you’d expect. I always advise friends to keep a safe distance, at least 67 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) from the water’s edge. Safety tips are there for a reason – heed them. It’s all about experiencing the breathtaking beauty of the South Coast without any risks. After all, Iceland is about embracing the wild, safely and memorably.

8. Diamond Beach is a Diamond

Beyond the well-trodden paths of Reynisfjara lies another treasure of the South Coast, a place some fondly call ‘the crown jewel of Iceland’s nature’ – the enchanting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and its neighbor, the mesmerizing Diamond Beach.

Standing there, with the surf rhythmically colliding against ice chunks on Diamond Beach, is an experience that words barely do justice. It’s like witnessing the earth in conversation with its elements. Throughout the year, the lagoon releases icebergs from a nearby glacial tongue, each embarking on a solemn march towards the ocean.

Their final act, a dramatic dance upon the waves, ends on the shores of Diamond Beach. This spectacle, where icebergs lay strewn across the dark sands, gleaming like diamonds, is hypnotically beautiful. There’s a striking contrast at play here – the vivid blue of the ice clashing against the beach’s ebony sands. It’s a painter’s palette, nature’s own masterpiece, making Diamond Beach not just a sight to see, but a wonder to behold.

Imagine this scene under the surreal glow of the northern lights or bathed in the endless daylight of the midnight sun. It’s like stepping into a scene from a fantasy book, too majestic and mystical to be real. And just when you think it can’t get any more magical, you might spot seals playfully navigating the lagoon or curiously peeking above the ocean waves. It’s these moments, where nature’s charm is at its most playful, that truly capture the heart of Iceland.

7. See the hole on Dyrholaey

Whenever I wander over to Dyrholaey, just a casual walk from the haunting Reynisfjara beach, it feels like stepping into a postcard. Climbing atop this magnificent sea arch, you’re greeted with a view that’s simply out of this world – the endless Atlantic stretching out before you, framed by Iceland’s dramatic coast.

But what really steals the show in summer are the puffins. These quirky, colorful birds make Dyrholaey their home, adding a splash of life to the rugged scenery. Every time I visit, it’s like a personal rendezvous with the wild, unbridled spirit of Iceland. Dyrholaey isn’t just a place to see; it’s a place to feel the pulse of this incredible island.

6. The Blue Lagoon unforgettable experience

Ah, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland! Let me tell you, it’s nothing like the usual pool or beach experience. Nestled in the rugged Reykjanes peninsula, this geothermal spa is a world apart. The water’s this surreal shade of blue – think milky, opaque, and totally inviting.

The first time I eased into it, it felt like slipping into a warm bath, but a thousand times better. There’s this whole thing about the water being packed with minerals. I even slapped on one of those silica masks they give out – felt like a proper spa day right in the lagoon. People say it’s healing, and honestly, my skin never felt better afterward.

The setting is wild – you’re right there in the middle of these cool lava fields covered in this soft grey moss, and the steam curling up around you makes the whole place feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet. If you’re planning your Icelandic trip, make this your first or last stop. It’s super relaxing, perfect for shaking off jet lag or easing those post-hike muscles. And if you’re in the mood to splurge a bit, try their private treatments.

I went for an in-water massage once, and it was epic. They’ve even got these fancy beauty treatments tailored for different skin types, which is pretty cool. Getting there’s a breeze too. It’s just a short hop from Keflavik Airport and not too far from Reykjavik. You can easily grab a transfer from the airport, no fuss. Seriously, the Blue Lagoon is one of those ‘you’ve gotta see it to believe it’ kind of places. It’s an experience that’ll stick with you – like, ‘remember when we were in that incredible blue water in Iceland?’ kind of memory.

5. Wildlife in the Hornstrandir

You know, there’s this spot in Iceland, Hornstrandir, that’s straight out of the old Sagas. Tucked away in the northernmost part of the Westfjords, it was abandoned ages ago because it was just too remote. You might think, “Why bother with a place like that on an Iceland trip?” But here’s the twist – it’s been reborn as this incredible nature reserve. It’s so wild and untouched that if you’re into wildlife or photography, this place is like hitting the jackpot. It’s one of those rare spots, super quiet and barely any people around, just like the Highlands, but it’s the animals that are the real locals here.

Picture this: you’re out there, and there’s an Arctic fox, just doing its thing, and you’re close enough to snap that perfect photo. These cliffs around here, they’re massive, soaring up to 1,752 feet, and they’re like a condo for thousands of seabirds. But the coolest part? The Arctic foxes. They’re actually kind of fearless around people. I mean, you shouldn’t feed wild animals, but these foxes have no qualms coming right up to you. Getting to Hornstrandir is a bit of an adventure in itself. You catch a ferry from Isafjordur or the Strandir area. And if you don’t want the hassle of figuring it all out yourself, there are tours of the Westfjords that’ll take care of all the details.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Iceland and want to see something completely different, out-of-the-way, and full of nature’s wonders, Hornstrandir has to be on your list. It’s like stepping into a completely untouched piece of the world.

4. The magic of Lake Myvatn

So, about 49 miles east of Akureyri (they call it the ‘Capital of North Iceland’), there’s this place that’s like a playground for geology and nature buffs – the Lake Myvatn area. Picture a landscape shaped by epic volcanic eruptions over 2,000 years ago. Now, it’s this awesome spot with tons of hidden treasures you can check out on a tour around Myvatn. The lakes themselves? Absolutely stunning. They’ve got this unique formation and are teeming with life. And if you’re visiting in summer, get ready for a bird-watching fiesta – the place is a magnet for dozens of bird species.

Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for these rare moss balls; they’re pretty cool and super rare. But wait till you see the geology around Lake Myvatn. It’s mind-blowing! There are these pseudo-craters – they look like mini volcanoes but aren’t. You can hike up and around them, dive into Iceland’s volcanic history, and feel like a real explorer uncovering ancient secrets.

Then there’s Dimmuborgir, or the ‘Black Fortress’ – a field of lava formations so wild and dramatic, it feels like stepping onto another planet. Hidden in this maze of lava, there’s this cave with the Grjotagja hot spring inside. Fun fact: it’s so famous now because of ‘Game of Thrones.’ Remember that steamy scene with Jon Snow and Ygritte? Shot right there! The colors of Lake Myvatn, with all those blues and greens, are just a feast for the eyes.

And if you’re itching for a dip in geothermal waters (who isn’t, right?), check out the Myvatn Nature Baths. It’s the perfect spot to just chill and soak in all the beauty of this incredible area.

3. The Beautiful Asbyrgi Canyon

Off the usual tourist track in Northeast Iceland, there’s this spot called Asbyrgi canyon. It’s not your everyday sight – it’s got this horseshoe shape that looks like it’s been plucked straight from a Norse myth. Legend has it that Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, left its mark here, literally. When you’re there, it’s like stepping right into a storybook, especially if you’re into Norse mythology. I remember the first time I stood on those cliffs and looked out over the plateau. The view was something else – like being transported back to a time when the world was wilder.

But the real surprise is inside the valley. It’s this lush, green world, full of birch and willow trees, different kinds of firs, larches, and pines. It’s so unexpectedly green and vibrant, you almost can’t believe you’re still in Iceland. The place is also rife with elf stories. With all that natural beauty and an almost tangible sense of old-world magic, it’s easy to imagine little elfin creatures darting between the trees. Asbyrgi is one of those rare places that make you think maybe, just maybe, those old legends might be true.

For anyone hitting up Iceland, I’d say Asbyrgi canyon is a must-visit. It’s not just the scenery – it’s the whole vibe of the place. It’s perfect for nature lovers, photography buffs, or anyone who just wants a taste of Iceland’s mythical side. Trust me, it’s an experience that sticks with you.

2. Do the Golden Circle

Geyser in Iceland

Oh man, let me tell you about the Golden Circle in Iceland. It’s this 186-mile loop that’s packed with some of the coolest sights in the southwest part of the country. We’re talking Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the incredible Gullfoss waterfall. You know what’s wild? You can actually snorkel and dive there all year round. Imagine floating between two continents at Thingvellir, which is also the only UNESCO site on Iceland’s mainland. The place is like a scene from a fantasy movie, with these crazy lava fields and forests, and these streams so clear you won’t believe your eyes.

Then there’s the Geysir area. You’ve probably heard the word ‘geyser’ before, right? It actually comes from the Geysir there, which is pretty cool, but these days it’s the neighbor, Strokkur, that steals the show. It erupts like a fountain, shooting water over 65 feet high every few minutes – it’s a camera’s dream. And Gullfoss? Wow, just wow. This waterfall is like nature turned up to eleven, with water thundering down into this massive valley. If you hit it on a sunny day, you might get lucky and see rainbows cutting through the spray.

A lot of folks do guided tours of the Golden Circle, but if you’re up for a bit of adventure, driving it yourself is the way to go. You get to take your time, soak it all in, and really make it your own. Trust me, it’s one of those things you’ve got to see to believe.

1. Chase the Midnight Sun or the Northern Lights

where is the best place to see the northern lights

You know, Iceland’s got these two natural wonders that’ll just knock your socks off – the never-setting midnight sun and those mind-blowing northern lights. They’re not ‘sites’ in the usual sense, but man, are they the ultimate Icelandic experiences. We’ve even got a whole post dedicated to figuring out the best time to catch the northern lights. Usually, you’re looking at late August to April, with the heart of winter being prime time. And a hot tip? Jump on a northern lights tour. The guides know all the best spots and tricks to increase your chances of seeing that magical aurora borealis. Picture this: Mt. Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, mirrored in the still water under a sky dancing with color. It’s something else, really.

But hey, if you’re more of a summer person, Iceland’s got you covered with the midnight sun from May to August. Imagine the sun just hanging there on the horizon, all through the night. There are loads of midnight sun tours where you can soak up those endless golden hours. We’ve got the whole lowdown on this phenomenon in our guide to the midnight sun. Honestly, both the northern lights and the midnight sun are so uniquely Icelandic that you might just want to visit twice – once for the winter’s aurora magic and again for the endless summer days. It’s like two different worlds, each with its own kind of magic.

Whether you’re watching the sky light up with green and purple lights, or basking in the glow of a sun that refuses to set, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Iceland, with its natural light shows, is truly a place where nature’s wonders never cease to amaze.

The Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

The Enchanting Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon:

A Captivating Experience in Iceland

By Robert Robertsson - Verified Travel Expert

Unforgettable to say the least

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland draws visitors from across the world who come for its magnificent Northern Lights show, often called “The Crown Jewel of Iceland. ” With beautiful natural surroundings featuring mountains, icebergs, wildlife and more – its idyllic settings create the ideal setting to witness it – visitors may even witness it washing up onto nearby Diamond Beach! In Icelandic the name is Fellsfjara.

Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, are spectacular natural displays found near Earth’s poles caused by collisions of charged particles from the sun with Earth’s magnetic field and atmospheric molecules, producing energy releases as light that create spectacular and colorful displays known as Northern Lights. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland’s remote setting away from light pollution offers one of the finest opportunities on Earth for witnessing such stunning natural displays as part of this wondrous natural spectacle – you won’t soon forget witnessing such wondrous spectacle as long after leaving Iceland!

So make the time and visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon this winter season to witness its splendid illuminations!

The Beauty of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon can be found within Vatnajokull National Park in southeast Iceland and features an ever-evolving, dynamic ecosystem filled with floating icebergs from Breidamerkurjokull Glacier that detach from it, providing a constantly shifting and mesmerizing spectacle. When frozen over in wintertime, its contrast of shapes and colors becomes especially stunning; reflection of Northern Lights on these frozen bodies of water add to their allure further enhancing this captivating view of beauty; seals and seabirds populate this ecosystem that makes Jokulsarlon’s dynamic ecosystem harmonious yet diverse! Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon’s allure lies in its ever-evolving landscape.

Icebergs that drift along its waters range in shape and size from small chunks of ice to massive structures resembling sculptures; as these move and melt, its scenery changes accordingly; visitors to Jokulsarlon can witness nature at work as graceful floating icebergs reflect vibrant Northern Light colors in graceful motion. As well as its stunning icebergs, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon also provides stunning mountains as a beautiful background to this lagoon.

These towering snowy peaks create a dramatic juxtaposition with the night sky; when lit by Northern Lights dancing above them they add yet another level of beauty and grandeur that leaves visitors speechless. No matter who your target may be – nature enthusiasts, photographers or anyone seeking peace and serenity alike- Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon won’t disappoint you in either regard!

Enhancing Your Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights

To increase the chance of seeing the Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, a guided tour or package should be booked with an authorized operator. Different tour options exist – some combining caving with sightseeing; and September-April is considered prime viewing period – check your aurora forecast and weather conditions carefully to get optimal viewing!

Tour operators offering guided tours with established guides increase your odds of witnessing this breathtaking spectacle; experienced guides possess vast local knowledge that will lead you directly to prime viewing spots of aurora borealis or provide accurate aurora forecasts, increasing chances of seeing lights. Finding an appropriate time and tour operator are both key aspects for an incredible Northern Lights journey; being prepared can only enhance that journey further!

Dressing warmly in layers is key as temperatures can drop significantly at night during winter months; waterproof clothing should also be brought as these facilities at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon may not always be open by nightfall. Being well informed increases chances of witnessing this natural wonder in its full glory!

Preparation and Tips for the Experience

Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon during night hours by wearing layers, waterproof clothing, sturdy boots and essential supplies such as food and water; essential lighting must also be brought along; flashlight/headlamp use for visibility purposes should also be brought; these measures should ensure visitors enjoy an unforgettable experience at this remarkable lagoon. Dress appropriately and bring essential items; when planning to visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to witness Northern Lights, other tips should also be kept in mind.

Weather forecasting and aurora activity should always be closely observed prior to planning any trip – clear skies with strong aurora activity will increase your odds significantly of seeing Northern Lights; many websites and apps provide real-time aurora forecasting so you can plan effectively for your visit. Arriving early at a lagoon gives you ample time to explore its surroundings, prepare camera gear needed for photographing Northern Lights, and locate an inviting space where you can rest for the evening. Arriving early could give you the best opportunity of seeing glimpses of its magnificent twilight hours – adding even more mystery and splendour to your Northern Lights experience!

Capturing the Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

At Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, a photographer captured an outstanding display of Northern Lights with a Sony a7R camera equipped with a Zeiss 16-35mm lens and ISO 1600 setting at 30-second exposure, manual focus, wireless shutter release and Manfrotto tripod. Shooting with full frame camera produced less noise compared to an APS-C camera; see technical details provided for more accurate Northern Light photography at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Photographing the Northern Lights can be both difficult and fulfilling. 

To achieve stunning photographs of them, using appropriate equipment and settings are key – for instance using a full-frame camera can result in less noise in photos compared to an APS-C one, and wide angle lenses like Zeiss 16-35mm used by this photographer are perfect for capturing both its expansive skyscape and surrounding terrain. When setting your camera to capture Northern Lights images, a higher ISO, such as 1600 is often recommended to capture their faint glow. But finding the appropriate balance is crucial, since higher ISO can add noise into images. 

Experimenting with different exposure times (the photographer used 30-second exposures for effect). Manual focus may help since autofocus may struggle in low light conditions to be accurate enough; using wireless shutter release/remote controls helps minimize camera shake for sharp images while sturdy tripods keep everything still during long exposures. Making beautiful photographs of the Northern Lights requires more than having all the appropriate equipment and settings in place; to capture its true essence you need more than technical know-how alone. Finding that ideal composition, framing the scene so as to highlight their magnificence and being patient yet observant are keys for successful photos of this phenomena. Each display of Northern Lights can bring something different; being present and immersing yourself into this experience will yield incredible photographs!

Boat Tours and nearby attractions such as Ice-caves

Boat tours at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon allow visitors to come face-to-face with icebergs for a spectacular encounter and offer visitors a truly unique perspective of these glacier lagoons. In particular, exploring Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon through boat tours and visiting Diamond Beach are surefire ways of increasing the overall Northern Lights viewing experience. Watching the Northern Lights from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon can be an incredible experience, yet taking a boat tour brings them even closer.

After exploring the lagoon, Diamond Beach should also be included on any itinerary because its name refers to shimmering icebergs coming ashore onto black volcanic sand that give off diamond-like reflections when seen up close – truly an inspiring sight that adds extra magic to Northern Lights experience! A night you will never forget in your life.

Walking along its shoreline and witnessing these shimmering gems up close is truly mesmerizing; their combination with dark volcanic sand creates an eye-catching spectacle unlike anything else! Boat tours or exploring Diamond Beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon provide additional experiences that help bring Iceland’s natural world alive for you, offering unforgettable memories long after visiting. Immerse yourself in its majestic icebergs while appreciating nature’s delicate balance – combined with witnessing an awe-inspiring display from Northern Lights this experience will stay with you long after visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon!


Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland provides a spectacular opportunity for witnessing the Northern Lights. A guided tour, careful monitoring of aurora forecasts, adequate clothing and camera gear should all help increase your chance of witnessing it at Jokulsarlon; taking pictures can bring lasting memories while boat tours and close encounters with icebergs only add further magic! Don’t miss this unforgettable journey – come experience Jokulsarlon today!

black sand beach iceland

Destination black sand beach Iceland: 10 of our favorite unforgettable beaches to watch the northern lights from

If you’re looking for some black sand to aurora watch from, look no further. With nearly 5000 km. of coastline, Iceland has you covered.

Picture it. Destination: black sand beach Iceland. Sparkling dark sand is the gift of many volcanic hotspots, but up here in the North, Iceland is among the few. Imagine the incredible darkness of sitting on the velvety black sand, while auroras dance in the black night.

Aside from the mystical moving lights, the only thing you can see are the stars and the white surf. It’s not a sight to miss, so we’ve gathered up a few of our favorites. Many things are otherworldly about black sand Iceland- but this is surely one of the most surreal.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Neil Mark Thomas)

1. Seltjörn, Ægisíða, and Kirkjusandur: The City Coast

Despite Reykjavik’s cosmopolitan appearance, this is a seaside town. And with the sea, comes miles and miles of coastline. There are many places where you can’t access the water because of barriers, big rocks, or just a lack of places to stand, but these are not among them.

These three beaches represent only a fraction of the accessible coast, but they are gorgeous hideaways to stroll in the sunlight. (Or the moonlight, if you’re keeping an eye out and watching the tide.) If you’re enjoying a walk on the seafront paths, you can find Seltjörn and Kirkjusandur at either end of it.

Kirkjusandur is the closer beach to the city center, and like many city spots, depending on the tide it may or may not be there when you arrive! It is a good reminder that despite our concrete home, we are never too far from nature in black sand beach Iceland.

If you find yourself down by Grótta, you will have plenty of time to enjoy Seltjörn. The home of one of Reykjavik’s most notable lighthouses, a nature reserve, and a beloved aurora watching spot- this entire area feels lightyears removed from the hustle and bustle of the city just behind it.

And if you find yourself in Reykjavik’s cozy Vesturbær neighborhood, you can enjoy a walk down Ægisíða. An area of trails and recreation, Ægisíða is a tiny stretch of shore dotted with fisherman’s huts and reminders of a time when a day’s work was a good catch and a small boat.

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Reykjanes from this spot. There are many tiny beaches in the city, some of them with no name at all.

They are all different windows into what life used to be like, with different gifts like sea glass, urchin shells, and long strands of luminous seaweed decorating their shores. And if you’re careful, each one of them is a glorious place to watch for northern lights.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Agnieszka Mordaunt)

2. The world-famous Diamond Beach, also known as Breiðamerkursandur 

When reading about black sand beach Iceland, it’s hard to miss the glory of Diamond Beach. A small piece of the larger Breiðamerkursandur coastline, this is a popular spot. Though it’s a bit of a drive from the capital this is the home of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, and it is from there that the diamonds are provided.

This area is fed by the glacier Vatnajökull, which is so big that pieces of it have their own names. This part of the glacier is called Breiðamerkurjökull. As pieces of ice calve off of the glacier, they fall into the Jökulsárlón lagoon.

From here they travel out to sea, sometimes finding themselves festooned upon the beach there. These enormous chunks of ice bob up and down in the waves, heavy when they’re on the shore, but light as air when they’re being thrown about by the waves.

If you’re visiting black sand beach Iceland- you simply cannot miss a night spent among these titans. Black sand, chunks of ice as big as a man, and the lights coming down to dance on the lagoon.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Olena Kamenetska)

3. Reynisfjara: The postcard beach

A trip to black sand beach Iceland can’t happen without a stop on Reynisfjara. Charting as one of Iceland’s most dangerous beaches due to strong currents and sneaker waves, this beach in front of Vík has been featured in countless films and television shows.

Instantly recognized by its huge basalt caves, rock stacks, and the Dyrhólaey promontory. Iceland’s south coast is one long stretch of beaches and sand deserts. Many of these formed because of powerful volcanic eruptions and the glacial outburst floods (or jökulhlaup) that they created.

Reynisfjara is a great spot for grabbing a bite to eat or staying the night. If you plan to aurora hunt from here, make sure to keep a safe distance from the water. This beach is not staffed and getting caught in a sneaker wave can be deadly.

Fortunately, the town is right up on the beach, and you can watch the aurora from a cozy little bench among the dunes, while you listen to the crashing of the big waves on one of the most famous spots in all of black sand beach Iceland.  

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Roan Lavery)

4. Djúpalónssandur at the edge of the world

If you find yourself in Snæfellsnes at the foot of another famous glacier, you must certainly make a stop at Djúpalónssandur. This is a place of many curiosities and treasures in black sand beach Iceland, so tread carefully here.

Located at the edge of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, you’ll find that the sand is hidden under a layer of polished black pebbled. These are Djúpalónsperlur, or the “Pearls of Djúpalón”.

They are protected, and so are the twisted pieces of metal that rest on top of them. These are pieces of the British trawler the Epine GY7, and they rest on this beach in memory of the men that lost their lives in a blizzard there.

This is only one of many stories on this beach, as it used to be an epicenter of activity when fishing was a smaller industry in the hands of the people.

Nearly all of the rock formations, springs, and sea stacks have names and stories, and tales of being elven structures or frozen trolls who saw the daylight. You could spend weeks in these coves learning the history of each mark in the land.

If you’re a history buff or a story lover in black sand beach Iceland, make sure to grab some literature about this area, and leave nothing but footprints in the sand behind you. This is a hallowed place of memories gone by, and a protected zone.

Not to mention, a remote area with similar wave patterns to Reynisfjara. Enjoy the aurora from a safe distance, and be respectful of the different souls that may be watching with you.

where is the best place to see the northern lights
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Thomas Tucker)

5. Solheimasandur and the plane wreck

There are a lot of beaches in black sand beach Iceland, but this is a special one. A smaller part of the big stretch of the long southern coast, Solheimasandur is another creation of volcanic eruptions creating glacial outburst floods, and the sand flats of this area are vast.

Because of its volcanic history, Solheimasandur is not home to any villages or large settlements. It is, however, home to the US Navy DC-3 plane wreck, a landmark sought by photographers and curiosity seekers alike.

In 1973 due to a fueling problem, this plane crash-landed here on the sand. All parties involved survived, and walked away from this impromptu landing in one piece, so it is not truly a memorial piece.

Getting to the wreck takes a bit of a walk, but it’s worth it to gaze upon this strange visitor among the sands. This is a truly desolate place, so take caution if you are visiting here in the nighttime or the winter season.

It is good to check ahead on the weather, as the sand wastes are disorienting and visitors in the past have gotten lost here. With little to nowhere to hide, it is possible to risk exposure and it is unlikely that you will come across much help.

Though this is a popular northern light photo opportunity, look out for your safety first. Those airmen walked away from this wreck, and in order to enjoy more of black sand beach Iceland, so must you.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Stephen Leonardi)

6. Catch a wave on Thorli Beach

The Reykjanes peninsula is known for its big, consistent waves, and believe it or not, is a long time favorite of arctic surfers. Thorli is a fairly advanced spot near the town of Þorlákshöfn (Thorlákshöfn) and it sports an unusual mix of both black and yellow sands.

Beloved by local and visiting surfers, Thorli is a long crescent of sand at the heart of Iceland’s surfing community. And though there are different waves to catch throughout the year, the high point for big surf is right smack in the middle of aurora season.

If you’re a seasoned surfer, this is the beach for you. (And if you’re an aurora hunter- the best of both worlds!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Matthias Weiss)

7. Stokksnes the Mirror Beach

Stokksnes is a photographer’s dream. At the eastern edge of Iceland lies the long flat shore of Stokksnes, and the jagged dragon’s-teeth peaks of Vestrahorn. Close to the town of Höfn, this area either welcomes you back to the sand deserts of the south or announces your arrival to the dramatic mountains of the east.

But before you go further either way, you should take a moment to stop at Stokksnes. This beach is wide and flat, which causes the tide to leave water behind as it recedes. This creates a shallow and incredibly reflective surface, allowing incredible reflection pictures of the mountain Vestrahorn, the surreal black dunes, and potentially, the colorful, dancing aurora.

There is a small fee to visit the beach, as it is privately owned land- but it is more than worth it to help preserve the majesty of this place.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Dorottya Kovacs)

8. Everybody’s gone surfin’...In Sandvík and Grindavík

For those who aren’t ready to catch a big Thorli wave, there is the slightly more forgiving beach break of Sandvík, where many locals catch their first waves. Most of Iceland’s surfing beaches are reef or point breaks, which means you’ll be dodging a lot of sharp volcanic rocks, and maybe some sea urchins.

For those who are only here to watch auroras, you are in great company. The peninsula of Reykjanes boasts long coasts of lonely beaches, and many friendly seaside towns to pick up snacks in.

(Including Grindavík, one of Iceland’s happiest towns! And the nearby neighbor of our recent fissure volcano, Fagradalsfjall.) In black sand beach Iceland, you can’t go wrong with cruising quiet Reykjanes.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Danvarsh Badribabu)

9. The Seal Circle at Vatnsnes

You’ve heard of the Golden Circle, and even the Diamond Circle- but what about the Seal Circle? The 711 road around the peninsula of Vatnsnes is a great spot for black sand, seals, and auroras. If you’re lucky, you can spot harbour seals, grey seals, harp seals, bearded seals, hooded seals, ringed seals, and maybe even a rare walrus or two!

The Illugastaðir beaches on the western side of the peninsula have been a notable home for them for many years, but these creatures can be spied year round throughout the peninsula. It is even possible to see them on the eastern side basking near famous Hvítserkur, a popular aurora photo spot.

You can stop in Hvammstangi to visit the Icelandic Seal Center to learn more about these curious residents, but don’t forget to keep your eyes on the sky. This is a popular aurora spot with low light pollution and many beloved foreground landmarks for great aurora shots.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Andreea Popescu)

10. Ólafsfjörður on the Arctic Coast Way

North Iceland is a magical place punctuated by a more extreme climate, big mountains, and beautiful small towns throughout the fjords. There is a lot of history and tradition here, and even though it’s not by much- you are that much closer to the pole when you visit.

Ólafsfjörður is located in between the shark fishing village of Siglufjörður in the north, and Dalvík just below- home to world class skiing and “The Great Fish Day” festival (Fiskidagurinn mikli). This is another great peninsula to explore, and you guessed it, every single one of these towns boasts its own piece of black sand beach Iceland.

These are long, picturesque coastlines framed in by tall mountains and sweeping fjord views out to sea. They have long histories and unique cultures, even from village to village. And just like their skiing, when it comes to auroras- they are unparalleled.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Chris Ried)

best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik

Top 7 aurora trails: the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik

Are you in the capital looking for auroras? Here are some of our favorite paths for northern light discoveries.

Looking for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik? Well, cities aren’t usually known for their outdoor activities, but Reykjavik is the epicenter of wild adventure! You can find countless things to do here, and nearly all of them pick up in town.

But what about hiking? Going for a stroll while you search the skies is a great way to get some fresh air and increase your chances away from the light pollution. Here are a few of our favorite local haunts- how many of these have you tried?

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: GLACIERS Photo)

1. Öskjuhlíð: Head to the hills!

Chances are you’ve seen the glistening dome of Perlan from your window on your way into town. Or perhaps it already caught your eye on a walk around town? It is on top of one of our highest hills, after all. Perlan rests on top of an area called Öskjuhlíð.

This area is home to some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, because not only is it directly in Reykjavik but it’s filled with charming forest paths. It’s also next to the Nauthólsvík beach, another great place to stroll or swim. (Don’t worry, it’s heated! Just.. Maybe come back after aurora season for this one.)

There are multiple trails to enjoy in Öskjuhlíð, and if you make it to the top you’re met with a sweeping view of the sparkling town below you. (You are still within the grip of city light pollution here, but on a good night, you can see past it. And it makes for great photos!)

Easily accessible on foot or by public transport from most of town, the paths here lead on to many of our other favorite Reyjavik walks- including the coastal road to the Grótta lighthouse, Fossvogur, and Elliðaárdalur, all the way down to the red rocks of Heiðmörk. No matter what time you visit, a walk in Reykjavik’s local forest is a beautiful experience.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Michael Held)

2. The Coastline path from Hafnarfjörður to Mosfellsbær

The wide arms of the capital region don’t stop at Reykjavik. They include the towns of Hafnarfjörður in the south and Mosfellsbær in the north. Nestled along the jagged coast, you can walk to and from all of these places using the Blá lykilleið (Blue main path), also known as the Strandleið (Coastline) walk.

You can ride or bike all the way to either end. While it might take you a while to complete, this connection gives you a huge amount of coastal path to tread. Depending on the cloud cover, you’ll find people populating the Reykjavik half of it often as they set cameras up for some aurora watching.

Looking towards Esja gives you a dark northerly view over the water, and helps to cancel out some of the city light. The further away from town that you go, the darker it’s likely to get- so an evening walk on these fine paved city paths may be a great spot for you.

You can see the lay of the walk here, and look at all the other options! This might not be the first thing you think of when you envision trekking, but after you’ve enjoyed it once you’ll see why we’re calling it some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jenean Newcomb)

3. The red hills of Heiðmörk

The nature reserve of Heiðmörk is a constantly evolving treasure of the city, and arguably some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik. Heiðmörk is a large area that actually encompasses some of our other favorite spots, so you’ll want to check out a map to see all of it quickly.

The city has been busy in Heiðmörk over recent years and has maintained and created multiple trails, recreation areas, and even some camping grounds. And the wonders here are countless.

From its moss-covered lava fields to the nearly Martian Rauðhólar pseudocraters, to the Christmas tree forest at Holmsheiði, this is an area that you’ll need a lot of time to discover. Because of its location on the edge of town, Heiðmörk is an ideal tangle of trails that you can walk in search of the lights.

The paths here are well cared for and fairly simple difficulty wise, so it’s a good spot for adventurers of varying abilities. It’s also accessible by local bus! But before you go, double check the schedule to make sure you know the time of the last ride out. It’s a long walk back into the city center!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: twentyonekoalas)

4. Elliðaárdalur: A city oasis

While hunting for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, you are likely to hear about the Elliðaárdalur valley. Elliðaárdalur is a lush green space tucked away in the city, cradling the protected Elliðaár river.

After walking the concrete streets and paths of Reykjavik, Elliðaárdalur is like a rare portal into a fairy world. Punctuated by recreational trails and tiny waterfalls, Elliðaárdalur is home to a surprising amount of wildlife.

Watch out for all the mink and rabbits who call this place home, as you will likely see some on your journey. (And keep an eye out for salmon! They populate this crystal clear river, making it an important fishing spot close to town.)

This area is connected to many other green spaces and is great for pedestrian adventuring. You can link up to other walking and cyclings paths through Fossvogsdalur, and even as far as Heiðmörk.

Elliðaárdalur borders many popular Reykjavik neighborhoods and is a great spot to visit if you happen to be spending most of your time in town, but still want to get a glimpse of Icelandic nature.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Yeo Khee)

5. Vífilsfell and the Blue Mounatins

Vífilsfell is a possible option for those that have wheels and are used to winter trekking. There are many mountain paths that are popular hiking in the capital area that we’ve left off of this list, primarily because they are maybe not the easiest options for nighttime winter adventuring.

Vífilsfell on the other hand is a gorgeous choice if you’re surefooted and looking for some big views outside of the immediate grasp of town. Nestled within the Bláfjöll (Blue Mountains), this area is popular for trekkers and winter sport enthusiasts alike.

The road up to the Bláfjöll ski area passes right by, and other trails in the area populate the zone as well. This is a quiet part of town just off the route 1 highway, so you may want to save this trek for a time that you have access to a vehicle.

And don’t fret! If you’re not feeling up to a mountain hike, this is a great spot just for hanging out or checking out the slopes. The best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik doesn’t even require hiking, you can see it just fine from the parking lot at Litla Kaffistofan across the street.

Even if you only drive through Bláfjöll on your aurora hunt, it’s worth it just to see the sudden majesty of snow-covered volcanic peaks rising out of the earth right after exiting the glowing city. The peace here is vast, colorful, and lonely- and a great first look at the wild country beyond the manicured city streets.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Tim Foster)

6. Grafarholt and Úlfarsárdalur in the shadow of Úlfar’s Mountain

Another hidden-away escape are the vast meadows of Grafarholt and Úlfarsárdalur, peacefully wrapped around the mountain Úlfarsfell. This is a residential area and outdoor recreational spot just north of the quiet neighborhood of Grafarholt.

In the summer, this place is absolutely flush with purple lupin flowers and gentle meadow grasses- at least, in between the sprawling lava fields. Curled around the river Úlfarsá, this is another place where you’ll find copious bird life and salmon. (And maybe even a few horses! Many of them call this area home.)

The trails in this area are family-friendly and accessible, and you can access this zone via public transport. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, Úlfarsfell is likely one of the more reasonable winter mountain hikes available. (..You guessed it! We’re going so far as to call it one of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik!)

In all seriousness, the highest point on Úlfarsfell is around 307 m. (1007 ft.) and is accessible via a fairly even and wide path. There are great views of Reykjavik and the sea from the summit, and it only takes around 2.5 hours to complete. As far as vistas go, this is a great place to catch the lights, and you are likely to have the whole thing to yourself.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Pedro Netto)

TIP: This mountain is near Esja, one of Reykjavik’s most famous landmarks. It goes without saying that Esja is some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, but it is also some of the most challenging.

While these paths are steep in good conditions, braving them at night in high winter is not recommended for most trekkers. You can try for an Esja hike in the autumn, but otherwise, seeing her from nearby Úlfarsfell is a great compromise.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Elijah Chen)

7. Viðey: The island’s island

Looking for an island getaway from your island getaway? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a closer option than nearby Viðey. Once the home of a monastery, Viðey is the home of Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower, and countless trails.

There is a lot of history on this little island, and some of the oldest rock in the Reykjavik area. In fact, nearly 2 million years ago, it was a volcano! (Considering where we are, this may not come as much of a surprise to you.)

These days, however, we have to say it’s some of the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik, not to mention one of the most exclusive city spots to watch the northern lights. But how does one get there?

In the summertime, the ferry runs pretty regularly. But in the wintertime, the ferry only runs from the harbor Skarfabakki on weekends. There are however aurora boat tours available that can land on Viðey for a portion of the tour, giving you a chance to grab some solid ground to plant your tripod in for a lucky northern lights shot.

However you manage to get there, hopefully, you’ll get to take advantage of some of these historical trails. This place has seen and housed invaders, paupers, politicians, farmers, and more puffins than you’d expect. But today, it is protected and allowed to finally thrive. A true shoo-in for the best hiking in Iceland near Reykjavik.

beautiful northern lights with a shooting star

Beautiful Northern Lights...and 10 important safety tips to remember while you look for them

Do you know how to keep safe while you chase the beautiful northern lights?

We all know how beautiful northern lights are, but what about how to stay safe while we look for them?

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Thom Holmes)

1. Dress for the hunt

Dressing in layers is key for surviving Icelandic weather. Because of the Gulfstream, the climate in Iceland can be surprisingly moderate- but because of its North Atlantic location, that moderate climate can include some quickly changing weather conditions. In order to manage the unpredictability of weather or temperature, you might need a few layers of clothing.

This can help you regulate between inside and outside temperatures quickly, and can give you that extra warmth you might need to stay outside hunting just a little bit longer. The temperature might not be astronomical, but it can add up if you’re out for a few hours. 

If you can swing it, try adding a waterproof layer to your collection. This could be waterproof pants for maneuvering in snow or even a waterproof top layer. In the autumn months when there’s a lot of rain, this kind of coverage could be key to enjoying the evening.

northern lights iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

2. Be careful where (and how) you park your vehicle

The first point of this tip is to never park on the road. We don’t need to elaborate on that, because no version of it should be on the table. The roads in Iceland are typically narrow and do not always have a shoulder, so it is not recommended to attempt a pullover for the sake of those beautiful northern lights.

Many of these roads are somewhat raised and have a sloped edge that cannot always be easily seen in the dark. This and other obstacles like lava fields can be easily hidden by accumulated snowfall.

Nighttime driving is difficult under the best conditions, so keeping an eye on the weather, visibility, and the other speedy travelers that you’re sharing the road with is enough pressure already.

If you’ve seen the lights from your window, don’t panic! Though it may be a sacrifice for the driver, the passengers in your car can still snap a shot or two while you search for a safe place to pull over. This could be a designated observation point, a parking lot, a safe place off of the main road.

Try to be respectful of private property, and avoid opening any gates that you may come across. These gates are often keeping livestock from straying onto the road, which is a good reminder for us as well. The beautiful northern lights may be calling… But never let them lead you into the road.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ben Collins)

3. Try reflectors!

If you’re local, you probably already have one somewhere on your person. They can be painted onto your clothes, clipped to your zipper, or even taped onto your gear. Reflectors come in a variety of applications, and there’s one for everyone.

Iceland is dark for a large part of the year (which is why we get to see the beautiful northern lights), so reflectors are a popular accessory here. They can help you maintain some visibility in the dark, which could help a group leader to keep track of you, or help a motorist see you from further away.

If you don’t have one, these can often be picked up in gas stations, outdoor gear shops, and even souvenir shops. Look for a fun one that you can use as a zipper pull!  

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Mael Balland)

4. Tell someone where you're headed

This is a safety tip that you should use no matter where in the world you’re adventuring! If you can’t tell a friend where you’re going (because they’re coming too!), you can submit a travel plan to websites like SafeTravel.is.

If you’re headed out into the wilds looking for beautiful northern lights, you can also rent a Personal Location Beacon (PLB) from them as well, should you need it. These types of precautions may seem extreme, but it is always good to be prepared.

Simple trips can meet with surprise conditions, and it’s better to not need your extra planning than to wish you’d done it.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Gemma Evans)

5. Check the conditions before you go

We may have mentioned this a few times already, but conditions in Iceland change fast. It’s hard to fully understand the weight of that statement until you’ve experienced it a few times, so this might have to be a point that you deposit some trust on.

Iceland’s lonely location in the North Atlantic means that we can be at the receiving end of low-pressure systems, incredible winds, and swiftly moving storms. There’s a lot of precipitation, and lots of domestic concerns like seismic activity, avalanches, and more.

You can’t predict all of it, but you can educate yourself and stay on top of the predictions by checking sites like vedur.is and safetravel.is. These websites can not only keep you safe, but they can also make you aware of new alerts and help you find those beautiful northern lights that you’re after.

Know the season that you’re visiting in, and be aware of the types of weather that most commonly happen within them. Being ready can help you decide how to proceed in a dicey situation.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Sergey Pesterev)

6. Learn how to walk on ice

This is less of a requirement and more of a reminder to be aware of your surroundings. In the colder months, the temperature can fluctuate throughout the day. This means that Iceland is a great spot for producing ice. (Surprising, I know.)

If there’s one thing people usually aren’t doing when hunting the beautiful northern lights, it’s usually looking at the ground in the dark. Falling on ice is a big concern in these colder months, and it goes without saying that it’s an important safety tip to remember.

You can stay upright by looking where you’re going, paying attention to how you’re walking, and protecting yourself with gear. This can mean smaller steps, keeping your weight centered above your feet (less diagonal weight-bearing with long strokes or leaning), and maybe trying out a pair of shoe spikes.

Shops throughout Iceland carry different shoe attachments for this purpose, but you will likely find them at home too. When in doubt, however, look at penguins! They seem to have mastered the technique with their upright shuffle.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Rahul Bhosale)

7. Bring your own light

Don’t forget your gear! Safety tips are one thing, but being well prepared is another. Depending on where you are going and what you’re doing, you will need to pack different things. Typically for nighttime activities, the biggest recommendation is a torch or headlamp.

You may also want to make sure that you have charged your communication devices and cameras, and that you are outfitted to stay warm outside. This means hand, ear, and head coverings if possible. If you are headed out into the wilds, you may want to consider a satellite phone or a Personal Location Beacon.

Organize and check all of your gear before you head out, to make sure that everything is functioning properly, and that you don’t forget anything. Oh! And don’t forget snacks! Even if you’re just out for the night, an aurora hunt is hungry work and you might not find many restaurants open after midnight.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Nik Shuliahin)

8. Look where you're going

This is a nighttime activity, and if you’re hunting in a great spot, you will likely have some impressive dark cover, making it harder to see where you’re walking. We covered ice earlier in our list, but what about terrain? If you’ve had a chance to wander around in the daytime, you may have noticed how uneven Icelandic ground can be.

Iceland’s biome is Arctic tundra, which means that while you may not run into many trees, you will find thick brush and other low-lying grasses that can obscure variation in terrain. In many places that would be manageable.

But in Iceland, that terrain is likely to contain lava fields and rock protrusions. The ground might look flat, but watch out for holes! Like many of the simplest safety tips, this seems like one that doesn’t need to be mentioned, so let’s stay on the path, and keep it that way.

(Unsplash. Valdemaras D.)

9. Beware the water's edge

Another terrain tip! (Are you starting to get the feeling that these might be linked to many avoidable accidents?) Water is a big part of Iceland’s terrain. Whether it’s the huge amount of precipitation that we get, to the frothing glacial rivers, the surrounding ocean, or the placid lakes and ponds of our inland areas.

Many of these bodies of water may look similar to others you’ve seen before, and they may be! But at least during these nighttime activities, they are best left alone. At the time of this writing, the ocean near Reykjavik was a whopping 3.1°C (37.58°F).

This temperature paired with strong currents and stormy winter weather is not safe for inexperienced swimming. There are very few places that one can swim in the ocean here, so you will not find beaches staffed with lifeguards, monitoring the waves.

A fall into one of these frigid bodies of water can be treacherous during the day, but at night it can be lethal. So while you’re keeping an eye out for ice, and looking for holes in the lava- try to keep a respectful distance from the water, and stick to hot pots.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Lux Graves)

10. Stay rested

The beautiful northern lights are only visible at night, which is usually when most of us sleep. If you’re visiting, you probably have some pretty packed days ahead of you. Sightseeing, activities, restaurants, maybe even some hiking.

It’s easy to forget to take a break when you’re hurrying to see all the things on your list. (Have you ever needed a vacation after your vacation? Tell me about it.) There’s stuff to do! Stuff to see! And tonight is a great night for auroras! It sneaks up on us.

But don’t forget to slow down and take a break, or a nap, before heading out for the night. Many visitors go from day trips to aurora hunts, and if you’re driving it can be a lot to handle.

Make sure to eat an early dinner, and take a small nap before you go, just to refresh. Being out in the elements is hard work, and sleepy night driving is a dangerous chance to take. Not to mention following all of these other tips!

Be careful with yourself. We want you to come back, for all the beautiful northern lights yet to come.

where is the best place to see the northern lights

Aurora Hunter Top 10: Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights on the South Coast?

When the sky is only clear in one region, that’s where you’re headed! But once you get there, then what?

So you’re headed down south, and you want to know: “Where is the best place to see the northern lights on the South Coast?” So we’ve put our heads together and gathered up a few of our favorite spots along Iceland’s southern coast for aurora hunting. From the rare to the luxe, we’ve got one in here for everyone.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Bibhash)

1. Gígjagjá at Hjörleifshöfði: The Yoda Cave

The south coast of Iceland is a dramatic landscape, no matter what season you visit. But if you’re looking for a spot a bit off of the beaten path to aurora watch from, look no further than the “Yoda Cave”. 

The cave’s real name is Gígjagjá, but it is fondly known as “The Yoda Cave” since the entry to the shallow cave resembles a particular green individual. It is located in Hjörleifshöfði, which is an inselberg on the Mýrdalssandur plain near Vík.

Surrounded on all sides by vast black sand and seagrass flats, it is said that Hjörleifshöfði used to be an island, and the resting place of old Hjörleif himself. These days, you can drive up to it and enjoy multiple trails in its vicinity.

When inside the cave, you’ll find that the light from the outside illuminates the entry, creating a curiously familiar silhouette. Because of its shape, the cave entry is an amazing sight no matter when you visit. But imagine that shape filled with the majesty of dark sky, a million stars, and the dancing northern lights.. Not a bad spot.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Denise Schuld)

2. Fjaðrárgljúfur

At the more eastern edge of Iceland’s south coast, lies this ethereal canyon. Unlike many popular canyons, this one is not far from the main road. Right off of the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur, this canyon is nearly 2 km. long and houses the Fjaðrá river.

In good weather, the road to the canyon is accessible by all types of vehicles, and the hike along the canyon trail is easy and dry! This is key for those of us who are here to aurora hunt because unless you’re staying in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, you are probably not near a change of clothes.

The bottom of the canyon is home to an active river and a few waterfalls, not to mention protected vegetation and wildlife. Plus, the best view is on top. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a landscape photographer’s dream, so make sure you’re in the right place when the show starts!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Leo Mengoli)

3. Gljúfrabúi & Seljalandsfoss

You probably already know Seljalandsfoss, but do you know its neighbor Gljúfrabúi? After walking behind the towering falls of Seljalandsfoss- an incredible spot in its own right – there’s a little known secret just a stone’s throw away.

Hidden in the same massive rock shelf that feeds Seljalandsfoss, this little waterfall is a hidden treasure of the south coast. When you approach, you see the stream of water first. Further down, you can see the falls peeking through the walls of the canyon. To access them up close, one must walk down the stream through the “halls” of rock.

Depending on the time of year and the conditions at the time of your visit, you may get wet! But once you make your way through the tiny canyon, you empty out into a natural room in the rock, where you can see the waterfall up close, and the sky up above.

Imagine seeing the aurora here, in Gljúfrabúi’s hidden chamber, with the mist of its spray all around. What’s the best place to see the Northern Lights on the South Coast? This is definitely one of them!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Globe City Guide)

4. Sólheimajökull

Sólheimajökull is a piece of the larger Mýrdalsjökull, the south coast’s resident ice cap. (Mýrdalsjökull isn’t alone out here though, it shares the south with Vatnajökull, a glacier so big that it reaches through multiple regions!) This piece of the glacier is a popular location for glacier walking, ice caving, hiking, and just general wonderment.

This ice giant is incredible to see up close, and it is changing by the minute. One can visit the glacier on their own, but due to the extra training that it takes to traverse ice, it is only recommended to climb on with a guide.

Because of how quickly they are receding, one can’t make enough trips out to see the glaciers. They are visible reminders of how many gifts nature has bestowed upon us. …And seeing the lights in their presence is just one more gift on the neverending pile.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Olena Shmahalo)

5. Reykjadalur

Reykjadalur is nearly 30 minutes from Reykjavik, so in some ways, it’s like the gateway to the south coast. Resting in the mountains above Hveragerði, Reykjadalur is a favorite of locals for its beauty, its accessibility, and its naturally hot water.

Reykjadalur means “Valley of Steam”, and it houses a geothermally heated river. This is a colorful area full of steam, bubbling mud, and incredible views as you ascend into these seemingly living mountains. It’s also mostly undeveloped!

There are maintained trails and even some protective boardwalk in the area around the water, but at this time there is no entrance fee, no buildings, and no facilities in this area. This could change over time, but for now, Reykjadalur is a place that belongs only to nature. The hike up takes around 45 minutes to an hour, and once you’re up there it is beyond heavenly to peel off your hiking gear and just lay in the warm river.

It is an incredibly restorative experience. Be careful, though! There are different temperatures throughout the water, so the further down the river you go, the hotter the water gets. This is mountain territory, so while the hike is not considered difficult, winter conditions can add some challenge to the terrain- even for the most seasoned hiker.

Things like early darkness, low clouds, and ice can make this an intense trek, so don’t forget your spikes and torches. But if you do make it up here, laying back in the hot water with your eye on the dancing sky- we’ll leave it to you to answer “Where is the best place to see the northern lights on the south coast?” I think we know what you’ll say.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Alain Wong)

6. Bláfjöll

Even though we just crowned Reykjadalur as the gateway to the south coast- some could argue that that title truly belongs to Bláfjöll. Known as the “blue mountains”, Bláfjöll is a small mountain range that lies about 30 km from Reykjavik, just before Hveragerði.

Though popular for hiking, caving, and lava tubing pursuits- this area shares its name with the ski slopes that live amongst them. Driving through this area is one of your first tastes of wild country outside the capital, and it provides many quiet spots for aurora watching off the main road.

If you visit before the snow, you may get to experience a different type of lush covering- Bláfjöll’s endless fields of Icelandic moss. This moss covers the lava fields and huge swaths of the mountains themselves and can be seen for miles around.

Insulated by the snow in the height of winter, it returns to us every year despite its fragility. The moss takes ages to regrow after damage, so be careful not to walk upon it when hiking. 

where is the best place to see the northern lights
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Thomas Tucker)

7. The plane wreck at Sólheimasandur

One of the more unusual stops, this is a pretty interesting one. Though it sounds grim, this plane wreck was non-fatal, and all of the passengers escaped unharmed. In 1973, a US Navy DC plane appeared to run out of fuel and had to crash land on Sólheimasandur– a vast black sand beach on the south coast.

The people inside made it out, but they left their airplane behind. The wreck of this plane is still resting on the beach today, a bit worn and smoothed by the endless Icelandic wind and the movement of the volcanic sand. It is a favorite location of photographers, and many have watched the lights from its empty belly.

If you choose to visit this spot, please exercise caution. While it is a flat land hike, it does take around an hour of treading sand to reach the wreck, and it cannot be seen from the road. You can leave your vehicle in the parking area, but you can no longer drive up to the location. This area is vast, and it is not populated by many landmarks- so it is easy to get disoriented here.

Be aware of the weather before you head out, as there have been accidents of exposure and hypothermia in the past. It is possible to visit the location with a guide, but be respectful of the area nonetheless. Just like the moss, we wish to preserve the unique strangeness of the wreck for years to come- so that many can spy the aurora from its wings.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Toby Elliott)

8. Þorlákshöfn (Thorlakshofn)

Wedged right in the corner of the coast where the Reykjanes peninsula meets with the full curve of the island, lies the little town of Þorlákshöfn. Known around the country as one of the primary places to catch a ferry to the Westman Isles– this is a charming seaside town.

Right along the edge of the coast, there are gorgeous villages to explore, and this is only one of them. This town rests at the end of the Ölfusá river and counts many curiosities among its hiking trails, bustling port, and beautiful sights.

If you’re planning a night out of aurora watching by the sea, this is certainly a good place to stop for a bite first. (Or to ride ATVs, horses, do some rock climbing, check out some sea caves, and more!)

This is a beautiful community where you can appreciate the brevity of Icelandic living, and the relationship between the sea and the warm volcanic land in which that life continues to thrive.

When we asked “Where is the best place to see the northern lights?”, it was not hard to imagine this place. (But don’t end your adventure here! If the weather is mild, hop the ferry to the Westman Isles! Southern Iceland really is a whole world of its own.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Denys Nevozhai)

9. Reynisfjara

This is a popular spot, but it sure is hard to argue with. Reynisfjara is the name of the black sand beach near the village of Vík. Seen in countless films, tv productions, photographs, and artistic works- it’s a must see location.

Vík is the southernmost village on the island, and a great spot to branch out from if you plan on exploring the south coast region. Home to many activities, restaurants, and shops, this area is lined by dramatic basalt cliffs that thousands of seabirds call home in the summer season.

Though beautiful, the waves here can be massive and are known to be dangerous, so please exercise caution near the shoreline. Due to the small population of the town, you’ll find great dark skies here. We love Reynisfjara year round, but it truly is a magical place to watch the northern lights, in the shadow of slumbering Katla.

where is the best place to see the northern lights
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Balazs Busznyak)

10. Skógafoss

Last but not least, we can’t leave this thundering giant off of a south coast adventure list. Not only is it close to some of our favorite northern lights hotels, but it makes an incredible aurora vantage point.

If you visit earlier in the day, you can climb to the top of the falls and enjoy the 25+ waterfall trek known as waterfall way! (You thought the show was just Skógafoss? Guess again!)

Skógafoss is the grand finale of the Fimmvörðuháls path, a 22 km. trek into the hiker’s paradise, Thórsmörk. While this adventure might not be possible in high winter, you can catch the tail end of its availability in autumn. For those that don’t wish to make the full 22 km., waterfall way is only about 8 km. one way, following the river.

But this is extra. Skógafoss itself is phenomenal. Standing at 60 m. high and 25 m. across, you can see this wonder right from the main road. It creates huge clouds of mist, and it empties out on a vast plane of land that runs out to the sea.

You could spend a whole day here exploring the surrounding area and enjoying the falls from different vantage points. You can even throw up a tent and camp out nearby, lulling yourself to sleep to the constant hum of falling water. Don’t forget to look up though! The rainbows in the mist during the day are hard to compare to the aurora curving over the cliff edge at night.

northern lights painting

Northern Lights Painting...and 5 other fun things to do when the lights aren’t out

We spend a lot of time looking for auroras, but what do we do when we can’t find one? Fellow hunters, meet northern lights painting.

Northern lights painting may not be the first thing you think of when you pack your bags for a hunt. (And it might mean something different to different people! Don’t worry, we’ll come back later for the crafters.)

But if we’ve learned anything at all from years of chasing the aurora, it’s how to be prepared for any and all kinds of nights. Whether there’s a show to see, or not.     

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Marek Piwnicki)

1. Light painting, or, Northern Lights Painting

Known as “Light Painting” or “experimental long exposure photography”, this is the ultimate activity when you’re waiting on the lights to show up. It may not be auroras, but it’s a fan favorite for a dark night with no show.

Popular in its own right, light painting or, northern lights painting, as we like to call it, is an activity that requires a camera. All you need to do this is a DSLR camera or a camera that can accommodate a long shutter setting, a tripod or flat surface, and a light.

This is an experimental process for a reason, and there is no wrong way to do your own northern lights painting. (Well, as long as you’ve got the flat surface and the long shutter. If your camera is moving you’ll have a hard time capturing an image, and if you can’t access a longer shutter, it will be harder to create these effects.)

That being said, this is an activity for people of all levels of artistic skill. The photos you make will look differently depending on where you are, what settings you try, and what tools you use to create light.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Daniil Silantev)

You can even do this inside! (Though, we find ourselves doing this outside most of the time, since we’re always waiting on the aurora to show up.)

Once you’ve got your tripod and your camera set up, you’ll be using a lot of the same settings you’d use for a northern lights shot. This means low aperture, and typically a higher ISO than you’d use for a daylight photo.

(Depending on the effect you’re going for, this could be an ISO as low as 400, and as high as 3600- but don’t take our word for it! This is art, so you’ll have to try different combinations out to see what look works best for you.)

And the key of course, is the extended shutter. Most cameras can accommodate up to 30 seconds of shutter, which is plenty for time for you to create a compelling shape or image. If you find that this is too bright, remember the golden rule of northern lights painting, and adjust till you get the look you want.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Austin Neill)

These photos are created by manipulating lit items in the camera’s field of vision. This means you can use fairy lights, mobile phones, torches, sparklers, LED tools, and so on. You can write messages, create three-dimensional patterns, draw shapes- the opportunities are endless. You can make your own aurora! (It is northern lights painting, after all..) 

This is a great activity whether or not the lights are out, and we suggest checking out the work of other light painters. There are a lot of opinions on the best types of light, how to diffuse light with tracing paper, and how to color white light with plastics.

There are also countless tutorials on how to make the tools themselves, in order to achieve certain looks. (We are big fans of the long piece of wood with fairy lights taped to it.) If you choose to go the sparkler route, be careful!

Activities like this can spark dry grasses and create wildfires. Make sure you are operating in a damp area, and practicing fire safety while you work. No photo is worth an accidental blaze.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: shawnanggg)

2. Stargazing and Telescoping out the heavens

Northern lights painting gives us something to do down here on Earth, but what about when we’re back to eyeing the skies?

That’s when it’s time to stargaze. While this activity does require the same clear skies as auroras, it doesn’t necessarily require any special equipment. (But don’t worry gadget collectors- there definitely is some.)

With a little knowledge and a lot of darkness, you can find constellations, planets, nebulas, and all sorts of celestial bodies. One can follow satellites, shooting stars, and even an eclipse or two in the Icelandic sky. (And you ought to make the best of it while you can, because we miss out on nearly ever summer event!)

However, if you want to elevate your stargazing experience, there are a lot of tools that can help you do this. Telescopes, binoculars, star maps, and more apps than you can imagine exist just for this very purpose.

Stargazing is a burgeoning hobby with an incredible community, and depending on where you are- there is likely a whole contingent of fellow gazers that you can learn from and watch with.

There also happens to be a lot to learn, so this hobby may stay with you far beyond an Icelandic holiday. Amateur space weather enthusiasts all over the world are even helping contribute to modern science.

In fact- it was stargazers that helped us understand STEVE. But, it’s a wide world out there. What far off planets or mysteries of the verse are YOU going to discover?

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Hu Chen)

3. Astrophotography, Star Trails and Galaxy Hunts

While stargazing and northern lights painting can both become camera-centric activities, this is definitely one. Many aurora hunters end up becoming photographers out of necessity- because it is just too hard to chase such an ethereal thing and not keep a piece of it for yourself.

Photos are one of the many pieces of the magic, and they are not easily come by. Their rarity and the work that goes into making them is in some ways just as rewarding as the aurora hunt itself.

(Not to mention, a well-timed photo can be a great early detection tool in actually finding the northern lights on a dim evening.)

As many of you know, a great photo is the ultimate souvenir. It’s hard for a t-shirt or a fridge magnet to beat that kind of memento. But what do you do when there’s no aurora to capture?

That’s when we widen our scope even more, to astrophotography. Astrophotography is a big term that includes aurora photos- and about a thousand other things. The reality is that we can access so much more of the sky than we realize.

With the naked eye and our usual context in light polluted places, there’s a lot that we don’t see. But with a great lens (be it in a camera, telescope, or slick pair of binoculars,) suddenly the far rings of Saturn, or the super up close topography of the moon, become easily viewable.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jose De Queiroz)

Star Trail images

So after you’ve done your northern lights painting of course, turn your lens to the stars. If you’ve got your tripod and plenty of battery, you can create star trail images by setting your focus to infinity and using the longest exposure you’ve got available to you.

This can be a tricky situation, because you may need to set your camera to the bulb setting, or acquire a cable release for your specific camera model to allow these unusual levels of exposure. (We are talking about 15-30 minute long exposures here!)

But, thanks to aids like Startrails, you can also take shorter exposure images, and the program will layer them together for you. This process makes this type of photography a bit more accessible to the novice astrophotographer, and it cuts down on image noise as well.

This is a special branch of nighttime photography, so have a look around if you’re interested! There is a whole world of star trail enthusiasts, and a million tried and true practices for getting the kind of images you want.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

Galaxy Photos 

If you’re looking to capture nebulas and far off bodies of celestial light, you may need some specialized gear. Many of these photos are taken with professional attachments and some are even captured through telescope attachments!

If you’ve got a telescope with you and want to venture into that realm of photography, go forth and please send us a copy! We’d love to see it. But for those of you who are trying to capture a galaxy with your DSLR, you may be in luck.

It’s not the easiest, but it is possible. You’ll need a lot of the same stuff you’d bring with you for northern lights photos, so make sure you’ve loaded up your manual capable camera, a sturdy tripod, a fast lens and some patience.

A new item that you’ll need is a starmap app. An interactive map can help you locate the milky way for that evening, which will cut out a lot of the guess work. Above all, you need to be in a dark place. Just like aurora hunting and northern lights painting, light pollution drowns out the good stuff.

Just like the star trail photos, you’ll be working with a pretty long shutter. As you try this out, don’t be disappointed if your photos don’t look quite as outrageous as some of the galaxy shots you’ve seen.

Many photographers in this field are utilizing specialized gear, processes like time blends and startracking, and doing a lot of heavy lifting in a post processing software like Photoshop.

These images are sometimes the product of a great composite job, or a lot of really skillful editing in a RAW image. You can certainly capture a viable shot with your regular aurora gear, but if you’re interested in this- don’t despair! All of these tricks can be learned, and there is ample information on the web to help you. Everybody has to start somewhere.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ross Hughes)

4. Hot spring night soaks

Now here’s an activity that you don’t need a camera for. (Unless you want to make some friends extra jealous.) Half of the time, we’re doing this instead of setting up the cameras- and sometimes the lights come out anyways!

The best seat in the house is always in the hot pot. Iceland’s geothermal landscape is a treasure chest of natural hot springs and great places to soak. But despite that, Icelanders have installed geothermally heated swimming pools in nearly every town, and hot tubs at many summer houses.

If there’s a pool to sit in, we can almost promise it’s heated. (Unless it’s an ice pool, that’s a thing.) If you’re staying in town, there’s a swimming pool near you that is accessible for a low price year round, and if you’re extra lucky, you may have a hot pot in your vicinity.

If you’re a hiker, you can venture forth into a natural hot spring like Reykjadalur, or even Landmannalaugar. If you choose these wilder options, remember to be careful.

Hiking in the colder aurora season and in the darkness is a next level activity, and should only be taken on by aurora hunters that are confident in their trekking skills. Make sure to tell a friend where you’re headed, and bring the appropriate gear.

And check the weather! Some of these natural springs are in mountainous places that experience quickly changing weather and limited visibility, so it’s good to understand the area before you set out.

But if you make it.. Enjoy! There’s nothing in the world like laying in a wild hot spring at night watching nature make its own northern lights painting, just for you.

Bubble Hotel Iceland

5. Lay back and pop some Bubbly

As we near the more.. Luxurious end of our list, it feels only right to mention the northern lights igloo option. If the lights are out, this is an incredible option. If they aren’t out, it’s an incredible option. If you’re here in the summer, it’s an incredible option. You can’t go wrong with this activity.

The Bubble Hotel of Iceland consists of a handful of fully transparent domed igloos that are tucked away in the embrace of two lush forests. This means you’ve got two location choices, and all the nature you can handle.

These hideaways are sequestered in their own groves, heated, and outfitted with their own luxury sleeping accommodations. To catch the lights, we often wait outside for long periods of time in the wind, weather, and low temperatures.

But imagine if you could do it wrapped in a down comforter with gourmet treats, in bed? Because of their rural locations, you’ll have all the darkness you need for optimal aurora watching or stargazing.

If you catch the lights out here, there’s no better seat. But if you don’t- you still get to walk away with a night spent in the height of luxury, surrounded by the grandeur of raw Icelandic nature on all sides.

It’s certainly the furthest away you can get from roughing it, while still being right in the middle of the woods. So excuse us while we slip into something a bit more.. Comfortable.

best place to see northern lights in iceland

The best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 of the most magical spots for aurora watching and stargazing

No matter how many times we’ve seen the aurora, we’re always looking for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

We never stop looking for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland. From the far reaches of the west, to the lush forests of the east- it is impossible to count them all. Iceland may be a small island, but the hidden treasures here are many. Where was the best place you watched the sky from?

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ursula Drake)

1. Vestmannaeyjar

Vestmannaeyjar, or The Westman Islands, lie right off of Iceland’s south coast. Accessible by ferry or plane, they are an often overlooked gem and in our opinion, a best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

The Westman Islands are a self-contained world all to themselves, and boast some of the warmest annual temperatures in the entire country! Benefitting from the gulf stream, they are known as a wildlife-rich area that enjoys plentiful fishing, whale and birdwatching, and music festivals and sport in the summer.

A visit to the Westman Isles is punctuated by incredible sights. Lighthouses on rock stacks, one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in modern history, vast sea caves, and a whole chain of gorgeous, uninhabited islands. And being far south, one of the last places to catch the lights at the end of the auroral season.

Many great country aurora spots are remote, but here in Vestmannaeyjar you’ve got everything you can think of within a few kilometers. Including some of Iceland’s most notable golfing and dining!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Gigi)

2. Hellnar in Snæfellsnes

The peninsula above Reykjavik is known as Snæfellsnes. A place that enchanted Jules Verne and featured in many historical Saga tales, Snæfellsnes became an EarthCheck community in 2008.

Truthfully you could travel the whole of the peninsula, and find thousands of good aurora spots. This is not a heavily populated zone, and during the day it is a phenomenal sightseeing location.

But we’re spilling the details on our favorite spots, so Hellnar has to make the cut! An ancient fishing village for many generations, Hellnar is perched on the tip of the peninsula overlooking the curved basalt coastline and the thundering sea.

People come from miles around to seal and whale watch, enjoy the varied geology of the area and view the countless natural landmarks in peace. You can travel quietly here, and enjoy the high-quality darkness of this northerly locale.

When in Hellnar, one can nearly imagine what it might have been like in centuries past- a bustling destination under a slumbering volcano.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Globe City Guide)

3. Hvalfjörður

Just outside of Reykjavik lies a hidden treasure off the main road. Hvalfjörður is the name of the fjord that lies between Mosfellsbær and Akranes. A short trip from the capital city, Hvalfjörður is home to many small waterfalls and hiking paths.

The popular trek to Glymur starts here, and many coastal hikes as well. The fjord itself is 30 kilometers long and there is not a stitch of it that does not house some kind of tiny wonder. Often passed over for more notable climes, this is a calm and beautiful place to aurora watch, with multiple marked observation points that are safe to park in.

Great for some daytime and evening hiking while you wait, the textured vistas and low traffic certainly make Hvalfjörður feel like the best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Majkl Velner)

4. Jökulsárlon and Fjallsárlón

You have likely already seen Jökulsárlon on lists like these, and it is admittedly hard not to include it. One of the most dramatic glacial lagoons on the island, Jökulsárlon feeds out to sea across a black sand beach littered with giant chunks of ice.

Watching the huge pieces of ice swirl in the surf as if weightless, is a close competitor for the northern lights. But what about nearby Fjallsárlón? Only about 10 kilometers west of well known Jökulsárlon, lies this smaller more intimate lagoon.

Spectacular during the day, at night the lagoons can provide gorgeous reflection photos for aurora hunters and stargazers alike. Time spent next to these otherworldly spaces is special and fleeting.

They are truly impermanent and no repeat visit to them will ever feel the same. All the better reason to hurry- both the lights and the ice do not keep. 


Tip: When visiting these spaces, be extra careful around the water and the ice. It is tempting to hurry forth and touch, but the calving of the glacier is unpredictable and can create impressive waves. The ice left on the beach is easily moved by the ocean, and just like the lagoons, can be dangerous up close. (What looks light in the sea, may feel rather heavy when dropped on your feet!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Robert Bye)

5. Dyrhólaey

Near the coastal village of Vík, there’s a promontory called Dyrhólaey. Named for the arched holes in the rock- or “door holes”, this is another ever-changing gem of the island, not to mention the southernmost point of the mainland! Featuring multiple paths, Dyrhólaey is a paradise of vistas.

There are many famous shots to be had here, and hardly anything to get in the way of them. An easy jaunt from the nearby village, Vík is a great refueling stop for explorers of this area. The south coast is punctuated by black sand beaches, huge basalt sea caves, and towering cliff waterfalls.

There are even northern light igloos that one can hide away in, which makes the south coast in general a great choice for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland. 


Tip: Mind the pathways and signs when visiting this area. Dyrhólaey is changing, and pieces of the landmass are sometimes lost to the sea. Places that are roped off are roped off for a reason.

Check any signage you see before you hike out, as rangers in the area often update it due to shifts in the conditions of the land.

The ocean around this area is fierce and has claimed many lives. When visiting the shoreline, keep your distance from the waves- this beach is known for “sneaker waves” and unforgiving currents.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Yves Alarie)

6. Dimmuborgir

In the north of Iceland near Mývatn, lie the dark castles. Otherwise known as Dimmuborgir, this strange lava field has captured the eye of many, from Norwegian metal band Dimmu Borgir, to the wildlings of Game of Thrones.

Characterized by the unusual rock stacks and tunnel formations, Dimmuborgir is a place of many stories and beliefs. But, regardless of what you believe, it is a shoe-in for best place to see northern lights in Iceland.

Being located in the picturesque Mývatn region, the dark cities overlook miles of great lakeside hiking and some of the north’s best geothermal bathing. For amateur and expert photographers alike, the craggy peaks of the lava and the still waters of Mývatn make incredible photos against the bright colors of the auroras.

Between the breathtaking natural wonders and the nearby amenities, it’s hard to find a better spot! 


Tip: Visit this place during the daytime to familiarize yourself with the terrain. Mývatn may not be hugely difficult hiking, but these rocky areas can be challenging to navigate for the first time in the dark. Double up on your protection by bringing a headlamp or torch- extra points if it’s a red light for night vision preservation!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Michele Orallo)

7. Gullfoss

Imagine reclining on a bench watching the northern lights, while a waterfall rumbles nearby. Doesn’t get any more peaceful than that! On our hunt for the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, we had to include a waterfall. Iceland is simply riddled with these gifts of nature, and Gullfoss is a big one.

Named for its golden illuminated appearance in the daytime, what is even more spectacular is the light that hits it in the nighttime. About 1 hour and 45 minutes from Reykjavik, Gullfoss is a protected area that hosts observation points, walking paths, and a parking lot with a cafe.

It’s rare to find a good aurora spot with a safe place to park your car, so spots like these should not be overlooked. The golden circle region is a great daytrip, and the roads are well maintained in the winter months. 


Tip: If you plan on visiting the cafe or shop on your trip, make sure to check ahead and see what the hours are. These things can vary depending on the season, so it’s better to go in with no surprises. (Or at least one less- the lights are a big enough surprise on their own.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Kym Ellis)

8. Þingvellir National Park

Only about 35 minutes from the capital, Þingvellir or Thingvellir should be on the top of your list for best place to see northern lights in Iceland- no matter where you’re staying. Once upon a time, Thingvellir was the most important gathering point for Icelanders, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Home to a massive lake, miles of hiking, and incredible views- Thingvellir is a place of activity. It’s also one of the places where you can see the continental rift! But as far as lights go, it’s a veritable playground.

When you’re out aurora hunting, you have to consider logistics. Things like places to park, places to get a snack, bathrooms, proximity to lodging, access to darkness, and so on. Most places will only have a few of these, but Thingvellir hits them all.

Being a national park, it’s designed to accommodate vehicles and wanderers. There are loads of paths to travel, established hiking routes, and plenty of parking lots and observation points to safely stow a vehicle.

This is a big win, because Iceland is full of narrow roads with few places to pull over for a show. Thingvellir is also aware of us aurora hunters, and so there are occasionally places to grab a coffee or a bathroom break along the way.

(Depending on how late you’re out, of course. Double check this before you go if it’s your destination.) You’re also in a great spot when you’re here. Thingvellir is just a half-hour north of Reykjavik, and rests at the entrance to the Golden Circle region. (Or exit, if you came the other way!)

And even though you’re close to town, you will find that Thingvellir is home to some surprisingly good darkness. Because of its inland location and its historical importance as a gathering point, it’s well-positioned on the edge of the highlands.

And there’s tons to do! The only mistake you can make by aurora hunting here is to skip visiting in the daytime. In the autumn, Thingvellir is a rainbow of foliage.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Chris Stenger)

9. Ásbyrgi

This is a rarer stop in the north of Iceland. Located on the Diamond Circle, Ásbyrgi is a horseshoe-shaped canyon that some believe was made by a glacier.. But really we know it is where Sleipnir touched hoof to Earth.

The views to be had here are unique, as the steep walls of the canyon protect a vast forest within their embrace. Because of this “Shelter of the Gods”, Ásbyrgi is an incredible place to visit in the autumn months to catch the color changing of the leaves, and the crystal pond among them.

There is a campsite here, and multiple trails to enjoy all the different views that the huge canyon has to offer. But be careful while you’re here- to us this may be the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, but to some it is the elven capital. Tread lightly!

(Photo Credit: Kévin Pagès)

10. Gamla Laugin: The Secret Lagoon near Flúðir

The truth about the best place to see northern lights in Iceland, is that it will change with the weather, and with your expectations. Maybe you have a certain photo you want to get, or a certain thing that you want to see. Maybe you want to stay in a specific region, or are looking for cozy places to unwind while you you look.

Places like the Secret Lagoon near Flúðir, perhaps. We are pretty big fans of watching the lights from warm places, and this is one of the warmest. If your plans and the weather both allow it- watching the aurora from a natural hot spring is an incredible experience.

Particularly one as beloved as the Secret Lagoon. One of Iceland’s oldest “swimming pools”, this is the place where many southern Icelanders first learned to swim.

And within 24 hours, it has replaced its own water as it continuously flows. One of the most authentic bathing experiences there is, coupled with one of the most authentic aurora watching spots we know. 


Tip: Check the website before you go to see what the conditions are for that day. Depending on traffic, you may need to book in advance. (The lagoon is big, but it is always better to plan ahead if you can.) The hours of the lagoon may change, so double-check the schedule to see how late they’ll be open when you visit.

how to hunt northern lights in iceland

How to hunt Northern Lights in Iceland: 10 important tips for catching the aurora

Heading out on an aurora hunt? Don’t go too far without these tips! 

There’s a lot of info out there about aurora hunting, but what about how to hunt northern lights in Iceland? With its ethereal landscape, rapidly changing weather, and, convenient location, these tips are penned with that special island in mind. After a few visits, you’ll see what we mean.

1. Check THE aurora forecast

There are countless aurora forecasts and apps floating around on the web. The more used to them you are, the quicker you can understand how to hunt northern lights in Iceland. Eventually you may find that it can be to reference a few of them before heading out, but for now, here is our favorite. 

If you’re new to the aurora forecast scene and you need to know what’s going on in Iceland, you’ve got to check the forecast put out by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. We like this forecast because we know it’s focusing on the cloud cover in our area, and not a global average or a hidden location behind a percentage.

It’s also a great place to catch any unusual weather alerts or natural events that might not be covered in your own home forecasts. Things like avalanche warnings, seismic activity, and volcano alerts. This website is your one stop shop for all forecasting needs in Iceland.

how to hunt for northern lights in iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

2. ..And then check the weather

You looked at the aurora forecast, and it looks great! But what is the actual weather doing? Chances are, if the cloud map looked ok, you might be in luck. But it’s always best to double check, because of how quickly Icelandic weather can change and develop by area.

Knowing how to hunt northern lights in Iceland is greatly benefited by knowing about general weather alerts, low pressure systems, high wind, icy conditions and storms in areas that you may be heading to are all things you will want to know before you head out. It might be clear at your starting location, but an hour away might be a different story.

Make sure to scroll through the hours that you’ll be out and see how the prediction develops over time. These things can make or break your trip, and it’s important to be safe while traveling in dark conditions.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Matt Palmer)

3. Set a heading

If you’ve seen the aurora forecast, you probably have a good idea of where to go. (How? Because you saw where the sky clarity was!) When choosing a direction to venture in, we are looking for areas of clarity first, and then figuring out what roads and landmarks follow that window.

Depending on what time of year you’re hunting in, you may need to check the roads along your projected path, as not all areas receive service in the winter months. Some roads close, some are unpaved, and some may be dangerous at certain times.

The good news is, you can find out all of this info, and see a webcam view of most of them. (The webcam view might not do you much good at night, but it’s a nice tool for daytime use.) Websites like road.is keep track of the status of the roads, if they’ve been serviced, and if they are safe to travel.

This information gets updated frequently, so it’s also a good tool to use while you’re out. It can also help to familiarize yourself with the roads that are in the clear areas you saw on the aurora forecast.

Be careful though, and make sure that you are never stopped on one of these roads while hunting. Icelandic roadways are often small and often lack a shoulder for pulling over, so it is key to wait until you reach a safe space to stop- no matter how good the show is.

(And be careful about private property and gates! Much of Iceland is private farmland, so try to be respectful of where you hunt, and never leave a gate open behind you.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Alvaro Serrano)

4. Don’t leave the house without a full charge!

This might be a no brainer to some, but it can be the difference between getting that great shot, and being left empty handed. Batteries drain faster in cold weather, so don’t rely on a half charged battery for a long aurora hunt. These treks can last a few hours, and you can’t always gauge when the aurora will reveal itself.

Do yourself a favor, and hook all of that gear up before you go. That could mean phones, camera equipment, drones, headlamps, backup batteries, whatever you’ve got. In this respect, it’s better to be too prepared.

(..And don’t forget a USB cord for the road! Depending on your travel situation, many cars and busses have USB ports that can boost a dying device in a pinch.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Madara Parma)

5. Dress for success

This is a point that often gets overlooked, and it’s a very Iceland appropriate topic. If you’re headed out into that dark wintry night, you had better make sure you’re layered, and at least partially waterproof.

You can give or take some of these things depending on how long you’ll be out and what your level of activity will be; but if you’re diving in, you won’t regret it.

Due to a fairly moderate climate (as far as Arctic climates go,) Iceland can be quite wet throughout the auroral season. Pair this with increased wind speeds in the evening, and you’ve got a recipe for some frigid legs. If you’re spending a few hours outside at night, you could benefit from some waterproof gear or insulated pants.

You may also want to dress in layers, as hopping in and out of a vehicle can sometimes be an extreme temperature experience. And don’t forget fingers, necks, ears and ankles!

These are parts that you may need to expose to work cameras, phones, and gadgets- but even the strongest mitts need a break. You might not wear them the whole time, but you’ll appreciate having the choice.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ihor Malytskyi)

6. Start the hunt before you leave the house

When thinking about how to hunt northern lights in Iceland, checking the forecast and dressing in layers seems pretty straightforward. But what about preparing yourself? For some people, the hunt starts the minute they head out into the darkness.

But for a true aurora hunter, it begins in the afternoon and early evening, when you’re getting that early dinner and pre-hunt nap. You might be out late, and you might work up an appetite!

It’s a real drag to roll back into town around 1:30 am cold and hungry, only to find that your options are severely limited to convenience store snacks at best. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a 24 hour grocery, but otherwise, most restaurants and eateries will be closed by the time you’re done chasing the lights.

So give your hunt the full attention that it deserves, by making sure your belly is full, and your body is rested. (…And maybe preemptively pick up some snacks for the road. Aurora hunting is hungry work!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

7. Know what you're looking for

When people talk about how to hunt northern lights in Iceland, they often forget to mention this part. It’s important to be prepared for auroras that may not look like what you’ve seen on postcards and films.

The average, low level aurora may be a bit smokier, darker, or less saturated than you expect. Knowing that they can begin this way can help hone your vision, and can also be the tip that helps you decide between the “cloud or lights?” game that many hunters have to play.

It can also help to know that not every aurora is a swirly ribbon of quickly moving spikes, and they may not even be the color you’re expecting! Some auroras can appear as a diffused glow, spots of activity, or even slowly moving bow shapes.

(Not to be confused with ambient city glow! On a cloudy night, a nearby town can throw off a surprising amount of warm glow into the sky.) Keep an eye out for cool extras like the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik, shooting stars, satellites, constellations, planets, and even STEVE!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Rahul Bhosale)

8. Go easy on your eyes

This can be a difficult tip depending on your situation, but it’s a good reminder. Our eyes are not designed to view color well in darkness, so aurora hunting can be hard on us.

Depending on your eyesight, the context you’re in, and your own color processing ability, you may find that your experience of viewing the lights is different from the person next to you.

Make sure to compare what you’re seeing, and talk about it! You would be surprised by how different we are. But no matter how sharp your night vision is, remember that you can help it by giving your eyes time to adjust, and avoiding bright lights while you’re out.

Things like phone and camera screens can be adjusted, and easier sources of light like red light flashlights can be acquired to really set the scene and spare your peepers. You don’t have to go full infrared mode, but don’t forget to be gentle to yourself. Aurora hunting is magical and difficult, so go easy on your senses.

iceland northern lights hotel
The Bubble Hotel of Iceland

9. Keep moving

This isn’t a requirement, but it can be a helpful strategy. If you have a great spot to watch from, (like a northern lights igloo!), then moving might not be the play for you. But if you’re in a vehicle, or just out wandering, switching up your vista can sometimes help.

When we view the sky, it can feel like we’re seeing the whole thing- but we aren’t. The area you’re watching is a slice. And that slice might be impacted by the grade of the land, obstacles like mountains, trees, or buildings, and sometimes clouds.

It’s good to remember that the northern lights are a global event that are happening to our planet, and not necessarily just us. This can mean that we just aren’t underneath whatever is happening, so movement can sometimes be that extra step that gets us a glimpse.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Chelaxy Designs)

10. Don't forget those test shots

If you’re waiting on that dream photo, this tip is for you. Don’t wait until you’re SURE it’s an aurora, shoot early, and often! If you think you saw something and you’re not sure, a test shot can be a great way to find out.

Low level wispy activity can be easily sussed out with a sample shot, and it can be a great way to gauge how you’ll need to adjust your settings for that subject. You’d be surprised how dark the lights can be when they’re just getting started, and how much color the camera can pull out in a simple test image, that our eyes could not.

This is a strategy that can also help if you’re in a brighter place and are really struggling to see. The settings dont have to be perfect, but you’ll get a good confirmation when you see that neon green pop up on your camera.

Or not! Sometimes, it really is just a cloud. But until you’re sure, a test is a great way to hone your hunter’s eye and get used to the various forms an aurora can take.

aurora hunting

Next level Aurora Hunting: 5 wild places to watch the Northern Lights in Iceland

Looking to up the ante on your aurora hunt with a getaway to a rare location? Look no further.

Seeing the northern lights is phenomenal no matter where you are. But for some next level aurora hunting, we’ve reached deep into our own favorites for some rare spots that we think you’ll enjoy. Seeing these places at all is a big win, but aurora hunting in them? Unforgettable.

1. Grímsey: The Gateway to the Arctic

Grímsey is the one point in Iceland that actually reaches the Arctic Circle. Resting about 40 km. north of mainland Iceland, Grímsey straddles the actual Arctic Circle and is the northernmost inhabited land in Iceland. (There is a smaller island further north, but it is uninhabited and is predicted to soon be claimed by the sea.)

Getting to Grímsey is fairly straightforward. You can hop on the ferry for a 3 hour trip both ways, or catch a quick 25 minute flight from Akureyri Airport. Believe it or not, you can access this northern gem year round.

Home to only about 100 people, Grímsey is a popular destination for aurora hunting, birdwatching, history buffs and those that seek the rare and covetous Arctic Circle certificate! When in Grímsey, one can actually visit the border that denotes the current location of the Arctic Circle boundary.

This intersection is marked by a nearly 9 ton stone sphere called “Orbis et Globus.” This giant art piece is a monument that was made to mark the Arctic Circle boundary, and follow its movement. In fact, it’s round because they never intended this monument to be static- just as the Arctic Circle is not static.

At the time of this writing, the Arctic Circle is marked at 66.5 degrees northern latitude, but it is constantly moving further north of us. The circle is moving about 14-15 meters north every year, and will likely continue this journey for 10-20,000 more years.

At that time, it is expected that it will move south once again. Till then, we have the century stones on Grímsey to mark its passage. You can visit these three stones, that mark the past locations of the Arctic Circle border from the summer solstice in 1717, 1817, and, 1917.

Depending on how things go, Orbis et Globus may have to roll into the sea! Despite Grímsey’s diminutive size and small population, it is a place of thriving life and a phenomenal aurora hunting spot.

There are multiple options for lodging there, multiple historic locations to view, and many hiking paths where you will truly be alone with nature at the edge of the world. Out here it’s just you, the northern lights, and about 1 million estimated sea birds.

This close to the pole your ability to pick up low level solar activity increases, and of course you can’t complain about the quality of darkness out in the Arctic waters. Not to mention, the certificate!

There are multiple ways to acquire one of these rare documents, and for many, they are a trip highlight. You can secure yours by taking a Nordlandair/Air Iceland flight, or by purchasing one in the Gallerí Sól giftshop.

(According to the town of Akureyri’s webpage, Gallerí Sól is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer months, which may not line up with many Aurora hunters. If you plan on taking the ferry, make sure to write or call ahead to pre-reserve your diploma by phone (+354) 4673190 / (+354) 4673156 or by email: gullsol@visir.is. Can’t leave without it!)

aurora hunting
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Robby McCulllough)

2. Þórsmörk/Thórsmörk: Valley of the God

In English, this place is The God’s Valley. Named for Thor, you don’t have to be here very long to see why this place is divine enough to be a deity’s backyard. Thórsmörk makes the list not only because it’s painfully gorgeous, but it is also not so easy to get to.

Nestled in the southern Icelandic highlands, this nature reserve is officially a trek. Though it doesn’t take too long to get there from the main ring road, it does require some F-road travel and depending on conditions, a couple of river crossings.

These are glacial rivers, and because of that, it can be hard to predict how deep, how turbulent, or how difficult a crossing will actually be at the time. Glacial rivers are affected by climate change, seismic and geothermal activity, and just weather in general, so this is a location that we recommend some help to access.

While it is perfectly legal to attempt this journey yourself, most rental insurance does not actually include water damage to the undercarriage of a vehicle, which is good to know before you take a 4×4 into the middle of a river for the first time.

Even the experts get stuck sometimes in their specially modified highland crawler trucks- so it’s a good thing to take seriously. Fortunately, there’s another way!

Thórsmörk is home to some cool mountaineer lodging and endless beautiful hiking trails, there are many different guides that can help ferry you into the god’s oasis.

These experiences range from private super jeep expeditions, all the way down to the Highland Bus, which is a specially altered bus meant to navigate river crossing and get you over Eyjafjallajökull’s still standing piles of fine ash.

If you’re able to make this journey in the winter, be ready with your cameras. There are some unbelievable vistas in this area, and some of them are quite manageable for the novice hiker.

Proceed with caution though, because colder months of the year bring additional navigation and footing challenges that should not be overlooked. These are the true highlands, and people aren’t kidding when they say it’s another planet.

Between the climate microcosms and the rapidly changing conditions, it is good to be extra mindful out here. Keep in mind that some of these pathways into the reserve may not receive extensive service in the height of winter, and so if you are aurora hunting then, it is recommended to go with a guide.

If you are visiting in the earlier or later halves of the aurora season, it may still be clement enough to venture out on your own, if you are an experienced outdoors person, or you’re hitching a ride on the Highland Bus.

Thórsmörk in the autumn months is colorful and covered in berries, and a great place to spend the night for a northern lights show like you would not believe. When you’re there, you know you are watching from Thor’s own theatre.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Visit Greenland)

3. Greenland via Reykjavik or Akureyri

I know what you’re thinking! Greenland? But this isn’t a rare spot in Iceland? And you are correct. However, for the intrepid aurora hunter or day-tripper, it is good to know that the icy shores of Greenland, or Kalaallit Nunaat, are accessible from multiple city airports in Iceland.

You can catch a quick flight in Reykjavik’s domestic airport to the capital city of Nuuk, and it only takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes. These flights visit multiple locations in Greenland however, so if you’re looking for a longer stay you can visit Ittoqqortoormiit, Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq or Ilulissat.

Though this is another country, we had to include it on the list as a rare and magical aurora hunting dream spot- because it has not been possible in recent years to get many direct flights to this area outside of Iceland or Denmark.

Thanks to Greenland’s small population, remote towns, and low light pollution, this is a phenomenal place to chase the lights. This large landmass also boasts fairly clear skies most of the time and is large enough that you can move around to avoid some of the relentless low-pressure systems that are so populous in the high winter of the year.

There are many things to do while you wait, like fishing in the pristine ice fjords, dog sledding, hiking, climbing, and visiting one of the biggest ice caps in the area. But don’t stray too far from the towns- with their colorful houses and local delicacies, they are just as incredible and bright as the light show you’ve come to witness.

iceland northern lights hotel

4. The Bubble Hotel of Iceland: Imagine if the only thing between you and the lights was a bubble?

Though rare, this spot might be easier for you to get to- with some help from their intrepid guides. The Bubble Hotel of Iceland is a surreal paradise tucked away into two different Icelandic forests.

These wholly transparent spheres are heated and nested into private groves so that you can melt into nature while wrapped in a luxurious down comforter. This might be our coziest location yet!

Typically when aurora hunting, you have to give it a rest when you go inside. Sometimes we miss prime aurora hours, or even a whole show when we head in to get a hot chocolate and thaw out.

But not here at the Bubbles. At the Bubbles, going inside never means missing the sky. You can lay outside for the whole night, and see everything around you from your 360-degree nest in the woods. It’s hard to beat!

If you plan on visiting the Bubbles, it is good to note that there are not many of them, and they book up months in advance. They exist in order to protect the woodlands they’re in, and provide an alternative revenue source to the farmers in the area so that they do not have to sell their lumber.

Protecting long-term growth in new forests is an important task, and so not only are the Bubbles a fun choice, they are a responsible one. They are located out in the country near the Golden Circle region, and the South Coast region, and upon booking, one of their local guides will collect you in Reykjavik and give you a chauffeured tour on the way to your destination.

They will also pick you back up the next day, and return you to town. From start to finish, a trip to the Bubbles is the ultimate luxury and a rare chance to turn off your brain and connect to the world around you. Not a bad state of mind for some aurora hunting.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jack Anstey)

5. The Arctic Henge at the top of the world

Unless you’re already stationed up in the north, it may take you quite a while to get to this one. Sitting at 2 hours and 2 minutes drive from Húsavík, this monument is nearly the highest mainland point in Iceland.

Designed by Artist Haukur Halldórsson, the Arctic Henge is much like Stonehenge and is built as a reminder of figures from Norse mythology. The henge itself represents four dwarfs from the Prose Edda book who were tasked by Odin to hold up the sky.

It acts as a sundial and a calendar of sorts, reminding us of all of the dwarves that help to build this chronological map of the seasons. Right now the henge consists of four six meter tall gates and one ten meter high column, but it is still under construction.

The stones used to create it are massive,  Set on a hill in the seaside town of Raufarhöfn, this is a historical place with an incredible spectrum of wildlife. If you don’t visit Grimsey, this is nearly as far north as you can get in Iceland.

The clarity in the northern climes and lack of light pollution is sublime, and few photos can rival a choice shot of the lights dancing among the henge. (Perhaps even a video punctuated with the wild cries of Arctic foxes darting in between? This is their turf, after all.)

Keep in mind when you visit that the henge is a holy place celebrating the Ásatrú belief. It may yet be under construction for some time, and so it may take a few visits to see everything that has been planned.

Though it is out of the way, don’t sleep on Raufarhöfn and its beautiful henge. Aurora hunting is a place of deep magic is not an opportunity to be missed.

tips for photographing aurora borealis

Don’t miss that shot! 10 important tips for photographing aurora borealis

Camera? Check. Gloves? Check. Tips for photographing aurora borealis? Double check.

Planning to capture some once-in-a-lifetime shots on your aurora hunt? Don’t head out without these tips for photographing aurora borealis!

Seeing the lights in person is one thing, but being able to revisit that memory is priceless. Here are some of the tips and tricks that we use when setting up for a night of astrophotography. Share some of yours in the comments!

1. Keep your image sharp with a tripod

It can be hard to tell, but we move a lot. Try taking a few photos on a long shutter and you’ll see how much. In order to achieve a crisp and unblurred image, you’ll need a tripod or a solid surface to set your camera on for the duration of its shutter process.

Tripods are the best option. Because you never know when you’ll get a flat enough rock at the right height. (Not to mention the wind! A brisk evening wind has taken out many an expensive camera- so make sure yours is both attached and weighted enough to be left alone!

And if your images still suffer from shake, try a remote shutter release, or set a 10-second timer. You’d be surprised how disruptive one shutter press can be!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: JESHOOTS.com)

2. Check for manual mode

When you’re heading out on your first aurora excursion, make sure you have the right gear for the job. Many first-time hunters make the mistake of bringing cameras that don’t have a manual capability or a way to adjust settings.

Things like disposable cameras and many lower-level point and shoot varieties function on pre-created settings that don’t allow for much tweaking if any. These settings are most often intended for specific contexts like traditional daytime sunlight and indoor lighting.

You may find that you have limited control over novelty gear and smartphones as well, so it is good to check beforehand to make sure you know what you’re working with. Popular options for aurora photography are SLR and DSLR cameras with a manual mode, and as technology develops- even some smartphones and drones.

Many of the newer smartphones have night mode settings and are only getting better. But till then- it’s hard to beat good old-fashioned manual mode, which gives you full control over your image and how you capture the light around you.

tips for photographing aurora borealis
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Lucas Favre)

3. Do your business before you leave the house

If you’re just starting out, get familiar with your camera settings before you leave. Finding an unfamiliar button or dial in the dark can be a struggle, especially if there’s an aurora actively happening overhead.

You can set and test basic settings (shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc) before you head out, giving yourself just one less thing to do in the field, and a chance to troubleshoot any problems.

Keep in mind though, that a good understanding of these settings is helpful as you may have to adjust them based on what conditions you’re seeing. (Oh. And do use the facilities before you go- you never know when you’ll see another bathroom out in the wilds of nighttime Iceland.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Matt Collamer)

4. Get focused

You already know to put the camera in a manual setting, but what about your lens?

The autofocus function works really well during the day, but at night the camera will struggle to use this tool. Picture it- you’re all set up, there’s a glorious display of northern lights, you’ve pressed the button, and.. The lens is just grinding into infinity.

When in autofocus in a dark place the camera isn’t quite sure what to focus on, so it just spins the lens over and over trying to find a subject. So don’t forget to set your camera to manual focus! (..And then to actually focus, using another bright object in the area.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Fabrizio Conti)

5. Keep your batteries warm

Most cameras are powered by lithium-ion batteries, and lithium-ion batteries don’t do well in the cold. This could spell trouble for your smartphone, your cameras, and even your gadgets or tools.

In order to keep yourself prepared, the best thing to do is to make sure you have fully charged backup batteries on hand. But if it’s too late, you can still salvage the one you’ve got by warming it in your pocket, wearing your gear close to your body, or utilizing hand warmers.

Make sure to not leave your batteries in a cold place overnight, and if you need to do an emergency charge, try to avoid charging a cold battery. You may find that it won’t take the charge!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jakob Owens)

6. Open it up!

You’re packing your camera bag and making last minute lens decisions- so what are you bringing? Our favorite aurora lenses are fast, wide, luminous and light.

That means that they can access a low digit (fast) aperture, they can capture a wide view of the sky, they aren’t overly heavy, and they manage low light conditions well and without distortion.

Choosing a lens is a big investment, so make sure you’re going with something that works for your camera and will meet your photographic needs. Auroras can take up a huge vista, so when in doubt, go wide!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Cole Parrant)

7. Keep down the noise

When setting your camera for nighttime photography, one of the most important settings to remember is ISO. ISO is a function that controls the light sensitivity of the camera’s imaging sensor.

In this case, that means that the ISO is helping the camera “see” light in a dark place. ISO is always in play, even if you’re using a pre-programmed setting, and we recognize it as a number scale.

Typically, a daytime ISO is between 100-200, and a nightime ISO starts at 800, and can go quite high depending on the conditions at hand, and the length of your shutter speed. (Too much on both can create a washed out image!)

You will find that you’ll have to experiment a bit with the best ISO for your shot, and it’s good to try a few. For most cameras, we recommend staying below 6400, but always experiment with these combinations- as higher end cameras will have different processing strengths.

But beware- the ISO may make the aurora in your photo brighter, but you can have too much of a good thing! An ISO that is too high can create “grain” in your photo, or noise.

This can be hard to see in a thumbnail, so make sure to capture shots with multiple setting combinations to avoid getting a great shot- but with too much texture.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jake Hills)

8. Catch every movement, the easy way

Photos are great, but what about animation? Live filming of nighttime shots has been difficult for a long time, but is starting to become possible on certain cameras.

The difficulty here is that most cameras do not allow manual setting control during video, but instead they give you a pre-set daytime mode. In order to capture an aurora on video, you still need access to those nighttime settings just like you do in photos.

The good news is that tech is catching up and allowing us these options more and more- but what if you don’t have one of those gadgets? Luckily, you can go the route of a traditional aurora hunter and try out time lapse.

A time lapse is a collection of many photos taken in quick succession, that are put together later to create a slideshow. After controlling the speed of this slideshow, you can use photos to simulate filmed movement in an auroral occurrence.

Many cameras have a time lapse function already, so you can just set it, and forget it! (Make sure to test it before you go out, this can be a tricky one to troubleshoot in the field.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Xuan Nguyen)

9. Don’t forget to turn ON the lights

Believe it or not, there are actually moments where a little light pollution can help us out. In instances where you want to be in the shot, or want to light the foreground a bit, try experimenting with small lights or vehicle headlights to carefully illuminate a smaller foreground object.

These photos takes some experimenting to get right, as too much light during a long shutter process can create overexposure. Sometimes it’s enough to just flash a cell phone light for a few seconds, and allowing the camera to capture that moment and layer it in.

A well diffused porch light can do the trick- or even a good flashlight. And if the northern lights are running late, don’t forget about light painting!

Allowing a camera to take a photo on an extra long shutter can create motion blur in a photo- which gives you a chance to write a message or draw a symbol with a small light.

You’ve likely seen some of these images before- and they can be a lot of fun on a night when you’re biding your time waiting. Try setting your shutter to bulb for more time, and experiment with star trail shots as well! After all, the aurora isn’t the only light up here.

10. Pick your favorite color

Disclaimer: If you can, shooting in RAW is a preferable starting place. The RAW image format allows the image to retain more data, which helps you out later if you plan on post processing the image later.

A RAW image would retain enough data that you would be able to adjust the white balance later on. However, if you don’t have this ability, or you don’t want to bother with post processing, this tip is for you.

Once you’ve set your camera within the typical nighttime setting range, you’ll find that funny things can happen with color. Messing with somebody’s concept of light can do that.

However, don’t fret! If your photo is exceptionally orange or extremely blue, this can be quickly remedied by changing the white balance on your camera. The white balance option often has its own button indicated by “WB”, but can also be found in your camera’s settings menu.

This function gives you a menu of different icons that correspond to different “temperatures”. These temperatures will change the color cast of your images, so you can use them to control the warmth or coolness of your shot.

This is a pretty subjective setting, so you may need to try a few to get the look that you want.

can you see the northern lights in michigan

“Can you see the Northern Lights in Michigan?” and 10 other true or false questions from the secret vault!

One of nature’s most mysterious natural phenomena gets unmasked here and now, with these 10 true or false questions from the frequently asked question vault!

We’ve heard hundreds of different questions, facts, and myths from all over the world. From quandaries as simple as “Can you see the Northern Lights in Michigan?”, to more difficult wonders about what they look like on different planets, and why?

Some of these questions we’ve found answers to, while others are still up for discussion as the science develops- but we’ve gathered some of the popular ones here.

What are some questions you’ve heard about the Northern Lights? Did you find an answer? Compare in the comments below!

1. It has to be cold to see Northern Lights

FALSE. In artwork, the aurora is often depicted in snowy, Arctic settings, and connected to cold weather. This is definitely an accurate season for aurora watching, but so is the end of autumn, and the beginning of spring. The reason for this is not the temperature, but rather the light cycle during this half of the year.

From the end of April to the beginning of August, it is too bright in Iceland to see auroral light with the naked eye. Auroras can still happen, but we lack the proper darkness to view them. Because the aurora happens above our weather system the warmer temperatures during this off-season do not affect them.

You will find that cloudless nights and cold temperatures do often go together, which helps with visibility. This is because the Earth absorbs the Sun’s heat during the day, and the clouds insulate the Earth and keep that heat from escaping.

If there are no clouds that night, you’ll find that the temperature is colder. A cloudless night certainly does help us see the show, but it isn’t the catalyst that causes the show to happen. So don’t pass up a September or March aurora hunt!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Hans Isaacson)

2. All auroras look just like the photos

FALSE. No two auroras are the same, and that goes for the conditions you’re viewing them in as well. Add that to the variety of equipment and information out there, and you’re looking at a whole spectrum of opportunity.

On average, an aurora viewed with the naked eye will not match the photos and films that you see in professional publications. This isn’t necessarily because of photoshop, (it can be), but rather because of how the human eye and nighttime photography work.

In a nutshell, human eyes were not designed to perceive light well in dark places, so we have trouble seeing full color at night. Cameras on the other hand do not have this problem and are able to be manually adjusted to brighten certain aspects of a scene.

This is a type of photography commonly used to create dramatic portraits, realistic theatre or performance shots, and nighttime or astronomical photos. Pictures like these are made by utilizing a higher ISO, a longer shutter speed, and a lower aperture, among other things that are up to the photographer.

Depending on how bright the location is and how strong the aurora is, you may have to adjust in different ways to get the image you want. These types of photos traditionally required fairly advanced gear, but with the advancement of available technology, it is becoming easier to capture more realistic images.

These days, you can snap a shot on a smartphone, or even live film with a camera that allows manual control during filming. This doesn’t mean that the photos that you see are fake, but it can mean that they are processing the low lumen light in a more efficient way than the human eye, creating a more saturated and complete image.

Of course, we can’t speak for every image, so there are always possibilities that additional editing was applied. You may find that your own color processing ability is also at play while aurora watching, and should compare what you’re seeing with those around you. You would be surprised how many people see the same thing in different ways!

can you see the northern lights in michigan
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Aubree Herrick)

3. You can see the Northern Lights in Michigan

TRUE. One of the most important and popular questions of all time, is if you can see the Northern Lights where you live. We hear these questions often from people in continental Europe and the northern areas of the United States, and the short answer is that it IS possible.

It may not be a regular occurrence, but during a geomagnetic storm or a night of intense auroral activity, the lights can and have crept down that far. There are photos of aurorae visiting uncommon places all over the web, and even just recently an alert from a past storm that they might travel down as far as Maryland.

On average, low-level activity stays close to the pole, which is why it is so common in the Arctic area. But the more geomagnetic activity that there is, the more possible it is for it to appear further away from those poles.

We also now have STEVE to look forward to, which has been reported to occur closer to the equator. So if you’re in Michigan, don’t lose hope! Every now and then Lady Aurora definitely does makes a trip.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Daniel Mirlea)

4. A full moon will make it impossible to see the Northern Lights

FALSE. When looking for the northern lights, it is recommended to remove yourself from all sources of light pollution. This includes manmade sources like streetlights and city lights, but it can also mean organic sources like the Sun, or moonlight.

There is often a lot of chatter about checking the moon phase before you go out, and many forecasting services often include it. But it certainly does not mean you’re 100% out of luck if you find yourself stuck with a full moon.

In my experience, a darker sky can mean easier viewing, but some brightness can be a photographic dream. The light from a fuller moon can provide you with important foreground illumination that can help highlight a landmark, landscape, or even a person.

These shots may require some tinkering to get the correct settings and avoid overexposure, but they can be some of the most beautiful. A full moon can be hard on your eyes, but it definitely isn’t game over for an intrepid hunter.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

5. You have to look north to see the Northern Lights

FALSE. Typically, northern lights will occur in a northerly direction more often than not, because few things are further north than the magnetic pole. All of us are more than likely going to be below the activity, which makes this an easy tip to give someone who is trying to orient themselves.

However, if you’re already pretty far north, (which we are), and the geomagnetic activity is high, it is possible that the aurora is not always happening north of you. Activity can manifest overhead, or to the south- or even to the side.

This can depend on the optical illusion of where you are while you watch, what obstacles or landmarks are obscuring your view, and how the activity is manifesting in the sky at that moment.

If you have a wider and further reaching view to the East, you may be more likely to catch a visualization in that direction rather than in a direction where you may be up against a mountain.

At the end of the day, we are small, and the Earth and the Northern Lights are huge, and it can be hard to grasp the visual scale or distance of a celestial event. The lights will always be north to someone, but don’t forget that that person may not be you- and look around! They do have a tendency to sneak up on you when you least expect it.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Thomas Lipke)

6. The Northern Lights and the Southern Lights happen at the same time

TRUE. Over the past 20 years, scientists have been hard at work getting to know the full impact and behavior of geomagnetic activity and also improving the imaging technology that we use to perceive such systems on Earth.

Multiple studies have been conducted over these past two decades that have taught us that the lights are not twins, but siblings. While they do happen simultaneously at both poles, they do not perfectly mirror each other as many have said in the past.

So yes, it is true that they happen at the same time, but currently untrue that they are identical. Stay tuned as further developments surface!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Mike Lewinski)

7. Ancient people believed that red Northern Lights meant war or danger

TRUE. This is one of the more modern and widely shared folkloric beliefs pertaining to the northern lights. Aurora myths have been held as an oral tradition in many areas around the world, including the Southern Hemisphere.

Due to their striking appearance and occasional intense coloring, one can imagine how the appearance of intense auroral activity may have been frightening to ancient, and some not so ancient, people.

There is even as recently as the 1800s, written proof that multiple cultures linked large instances of northern lights with notable battles and disasters. Read more about the spectrum of beliefs here.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

8. The Northern Lights affect animals

TRUE. This is a question that has been asked for a long time and has only very recently been verified. Though the full effects of geomagnetic activity are surely not known in entirety, scientists believe that their magnetism may interact or interfere with the magnetism belonging to animals and other biological creatures.

It is not news to many that migratory animals move North to South throughout their lives in order to nest, reproduce, and follow feeding routes. This is a phenomenon seen throughout the world in many climates, particularly here in Iceland where we are visited by multiple migratory species, namely puffins and whales.

As recently as 2018 scientists have begun to study the magnetism of mammals, insects, and even bacteria. There have been many theories put forth about emotional interference, different health and sleep functions, and other curiosities, but thus far these things are all still being researched.

So for now, this question stands at “True”. While we currently have no findings to prove that geomagnetic activity is harming life, we can certainly infer that a big storm may temporarily put animal navigational systems offline for a bit. And maybe us, too!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

9. The Northern Lights make noise

TRUE. This question has been making the rounds for years, and many aurora hunters have their own anecdotal answer. Right now, multiple branches of research are being conducted about if this is true, and if so, how?

One of the more popular theories is from a research group headed by Aalto University Professor Unto K. Laine. They’ve introduced the “inversion layer hypothesis”, which infers that sound is born through a geomagnetic storm’s interaction with our atmosphere’s inversion layer.

The charges activated by the storm cause the popping and crackling sounds that people have reported hearing during certain auroral occurrences. But this is only one of the theories, there are multiple others floating around currently being researched, many by universities.

(One of them says pine needles are to blame!) But don’t take our word for it- have you ever heard the northern lights? Let us know in the comments!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Shanu Nag)

10. You can photograph or film the Northern Lights with any camera

FALSE…FOR NOW. As technology advances, the answer to this question changes dramatically. Up until recently, the only way to capture the northern lights on film was to use a camera that allowed manual control.

This meant that typical point and shoot machines of the 2000-2010s, disposables, phone cameras, basic film, and nearly all auto-setting cameras were out of luck. The reason for this is not that they are necessarily lacking some feature, but more that they were using a default daylight setting array to create photos.

The settings that we use to create nighttime photos do not come naturally to the camera, as they would be challenging to use and would make it difficult for us to capture typical photos of a lit subject.

So if the tool you are using to take photos does not allow you to adjust the ISO or the shutter speed (among other things), you may find yourself with a roll of dark images!

These days, however, technology is catching up to us and many simpler photo tools (like phones) are coming prepackaged and ready with “Night mode”! This is an exciting feature that puts auroral photography into the hands of nearly any hunter, and has only been the product of the past few years!

Who knows how easy it will be to make phenomenal photos in the future?

if i never get to see the northern lights

“If I never get to see the northern lights…”: 10 important reasons why you WON’T see an aurora!

Stop right there! If you’re looking for lights, here are 10 obstacles that you need to know about.

“…if I never get to see the northern lights.” We hear things like this a lot. For many, auroras are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. People come from all over the world, with very little time, and big hopes to catch one- and if possible, we want to help make that happen.

Maybe you’ve even tried already but came away unsuccessful. Perhaps you live in a place where auroras could possibly happen?

Either way, we want to make sure that you DO see the northern lights. So we’ve gathered together our biggest glow-pas (ha), in hopes that they will better prepare you for the hunt. Have one to share? Let us know about it!

1. You visited in the off-season.

Once I overheard a woman in a cafe angrily describing a trip to Zimbabwe. I had to listen in, because I couldn’t imagine how a dream trip like that could go awry. It turns out she had been planning this trip for ages and had come to see the great thundering waters of Victoria Falls.

But she missed a key detail to the plan- and that was WHEN to visit. You see, she wanted to see Victoria Falls in full spray, active with gushing water and huge currents.

But Victoria Falls experiences a wet season, and a dry one- and in the dry one, there may still be water, but it’s a bit less than what you might have seen on that postcard or commercial.

While there are still just as many reasons to visit in the dry season (like being able to walk across the falls to Zambia!)- if you expected to see the crashing water, you might be disappointed. Iceland is like this in many ways, in that we experience a “light season”, and a “dark season”.

This means that while the aurora happens above us all the time, we can only see it from mid-August to mid-April, at best. The brightness of the Midnight Sun in our summer months is just too great to allow visibility of auroral light, so we have to wait for the return of true darkness in the autumn.

Just like Victoria Falls, we have a lot of incredible things going on in our summer period as well- but if you came for auroras, you might find yourself disappointed.

if i never get to see the northern lights
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Cosmic Timetraveler)

2. You’re out too early. 

Visiting in winter and finding it a bit dark? Don’t worry, so are we. In the height of winter, we only receive a few hours of direct sunlight- and that’s on a good day. If it’s overcast (which it often is), you may feel like you haven’t seen the sun in days!

(And in some parts of Iceland, that may be true!) Iceland experiences the maximum of dark hours at the winter solstice in December, and after that, the nights begin to shorten.

While this does often mean you can start aurora hunting a bit earlier, it does not mean that you can set out at 4:00 pm. Is it after sunset? Yes! But there are layers of darkness, so to speak, and you still need to wait for optimal dark hours to be able to perceive the northern lights with the naked eye.

On a great night with huge activity, it can be possible to view an aurora as early as 8:00 pm, but typically most hunters will be out looking between 10:00 pm – 2:00 am on average.

This doesn’t mean that nothing can happen before and after that window, but typically we experience better visibility at this time.

Keep an eye out on the light cycle though, wherever you are! These hours may fit Iceland, but depending on how close you are to the pole, your cycle may vary.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

3. You are a victim of cloud cover.

This may sound dramatic, but every aurora hunter has been taken down by clouds at least once. The northern lights happen above our weather system, so if it’s cloudy, there can be a phenomenal show going on and we can still miss it.

This can be difficult in a place like Iceland, where midwinter brings us not only the greatest dark hours, but also the greatest low-pressure storm season. These are big, moody, windy storms that can bring a great deal of precipitation or cloud cover.

They can move fairly quickly, which sometimes means that the next day will be clear skies and mild weather. But, sometimes they linger for days. This can be a good reason to look for lights early in your visit, in case you do cross paths with one of these blustery visitors.

But even on a stormless night, you can still meet some impressive cloud cover. (We are in the middle of the North Atlantic, after all!) When you head out for a hunt, make sure to check the aurora forecast first. These forecasts will let you see the cloud cover over time, and will also tell you what layers of the sky are experiencing cover.

This can be good to know, because different types of clouds exist at different altitudes, and can mean different types of cover.

The way that a good hunter picks a trajectory, is by seeing what areas will be clear. But don’t fret! Cloud cover can and will move throughout the evening, and the forecasts do not always have the ability to account for small holes of clarity within them.

Sometimes, all you need to catch the show is a single window in the sky.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bezanger)

4. It was too bright!

Sometimes, not even the brightest blaze can compete with Lady Aurora. But on an average night, we need a little extra help to see her. The Northern Lights occur at a low lumen, and so it helps if your eyes have been able to adjust to the darkness when you look for them.

If you are in a brightly lit area, near a streetlight, or hanging out in the headlights of your car- you may struggle to pick out the faint green tail of an auroral glow. In fact, some people will only use red light flashlights when they’re out hunting- and may dim the light settings on their equipment.

These steps are pretty serious, but it is a good reminder that your eyes do need time to adjust to darkness and that you should be prepared to search for lower level auroras.

Not all occurrences appear as huge jagged shapes with supernatural brightness. Some are soft glows that are so dim, that they can only be picked up by camera. (So if you’re scanning the horizon and you’re not completely sure, try a test shot!

A correctly set camera will proliferate the light, so this can be an easy way to discern if what you’re seeing is aurora, or just wispy clouds passing through. (This doesn’t mean that you have to go hours away into the interior of the country, but if you do have the option, getting outside of the city can help.

The quality of darkness improves a great deal even just 15 minutes outside of town. Cities create big bubbles of light pollution around themselves, and while Reykjavik or Akureyri don’t create nearly enough light to compete with mainland light pollution, it is still surprising how much it changes your surroundings to be near it.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: John Salvino)

5. You didn’t budge. (Your eyes, OR yourself!)

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there, but none of them can compete with the fact that an aurora is a planetary occurrence that is happening to Earth from Outer Space.

What I’m getting at here is that it’s huge, and the piece that we sometimes see is only a piece of a greater whole, and that whole is moving. It can be hard to imagine how minuscule we are in comparison, but what might be a sky-filling explosion of light to us, may just be a fraction of a bigger occurrence.

You can get a better idea of what I mean by viewing an aurora from space, or by checking out a forecast model that shows the predicted footprint of the northern lights on our planet.

The obstacle here is understanding that the northern lights are less like a piece of lightning, and more like the storm system that the lightning belongs to. (Unless we’re doing a different metaphor, then the northern lights are definitely like a lightning strike. But I digress.)

Sometimes you get lucky, and the aurora wanders right up when you’re having a drink outside in your hot pot. But other times, the northern lights really do require a hunt, and that means movement to keep up.

It is not uncommon for groups of hunters to report different findings, or for neighbors to see an aurora, while neighbors a few kilometers away did not. This could mean that your section of visible sky was active, but maybe the vista a stone’s throw over was not.

Sometimes this can be because of actual obstacles in your path- like the grade of the land, a mountain range, or how close your house is to another house. These obstacles don’t always seem as problematic as they may be, but if you are looking out of one view all night, you get just that. One view.

And sometimes, this can mean just simply turning your body. Many sources tell you to keep your eyes on the north for the lights, but that is not always the case. Oftentimes in a place as far north as Iceland, it can feel like the aurora is happening overhead, or even in a direction other than north.

(This is where that detail comes in again- that the lights are a global occurrence, and they are happening to EARTH. Not just Iceland.) So stay alert while you’re out, and keep an eye peeled in every direction. You never know where Lady Aurora is going to sneak up from.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

6. Surprise! You actually DID see it- but you didn’t recognize it.

This is not an obstacle per se, but it certainly is a thing that comes up. No two instances of northern lights are ever the same, so it can be hard to recognize if you’re not used to seeing it.

This is especially the case when the aurora is low level or occurring in an unfamiliar shape or color pattern. Many people set out on their first hunt after seeing incredible footage from world-class photographers and documentarians.

These shots are career-making images that likely took a lot of time and skill to create. The typical stuff doesn’t usually make the postcards and National Geographic covers. Seeing ANY kind of aurora is spectacular and special- but be ready to catch whatever comes to you.

This may mean darker colors that are harder to pick out, like misty whites, strange olive greens, and cool grey purples. It may also mean shapes that aren’t particularly “snakey”, like diffused glows, cirrus cloud shapes, whisps, and long bowed streaks.

The aurora can move quickly and appear to “dance”, but this is not always the case. Sometimes it’s a slow pulse, or even just a fade that you fail to clock until it’s gone. A softer aurora can appear to be a cloud, or a smoke formation- which can get pretty confusing when the wind is quickly blowing the clouds and the ground is puffing up huge geothermal breaths of hot white steam into the night.

An easy way to check can be to take a long-shutter/high ISO camera shot of the “thing” in question, but after a while, you do get used to the telltale sign of a quiet little aurora starting out in the night.

They may not all be full-on Carrington Events, but each one of them is a rare gift, that traveled all the way from the Sun, to you.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Aiden Patrissi)

7. You stayed in the city!

Look, we get it. Reykjavik has one heck of a nightlife, and there are at least a hundred different places to eat that we still haven’t tried- and it’s so cozy… But! It’s also full of twinkly Christmas lights, and street lights, and illuminated windows and art installations, and whathaveyou.

As you know from tips 4 and 5, these things can get in the way of an optimal auroral view. And sometimes you just can’t help it, you don’t have wheels! If you’re here for the lights, we highly recommend getting yourself out of the hustle and bustle into the real country darkness.

Even if you only head about 10 minutes out, the quality changes considerably. But, if you’re only in town for a few nights, you can still check out some of Reykjavik’s best aurora spots, get chauffeured out to a northern lights igloo for one evening, or even grab a tour for a few hours.

All of these options will secret you away to some better watch locations, and one of them gets you a warm down comforter with a bottle of bubbly.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Tim Foster)

8. The Sun is on a break.

This obstacle is one of the bigger ones, and by bigger, I mean sun-sized. All of our northern lights come from one place, and that place is the Sun. Every swirly green burst of polar light that you’ve ever enjoyed began as a volatile little send-off from our galaxy’s most important star.

The good news is that the Sun is a fiery individual, and is regularly sending out pieces of itself through solar wind. Solar wind passes over our planets (and everything else), and can create aurorae on a fairly regular basis because of Earth’s magnetic field.

Sometimes, the Sun expels a great deal of activity through solar flares or Coronal Mass Ejections, and larger geomagnetic storms make their way over to us. Geomagnetic storms usually create larger, more impressive lights- and can even in rare circumstances create Carrington Events, which can affect our electrical grid.

Carrington Events are extremely rare, but geomagnetic storms can happen a couple of times a year- depending on the year and the solar cycle that we are in at the time. But every now and then, the Sun is quiet. This is fairly rare, but you can see how things are going in an aurora forecast.

These forecasts will tell you on a scale of 0-9, how much geomagnetic activity is bopping around in our atmosphere. This is known as the K-index, or Kp scale, and is a paraphrased way for us to measure this solar activity, and infer how far from the pole an aurora might be able to reach.

This system is still very much a developing science, so if you see a zero on the forecast, do not fret! Odds are, this may be a visually quiet night, but activity has still been known to appear on Kp 0 nights with clear skies.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Joshua Earle)

9. You were in the bathroom!

Some instances of the northern lights blink on and off all night for hours. These are usually dreamy nights in the countryside, where you don’t need to move about, you can just kick back and watch. In the city, you can watch a good show for a few minutes, or maybe a half hour, walking down the street or parked at a cafe with a coffee.

Some of these city lights are so fleeting, that you find out about them after they’ve happened, from local photos and the forgotten alerts on your aurora apps.

It may be that someone in a darker place is watching this aurora for a bit longer, but in a brightly lit place, it is harder to pick out the finer pieces and more diffused glows, so you can end up watching for less time.

It’s a frustrating reason to miss the lights, but when you’re struggling with light pollution every minute counts. So be quick about those bathroom breaks!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ihor Malytskyi)

10. You left the party!

And on the other end of the time spectrum, we have the old adage “good things come to those who wait”. Many a disappointed adventurer has bemoaned their fruitless hunt, only to hear from the person next door that they were successful! But how?

Sometimes it’s something as simple as the areas you were both in, the cloud cover differences, or even the amount of light pollution. As wee human beings, we can only cover so much ground.

But sometimes, it’s the waiting. It’s not always the most comfortable activity, cruising around in the darkness and braving winter weather. Hunting for a thing that can be challenging to find, maybe for many hours. It’s no wonder that some people call it quits early.

There have been nights where I myself have done the same. But when you’re out there, know that every night is different, and the activity displays itself on its own time, if at all.

So despite all of the tips and tricks in the world, sometimes one of the best things you can do on a hunt is take your time. Lady Aurora often shows up you when you least expect her.

10 facts about the northern lights

10 facts about the Northern Lights to dazzle your mind and ignite your imagination

You’ve heard about why the lights happen, what changes the colors, and when is the best time to see them.. But what else is there to know?

The aurora is one of nature’s most mysterious phenomena. We spend a lot of time talking about it, reading about it, and looking for it– so we put together these 10 facts about the Northern Lights that might be interesting to another aurora enthusiast.

How many of them did you already know? Let us know in the comments!

1. Galileo gave the aurora the name we use today

Sometime around 1619-1621 A.D., Galileo Galilei, and Pierre Gassendi witnessed an aurora. A time of great astronomical advancement, this event kickstarted the aurora madness that we all know so well today.

This is where the name “Aurora Borealis” was born. Coming from the name for the Roman goddess of the dawn (Aurora), and the Greek god of the northern wind (Boreal), the term we are so familiar with today was penned.

Though Galileo and Gassendi are credited with some of the earliest modern writing, there are multiple historic records of early cultures recording their glimpses of the lights.

And despite having named it, Galileo didn’t actually know what it was. In fact, he named it “aurora” because he thought it was the sunlight reflecting off of the atmosphere.

We didn’t know the true source of the aurora until the early 1900s when…

(Unsplash, Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy)

2. Kristian Birkeland developed the theory of atmospheric electric currents, therefore revealing the origin of the Northern Lights.

Often referred to as “The Father of the Aurora Borealis”, Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland is responsible for introducing us to the real source of the Northern Lights.

Between 1899 and 1900, he organized the Norwegian Polar Expedition to study the global patterns of electric currents. He did this by making magnetic field measurements from Earth, and the theory he was able to develop through this study is the basis of the theory we use today.

He released this information to the world in 1908 in his book, “The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902–1903”. Birkeland went on to be nominated for 7 Nobel Prizes, but in his lifetime his work was highly contested and considered a fringe theory at best.

(Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry. "A NASA-funded sounding rocket launches into an aurora in the early morning of March 3, 2014, over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment, or GREECE, mission studies how certain structures – classic curls like swirls of cream in coffee -- form in the aurora.")

3. We didn’t believe Birkeland’s theory until 1967!

(Ok well maybe some people did.) Kristian Birkeland died in 1917 at the age of 49, and at the time of his death, many mainstream scientists did not believe his theory about the aurora. The difficulty here was that his experiments were costly, and it was believed that this theory could not be proven by ground measurements alone.

(It also didn’t help that it was the early 1900’s, and getting to space wasn’t an option yet.) Things changed in 1967 however, when the U.S. Navy sent satellite 1963-38C up into space. This probe carried a magnetometer above the ionosphere, proving the existence of magnetic disturbances, and therefore, Birkeland currents.

Like many scientific discoveries, the origin of the aurora was only made possible by the study of many, many curious people. Birkeland’s study was the next step here, but for him these hypotheses were made possible by the work of scientists like Anders Celsius and Olof Hjorter before him.

It makes you wonder what discoveries will be born of our curiosities now!

10 facts about the Northern Lights
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: NASA)

4. We continue to study the aurora.

Our quest for auroral knowledge did not end with that Navy probe, or with Kristian Birkeland. In fact, it proliferated. Citizen scientists have been hard at work monitoring space weather and collecting data on what they can see- and even NASA is hard at work filling in the blanks!

This is still very much a developing branch of science, and even as recently as June 2021 new data has been collected via NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.

Satellites, sounding rockets, multiple study missions, and laboratory experiments here on Earth are just some of the ways that we are inching closer to a better picture of what creates our favorite light show, and how it can be affected by different factors that we have yet to fully understand.

Perhaps this study will far surpass our lifetimes, just like Birkeland. Imagine the strangeness of today’s facts becoming tomorrow’s misconceptions. The journey continues!

(Image Credit: John T. Clarke (U. Michigan), ESA, NASA. "[These] images supplied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reinforce the newly identified origin of Jupiter's auroras. The images ruled out the Sun as a cause for the auroras. Credit: NASA/STScl")

5. We’re not the only ones with auroras!

As you may know, there are two different areas on Earth where one can view auroras. There’s the Aurora Borealis in the north, and the Aurora Australis in the south. But now that we can see a bit further out of our own planetary neighborhood, we know that other planets host auroral light as well!

Because we know that the look of an aurora is caused by the atmospheric gases that it collides with, we can make a lot of inferences based on what we believe the atmospheric makeup of a certain planet to be. We now know that planets like Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have auroras due to the interaction of solar wind with planetary magnetic fields.

We also know that nearby Mars and Venus have them as well, due to solar wind engaging with their atmospheres. Tools like the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Juno spacecraft have been able to not only confirm this, but also capture images of planets like Jupiter in full glow.

Just by seeing these things, we are able to learn more about how our sun functions, and how other planets are not just different from ours, but alike.

(Image Credit: Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. "This visualization shows the 20 THEMIS ground station locations. These ground stations will assist the THEMIS satellite constellation in measuring the Aurora Borealis over North America. Each ground station has an all-sky imaging white-light auroral camera and a magnetometer. The ground stations' radial coverage (blue circles) is rendered at 540km (335 miles). An artist's conception of an aurora is added to the visualization for context (red and green stripes).")

6. It isn’t just NASA making discoveries. Citizen science is at an all-time high!

Being on Earth in the 21st century is an exciting thing. There is more information available to us than ever before, and more accessible tools than we’ve ever been able to acquire. (It also helps that we are less likely to be burnt at the stake for pursuing a scientific theory. Maybe.)

And in that spirit of advancement, in 2016 in western Canada, citizen scientists made an incredible discovery. We know that discovery today as STEVE, or, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

STEVE was originally named after a reference from the animated film “Over the Hedge”, in which the character’s named a hedge without knowing what it was. Early viewers of STEVE also weren’t sure what it was, so the name stuck. 

STEVE is a pinkish “streak” that can appear in conjunction with auroral activity (often appearing as a spiky picket fence), and though we’ve actually been seeing it for centuries, it was never truly researched until this sighting.

STEVE is created by particle friction, which explains its incandescent color. It occurs closer to the equator than the lights typically do, and because of the collaboration of astronomical photographers and scientists, we were able to learn more a lot more about what actually causes it.

It just goes to show that there is always more to discover, and any one of us can lend a hand.

(Image Credit: NASA/SDO. "On Feb. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:49 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which keeps a constant watch on the sun, captured images of the event. These SDO images from 7:25 p.m. EST on Feb. 24 show the first moments of this X-class flare in different wavelengths of light -- seen as the bright spot that appears on the left limb of the sun.")

7. Auroras may not be dangerous, but space weather can be.

Though uncommon, space weather can disrupt us on Earth. The most dramatic record of this is the geomagnetic storm of August-September 1859, otherwise known as a Carrington Event.

Named for the British astronomer Richard Carrington, whose work helped to prove the existence of solar flares and their effect on Earth and the lights. When this geomagnetic storm happened, it damaged telegraph lines and injured the people working with them.

Technicians were shocked, telegraph papers were set ablaze, and lines were electrified. The Northern Lights were visible as far south as far as Hawaii and Cuba. On March 13th, 1989 a similar geomatic storm occurred, affecting the electrical grid again by creating a power blackout in Canada.

This event affected power grids in Canada, all the way down to New Jersey in the United States. Our electrical systems had updated a bit by then, so there were no telegraph papers to set on fire- just transformers to damage.

As you can see, these types of things are few and far between, but there are sources of information about how to prepare for similar events.

(Though, Carrington Events are not a common occurrence, and you are likely better served by preparing for the natural disasters that we see more frequently in our respective corners of the globe.)

(Photo Credit: Scott Kelly from the International Space Station on Oct. 7, 2015. Image Credit: NASA)

8. We’re not the only ones watching.

So we know we’re watching it, photographers are watching it, citizen scientists and space weather enthusiasts are watching it- but who else? It turns out there are a lot of student researchers and working astronomers keeping tabs as well!

Researchers on the THEMIS mission under NASA’s Explorer Program used satellites in 2008 to find out what causes movement in aurorae. In 2016, The ESA’s Sentinel-3A satellite danced right through the aurora after a launch.

There are countless aurora and space weather observatories throughout the world, and even the astronauts in the International Space Station are up there looking down on the dancing lights.

Sometimes, there’s even a chance to watch together in programs like #AuroraHunters, hosted by the ESA and the Norwegian Space Centre.

(Image by: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and ESA astronaut Tim Peake. Image taken from the International Space Station on Jan. 20, 2016. Image Credit: ESA/NASA.)

9. They’re pretty high up there!

The Northern Lights are a unique combination of space weather, and Earth’s magnetic field- so where exactly do they happen?

An average auroral occurrence can occur as low as 80-100 km. above Earth.

This doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about it, airplanes only fly about 10 km. above us, and Mount Everest only reaches just under 9 km.! Depending on varying factors, the aurora can reach as high as 500-1000 km. above Earth, which means that it has some interesting neighbors in the middle.

One of which is the International Space Station, sitting at an orbital height of 408 km, and height neighbor Tiangong Space Station, who varies between 340 and 450 km.

Because of this, cosmonauts in either station could one day look out the window and see the lights around them, instead of below or above. Keep an eye out on their socials to see the amazing captures that they make!

10 facts about the northern lights
Frederic Edwin Church, Aurora Borealis, 1865, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Eleanor Blodgett, 1911.4.1

10. Before we could photograph the lights, there was art.

Our ability to photograph and film the lights has been such a recent advancement in the long timeline of human creativity. One could say that the accessibility of this art continues to grow even now, as SLR cameras become easier to get, and smartphones get.. Well, smarter.

We have drones, phones, tiny waterproof cameras, and all kinds of things. This method of capture creates amazing work, especially due to the camera’s ability to process low light better than our limited human eyes. But before this technology, there was still art and the drive to capture this beautiful thing.

Thousand upon thousands of works depicting the lights have been made, but one of the earliest comes to us from Cro-Magnon cave paintings around 30,000 B.C.

There are works referenced from early China and the belief that the sighting of Northern Lights may have become entwined with belief in great supernatural dragons.

There were many painters in the more mobile days of the late 1800s like Danish painter Harald Viggo Moltke, and American painter Frederic Edwin Church, two individuals inspired by their experiences on Arctic expeditions.

Today we continue the tradition with thousands of technological installations, museum exhibits, handicrafts, and more. As we learn more about this incredible gift of nature, it seems, so does our curiosity and our devotion to its existence.

Perhaps the one thing over time that has never changed. Fact.

iceland northern lights hotel

Iceland Northern Lights Hotel: 10 cozy hideaways to watch the skies from

Aurora hunting is a popular activity for many visitors to Iceland. But what if you could do from your room?

Stargazing in luxury

Looking for an Iceland Northern Lights hotel on your winter adventure? Choosing your activities while you’re here is one thing, but what about where you’re staying?

From the northernmost reaches of the island to transparent dome accommodations, there’s a whole spectrum of choice for those that have auroras on the brain.

We’ve done some of the legwork for you, and collected 10 of our favorites, in no particular order, other than clockwise around the country. Let us know which ones you’ve tried!

The 5 million star hotel: Bubble Hotel Iceland (South Coast and Golden Circle)

Nothing maximizes your chances of catching a rogue aurora quite like staying in a northern lights igloo.

These “Bubbles” are completely transparent dome structures, outfitted with heating and luxurious downy beds.

Sequestered in two forests, one in the South Coast and one in the Golden Circle– one can be collected in Reykjavik and treated to a private tour before being chauffeured to your private forest grove.

You can’t get much closer to nature, and you certainly won’t be warmer than this on an aurora hunt.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Toby Elliott)

The Northern Light Inn in Reykjanes (South, Capital Region)

Located close to the Blue Lagoon and the airport, this is a great spot for those on a short stopover, or with an early flight the next day.

Tucked away in the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula, this cozy getaway has a great restaurant (named after the owner’s golden retriever, Max), and an observation deck for aurora viewing.

And like many of these hotels, there’s a northern lights wake up service!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Thomas Tucker)

Hotel Rangá in Hella (South Coast)

Heading down the southern coast, is Hotel Rangá. A favorite for skygazers due to its on site observatory and telescope room, you will certainly find yourself thoroughly entertained while staying here.

Whether you’re watching from your themed bedroom, or a geothermal hot pot, the log cabin walls of Rangá are a special treat to experience.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Roan Lavery)

Hótel Búðir in Snæfellsnes (West)

If you’ve made it to the western wilds of Iceland, you’ll appreciate a stay at the boutique Hótel Búðir.

With views of the famous black church (of the same name), this is a gorgeous destination.

You may have a hard time only focusing on the lights here- in between the carefully decorated hotel, the towering glacier, and the vast countryside at your doorstep.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ian Parker)

Holt Inn Country Hotel in Önundarfjörður (Westfjords)

Many brave the ring road, but few make it to Iceland’s hidden gem, the Westfjords.

The Holt Inn is both family-run and built in an old school house. A visit here is an experience not to be missed.

Nearby to some of Iceland’s only colored beaches, from here you can set out to see white and even red sand.

The light pollution in this area is nearly unmatchable, as the Westfjords are not heavily populated.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Raul Popadine)

Deplar Farm in Ólafsfjörður (North)

Tucked away in the dramatic mountains of north Iceland, Deplar Farm is a destination for those who crave adventure and solitude.

This converted sheep farm is outfitted with helipads, geothermal pools and an outfitted band loft for live music.

If you can pull yourself away from the activities and the spa, you might find that you’re in a great spot to aurora watch.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Anuraag Rajsekhar)

Hótel Kjarnalundur in Akureryi (North)

Just 3.5 km outside of the “capital of the North”, Hótel Kjarnalundur is an oasis in a sea of trees.

For those that seek some proximity to bustling town life while still enjoying the peace of the northern countryside, this is a great spot to watch from.

And it doesn’t hurt that they’re surrounded by lush forest hiking trails! This area promises a myriad of places to set up your camera and wait undisturbed.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ruedi Haberli)

Hótel Norðurljós in Raufarhöfn (North)

Nearby to the northernmost point in Iceland is the Hótel Norðurljós. This spot is a bit out of the way for the typical traveler, but it is worth the trek.

This hotel is located in the same area as the Arctic Henge, a colossal stone monument reminiscent of Stonehenge.

A trip out this way is worth it just to see the Henge, but this area is also known for Arctic deep-sea fishing, bird watching, and even Arctic Foxes.

A great stop in the summer as well (as the Henge is a giant sundial of sorts), a northern lights photo in front of this landmark is not to be passed up.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

Aurora Cabins in Höfn (East)

With mountain views and a grill for each cabin, you can’t argue with a stop at the Aurora Cabins in Höfn.

One of the largest towns in the southeast, Höfn is well known for its lobster dishes and dramatic mountains.

There are some great photos to be had out this way, and some great restaurants as well. On a ring road trip, it can be a nice change to have a whole cabin to yourself.

(Especially when there’s a BBQ on the front porch!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Tanya Grypachevskaya)

Fosshótel Glacier Lagoon (East)

Just down the road from some of Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoons and the Diamond Beach, is this luxe hideaway.

Fosshótel is a known institution throughout the country and has now put up a location along one of the quietest stretches of the route 1.

This is a peaceful area alongside the towering glacier and the black sand deserts. And as you will be out here nearly all alone, you can bet that the skies will be plenty dark when the aurora shows up.

northern lights forecast iceland

Northern Lights forecast Iceland: 10 brilliant tips for deciphering every aurora hunter’s key tool

Every expert has a toolkit. In the aurora hunter’s kit, whether they be photographers, astronomers, or excursion guides- a good forecast is one of the best. (Well, that and a cozy jacket!)

Tip #1: Get Local

These days there are countless apps and websites that promise key insight into the northern lights forecast in Iceland. Many of them work in different ways and are focused on different parts of the globe- or sometimes even the planet as a whole.

(The Northern Lights ARE a planetary occurrence!) This can create some interesting changes in how that data is interpreted, that you may not even be aware of.

For instance, some of these services are factoring in sky clarity, or cloud cover, into their prediction. This can happen often in apps where a percentage of visual probability is given.

If this cloud radar data is not for the area that you’re in, you might be getting someone else’s prediction! It can be challenging to know what data the service is using, sometimes. Especially as these details are not always transparent.

That’s why one of our favorite services is the Icelandic Meteorological Office. Since we’re looking for Northern Lights in Iceland, it helps that the cloud radar that we’re seeing on their webpage is specifically for Iceland, and not say- for Alaska or Svalbard.

(Which, don’t get me wrong- super interesting stuff! But if I’m cruising the coast in Akranes looking for a glow, that’s not going to give me much to go on.) When you’re mapping out a trajectory, make sure you’re checking the sky in the place you’re currently in!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

Tip #2: Take all forecasts with a grain of salt

Scientific knowledge of the aurora is fairly new, in the grand scheme of things. (Especially when you think about how recent some of the folktales are!) All things considered, people have gotten quite good at figuring out how and when it may happen.

Many questions about the aurora have been answered even over the past few years, and the ability to track and study the phenomenon has flourished. Research stations all over the globe and places like NASA’s Heliophysics laboratory have added many layers to what we initially knew about one of the planet’s most curious light shows. But, we are still learning.

Perhaps we will never stop. It is good to remember this when you are busy interpreting a forecasting tool.

It is possible for the Kp number to be incorrect, or the cloud radar to be slow. Auroras are space weather, and though our predictions are guided by years of data, it is still possible for us to gauge the speed of an incoming solar storm incorrectly.

After years of watching the forecast every day, it has happened that on a Kp 0 night, we got lucky! It has also happened that on a Kp 7 or 8 night, we were not. Always remember that forecasts are a great tool, and a guideline- but they are not 100%.

If you’re visiting Iceland within the auroral season, and the sky is clear- it is always worth having a look.

(Photo Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction: Space Weather Prediction Center at https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/planetary-k-index)

Tip #3: Get to know the index

So you’ve seen an aurora forecast, but what’s that number, and why is everyone saying it’s a “5 night”? This is the Kp planetary index, K-index, or Kp index. This number belongs to a 0-9 scale that references a metric that people use to gauge the level of geomagnetic activity.

This number is referencing the activity within a 3 hour period, in order to achieve a more realistic picture of the activity at that time. This is why checking the forecast in advance can be tricky.

This number is a great guideline for what’s going on, but it is not definitive, and is only as good as the data being collected to create it. Different factors can affect how this number is achieved, and how it applies to us- and so for this reason it is important to remember that it is one of the many tools in a hunter’s kit, but not the only one.

(Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction: Space Weather Prediction Center at https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

Tip #4: The K-index and Earth

This whole situation is layered! Once you know about the K-index and what it stands for, it’s helpful to know how that applies to where we are.

We know that the aurora is a polar phenomenon most of the time, but then why does it sometimes show up in North America or continental Europe?

It’s possible, and understanding why helps to explain the K-index in a different way. Because of all of this data collected over time, scientists have been able to gauge how high the level of activity needs to be, for an aurora to grow a certain distance away from the pole.

Like everything else related to forecasting, this too is not 100%, but it is a system built over time that is supported by carefully collected data.

(Science and nature do love an exception!) You can see on many charts and graphics just like this one, that the Kp or K-index typically correlates to a specific “ring” or “slice” of the globe.

These numbers from the chart tell us that if the solar activity is at a 5 level of strength, it is possible for it to reach as far as South Dakota on the globe.

Does that mean that on a 5 night, it definitely will? Or that if it does, we are guaranteed to see it? Not necessarily.

It means that should all factors occur as on a typical level 5 night, it is possible for the activity to reach that far south.

However, it does not take into account what the clarity and light pollution factors are in your area, which is why the K-index is only one piece of an aurora forecast.

northern lights folklore and mythology
Photo by Kevin Pages

Tip #5: Live in the moment

When forecasting an aurora, we typically don’t look too far ahead of ourselves. This is a bit out of our hands, as the Kp index functions on such a small time period anyways. Our very own northern lights forecast in Iceland even runs on three days cycles at a time.

So figuring out when we can see the northern lights is on our minds often!

And of course, if you’ve been here before- you’ve probably already heard someone say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” Icelandic weather is at times capricious and volatile, so it seems we have something in common with space after all.

If you’re hunting for auroras, it’s important to remember to exist in the NOW. They are elusive, they defy all odds, and no two are ever alike. If you’re planning an excursion, try to book it near the beginning of your trip so that you have time to try again if you need to.

And above all else, keep your eyes peeled! If the sky is clear, there is always a chance. Some of the best auroras have happened to us while taking out the trash, driving home, or while having a tiny impromptu stroll. Like some of the best things, it often happens when you’re paying the least attention.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: NASA)

Tip #6: …But don’t forget to play the long game

Now that we’ve told you to loosen your collar and get spontaneous- here’s some advice from the other end of the spectrum! (..You will find that this is very characteristic of aurora hunting. Do everything, and nothing, all at once!)

The forecast itself is very focused on the current time, but what about the science of it all, and the bigger picture? Well, it’s true. For the next-level hunter, there are some old reliables that you can depend on when making your predictions. We’re talking about solar cycles and the tracking of sunspots.

To simplify it all the way down, we are all spinning, and these orbital patterns create seasons or sections of measurable time. The Sun also experiences this and has cycles that we refer to as solar maximum and solar minimum.

These are believed to be 11 year cycles in which the Sun’s magnetic field flips from north to south, and is characterized by sunspot activity or prevalence.

Therefore, in solar maximum you can expect more sunspots or increased sunspot activity than you would in solar minimum. A prevalence of active sunspots can be good news for aurora watchers, as they are often responsible for more volatile solar activity, like the release of solar flares and prominences.

They are almost like volcanoes in that way, and these bursts of activity that they send off mean better and more powerful displays of auroral light. One can track these sunspots, as they are visible fixtures on the surface of the sun.

You can even try it out yourself at home with activities like this. For people that regularly track auroras, knowing when a sunspot is coming up is a nice way to gauge when activity might be high again in the future.

Like all aspects of auroral activity, this is not guaranteed, but it is one of the more long-term dependable factors that we know of at this time. Not visiting on a sunspot night, or even within solar maximum?

Don’t worry! These factors may result in high activity, but it has been proved time and time again that we do not require them for great northern lights adventures.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Daiwei Lu)

Tip #7: Don’t fight the moonlight

The forecast is looking good, you’ve got an idea where you’re headed, and the plans are in place. You’re even preparing to take a few photos while you’re out. But what are the conditions going to be while you’re out?

It can be helpful to know what the moon phase will be while you’re out so that you have an idea of what kind of visibility conditions you’ll be working in.

Don’t worry if it’s a full moon- though it can create a great deal of light pollution, it does not make visibility impossible. A full moon can create some really helpful foreground light so that you can capture a semi-lit nature shot.

Though a darker sky can be easier on the eyes, there’s certainly something special about a full moon shot. Be ready to adjust your camera settings accordingly!

northern lights forecast iceland
(Photo credit: © Veðurstofa Íslands at https://en.vedur.is/)

Tip #8: Get crystal clear

Since you’re hunting in Iceland, it’s safe to assume you’re using our favorite northern lights forecast. But at a glance, do you know what you’re looking for?

This forecast comes in two halves, the Earth half, and the space half on the right. The “space half” is just the 0-9 Kp number on the side, letting us know what the solar activity is up to. The “Earth half”, is the map.

At first glance it can look like the colored places on the map might indicate auroral activity or visible lights- but that is not the case. This map is only showing us the cloud cover. You can choose to view a layer of the sky or the entire sky altogether.

(Different types of clouds form in different layers of the sky, so sometimes you can find that the cloud cover might not be so serious after all, because of where it is.)

But no matter which layer of the map you’re using, don’t forget that the colored spaces on the map are the thing we’ve trying to avoid. We are looking for white or clear areas on the map because that is where the clouds are not.

Try using the sliding scale at the bottom of the map to see how the clouds plan to move over the course of the 3 day period. You can also view a wind forecast if you want to see a more detailed view over time of how the directionality might change.

If you’re lucky, those clouds will get blown away before you’re even out there! Or maybe, you ended up with some wispy cirrus clouds, high up above us in the topmost layer.

Either way, as long as you’ve got some clarity over top, you’re set. (And don’t forget that earlier tip, to take this with a grain of salt!

We’ve gotten pretty good over time at predicting Earth weather, but even the cloud map can be slow, or too vast to catch tiny windows of clarity in your immediate area.

Sometimes, that imperceptible window through the fog is all you need to catch the show. So look up, no matter what!)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Evgeni Tcherkasski)

Tip #9: Know what’s behind the number: Mix it up!

You’ve seen our favorite northern lights forecast in Iceland, but where does that data come from? Some of it comes to us from the Leirvogur Magnetic Observatory in Mosfellsbær, Iceland.

At Leirvogur, scientists have been taking measurements of Earth’s magnetic field since 1957. This has given us the ability to note magnetic disturbances in real-time, as their data is updated every 10 minutes. They are another great tool to have in your kit if you want to see how the Kp number is decided.

But all forecasts are different kinds of tools, so why not look further? NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is another great source for space weather updates. On this page dedicated to fellow sky enthusiasts, you can view a myriad of different forecasting tools.

From the conditions on the sun to the solar wind update, all the way down to a visual rendering of the auroral oval. This is a great example of how many pieces must fit together in order for auroras to be known about, and then found. Check them out, and tell us about your favorite!

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Chelaxy Designs)

Tip #10: Take it with you

Preparing for a night out hunting is a key step. This means charging up your camera batteries and headlamps, collecting all your gear, packing away your snacks, and making sure you’ve got all the layers and mittens and hand warmers you can carry.

But what about the forecast? Many of these services have mobile apps or can just load up in your phone or tablet browsers. On average, many of these forecasts will update between 3 and 10 minutes, so you never know what magnetic spikes or cloud movements may be on the way.

If possible, bring them with you! Being able to follow the cloud map live (while someone else drives, of course!) can sometimes make all the difference on a chase.

reykjavik iceland northern lights

10 brilliant aurora spots in Reykjavik, Iceland: City of Northern Lights

Heading out into the country is the go-to for most aurora hunters, but how lucky can you get in the city?

Reykjavik, Iceland Northern Lights: Can it be done?

Destination Reykjavik, Iceland, Northern Lights: The world’s northernmost capital, is the first stop for most of the country’s aurora hunters. But is it possible to see the lights there, or does one truly have to head out into the wild?

The capital region around Reykjavik, Iceland houses nearly two thirds of the Icelandic population. This makes for a busy little city in the southern climes of Iceland, and also makes for some of the greatest light pollution in the North Atlantic, until continental Europe.

For many intrepid skywatchers, the first advice is to get out of town and into the country, if only ten minutes away, to access better darkness and get away from the buzz of electric light. 

For our eyes to have a starting chance of processing auroral light, it does make a big difference to increase the darkness of your surroundings. This is a thing that happens in stages, depending on what you have the power to control.

For some, it means heading out into the night down a long, quiet country road. But for others it just means shutting off the porch lights, dimming the vehicle console, letting cell phones rest- or just turning away from the streetlights and hoping for the best. You can’t always change the light pollution in your location, and sometimes you don’t need to.

Nature has a way of surprising us sometimes. If given the chance, it is certainly easier to see Northern Lights in darker and less populated spots. The low-light photographs become easier to create without overexposure, and your eyes adjust better into this context that they were not entirely meant for.

It’s true, the city is not every aurora hunter’s first choice of location. But, as a denizen of downtown Reykjavik, I have found that while it’s not the easiest spot to watch from- it certainly can surprise you.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Mike Swigunski)

Nature’s light show 

The aurora is an elusive character. Despite all of the careful planning and season mapping, the truth of it all is that this is an occurrence that happens above our weather system in space, and so it can start up at any moment.

This means that auroras can occur anywhere that they’re strong enough to reach, at any time of day or night, and in any season of the year. This is perhaps not the answer that they are most often associated with, but the reality is that the sun isn’t thinking too hard about what time it is at our place when it sends the activity.

In some ways, this natural defiance is good news for us, because it means that despite a common norm, there are always exceptions. One of these exceptions is aurora watching from the city. Though it would not be the recommended area to watch from, sometimes you just can’t get out.

Whether it be a short layover or a night without a vehicle, it isn’t always feasible to trek out into the wilds. Some think that this means their shot at catching the lights is over, but it just isn’t so.

Despite the light pollution of greater Reykjavik, sometimes we just can’t outshine nature. On a good night with low cloud cover, you most certainly can watch Iceland’s dancing lights, in front of some of her most notable landmarks! 

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: James Genchi)

How to set yourself up for success on a downtown aurora hunt 

In the best conditions, a low-level aurora can be hard to see. It is common that people watching from slightly different areas have extremely different experiences, and report different intensities, different colors, and sometimes even failures vs successes.

This can be frustrating when you find out that they were only a few kilometers away from you, and you missed the show! It’s important to remember that the northern lights are a planetary occurrence that happen to our entire globe, and they are constantly moving. Despite how huge the sky feels while you’re under it, you are only really seeing one section.

This is why consistent movement on aurora excursions can be a small help on difficult nights. Keeping your eye on the sky for an extended period of time while you constantly change it up can be a more forgiving strategy than only having a few quick looks or staying put.

Especially when you keep in mind that the aurora isn’t the only thing that’s moving, the cloud cover may be as well!

However, you can still get lucky in the city. And there are a lot of perks to staying local if you’ve got to. The obvious benefit is proximity to your lodging.

Reykjavik is a walkable city, and if you’re staying in the area, you’ll always be close to your home- should you run out of camera batteries, forget your mitts, or just flat out get tired. Need a snack? There are countless places to get one!

Looking for a place to sit that isn’t a frozen rock? Not to worry, public benches line the roads and walkways. But, it’s good to keep a strategy in mind. If you’ve seen luck in the forecast and have decided to set out into town, try to keep your back to the city lights, and your eyes fixed on a dark area.

Night vision takes some time to adjust, and if you can set yourself up in a spot that isn’t directly casting a streetlight blaze into your eyes, you’ll do yourself a big favor. And to help you out, here are a few of our favorite spots:

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Nicolas J. Leclercq)

Best city hideaways for Reykjavik, Iceland Northern Lights watching

Grótta: The most popular spot for a good aurora hunt, Grótta is a hidden gem on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula in Reykjavik. It takes about an hour to walk there from the city center, but there are pedestrian pathways, a lighthouse, and a small geothermal pool to dip your feet into once you get there.

Acting as a nature reserve for the area’s abundant bird and sea life, parts of Grótta are closed to us in the summer to serve as nesting grounds. In the winter, however, it becomes the city’s own aurora spot.

Already a bit out of the way as far as city locations go, Grótta suffers from far less light pollution and enjoys a dark view over the water. If you choose to head to this spot, make sure to check the tide tables.

The very end of Grótta is attached to us by a very thin strip of land, which can become submerged during high tide. If you’re looking for a little slice of quiet in Iceland’s bustling capital, this is one of the best. 

The Sæbraut walking path: If you check out a map, you can see that there are copious walking paths in the capital area. You can walk all the way to Hafnarfjörður if you’re feeling adventurous!

The most popular of these paths, however, is along Sæbraut, or the Sea Road, at the northern coast of the city. Running along Faxaflói Bay, this wide path takes you past many notable landmarks like the Harpa Music Hall, the Sólfar or Sun Voyager dream ship, and many local works of art and sculpture.

It stretches from harbor to harbor and takes local wanderers on a flat, accessible trek with a full view of Esja, Reykjavik’s favorite mountain. Though a seemingly obvious spot, it truly is one of the best. Easy to get to, central to downtown, and sporting one of the best dark views over the water in a northerly direction that there is!

Not having to look at any lights over that expanse of water is easy on the eyes, and on a good aurora night, one can find many hopefuls lining the path and balancing their tripods on the barrier rocks.

Having this unobstructed view towards Esja is as good as a compass for finding north, and being able to keep the streetlights mostly behind you is a lucky mercy.

If you plan to try your luck on the Sea Road, it’s often best to set yourself up a bit of a way away from Harpa, and she is often busy conducting a light show in the evening. (Though, while you wait, it is spectacular to watch!) 

Sky Bar: Looking for a slightly more luxe place to watch from? We’ve got you covered. For those who’d prefer to have a cocktail while they wait, we recommend the Sky Bar, resting on the 8th floor of Center Hotels Arnarhvoll.

Open until 23:00 (at the time of this writing), Sky Bar boasts some of the best views of Faxaflói Bay that you can get, without scoring a meeting in a waterfront board room or making a friend in one of those high rise apartments. 

Öskjuhlíð: Resting pretty on a 61 m. high hill is the home of Perlan, and one of Reyjavik’s lushest forests. A veritable tangle of woodland hiking trails, Öskjuhlíð is a curious oasis with a great view.

It’s a bit of a hike to get to the top, but one can enjoy the glistening dome of Perlan, the memory of military bunkers from a century gone by, and even the new site of the Ásatrúarfélagið temple.

Depending on the side you watch from you may have to look over some city lights to view the sky, but on a good night, this can be a phenomenal spot to take a photo from.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bezanger)

Get the shot: Local landmarks to capture on film 

If you’re in Reykjavik, Iceland northern lights hunting, you’ve got an excellent opportunity to grab a showstopping photo while you’re there. Many people leave Iceland with gorgeous sky shots of open country- but a Viking longship, or a cathedral built to look like basalt columns? These local treasures make for some dramatic foregrounds. Here are a few of our favorites:

Lighthouses: It’s hard to pick just one! There are over five active lighthouses in the greater Reykjavik area, and even more outside of town!

Icelanders are a coastal people, so you’ll find no shortage of these beacon towers on your journey. When in town, key an eye out for these bright yellow structures. 

Esja: Reykjavik’s very own distinctive mountain and favorite hiking destination of locals and visitors alike, Esja lies in a northerly direction from the city center.

Looking across the dark bay to capture a stunning photo with Esja in focus is a great souvenir of your time in this seaside city.

(And for those with transportation, the parking lot at the base of Esja can be a great close by dark area for last minute viewing!)

Hallgrímskirkja: The tallest church in the country, Hallgrímskirkja is usually the star of most photos that it appears in- so it’s hard to imagine it taking a back seat to northern lights.

But, with its basalt column structure, and its prominent memorial to Leif Erikson out front, this hilltop spot has lots of seating and lots of space.

(Come back during the day to try out the observation tower for a great panoramic view!)

Sólfar/The Sun Voyager: Created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik, The Sun Voyager is a sculpture crafted by Jón Gunnar Árnason.

A popular photo spot during the day, local photographers make a point to capture this stainless steel dreamboat in all seasons.

Resting right on the Sea Road path in front of Esja, you can hit three locations at once at this stop!

Harpa Music Hall: At the head of the Sea Road pedestrian path lies the Harpa Music Hall, a notable structure on the Reykjavik skyline. With its massive fish scale windows, Harpa lights up at night and creates animated patterns and shapes in an impromptu electric light show.

This feature is free to watch and is a great photo in and of itself. 

Thufa and the Old Harbour: Thufa, also written as Þúfa, is an art installation in the Old Harbour/Grandi area. Created by Ólöf Nordal, Thufa is a reminder of Reykjavik’s maritime past.

Though it takes a bit of a walk to access, one can guarantee a modicum of serenity here at the near end of Reykjavik’s Old Harbour, jutting out into the bay.

If you head out early, check out some of the boutiques and cafes in the area. 

Perlan: Perched on the top of Öskjuhlíð hill, Perlan, or, the Pearl- is a famous Reykjavik landmark that has lived many lives.

First built to house hot water, then becoming a revolving restaurant, and now hosting a vibrant museum, planetarium, and even a refrigerated ice cave- Perlan has seen it all.

This is a landmark that is popular to capture both up close and from a distance, but be sure to check their website for opening hours if you choose to visit.

Perlan is a vibrant space with many attractions, and some of these do require a ticket to enter. 

Tjörnin: Tjörnin is technically a lagoon, but as you can see it has lovingly been named “The Pond”. Lying next to the city hall and many of Reykjavik’s oldest structures, a stroll around the pond is a historic pastime.

If you’re lucky and the wind is low, you can try for a great reflective photo in the shallow waters of this city treasure. Watch out for the residents though- Tjörnin’s birdlife are expert connoisseurs of bread!

northern lights folklore and mythology
Photo by Kevin Pages

A few parting tips:

Tours: Tried your luck strolling and still didn’t see any lights? Not to worry. Reykjavik is the bustling epicenter of a myriad of tour departures.

One can book all sorts of experiences that pick up in the city, from a northern lights boat ride, all the way to a chauffeured stay in a northern lights igloo. Don’t worry about the transport, you can be picked up and dropped off at your hotel, and the rest is up to the experts. 

Snacks: Up late and hungry? So is half of Reykjavik! Lucky for us there are some tasty late-night options scattered through the heart of downtown. Try a stroll along Laugavegur, or stop in Ingólfstorg for some late-night eats.

If it’s close to the weekend, there may be food trucks about! The majority of them gather at Lækjartorg, but you’ll smell them before you see them. (And trust us, there is nothing like a hot cup of humarsúpa or a toasty homemade waffle in the middle of a hunt. Try finding that in the country!)

Special Surprises: Reykjavik is a bright spot on the map, but every now and then its residents want to see the lights too! In the past on high activity nights, the city has been known to dim the glow just a bit, to help out.

Don’t bet on this happening often, as it is a very special occurrence that takes quite a bit of permission to achieve- but know that you’re in good company when looking up!

(And cross your fingers that you get to experience one of these events! The excitement in town is palpable on a night when Reykjavik goes dark.)

Got wheels?: So you’ve found yourself a ride and you’re looking for a spot. Don’t forget to check the northern lights forecast for clear spots in the sky before you do it!

Once you’ve had a look, you’ve got a huge spectrum of choices in front of you. Just within an hour’s radius from town, you’ve got the entire Reykjanes peninsula, all the way out going south to just a bit past Selfoss, the national park Thingvellir, and even the route 1 going north all the way up to Borgarnes.

All of these spots are reasonably accessible and within an hour. Good luck, and happy hunting!

what are the northern lights

When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?: 5 useful tips for planning your adventure

"When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?" is the question on the tip of everyone's tongue. The minute you step off the plane in the land of fire and ice, it's time to start looking up. Or is it?

What are the Northern Lights?

Before we get to the “When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?” half of the show, let’s talk about what we’re actually looking for. In a country of natural wonders, the Northern Lights are one of Iceland’s greatest treasures. A phenomenon based on volatile space weather, the Aurora Borealis happens when solar activity from the sun travels over our planet and collides with our magnetosphere. This meeting of forces gives some of the super-charged gas in the solar storm an opportunity to travel down the magnetic field towards the poles, creating another collision with oxygen and nitrogen pockets in our atmosphere.

This clash creates the colorful visual byproduct of the aurora- an accidental gift of the cosmos. Because this is a polar occurrence, it takes incredible strength for the storm to grow large enough to travel closer to the equator from the pole, which is why we primarily see the aurora in very northern or southern lands.

Every so often we get lucky, and the sun sends a sizeable storm, giving us the rare chance to view the Northern Lights from places like North America and continental Europe.

when can you see the northern lights in iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Joshua Earle)

Life under the polar light cycle: Choosing the right half of the year

Planning a northern lights vacation can be challenging, as nature tends to run on its own schedule. A good place to start, is to know which half of the year is aurora season in Iceland.

Because polar lights happen far above us in space, it is possible for them to occur at any time of year. Many people mistakenly think that they are related to cold weather, but, luckily this is not the case. Because of how the Earth tilts in its orbital path, the winter season in countries around the northern pole coincides with shorter days. You may have a similar light cycle situation during winter in your home country.

In a country closer to the pole, this light cycle is a bit more exaggerated and can result in days where the sun does not rise for a period of time. Iceland’s winter light cycle is not quite as extreme, but due to this trade-off, we experience a surplus of daylight hours in the summer and a surplus of dark hours in the winter.

This means that in the summer, it is much too bright for us to pick out auroral activity in the skies. There may be solar activity and auroras happening, but we would be unable to see them. Despite their appearance, we require solid darkness to view an aurora from Earth. (If you’re riding along on the International Space Station, however, you might be one of the few people that could view a July aurora!)

But for those of us down here planetside, we must wait for optimal darkness to be able to pick out auroral activity with the naked human eye.

The Northern Lights occur at a low lumen, so sometimes even a weak occurrence can be hard to pick out in perfect conditions. (A good camera can help you out with this, as the camera’s vision capabilities are not quite so limited in darkness.)

Fortunately, this extreme light cycle buys you an entire half of the year to plan a Northern Lights holiday in Iceland- which gives you more time than you might think.

northern lights iceland igloo

August to April: The Auroral Season

Because of this light cycle, the Northern Lights season in Iceland runs from August to April. August is very early in the season, and typically we access amenable darkness by the end of the first week. However, if you are planning a vacation, it is recommended to wait until the end of August for optimal conditions.

The end of the first week of August is the earliest we have seen an aurora, but it is not generally expected and would be a risky time to plan a trip. In recent years, tours have started mobilizing for their aurora seasons at the middle to end of August, with some starting as late as September.

This August to November time frame puts you in our autumn season. Not a time typically associated with auroral viewing, the transitional seasons like fall and spring are phenomenal times to hunt for Northern Lights. These are moments in the year where colorful changes are occurring in the countryside, and often, low traffic among visitors.

These are some of our favorite times to look for aurorae, particularly because there is milder weather, manageable light for other outdoor activities, and gorgeous scenery. As you can see, the auroral season runs all the way to April. In Iceland, April is traditionally considered the beginning of the summer season (if you can believe it), so the same rules that apply to August apply here.

If you are interested in a spring aurora hunt, you will want to be careful of booking too close to April, as mid-April is too bright for aurora viewing typically. In a lucky year, professional photographers have managed to grab some surprising shots throughout April, but this would not be advisable for someone that is planning an aurora trip.

The month of March is often quite good throughout, weather permitting, and people have been known to get lucky in the very beginning of April. Once we near the middle of April, the island moves over to summertime in earnest, and the midnight sun begins to return.

This gives you quite a spectrum of time to hunt for auroras, and this season spans autumn, winter, and even spring. This means that you can tie your aurora aspirations together with additional activities, like horseback riding, hiking, ice caving, or even skiing.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Matt Palmer)

"Hello darkness my old friend": Aurora watching under the cover of night

You’ve got an entire half of the year to plan your trip in, but what time does the aurora show up? This is another popular question, and the answer does change a bit depending on the time of year that you visit. For folks visiting earlier or later in the season closer to autumn and spring, you’ll find that there are fewer dark hours available for hunting.

In Iceland, you are losing or gaining minutes of light every day, depending on if you are moving away or towards midsummer or midwinter. If you’re visiting us before December, you will be losing 3-4 minutes of daylight on average every day.

After midwinter, you start to gain those minutes of daylight back. If you stay with us for a week, you might even notice a difference by the end of it! Because of this, you will find that guided experiences start a bit earlier (closer to 8:00 PM) in the autumn and spring, and a bit later 9:00-10:00 PM) in the winter months.

Like all aurora figuring, this can vary on the occurrence itself. A powerful solar storm may cause a brighter visual manifestation, thus making it possible to view earlier in the evening. However, despite the fact that you’re watching in the correct half of the year, we still require this high-quality nighttime darkness for visibility.

This can be a confusing detail, especially if you’re visiting us in December when the sunrise is closer to 11:00 AM and the sunset is nearly 3:00 PM! One might think, “If the sun has set by 4:00 PM, why can’t I see the aurora already? Isn’t it night?” Despite the early setting of the sun, we do still cycle through steps of “twilight”, or “dusk”.

You may be familiar with this if you enjoy maritime sports or navigational pursuits like flying or sailing. So despite all this extra darkness in the high point of winter, we still wait for proper nighttime in the later evening. Averages for optimal visibility may vary per person, but typically we can expect that on a good night our window will be around 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Can an aurora happen outside of this time frame? Absolutely! On a phenomenal night, you might catch one at 8:00 PM! And likewise at 3:00 AM! The excitement of this phenomenon is that no two aurorae are ever the same- and neither are the experiences that lead you to them.

Like many sciences, very few things are permanently definite- so if you feel that you have exceptional darkness, clear skies, and a forecast indicating solar activity, have a look! These things do tend to sneak up on you when you least expect them.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

The right place at the right time

So you’ve got an idea of when the Northern Lights can be seen in Iceland, but where should you go? Where can you see Northern Lights in Iceland? The truth is, there is no singular good spot.

This is lucky for us in a way because it means we’ve all got a fair shot, no matter where in Iceland we’re watching from. As far as darkness goes, it is advisable to move away from light pollution if you can. The greatest centers of light pollution in Iceland are still manageable enough for auroral viewing, and won’t impede you to the level of a massive metropolis- but if you can find yourself a patch of true dark your vision will adjust better and your viewing experience will be improved.

Watching near a streetlight or a house can make low light photography a bit harder to balance, and it can also cause your eyes to struggle with adjusting to their own night vision. When viewing a similar auroral occurrence, people in a brighter area may report seeing less of the aurora, or a dimmer or less vibrant color.

In a truly dark place, your eyes will be able to pick up some of the finer pieces and “shards” of the occurrence, and typically be more successful at discerning the color.

If you’ve got a camera, don’t forget to snap a few low light shots- you’d be surprised how much better the camera’s “eye” sees compared to our own! When looking for a good spot to wait for the Northern Lights, you’ll want to consider cloud cover. On an auroral forecast, you can see that the cloud map is an integral part of finding out if you’ll be able to view activity or not.

Because the Northern Lights happen above our weather system, we miss out on any light shows that happen on cloudy evenings. The good news about this is that cloud systems can move quickly over us on a windy night, not all areas will have the same weather, and even forecasts miss tiny windows of clarity in the sky.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Toby Elliott)

Sometimes these holes in the cloud layer are all we need to glimpse the glow- but many great activity nights have been canceled over a thick layer of cloud cover. If you’re in a vehicle and you’re able, it can be helpful to watch the forecast to see where areas of clarity may be located.

If there are clear skies around your location, you can head in the general direction of that clarity. In fact, many guided experiences will do a similar thing and will plot their course that night based on where the clarity is expected to be.

This is the best way to choose a spot, and the travel time that you spend on the way to the clear skies may also prove lucky. Covering ground and exposing yourself to different areas of the sky can be helpful since a large portion of aurora hunting is the waiting.

The longer you’re out in the dark under clear skies, the better your chances are. Because of the importance of clouds in this equation, it can sometimes mean just heading out on the road that leads in that direction. If you’re interested in finding a spot to wait in, we recommend looking for landmarks of natural importance along the way, or national parks.

Parks can be a great spot to watch from because they are designed for spectating and parking your car safely (unlike the side of the road), but be warned that many others may have the same idea. Be careful not to pull over to stop your vehicle in an unsafe location to watch! Country roads can be dark and narrow, and they do not always have a shoulder for pulling over.

It’s exciting when an aurora happens upon you in the car, but being safe and waiting for an approved pull-over location is the safest way to enjoy this gift of nature.

However, you don’t always have to be on the road to catch the Northern Lights! There are a few spectacular hideaways in Iceland just for this very purpose, where you can be cozy, alone in nature, and waiting in a perfect dark location.

For those that want to try the most comfortable hunt around, we recommend the Northern Lights igloo. Lay back on a down comforter in a heated bubble and have a drink? We can hardly think of a better way to spend the night. (Or a better photo op!)

iceland northern lights season

Iceland northern lights season: the most wonderful time of the year

In Iceland northern lights season is a magical time. But when do they actually happen- and when’s the best time to come see them?

Iceland's northern lights season
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Ruedi Häberli)

The two halves of the year

Most of us know about the four seasons and the special relationships that different places can have with them. There are dry seasons, seasons that bring great storms, and times when amazing blooms and colors transform the land. You’ve seen it in autumnal leaves, avenues of cherry blossoms, fields of fruit, and grasses that grow ten feet fall! Seasons were our clock before we had a better way to count the time- and here in Iceland that is truer than most. 

If you’ve had the chance to visit Iceland, or any country in proximity to the poles, you may have already experienced the extreme patterns of light that I’m referencing. Tales of the ethereal “Midnight Sun”, or endless days of darkness that see no light. The closer to either pole you get, the more severe this pattern becomes. 

Because of the tilt in the Earth’s axis, the polar regions of the Earth find themselves much closer to the sun in summer, and much further away during winter. As you move closer to the equator, many countries further down feel the echoes of these shifts in light as well. Some, even further north than Iceland, feel it even more. 

You can see what the annual sun graph of Reykjavik looks like here. It’s a great way to get an idea of what the light will be like when you visit. Try it for your home, or a city far away from you. It’s amazing to see how differently we experience the world- even at the same time. 

The Icelandic settlers of old had to balance their survival with this harsh cycle- and created a calendar to help them manage their livestock, their crops, and their morale. This old calendar still has bearing on society today, and its holidays are still beloved as reminders of the natural progression of this place, in a way that the modern global calendar sometimes is not. 

This calendar was based heavily around solstices and equinoxes of the year, and with its 12 months it splits the year into two halves. These halves were the summer/nattleysi, or lack of night, and the winter/skammdegi days, or short days. All of these were checkpoints in the arc of time, and were visible and even ways to mark its passage in a place where it often felt as if there were only two seasons to measure. 

It was a difficult life for the settlers, and surviving the winter was a cause for great celebration. You can tell when the local populace felt the breaking of winter at the end of April- because that is traditionally when Iceland marks the first day of summer, or sumardagurinn fyrsti. This is a national holiday, and it is celebrated on the first Thursday after April 18th. This is a day of festivals and merriment, even though it may not seem very summer-like in temperature or appearance. But for Icelanders, this day marks the end of the long dark, and the beginning of the lengthening of days.

At one time, it meant the increased likelihood of survival, and days where one could work, craft or read without the obstacle of losing the light.

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Joshua Earle)

So where do the northern lights come in?

We know a little bit now about Iceland’s age-old relationship with seasonal time, light cycles, and surviving the harsh winters. But where do the northern lights come into all of that? 

To give you the short version- the northern lights themselves can happen at any time. 

They happen so far above our planet in space, that temperature, season, and time don’t mean too much when it comes to their arrival and creation. The first thing to realize about the aurora, is that it is a function of space weather before all else- but seeing it does require a little bit of cooperation from our own Earth weather, as well. 

When an aurora is born, it is due to the sun releasing a solar storm into outer space. You can read more about that process here. We can track these storms to an extent because of the orbital patterns of the sun and the reappearance of sunspots, which more regularly release these strong systems. However, our ability to measure and predict space weather is still very much a developing science, and can be imperfect at times. 

Despite all of that, the sun is releasing this energy all the time. Depending on the solar cycle and factors facing the travel of solar storms, this activity can find its way to us at any time of year, in any season. This means that it’s entirely possible for solar activity to arrive in our atmosphere in the middle of summer, or during the brightest point of day. 

The difficulty here is actually with us. Auroral light is a visually delicate natural phenomenon, despite its volatile origins. To see it with the naked eye, we require darkness in order to pick up the low lumen light that it creates. 

(An additional difficulty here lies with us as a species, because of how we perceive color visually in dark places. Because we are not nocturnal, our eyes are not designed to process color as well at nighttime, and so it’s already challenging for us as creatures to look at this type of light.)

Which is where we circle all the way back around to our first point- and Iceland’s dramatic dark and light seasons. 

If the aurora arrives in the high point of summer when we experience only civil twilight, we wouldn’t be able to see it. It would technically be there, dancing and possibly displaying incredible colors- but we would only be able to see that from space at best. (And sometimes, NASA sends us a video of it!) 

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

The same situation happens for us during the daytime, even in the winter months. Even though we only have a few actual hours of daylight, we still require the solid darkness of night to bring forth the best canvas for auroral glow.

Can we start our hunt earlier in the midwinter? Definitely! We can start heading out as early as 7 or 8pm on some nights, a thing that would be rather difficult to do in the earlier days of the auroral season. But we do still require that deep darkness of nighttime. 

In Midsummer and Midwinter, we start to lose or gain minutes of sunlight. This means that once we hit Midsummer, we begin the ever-increasing trek to winter darkness. We don’t always notice this right away, but typically once we reach August, it becomes dark enough to witness the spectacle of northern lights.

For me, the earliest I have seen them was at the end of the first week of August. This is only the beginning though, and so I would likely wait until a bit later in the season (late September at the earliest), to plan a trip.

This darkness builds every day until mid-winter when we start to gain the sunlight back. This typically means that we can witness auroral light until the very beginning of April, though March is the popular cut-off. (Similar to August, April would be the very tail end of the possible season- and would be a risky time to book an aurora hunt.

Though, there are quite a few intrepid photographers that catch them that late in the year, with lots of practice, lots of experience, and a tiny bit of luck. It is, of course, Lady Aurora herself waving goodbye for the year- she loves a dramatic exit.)

northern lights iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

Some materials do talk about the ‘daytime aurora’, and this is not an incorrect statement. There are many places further north than Iceland (like Svalbard for example), that have an even more extreme sun graph than we do. (Though you can visit Siglufjörður, where they celebrate the first day that they see direct sunlight again.)

Places like this may not actually see the sun at all for quite some time- and maintain the ability to see northern lights for a longer period of time because of that. In addition to the extended dark hours during the day- they are also closer to the pole. Proximity to the pole can mean that they catch more of those low-level auroras that don’t travel very far out.

So don’t fret! The truth of the matter is that you have a whole half of the year to hunt for auroras in Iceland, as our forebears might say. (And for the other half of the year, you have puffins, endless lupine fields, and all the sun you can handle!)

But what about the weather?

You know about the Midnight Sun, the space weather that makes auroras, and the half of the year when we finally get enough darkness to see them. But what about Earth weather?

Earth weather does not interact with the northern lights, because it exists in the troposphere layer of our lower atmosphere. This is where most of the clouds in our atmosphere are located. It is sometimes said that extreme weather (things like polar vortexes and massive storms) can occur as far up as the stratosphere, but this is not entirely accurate. The stratosphere is particularly dry, and lacks the moisture to regularly create clouds, like the more humid troposphere.

To give you an idea of scale, these layers of the atmosphere combined are nearly 50 kilometres above the Earth. And still, it’s not high enough for auroras. 

Auroral activity occurs in the ionosphere, a section of the atmosphere that overlaps the mesosphere and the thermosphere. This is an area of the atmosphere where a great deal of electrons and ionized atoms and molecules occur, thus housing a key part of the collision recipe that makes the visible aurora. 

This means that myths about temperature and storms don’t necessarily hold true, and they don’t inhibit aurora activity. They do however get in the way of our viewing path. 

northern lights iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

The view from Earth

Since we are watching from the Earth’s surface, anything that does happen in our weather system can get right in between us and the aurora. This means that sometimes the aurora forecast is great, and shows high solar activity and an incoming show- but if it’s cloudy, it’s as if someone pulled the curtains. The show goes on of course, but anyone under the cloud cover is missing it. 

This is why the aurora forecast usually comes in two halves. The space weather or solar activity half (where we use the 0-8 Kp scale), and the Earth weather, or cloud map. 

Much of what we are discerning before a night out hunting, is can we see the sky, where is it the clearest, is that clarity window moving due to wind- and if we can find a good spot to watch from, is there any solar activity? 

Iceland is known for its rowdy winter weather, and depending on where you are in the country, you may find yourself exposed to some interesting micro climates and storms. The good news is, is that if you have the ability to travel and move around, sometimes it’s just as simple as driving over to the next cloudless spot. (And not forgetting the snacks, of course. It’s definitely a process some nights.)

Ready for the hunt: A Recap

You know it all, now! (Who am I kidding, nailing down space weather is a learning journey that never ends. At least not in our lifetime!) 

Let’s do a onceover to make sure we’ve got our northern lights trip toolkit together.

First, we have to book a trip in the right half of the year. This means we’re headed to Iceland some time between September and March at best. (If you want to catch the tail end of August or the early start of April, you can try it, but it would not be a recommended time frame for northern lights.)

However, it is always good to remember that the northern lights are a natural phenomenon, so it is best to plan a trip first for the experience of visiting the place. Iceland is a wonder all on its own, and the northern lights are just one of its many gifts. 

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Luke Stackpoole)

Assembling your Aurora Toolkit

Once you’ve booked your trip for the ‘aurora half’ of the year, you’ve got to remember all of the pieces that have to line up in order for a successful hunt. 

These are things like making sure you’re out at night (not at 3:00 pm, even if you could swear it feels like midnight- which it kind of does in December-), making sure you’re in a clear area or an area that will become cloudless or ‘cloud light’ by nighttime, and of course, having a small check on if there’s any solar activity that evening.

It also helps to make sure you’re not in an area of extreme light pollution. Iceland is not populated by huge cities, so we do fairly well on this front, and it doesn’t typically take long to get out of the city and into some real nighttime. However, if you find yourself city-bound at any point, try looking for a spot that takes you out of the direct light and gives you a bit of a break on the eyes. 

Remembering that the Aurora Forecast is not the last word!

It’s good to remember that many of these things are variable and imperfect, so it is not always necessary to plan by extremes- unless there is very inclement weather or a safety concern. (Those types of alerts always come first. Can’t enjoy the lights if you’re frozen.)

What I mean by this, is that forecasts are infallible. Not because they are in any way bad, but because weather is a volatile force that occasionally evades even the best of us. 

This means that the cloud radar can be off or slow, and the Kp number may not be accurate. It is possible for forecasts to gauge the speed of a solar storm incorrectly, as there are many factors that can add to that figuring. It’ll probably be a few years before we nail down space weather, but I can guarantee that there are a lot of brilliant people working on it.

Northern lights at the bubble hotel in Iceland

When the numbers don't add up, still look up!

This can mean that some nights, an aurora can occur on a Kp 0 evening. It can also mean that an exceptional evening (like a fabled Kp 8!), can disappoint us. This can happen for many reasons- which sometimes remain unknown to us. Sometimes powerful activity reaches so far that we end up in the middle of it instead, similar to being in the eye of a storm.

Sometimes it’s because we didn’t move very much on our hunt, and so we were only viewing one slice of the sky. It can happen that people see an aurora in one place, but a few kilometers over, nothing! Northern lights are like snowflakes in this way, and no two occurrences are alike. Forecasts are a great tool to have in your kit, and it can be good to cross reference a few good ones.

The TL;DR: Every aurora is a gift

Learning to decipher all of the different forecasting tools can be complex, but like many other information sources, being able to read a few different ones can sometimes give you a more comprehensive idea of what may be going on. 

Sometimes, it can be that an aurora did happen, but it was a visually weak occurrence, and you did not realize you were seeing it. If you have only seen photographs of northern lights, it can be hard to recognize a low level manifestation- as they are not quite as neon and extreme as a photograph can be.

Nighttime photography uses processes like slow shutter speeds, aperture, and ISO to perceive light in darkness, in ways that our eyes cannot. This does not mean that auroras cannot be bright, or that all photos are photoshopped- but it does mean that the average occurrence will most likely not match the once-in-a-lifetime shot that you saw on a postcard.

Sometimes all of the factors are completely lined up, but there’s a weather warning, and it just isn’t a great night to chance it. The weather conditions can get very serious here very quickly, and are not worth risking. 

All together, this sounds like a massive feat. The thing to take away is, that if you have a window of clarity in the sky, and you’re here in the magical half of the year that gives us this other kind of light, have a look. Once you know how much work it takes for the universe to produce one of these things, it feels miraculous that they happen at the frequency that they do. 

Know that you may have to keep an eye out for longer than you’d expect sometimes, and you may not always be successful. But as every local knows, it is always worth looking up. They often happen when you least expect them. (..And it can also be nice to have a few drinks and a hot pot to soak in. You know. Or a transparent Bubble to wrap up in. Just saying.)

(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Mike Swigunski)

Fish Skin for Human Wounds

Iceland’s Pioneering Fish Skin Treatment For Human Wounds

Iceland’s Pioneering Fish Skin Treatment For Human Wounds

Text by Sonia Nicolson

These FDA-approved skin substitute reduces a patients inflammation and can transform chronic wounds into acute injuries using a simple solution; fish skins.

Amputations can be the result of trauma or an aggressive disease but a lot are caused by injuries that fail to heal; chronic wounds. This can be the result of the patient having diabetes. Diabetes is on the rise with 1 in 11 Americans suffering, and this is set to rise to 1:4 by 2050. Iceland has an exceedingly low rate of diabetes for a developed country. Genetic factors, and a higher percentage of A2 milk consumption (A2 beta-casein is the dominant form of casein protein found in a cows milk) are possible explanations for this low rate. Diabetes is when a person has high blood sugar levels and this can cause nerve damage and poor circulation meaning the body finds it harder to heal wounds. If wounds become infected, this can lead to amputation.

Current Treatment For Wounds

Wounds are currently treated with skin from animals; pigs (or human cadaver, corpuses) but both can risk infections or transfer of other diseases.

“I was interested in finding a source of material that is as similar to human skin as possible and the surprising thing is that cod fish skin is much more similar to human skin than for example pig skin” said Fertram Sigurjonsson, Chemist and CEO, Founder of Kerecis Ltd.

Gone Fishing

Iceland has worked with fish leather for a long time. “My grandfather’s first shoes were the skin of a catfish,” Sigurjonsson says, and instead of kilometers, Icelanders used old worn out fish shoes to mark distance.

“My first memories are of fish,” Sigurjonsson says, poking at a machine he designed to help dry out the skin. Like many men here in Iceland he spent his summers working in processing plants, cleaning the catch or driving forklifts. After graduating from the Technical University of Denmark with a Degree in Innovation and Product Management, he started working at prosthetics maker Ossur, where he saw many amputee patients with replacement limbs developing chronic wounds. An impromptu move to New Zealand where he was running business development for Keratech, who dressed wounds with sheep wool, got him thinking about substitute natural materials. When he returned to Iceland, he started researching the idea of using fish skins in wound dressing.

Fertram Sigurjonsson has spent his career treating chronic wounds and is turning cod skins into medical products. The Kerecis Ltd manufacturing facility, located in the fishing town of Isafjord which is 30 miles from the polar circle, mainly fishes for cod. Using a 583-ton trawler on a 3 day fishing trip as an example “If you take all the skins from that trawler…we would be able to treat one in five wounds in the world.” says Fertram Sigurjonsson

Today, trucks haul the fish to a commercial processing facility in Isafjordur. The fish land on a conveyor belt, where they get filleted and skinned. The meat is sold as food and, twice a week, Kerecis employees come to collect skins of the right size, age, and species.

Fish Skin for Human Wounds

Photo by Rebecca Scheinberg

Descaling And Cleansing

The cod is taken to a processing plant where Kerecis collect the skins and examine them for flaws such as holes, tears, traces of blood and parasites. When the best fish skins are collected, the team start the process of transforming them into medical grafts.

The first step is to remove the scales from the material. The skins are then put into a solution which gently removes cells. “You need to get the mucus away, but we didn’t want to use harsh chemicals or wash away the fats or elastin,” Sigurjonsson says, referring to the protein that makes skin flexible. The clean skins are then moved into a decontaminated room where a dehydrator begins the two day process of dehydrating them, whilst preserving the important 3D structural built up of the material. This structural build up is vital to the healing process. The skin is then cut into squares and sterilised for use in bandaging.

Testing The Skins

Dr John Lantis, the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular surgery, and a Kerecis adviser, has been using Kerecis products at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on his patients.

The cell structure of these Kerecis fish skins recruit the patents bodies own cells to form healthy tissue. The fish skin acts as a structure around which healthy cells can grow and gradually incorporate into the closing wound. It is not known why fish skin works so well but when comparing the use pig skin verses fish skin, the fish skin grafts close the patents wounds significantly faster.

The materials in fish skin yield natural anti-inflammatory effects, especially omega-3 fatty acids, that speed up healing. When placed on wounds, the fish grafts work as an extracellular matrix; a group of proteins and starches that plays a crucial role in a patients recovery. In a healthy person, a matrix surrounds cells and binds them to tissue which generated the growth of new epidermis. But this natural structure fails to form in chronic wounds. Much like a garden trellis, the fish skin grafts provide the body’s own cells with a structure to grow around so they can form healthy tissue, gradually becoming incorporated into the closing wound.

In the first three months of 2017, Kerecis sold as much product as they sold in 2016.

Iceland’s Pioneering Treatment

Photo by Rebecca Scheinberg

Use In The US Army

Kerecis are having huge growth, with Doctors working on diabetic patients and also the significant investment from the US Military. On the battle field, these fish skin grafts can be applied immediately to a burn wound to serve as a cover and protect the wound, reducing pain and is an antimicrobial.

Icelandic Fish

The fish in the waters surrounding Iceland have given a lot of sustenance and wealth to the Icelanders. Fish skins were once a byproduct, fed to farm animals, but they are now considered to be the most valuable part of the fish, with Kerecis products costing up to a thousand dollars. At that point, Sigurjonsson says, “one gram of fish skin is worth more than a gram of gold.”

Geothermal Energy

CarbFix, Icelands Power Plants Are Turning CO2 into Stone

Icelands Power Plants are turning C02 into Stone

Read about how our scientist are developing this groundbreaking innovation

100% of Iceland’s electricity needs are generated from renewable sources, including geothermal energy. The landscape under Icelands crust is powering geothermal plants all over the country.

While other power stations, wether using Nuclear, coal or gas, would need fuel to heat up the water to produce steam, in Iceland they can take the steam directly from the ground. Geothermal activity underground here in Iceland is being used on a larger scale as it has the capacity to supply all of the countries domestic electricity. By adding geothermal to the already advanced hydro capacity, Iceland has become world leaders in renewable energy.

With the aim of cutting emissions even further, a unique carbon capture system called CarbFix is being pioneered at the Hellsheidi geothermal power plant in western Iceland. 

How Does A Geothermal Plant Work?

In short, a geothermal plant drills a hole into the ground at a depth of around 2-3 kilometres, where the steam is over pressurised so it comes by its own pressure through the production wells. The power plant can then collect the steam at the surface and there they produce power.

The geothermal plants here in Icelands only use a very small amount of the heat generated in the earth everyday so amazingly, there is enough heat in the earths crust for millions of years to come.

How To Turning CO2 Into Stone?

Carbon dioxide emissions are captured, mixed with water and re-injected back into the ground. Through this process, the CO2 is transformed into a mineral called Calcite. The process takes just six months. This solid form of CO2 storage is seen as one of the most effective ways of preventing the gas from entering the atmosphere.

Iceland To Work With The UK

The potential of this heat and steam is so big that plans to help supply other countries, such as the UK, with geothermal energy from Iceland have been discussed.

Hellsheidi geothermal power plant

Photo by MindsGrid

The Downsides Of The Process

It might be fully renewable but there is a downside. In the process of accessing the steam, naturally occurring gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide are also brought to the surface. The emissions are absolutely minimal when compared to the more conventional coal or gas power station however there are still some emissions to deal with.

What Is CarbFix And How Does It Work?

CarbFix is a new aspect in the development of geothermal technology where any pollutants emitted from the power plant are captured and sealed underground in the form of rock.

“We want to do our part in trying to solve this problem of the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere,” says Ingvi Gunnarsson, a geochemist at CarbFix.

Iceland is doing their part in trying to solve the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere with CarbFix, a new project which aims to capture the CO2 from the power plant and re-inject it back into the ground.

The Re-injection Labs

The gas immersions are transported from the main energy plant via pipes to geometric pods where they are re-injected into the ground. Once they have produced electricity, the Engineers at the plant needed to find a solution to dispose of the left over water and gas, which would be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“What comes from the power plant once we’ve produced electricity is hot water and gas. We need to dispose of that somehow. If we would not be capturing it, it would be released into the atmosphere.”

Geothermal Energy

Photo by Teratornis

Turning Air Pollution Into Rock

Re-injecting this waste water and gas into the ground enables the carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphite to permeate the volcanic basaltic rock and transforms it into stone. Water flows through the rock, fixing the CO2. The build up of this new rock is full of cavities, these pores are filled up with carbon minerals.

The CarbFix project replicates the natural process of weathering but instead of taking hundreds or thousands of years to turn into stone, CarbFix achieves it in just six months.

Testing The Theory, Proving It Works

To test this, Engineers sample the gases which they condense into liquid. It is a vital part in the project to demonstrate that the CO2 is being mineralised in the ground. The liquid can then be taken to a lab back in Reykjavik to be analysed for its CO2 and H2S levels. If the re-injected gases have successfully turned into stone then the sample should only contain the naturally occurring background levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

What the Engineers hope to see when testing the liquid is that the CO2 levels in the steam do not raise above the background levels. When the levels are about the same as the natural occurring levels, the gases have turned to stone. This is a great approach to lower gas emissions.

Future Potential For The Project

This new process is not necessarily locked to just geothermal energy. Engineers report that if you have a relatively pure stream of CO2, which you can capture and dissolve in water, then you can in theory take that water and re-inject it back into the ground, as long as there is favourable rock composition in the area. Approximately 5% of the continents on earth are basalt, and the ocean, so more countries, companies and industries should be working this way. The potential is there to help our atmosphere and reduce climate change too.

3D Crossing

Optical Illusion Crossing in Iceland

Optical Illusion Crossing in Iceland

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Traffic accidents in Iceland

According to the Icelandic Transport Authority (ICETRA), there were fewer fatal and serious traffic accidents across Iceland in the first ten months of 2017 than during the same period in recent years. There was a 21% decrease in serious injuries or fatalities caused by traffic accidents in Iceland between 2016 and 2017. 157 serious injuries or fatalities in the first ten months of 2017, and a significantly higher 204 within the same period of 2016.

Welcome Developments

ICETRA Public Relations Manager, Þórhildur Elínardóttir says the decrease is a welcome development and a result of changes that began in 2013. The main improvements have been in the education of young drivers with a more comprehensive training program and prevention efforts helping new drivers drive safely and be more aware of potential dangers.

Despite the rise in tourist numbers, accidents involving foreign drivers has reduced. However, accidents involving cyclists have increased and was estimated at 150 accident in 2017. With new efforts to improve driving education, awareness of potential hazards and other methods to prevent accidents, Iceland is taking to new projects to curb their fatal and serious traffic accident numbers.

Street Art Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður, the small fishing town in Icelands Westfjords, is the latest destination to introduce an ingenious way to slow drivers down when approaching a pedestrian crossing. This 3D artwork creates a clever floating zebra crossing which is painted on the road and gives the illusion that the white stripes are floating above the ground and obstructing the road.

3D Crossing

Photo by MotoringSearch

Controlling Speed

The town of Ísafjörður has the standard speed limit of 30 kmh (18.6 mph) set but residents felt this was still simply too fast. The streets are narrow in this small village and residents wanted to find a way to slow motorists down further. The local council met to discuss ideas. Ralf Trylla, the Icelandic Environmental Commissioner was inspired when he came across a similar optical illusion drawn in New Delhi, India.

Painted Optical Illusion Crosswalk

This street painting project was led by Gautur Ívar Halldórsson, the manager of Vegmálun GÍH, a road painting company which created the crosswalk located in Ísafjörður in northwest Iceland.

Self taught, Gautur Ívar and Ralf Trylla practiced their 3D painting skills whilst waiting the few weeks it took for all necessary permits from the Transport Authority and Police to come through so work could start. From above, the white lines look like columns but as you approach them at street level you see the optical illusion come to life and they appear to be hovering.

Drivers and Pedestrians

This creative design gives the impression that the pedestrians crossing the road are walking on air. The idea is that drivers approaching the crossing will see the 3D artwork and think it looks like there is an obstacle in the road, and will therefore slow down. The aim is to make drivers lower their speed to reduce the risk of accidents in this pedestrian area.

The Inspiration

Crossing like this one are popping up across the globe in India, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan and China, but this form of street art is not the only unusual method being used to slow down traffic for pedestrian crossings. In Russia, road safety experts used a very unsubtle method of employing topless women to hold speed limit signs in an aim to get drivers to slow down – perhaps not the best method to try here in Iceland.

In the UK there is discussion of scrapping speed bumps as part of the government’s dramatic plans to curb pollution. It emerged that these publicly hated humps are not only stressful but bad for the environment as slowing down to cross them actually causes a higher level of nitrogen dioxide and so pollutes the atmosphere.

3D Crossing

Photo by BoredPanda

Delhi’s First 3D Zebra Crossing

New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) newly installed crossing, painted at central Delhi’s Rajaji Marg, has helped reduce the average speed on this section of road down to 30 km per hour. “The new 3D zebra crossing has become a sight of amusement for commuters. Cars inevitably slow down and there is also excitement among pedestrians to use it,” said a senior traffic official.

This black and yellow crossing, painted as a trial project, had the aim to help make the city roads safer. New Delhi officials are now discussing more 3D pedestrian crossings to be created across the city to help make roads safer. “We did not know how people would respond to such 3D pedestrian ways, but the response is overwhelming. Our aim is to make the NDMC area a people-friendly space and such measures will ensure safety for pedestrians as well as drivers,” said Naresh Kumar, NDMC chairperson.

The average speed on this section of road is 50km/hr however the wide and well maintained roads make for the ideal place for drivers to speed through. Traffic officials have now monitored the crossing and an average speed of 30km/hr was recorded. “If you are driving, from a distance the crossing looks like the road has been dug up or is elevated, this automatically makes the driver slow down. During the day you will see pedestrians hopping through the painted blocks,” the official said.

It took Yogesh Saini, founder of Delhi Street Art, 3 days to paint the crossing in collaborated with NDMC. He said, “The entire crossing was painted in the morning during rush hour.”

A senior NDMC official said that five other locations have been identified where the crossing will come up in the coming months. “Instead of repainting the zebra crossings in black and white, we will replicate the 3D design,” the official.

Photo by Conor Lawless

Traffic on Ring Road One

Traffic on Icelands Ring Road is usually at its heaviest in July but it reached a record high last year, said the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA), with a record of 108,000 vehicles passing the 16 IRCA counters on the Ring Road daily. This number has increased over the past decade from 82,000 vehicles, meaning an increase of around 30% since 2007.

However, the increase in traffic between years is slowing down with an increased of only 7.3% in July 2017 compared to the pervious year. The greatest increase in traffic is in the north of Iceland with around 12% more visiters, and the South Coast is experiencing a growth of around 3.8%. Indications are that traffic between 2016 and 2017 increased 9% overall, which is a smaller increase than in the previous year.

The Future for Roads in Iceland

The local council has not decided if it will implement more 3D crosswalks like this one in Ísafjörður, but if the experiment proves successful more may follow.

Rye Bread

Iceland Rye Bread Baked by the Bubbling Geysirs

Iceland Rye Bread Baked by the Bubbling Geysirs

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Working with the Land

Iceland offers an incredibly unique landscape of lava, moss, glaciers, volcanos and active land, with bubbling hot springs breaking through rifts in the earth. Its incredible to live alongside this magnificent natural force, fire and ice. The Icelanders relationship with the natural world goes beyond mere resilience but reaches into the realm of harmony. The Icelanders have made this island and its formidable elements work for them, you can see this in one rather unsuspecting source, the Icelandic Rye Bread.

Rye Bread, known in Icelandic as Rugbraud, is a delicious Icelandic bread traditionally baked in the ground. The ground is heated by bubbling Geysir bubbling in the pebbled sand of the Laugavautn shoreline.

Geyser, Geysir

The English word geyser, with refers to a periodically spouting hot spring, derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself comes from the Icelandic Old Norse verb geysa, “to gush”. Eruptions at Geysir attracts visitors daily to watch the magnificent eruption of boiling water being hurled up to 70 metres in the air. However, the geysers used to bake this bread at Laugavautn are all underground and bubble away within the sand, no dramatic hurl of water but they’re very very hot.

Rye Bread

Photo by On The Luce

How to Bake Rye Bread

The recipe Icelanders use is typically handed down from generation to generation. Each families recipe is basically the same but some have adapted it and added a secret ingredient.

The standard recipe is as follows:

4 cups Rye Flour

2 cups Wheat Flour

2 cups Sugar

A pinch of Salt

4 tsp Baking Powder

1.2 litres Milk

Once the mixture is mixed together, bake it for 24 hours in an unconventional oven, i.e the ground heated by hot springs.

Rye Bread

Photo by Dvortygirl

The Traditional Baking Method

A hole is dug in the ground about a foot deep. The ground starts to boil, the temperature is around 97’c when the bread goes in to bake. The bread is baked in a pot, submerged into the hot sand and covered over. A stone is placed on top to mark to locals where the bread is being baked. The entire process takes around 24 hours, then the bread is ready to be dug back up. After cooling it with water from the lake, the vessel is then opened to reveal a fully cooked loaf of Rye Bread.

Photo by jeffreyw

How to Eat Rye Bread

When cooked in this particular way, Rye Bread is sometimes referred to as hverabraud, which translates as ‘hot spring bread’. Many locals bake Rye Bread this way and have been doing so for many generations. Unique to Iceland, Rye Bread is enjoyed with butter, topped with smoked salmon, smocked tout, herring and egg; delicious.

Fontana Geothermal Spa

Fontana geothermal Spa in Laugavautn, a small lakeside town on the Golden Circle, is run by Sigurður Rafn Hilmarsson who has become something of a national icon for his Icelandic Rye Bread. Hilmarsson has prepared bread for countless visitors, including the president. When asked what makes his bread so special, Hilmarsson modestly replied “it has a bit more sugar in it than most,” he said. 


Photo by Katrine Thielke

Cake, not Bread

The sugar content in Rye Bread results in a taste and consistency more akin to that of cake but most would say that the most remarkable element of Rye Bread is in its traditional preparation. Unlike most breads, this Rye Bread is buried in a bubbling geothermal pit and baked underground.

Experience it For Yourself

Rye Bread is still a staple in todays Icelandic cuisine but many now use the simpler and more convenient baking method of an oven. Sigurður Rafn Hilmarsson remains true to his Icelandic families roots “this method was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me,” he explained. “That’s the one we are using here.”

This is a daily practice for Hilmarsson at the Fontana geothermal Spa where you can experience a demonstration of this unique method first hand on the lakeshore.

Drilling into a Volcano to Find Clean Energy

Drilling into a volcano to find clean energy

Text by Sonia Nicolson

We live in a world fuelled by dirty fossil fuels but times are changing and we are on the edge of a world that gets its energy from renewable, clean sources. Although geothermal energy is generally considered to be a sustainable source, it is not entirely renewable. The potential renewable and clean energy source are:

Space Based Solar Power

Every hour, more energy reaches us on planet earth than we could use in an entire year. To save this energy, engineers are looking into giant solar farms in space that can collect the solar radiation, mirrors would reflect onto solar collectors and this energy would be beaten back to earth wirelessly. Obviously this project would require a huge budget but doesn’t it sound incredible.

Human Power

Human powered devices already exist, but scientists are working on harvested power generating from normal human movement. Tiny electronics on billions of people means big potential. The idea is that one day, for examples, your phone will be able to change as you are walking down the street or it moves in your hand or as your fingers move on the screen. You can also wear small systems that pass electricity as you move. Human power wont solve the issues of global warming but every bit counts.

Tidal Power

Harnessing the motion of the ocean could power the world a number of times over, which is why so many companies are trying to figure out how. There has been a lot of focus on wind and solar energy so the tidal potential has been a little less explore, until now. Tidal systems are becoming more efficient from hydroelectric turbines to the world first ever desalination plant off the coast of Australia which is producing clean drinking water.


The element Hydrogen is very high in energy, an engine that burns pure hydrogen produced almost no pollution. Nasa powered its shuttles and part of the space station with Hydrogen for years. Hydrogen works in combination with other elements such as oxygen. In the 80’s, Russia tested a passenger jet to run on it and more recently, Boeing tried out some small planes fuelled by it. It is possible to put hydrogen into mobile fuel cells in vehicles and they can convert it into electricity. These cars are being manufactured already. Honda is working on a car that can be plugged in to power a house, instead of the current electric powered cars which take energy from the house. The main problems with development is of course cost and a lack of hydrogen stations to refuel.


Photo by peterhartree

Geothermal Heat from Lava

Geothermal, the method of converting the heat that rises from the depths of the molten core of the earth into energy. Geothermal energy currently powers millions of homes around the world. 25% of Icelands energy comes from geothermal technology. The current project looking for clean energy in the volcanos magma has only been tried once before, in Hawaii.

Iceland, where ice and fire meet, has drilled into a volcano in an effort to bolster geothermal clean energy. The energy company HS Orka is leading this project on a site is near the famous Blue Lagoon spa, in the Reykjanes region. Engineers are drilling into the superheated rock until they reach magma deposits in the hope to produce up to 10 times more power than conventional geothermal wells. The drills bore a hole, almost 5000m deep, into the Reykjanes volcano. This volcanic well, with its high temperature and extreme pressure produces ‘supercritical’ steam. The temperature at the bottom of the borehole is expected to be 427’c (800’f) but the team pumped water down into the hole, which the scorching magma instantly vaporised to a record of 500’c (932’f). The hotter the steam, the more energy it generates. The steam then pushes a turbine which creates energy. The steam is neither gas nor liquid but it produces much more energy than either.

This highly pressurised steam should lead to a giant leap in the energy generating capabilities of geothermal technology around the world.

Iceland is the only country in the world with 100% renewable electricity. Geothermal sources provide Iceland with 25% of its total energy needs, and this record breaking project means that Iceland can harness volcanic heat to produce clean energy in a pioneering new project. It could provide Iceland with 10 times more energy than gas or oil extraction. Iceland has been pioneering in geothermal energy, with 85% of its energy supply derived from renewable sources.

Albert Albertsson, an engineer on the project, named ‘Thor’ after the Viking god “to supply electricity and hot water to a city like Reykjavik with 212,000 inhabitants, we would need 30-35 conventional high temperature wells, compared to only three or five supercritical wells.”

Nuclear Waste

Nuclear fission power plants are the traditional reactors and have been in use around the world for decades and provide countries like the USA with 20% of its electricity. However, this method is highly inefficient and actually adds to the nuclear waste. The current system uses light water technology which surrounds the fuel rods with water to slow the neutrons and allows for a sustained nuclear reaction. This however only allows for 5% of the uranium atoms in the rod are used up when the rod has to be removed and adds to the ever growing stock pile of highly radioactive uranium nuclear waste. There appears to be a more efficient way called a fast reactor where the rods are no longer submerged in water but in liquid sodium. This means 95% of the uranium is used, a huge increase from the inefficient 5%. This change in liquid submersion reduces the 77,000 ton waste. The biggest obstacle is the high cost of building new nuclear power plants and political stigma surrounding nuclear energy.

Solar Windows

With production and installs getting cheaper, solar power is taking off. Photovoltaics are popular in Europe with Germany being the leader in this green energy. Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico mad a significant breakthrough in quantum dot solar cell technology. They have been developing highly efficient solar panels that can double as transparent windows. This means that every exposed window can now be converted into a mini power station.


The production of crop-derived ethanol and biodiesel has become a mainstream substitute or supplement to gasoline in cars. The discovery of vast amounts of cheap oil worldwide made the idea of Henry Ford’s Model T running on ethanol just an idea however renewable biofuels are making a strong come back. The main issue is that the currently dominant first generation of biofuels use the same land and resources as farming and growing food therefore driving up the cost of food, causing problems in the developing world. Algae has all the right ingredients to replace oil because its natural oil content is greater than 50% which means it can be easily extracted and processed. The remaining parts of the plant can be converted into electricity, natural gas, fertiliser to help grow even more algae chemical free. Algae grows quickly without the use of farm land or freshwater.

Flying Wind Farms

You may have already seen wind farms and turbines on the horizon but with the Bionic Air Turbine (BAT) floating above the ground, where winds are stronger and more consistent, we could soon be getting energy more efficiently. These flying wind turbines will soon replace the less efficient tower systems and could allow for the construction of offshore wind farms which are costly to build.


Nuclear fusion doesn’t create deadly nuclear waste, unlike fission, because it fuses atoms together instead of splitting them apart. This means there is no threat of a runaway reaction that could potentially lead to a meltdown event. Easier said than done. Nobel Prize winning physicist described fusion as trying to put “the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t k ow how to make the box.” Fusion reactions will produce materials that are volatile and hot that it will damage the reactor that created it. However, private companies and governments are spending billions on research to try and solve these problems. If these challenges can be solved, fusion could provide virtually limitless energy to power the world.

What do you think the future of energy is?

Customize Your Tour

    3-4 Day Tour Idea

    Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon Tour: ISK 41,900


    Operating: All year

    Pick-up time: 9:45 – 9:00am from guesthouses/hotels in Reykjavik

    Included: Luxury SUV or super jeep English guided tour of the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon transfer (tickets are not included to the Blue Lagoon, please prepurchase your tickets here: www.bluelagoon.com)

    Guide to traveller ratio: 1:6

    Returns: We return to Reykjavik around 17:00

    Minimum Age: 6 years old

    Difficulty: Easy

    South Coast & Glacier Hike: ISK 64,900


    • Operating: All year
    • Pick-up time: 8:45 – 9:00 from guesthouses/hotels in Reykjavik
    • Included: Luxury SUV or super jeep, English guided tour of the South Coast, 1 hour glacier hike (includes all necessary equipment)
    • Guide to traveller ratio: 1:6
    • Returns: We return to Reykjavik around 20:00
    • Minimum Age: 8 years old
    • Difficulty: Moderate

    Northern Lights & Stargazing: ISK 21.900


    • 1 September – 15 April
    • Pick-up time: from guesthouses/hotels in Reykjavik (1-30 Sept 9pm, 1-15 March 8pm, 16 March-15 April 9pm)
    • Included: English guided tour on super jeep to see the Northern Lights with stargazing, use of telescope, hot chocolate and kleina (Icelandic sweet treat), free photograph of you under the Icelandic nights sky
    • Guide to travellers ratio: 1:7
    • Returns: We return to Reykjavik around 1-2am
    • Minimum Age: no age limit
    • Difficulty Rating: Easy

    $$$$$ Apotek

    $$$$ Fish Market

    $$$ Burro

    $$ Islenski Barrin

    $ Cafe Loki

    Private tour

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    About Us

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    We are the only travel operator in Iceland focusing on travel services for the winter season only. Our mission is to create a nest of innovative & exclusive travel products you can only find at our website.

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    Kt. 631014-0890
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    Support: info [AT] northernlightsiceland.com
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    Private Tours

    Our private tours are organised around your wants and needs.

    If you wish to travel in a small group or just by yourself we can offer you private tours that are sure to meet your expectations.

    If none of the above work for your itinerary, please contact our private tour specialists at: Northern Lights Iceland and they’ll be happy to assist.


    Alfgeir Önnuson heads the delivery. He will get you there.

    Attila Balatoni

    Heads the delivery and will get you there.


    Brittany Repella heads the support. She will help you.

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    A manager director that loves creating new travel experiences

    Top 5 restaurants in Reykjavik - Editor's choice

    Top 5 restaurants in Reykjavik

    Editor's choice - Our Recommendations


    1. Steikhúsið - Tryggvagötu 34 - map

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    The Steakhouse is known for – you guessed it – great steaks. There’s plenty on offer here for carnivores, including lamb, beef, and fish, all cooked to order on the open coal fire. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the Steak House also offers puffin and whale. Not only that, but there’s an extensive wine menu and delicious desserts and coffees to finish off your meal with – if your steak dinner wasn’t quite enough.
    What we love: You’ll find the Steak House busy every day of the week with tourists and locals alike – in fact, we recommend booking in advance to avoid missing out on a delicious steak dinner. We think the Steak House is the perfect place to relax after a busy day of working or exploring Reykjavik, and where better to do it than right next to the harbour?
    Click here for homepage/reservations: Steikhúsið


    2. Kopar - Geirsgata 3 (Old Harbour) - map

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    Kopar is the perfect destination for seafood. After all, there’s plenty of seafood to try here in Reykjavik, so why not try it at this charming restaurant down by the harbour? The cosy décor and view of the docks means that you’ll never want to leave. Good thing they have a well-stocked bar with plenty of wine and Icelandic beer to choose from, then.
    What we love: Kopar also offers a special 9-course Icelandic tasting menu, which is exactly what you think it is! It’s extremely popular with tourists looking to sample a bit of everything – scallops, catfish, lamb, just to name a few. If that’s a bit too adventurous, you can opt for more traditional fish and meat dishes instead. You’ll need to find out what else is on the menu by making a reservation and checking it out for yourself.
    Click here for homepage/reservations: Kopar


    3. Tapas Barinn - Fishersund - map

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    Tapas Barinn really is a must-try for visitors to Reykjavik. It has a great reputation and is known for their special tasting menu of “Icelandic Tapas” – it sounds crazy, and it is! Their Icelandic Tapas may seem intimidating, but the seven-course meal is brought out to you as and when it’s cooked. Don’t be surprised if Minke whale immediately follows your puffin course! It’s the perfect way to sample some of Iceland’s best dishes at a reasonable cost – and it’s even followed by a shot of special Icelandic vodka.
    What we love:Of course, Tapas Barinn has more to offer than just their tapas menu, so if seven courses sounds like a little too much for you, there’s plenty more to choose from. Tapas Barinn is busy seven days of the week and is a local favourite; so don’t be surprised if the place really gets lively later in the evening. Stick around after your meal and try some of the popular cocktails as you soak up the atmosphere.
    Click here for homepage/reservations: Tapas Barinn


    4. Mar - Geirsgata 9 (Old Harbour) - map

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    Looking for somewhere to grab a light seafood lunch? Mar is the place to be for a bowl of their popular seafood soup – it really hits the spot on a cold day. Even if it is a little cold outside, you’ll still want to sit outdoors and take in the view of the harbour and watch the world go by. Mar specialises in seafood but they also offer some amazing desserts and coffee, so try not to eat too much – you don’t want to miss out on those!
    What we love: Did you know – Mar are whale and dolphin friendly and have signed up to the ethical treatment of these great animals. Isn’t that brilliant? Mar are just around the corner from the whale watching boats, so if you’ve just stepped back on shore, this is the perfect place to eat.
    Click here for homepage/reservations: Mar Restaurant


    5. Kol - Skólavörðustíg 40 - map

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    Reykjavik has plenty of seafood restaurants to choose from, but Kol is a little bit different. Kol offer a small but perfectly formed menu of some great dishes, such as charred salmon, risotto, duck confit, and beef tenderloin. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, you might want to opt for the tasting menu instead, and then you can try the very best of what Kol has to offer. Follow it up with their traditional pancakes for dessert and you’ve got yourself an amazing dinner to remember!
    What we love: Not only will you love the food, but the décor is something special too. The design is a mixture of classic Icelandic style with an international twist, but don’t take our word for it – go and see it for yourself! Stick around in this stylish bar after you’ve finished your meal and try a few of their cocktails and you’ll see why they’re so popular.
    Click here for homepage/reservations: Kol Restaurant

    the best time to see northern lights in iceland

    The Best Time to see Northern Lights in Iceland

    Let’s get down to business: When IS the best time to see northern lights in Iceland?

    Finding out the best time to see northern lights in Iceland is one of the penultimate quests of every visitor. One of the biggest draws to visit, they are also one of the most difficult activities to plan. Although it would be great to easily pinpoint how and when (and where!) to see them, there are quite a few variables involved in a successful sighting.

    Things like season, weather/cloud cover, length of stay/time spent hunting, solar activity, and a bit of luck. We’ll explore these factors a bit more through the article, but to give you the paraphrased rundown:

    • Season: mid-August to early April
    • Weather: Little to no cloud cover
    • Length of stay: 5-7 days (On average, if the weather is cooperating and you are spending most evenings looking for auroras, you may have somewhere around 2.5-3 opportunities to see an aurora. This is of course conditional on if you are willing to move around and if you are here during stormy weather, but typically a week gives you a few chances to try for a sighting.)
    • Solar Activity: This far north we can see fairly low activity, as we lay within the 3rd band of the kP chart. In theory, this means that activity needs to occur at a kP 3 level to be visible in Iceland, but due to the rapidly changing development of this forecasting system and the interpretation of data, it does happen often that lower levels of activity are visible here. We’ve gotten lucky on a 0 night before, and so can you! Natural phenomena do tend to be unpredictable, even after years of scientific study.)

    Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic things to do in Iceland and it’s always best to think of seeing the northern lights as an added bonus. Depending on where in the season you visit, there are plenty of extra activities to plan your trip around.

    (Unsplash. Photo Credit: Davide Cantelli)

    What Are The Northern Lights?

    First, a little bit of background on the aurora. The northern lights are the result of electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing displays of bright, colorful dancing lights.

    They are visible in the magnetic polar regions of the northern and southern hemispheres (they are known as Aurora Australis in the south) and they can range in color from white, green, red, pink, and purple.

    Depending on your own personal color processing, these colors can appear differently to you than to your neighbor, which is a curious thing to explore when viewing an aurora with a friend.

    These colors are created by the collision of the particles with different gases, and so it is not impossible for rarities like yellow, orange, blues, and reds can occur. Due to color frequency, some of these are harder to see than others. 

    According to the Northern Lights Centre in Canada, scientific studies have found that the northern and southern Auroras often occur at the same time as mirror images.

    This of course means that the Auroras are often happening, even if they aren’t visible to us down on the ground. There are theories that while these occurrences may be happening simultaneously, they may be more like siblings, than twins, in appearance.

    The best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland can vary depending on conditions. But because of the length of our light cycle, the good news is that there’s a perfect piece of the auroral season for everyone.

    (Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

    The difficulty here is that a great deal of this activity would only be visible primarily from Antarctica, which does not host a very large population. This means that the qualitative observation of the Aurora Australis is not quite as large as that of the Aurora Borealis, in the north. We are getting closer, though! 

    In the northern hemisphere, the lights are best seen from Iceland, Finland, Greenland, northern Norway and Sweden, Siberia, the Canadian territories, and Alaska. Thanks to the latitude of the North American continent in relation to the magnetic pole, the lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans!

    This is a rare and remarkable thing and is the gift of large solar storms. Here in Iceland, seeing the northern lights is most certainly annual and regular, although still difficult at times to predict.

    when can you see the northern lights in iceland
    (Unsplash. Photo Credit: Joshua Earle)

    The Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Iceland

    As mentioned early, to see the northern lights in Iceland, it is important first to be here in the correct season, which is mid-August to early April. (It is not impossible to see the lights in early August or mid-April, but typically it would be too bright before and after that timeframe.

    It is always good to remember when dealing with a wonder of the natural world, that there are exceptions for every single thing. The aurora may have a season, but that season is only bound to our light cycle. Auroral activity can happen at ANY time, we just lack the proper darkness to view it outside of that time frame.)

    And speaking of darkness, guaranteed darkness is the first most important factor. The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland with solid darkness is from September to March, as these are the months where there are full dark nights.

    Some sources will recommend December to February, as they are the darkest months with the longest possible window to see the lights, however, these sources often fail to take into account that these months can have the most volatile weather.

    This can be a stormy time of year, which often complicates domestic travel and creates a great deal of cloud cover. This is why many aurora hunters prefer Spring (March) and Autumn (mid-August to November), as it is a milder time of year.

    The length of time you choose to stay in Iceland is also an important factor. To increase your odds of seeing the lights, it is recommended you stay a minimum of seven nights in the country. The northern lights usually tend to be very active for two to three nights, then low for four to five nights, in ongoing cycles.

    Naturally, not everyone can take long trips and Iceland is a renowned stopover destination, but if the northern lights are on your bucket list, it helps to have a few extra nights to explore.

    (It’s also clever to start looking early in your trip, as opposed to saving your aurora excursions for a grand finale! Many tours allow a re-try if you have a less than fruitful night, so it is wise to give yourself some time to try again.)

    Given that the factors for viewing the aurora have to all be aligned, the longer time you spend in the country, the higher your chances are of seeing them.

    The weather is another important factor, but not necessarily for the reason that you may think. Since Iceland is a small north Atlantic island, it is subject to fierce and rapidly changing weather. The old cliché “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” could not be truer of this country.

    In order to see the northern lights, the skies need to be very clear. This often coincides with some of our coldest nights, since clear dark weather in Iceland usually means temperatures near or below freezing.

    On warmer nights, there is usually precipitation or at least quite a bit of cloud coverage. Many people connect the northern lights with cold temperatures, but this is not required for their visibility.

    The aurora happens above our weather system, so these things are only tangentially related. As long as the skies are clear, we can see the show.

    Checking the different forecasts in the days leading to your trip to Iceland will give you an idea of your chances of seeing the lights.

    Services like the aurora forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office are very useful. When you use this forecast, you are looking for the white spaces on the forecast map, instead of the green or colored areas on the map.

    These white areas indicate the clarity of the sky, as opposed to layers of cloud cover which are denoted by a color spectrum. You can also see the predicted amount of solar activity on a 0-9 kP scale.

    This scale is not always 100% accurate, so it is important to use it as a guideline, instead of an imperative. If you can see the sky in your area, it is worth having a look. 

    This is of course one of many tools, and these forecasts can all help to lend a bigger picture of what is truly a global event.

    When we watch the aurora from one area, we are only seeing a small shard of a planetary occurrence, and so you can imagine how hard it is for a forecast to pinpoint the visibility of such a large thing in such a small area. 

    As the old saying goes, location location location! People are always looking for the best spot to watch from, and due to cloud cover and the unpredictable movement of auroral activity, the truth is that there is no singular good spot. However, you can make sure that your spot is less affected by the little gifts of mankind. 

    Once in a while, the northern lights will take Reykjavík by surprise and they are so strong that the city lights don’t matter, but most of the time, it’s best to get away from all the street lights and car headlights.

    Taking your visit out of the capital and into the countryside further increases your chances of catching a show, and makes the whole experience a bit more magical.

    There are many great small towns to visit around the country with beautiful country hotels and guesthouses, just steps from pure un-modernized nature where there is no light pollution. Fortunately, Iceland is a small place, so it doesn’t take much time to get out of the city light, and into some true darkness. 

    One of our favorite northern lights hotels in Iceland is the Bubble hotel, on the Golden Circle and the South Coast. We love the Bubbles for their convenient location near popular landmarks,

    but also because it gets so incredibly dark there. In one of the comments on Tripadvisor, a client wrote: “I just walked outside of the hotel, just [a] few meters and it was simply pitch dark. So pitch dark I could not find myself.”

    To be in complete darkness in the embrace of nature is amazing in itself, but it certainly is a great spot for aurora watching. (And a warm one, as well! Can’t miss the show if you’re in a transparent house!) 

    When choosing a trajectory to explore, you’ll want to make sure that you have chosen a direction based on cloud cover for that night. Many guides plan their excursions this way and choose their route because of these areas of clarity.

    There are quite a few gorgeous towns just off of Route 1 within three hours of Reykjavik that you can head off in the direction of. For aurora hunters headed north/northeast, we can suggest the national park Thingvellir, Borgarnes, Akranes, and even Stykkishólmur.

    You can also venture back out towards Keflavík and enjoy the vastness of the Reykjanes peninsula, or head south to the black sand beaches of Vík, the cozy town of Selfoss, of the coastal villages of Eyrarbakki or Thorlákshöfn. No matter where the skies are clear, there will be quite a few stops you can make.

    Always take care to make sure that you are pulling over in spaces that are designated stopping points, and not stopping in the middle of the road or in a place where traffic may not expect you. Many accidents occur this way and are not the ideal experience for any hopeful aurora hunter.

    northern lights iceland
    (Unsplash. Photo Credit: Jonatan Pie)

    Guided Tours vs. Self-Driving: The Showdown

    One big question that many people have is whether to go on guided tours or to self-drive around to find the lights. Both of these options have their pros and cons and some people end up doing a combination of both, which can be a cool way to inform your own process.

    Guided tours have the advantage of being led by experts and drivers who closely follow the forecasts and have a keen knowledge of the road conditions and terrain. These are people that go out most nights and have quite a bit of experience under their belts.

    Depending on the type of tour that you book, they may even have knowledge of the stars, nighttime photography, or the folklore of the northern lights in this area.

    (This can also be a really nice experience if you don’t want to do any driving or route mapping. They take care of it for you, and they have to decide the route differently every night!) 

    Of course, guided tours can be subject to change based on unpredictable conditions, and do cancel if they feel the conditions are not optimal. This can be a challenge for a very tightly planned trip, so try to book your excursions earlier in your vacation to leave time for re-scheduling. 

    A self-drive can also be a good option, but only if the driver is very familiar with winter roads. Icelandic roads can be very icy as soon as September hits, so it’s important for drivers to be experienced and comfortable in all weather conditions.

    It is also very important to follow road regulations and safety precautions given by your rental company and the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue. Provided you are comfortable with this, building your own driving itinerary to go hunt down the lights can be a very rewarding adventure.

    You will have a lot more freedom to hit the road on a whim if you see that the weather conditions are good near you and take on all the activities and sightseeing you want at your own leisure.

    Of course, you have to be willing to do a lot more research on your own and be diligent to watch the skies closely, but you can stop to get snacks or go to the bathroom whenever you want! (Not to mention, if you want to stay out until 3 AM, you can! The guided tours typically last around 3 hours on average, so you do command a bit more freedom on a self-drive.)

    If you plan to spend a considerable length of time here, combining both guided tours and self-driving can be a really excellent option.

    You can stick to the easier routes on your own as you self-drive and have the same freedom to explore at your pace, but you can also treat yourself to a fun-filled adventure led by an expert guide. There are many tours that go to absolutely stunning locations to hunt for the lights, like the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon or snowmobiling. 

    One other important thing to consider when coming to see the lights is bringing the appropriate attire. Remember: it will be winter! The key to dressing warmly in Iceland is lots of layers of natural fiber clothing – long underwear, cotton and wool socks, form-fitting shirts, and pants, topped off with insulated wind-and-waterproof outerwear.

    If you plan on spending any amount of time outdoors, this will be crucial for keeping you heated inside and out. And don’t forget a good hat, scarf, and pair of gloves! If you forget anything though, don’t worry. Reykjavík’s main shopping street Laugavegur has many great stores where you can buy locally designed outerwear.

    northern lights folklore and mythology
    Photo by Kevin Pages

    After the lights: other things to do in Iceland

    At the end of the day, it’s really crucial to plan your trip around other activities and sights besides the northern lights. There are so many wonderful things to do in Iceland, and with the auroras being as fickle as they are, it would be a shame to not make the most of your visit.

    There are all kinds of day trips accessible from the capital area, like the South Coast and Golden Circle routes. Easily done by guided tour or self-drive at all times of the year, these areas hold some of the country’s most notable landmarks. 

    On the Golden Circle route, you’ll see the Gullfoss waterfall, the original and eponymous Geysir, and the continental rift at Þingvellir national park, the first site of Iceland’s parliament.

    Another favorite is the South Coast drive, home to the Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss waterfalls, the Reynisfjara black sand beach with its basalt column wall, and the beautiful seaside town of Vík. This little town rests sleepily under the volcano Katla, and if you visit in the summer, you may see the visiting Puffins!

    For a longer drive along the south coast, continue on to see the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where icebergs that break off of the great Vatnajökull glacier and float into the sea, before resting for a moment on the Diamond Beach. Each region of Iceland is home to otherworldly natural wonders, so make sure to see what you can while there’s light! 

    There is also a lot to see and do in the capital city of Reykjavík. Make sure to visit the Reykjavík Art Museum, a network of three separate centers housing a vast array of styles and eras of classic and modern art, each one dedicated to a famous Icelandic artist.

    The National Museum of Iceland displays a fantastic permanent collection that beautifully transports you through the history of the country from the time of settlement until the present day. It also holds many temporary exhibits ranging from textile art to archeological reconstructions.

    You can also indulge yourself with local cuisine, going to any number of marvelous restaurants specializing in some of Iceland’s best produce – lamb, lobster, and fish.

    Then there is, of course, the city’s famous nightlife and bar scene that is not to be missed on weekends. The city goes from a quiet seaside town to an all-out rager on Friday and Saturday nights, and there are dozens of bars in the downtown area to suit every taste and fancy. Take in a bit of everything and you are sure to have a fabulous stay in this country, northern lights or not.

    So now you’re ready to plan a trip! Remember the big factors: season, weather/cloud cover, length of stay/time spent hunting, and solar activity. (And of course the smaller details, like having the right gear, planning  yourself some extra fun, and getting out of all that light pollution.)

    With all these taken into account, hopefully, you will look up and be dazzled by the beautiful dancing lights. And if they don’t show themselves, you will still have had a great adventure in Iceland.

    An Amazing Northern Lights Video

    Filmed 130 nights over 3 years to create one amazing northern lights video

    Three independent film makers from Iceland have been at 50 different locations around Iceland & spend 130 nights last 3 years to create one amazing time lapse northern lights video. It is made out of 100.000 RAW high Res images that combined result in a 30 min long northern lights video. The above video is only the trailer for the video.

    It was entirely self-funded northern lights video while the crew was in a full-time employment and the majority of the shots were done in the winter 2013/2014.

    Fosshotel Reykholt

    [vslider name="53"]

    Fosshotel Reykholt

    Romantic country hotel based in the historical place of Reykholt

    Fosshotel Reykholt is a official 3 star tourist class hotel in a historical place of Reykholt. The place is known for being the home of Saga writer Snorri Sturlusson. You will find beautiful churches, Snorri´s natural hot pool, Snorrastofa, Heimskringla and so much more. A real cultural place. The hotel includes internet lounge, library, bar, restaurant, outdoor hot tubs, wellness center and free parking. The area of Reykholt is known for great northern lights show. You can relax in the hot tubs and wait for the romantic northern lights to start dancing for you.

    Hotel vestmannaeyjar

    Finding accommodation in Reykjavík

    Finding accommodation in Reykjavík


    Reykjavík is an ideal place to be located when you come to Iceland and want to explore the country on day tours or on our own with self-drive. You can find all types of accommodation in Reykjavík and the surrounding area, from hostels and hotels to suits and apartments, low-cost to luxury.
    It´s often hard to make a decision online, especially when you don´t know the place and surroundings. We are here to help you. We offer a brand new service. You let us know what kind of accommodation you are looking for, we will give you pointers and ideas and arrange the booking. If you have found accommodation online you are interested in, we can visit the place to take pictures and photos to send you, and make all arrangements for booking. The service is free of charge and no payment is made until you are charged for the accommodation you choose. Do not hesitate to contact us for further details or if you have any questions click here. We are here to help you so your visit to Iceland will be a pleasant one!

    Volcanic eruptions in Iceland

    Volcanic eruption in Iceland

    The most recent volcanic eruption in Iceland is clearly in Bárðarbunga (started erupting in 2014). Located on the mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland has a high concentration of active volcanoes. In Iceland there are 30 active volcanic systems and 13 of them have erupted since the settlement of Iceland. We have put together a list of a few volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

    1. The Westman Islands (1973)

    One of the most famous volcanic eruption in Iceland is the one in the Westman Islands in 1973. The eruption came without any signs of warnings. Ash fell over most of the island, around 400 homes were destroyed and lava flow threatened the harbour. It is a blessing that no one was killed. This video will give you the story of the eruption.


    2. Eyjafjallajökull (2010)

    Who doesn´t remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption? The eruption that everyone was talking about in 2010. Despite of being a relatively small eruption it caused enormous disruption to air travel across northern and western Europe. An ash cloud led to the closure of most the the European airspace in April. In October 2010 the eruption was officially over. Here you can see a good BBC clip about the eruption.


    3. Grímsvötn eruption (2011)

    Grímsvötn is a volcano in the south eastern part of Iceland, in the highlands. Grímsvötn is a basaltic volcano and has the highest eruption frequency of all the volcanoes in Iceland. Most of the eruptions have been subglacial. The last time Grímsvötn erupted was in May 2011.


    4. Hekla

    Hekla is a stratovolcano in the south of Iceland. It is a part of a volcanic ridge. It is one of Iceland´s most active volcano and has erupted more than 20 times since 874. The earliest recorded eruption is in 1104. Eruptions in Hekla are extremely varied and difficult to predict but there is a general correlation – the longer Hekla goes dormant, the larger and more powerful its opening eruption will be! Hekla last erupted in 2000. No one knows when the next Hekla eruption will take place.

    Whale Watching Andrea

    Whale Watching Andrea

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    Come aboard and join the biggest whale watching boat in Iceland with Whale Watching Andrea Tour. Educational and fantastic inside and outside. With plenty of space for everyone, café and even a souvenir shop on board!

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    We will begin our Whale Watching Andrea adventure at the Reykjavik Old Harbour. It can be reached just few minutes from the city center so you won't miss it. Whale Watching Andrea boat offers great comfort, a fantastic interior, large outside viewing decks and a safe family environment.

    As the vessel departs Reykjavik Old harbor, one of our highly trained tour guide will give an "educational and interactive" focus about the whales we may see, their behavior and some of the other marine life common to the area. Posters, interactive tools and other materials are used to further illustrate the various whale species, behaviors and interesting facts on the biology and geology of the area. You can get to feel objects such as baleen plates, whale teeth and whale bones. These bring a new level of understanding to many of our first time passengers of how these magnificent animals adapt and survive. The ocean will come to life in front of us as you will learn about each specimens that will be shown from our friendly and knowledgeable tour guides and these experience makes our Whale Watching Andrea tour a one of a kind tour.

    The tour guide along with our friendly captain will point out where you will be able to spot the whales that are mentioned.

    One of our favorite whales sighted throughout the year is the Mink Whale. Our tour guides conduct researches on the whales seen, photographing each whale to be identified and studied every now and then. Once the research is completed,it is being put into our database and openly shared with other interested scientists, as well as those naturalist including schools and organizations and of course to all of our interested passengers just like yourself. Mink whales are not the only species sighted. Some of the others are Harbor Porporise, White-beaked Dolphin and Humpback Whale. The fun thing is that we may even stop to see a fish or two. The Arctic ocean is a rich environment that attracts and supports both residents and transient marine life.

    Unlike many other whale watching tours that are often offered here in Iceland, our trips offers a wide spectrum of educational tools that go beyond the "average whale watch". The tours offered are well designed to enhance our awareness of whales, as well as the other marine life and the marine habitat that surrounds Iceland. Our goal is for you to depart our boats with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Icelandic marine sanctuary and the abundance of life it supports. We make each trip fun and educational for everyone at all ages and excellent for bigger groups and families! So get aboard and let the fun begin. Join our Whale Watching Andrea.


    Adventures on the sea

    Adventures on the sea

    When you visit Iceland the selection of tours is massive, both on land and sea. Here we are going to introduce you the magic the ocean has to offer and give you an idea for tours available.


    Whale watching

    The whale watching tours are always popular and it is truly magnificent to see the whales in their natural environment. Usually you can see them quite up close, either the boat approaches them slowly or the whales themselves get close to the boat. The viewing success rater is 90% and dolphins often show up as well.
    You can go whale watching on the northern coast during summer but the tours run all year from the Old harbor in Reykjavík. There you can choose between the largest whale watching boat in Iceland, Andrea, or a fast luxurious boat (so-called whale watching express). The types of whales you can expect to see include Mink whale, Gun whale and Humpback whale. Whale watching is an adventure for everyone and in summer you might see puffins as well!


    Sea Angling

    Sea angling adventures are offered from the beginning of May until the end of August. Each tour is 2.5- 3 hours long and departure is from the Old harbor in Reykjavík in the afternoon. All necessary equipment is on board. After having enjoyed the view of Reykjavik and Mt. Esja and caught fish, and sometimes we spot whales as well on the tour, the tour guides will BBQ the fish you caught. The most common fish caught is cod and halibut. So, on your way back to the harbor you enjoy a lovely meal and view. This is a tour all age groups enjoy and we can easily recommend.


    Northern lights by boat

    There are several tours offered for northern lights hunting. One option, not too many know about and is a hidden gem, is northern lights hunt by boat. The boat departs from the Old Harbor in Reykjavík and you sail out to Faxaflói bay. There you have a lovely panoramic view of the capital, Reykjavik, but you are also far away from the city lights. That means that you can enjoy the northern lights out in the sea where it is pitch dark but with the city lights as a background. Now, how amazing is that!



    The puffin is truly a unique bird that is fun to watch and explore. On many of the boat tours during summer you also see puffins. You can read more about puffins here. All ages love and enjoy to see this little but lovely and beautiful bird flying around and nesting.

    4 day self drive in West Iceland

    4 Day Self-Drive in West Iceland

    In the western part of Iceland you will find many wonderful and adventurous places. Here is an ideal four day self-drive route. Please note that it is important, especially in winter, to check the forecast and road conditions before you head off!

    The 4 Day Itinerary

    Day 1 – Deildartunguhver, Reykholt, Hraunfossar

    You start the day by picking up your rental car, if you haven´t already. When everything is set, drive out of Reykjavík and head towards the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel. When you have driven under the deepest fjord in Europe, head towards Borgarnes where you can make a short stop, grab lunch and get some fresh air. Your next stop is Deildartunguhver in Reykholtsdalur, which is the highest-flow hot spring in Europe. In the area you will find many interesting places, such as Reykholt and Hraunfossar waterfalls. From there, drive back to Borgarnes where you will spend the night. We recommend you book accommodation in advance. Borgarnes is a nice town where you will find museums, gardens, restaurants and much more.

    Day 2 – Snælfellsnes

    After enjoying breakfast, you drive out of Borgarnes and at the roundabouts you choose to road towards Snæfellsnes. The drive is a few hours but the scenery is breathtaking. Your first stop is Arnarstapi, a beautiful natural treasure. Within a walking distance, you will find Hellnar. Take your time to enjoy the scenery and the breathtaking nature. The Snæfellsnesjökull glacier is almost next door to Arnarstapi. The local agencies can inform you about tours, such as snowmobiling, if you are interested. There are several hotels in the area, which might be ideal for a Northern lights hunt in winter, but please ask in advance whether they are open all year round.

    Day 3 – Stykkishólmur

    After a good night sleep, you now start making your way to the other side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Your first stop is Ólafvík where you can enjoy lunch and take a stroll around the village. Your next stop is Stykkishólmur where you will check in at your hotel (please pre-book) and enjoy the rest of the day in this lovely town. You can go sailing, visit museum, visit Flatey island, go swimming or just relax.

    Day 4 – Back to Reykjavik

    This is the last day of the 4 day self-drive tour. We suggest you start heading back no later than noon so you can make stops on the way back to Reykjavík and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful nature. We want emphasize that it is very important, when travelling in winter, that you check the weather forecast and the conditions of the roads, as you never know what to expect weather-wise in Iceland, especially in winter!

    Last minute - Deal of the Day

    Last minute - Deal of the Day


    The last minute deal of the day (35% OFF) is for the Golden Circle Ultimate with Floating tour. It is departing 12:30 on the 17 October. It is only for this day and we have only 3 seats available.
    See tour here

    If you are interested please email to: robert@floatingtours.com

    Discover the magic of Christmas in Iceland

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    Discover the magic of Christmas in Iceland

    See with your own eyes why CNN travel voted Reykjavik as the Top Christmas Holiday Destination. A package provided by Iceland Travel

    Discover the magic of Christmas in Iceland and learn about new and old Icelandic Christmas traditions with Iceland Travel. It is a season when short days are brightened by snow and every house is decorated by all types of Chistmas ornaments and lights. It is a traditions people decorate their homes and have some very nice garlands in windows. Your hotel Icelandair Hotel Natura will be beautifully decorated too. The hotel will be visited by the 13 Santa brothers, the Icelandic Yuletide Lads.

    christmas in iceland
    Northern lights holidays in Iceland

    The 5 days itinerary

    Day 1 Arrival.

    Overnight in Reykjavík

    Day 2. Christmas in Iceland: "The Mass of St Þorlákur", Dec. 23rd

    In Iceland Thorláksmessa is part of Christmas. Most people use the day to finish decorating the home and the Christmas tree. In the evening people go out to Laugavegur and finish buying Christmas presents. Another tradition is to eat the putrefied skate with potatoes, but for many foreigners it is a challenge!

    Day 3. Christmas Eve Day, Dec 24th

    You will do a escorted morning hike with myth and mysteries expert through the woods of Öskjuhlið. You will learn about the secrets of the Icelandic folklore with all its elves, monsters and trolls stories. When you walk through the little forest small surprises will await you here and there! You will receive a little Christmas gift as a remembrance of this little journey. In the evening you will be having a festive Icelandic style Christmas buffet a la Satt Restaurant

    Day 4. Christmas Day, Dec 25th.

    Today we suggest you see some of Iceland main attraction, such as going for the Golden Circle or bathing in the Blue Lagoon. In the evening you will enjoy a Christmas buffet a la Satt Restaurant.

    Day 5. Departure.

    Today you will be departing from Keflavik Airport after some great Christmas in Iceland.

    Iceland or outer space?

    Amazing video from Alex Cornell. It feels like the truth when you travel through Iceland highland and rough terrain. This is the real adventure country.

    6 days self drive idea to Myvatn Nature Baths

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    6 days self drive idea to Myvatn

    A 6 days self-drive idea including Hofsos, Myvatn and northern lights hunt close to the Arctic Circle

    This idea is for people wanting to combine bathing in Myvatn Nature Baths in North Iceland and do some self driving close to the Arctic Circle, including the well known Hofsos swimmingpool.



    Day 1 - Arrival in Keflavik, Iceland

    Arrival at Keflavik airport. Pick up your rental car at Thrifty. The first stop is Blue Lagoon. It is refreshing to jump into the Blue Lagoon just after your flight. It takes some 15 min to drive to Blue Lagoon from Keflavik Airport. From Blue Lagoon it should take some 30 min to get to Reykjavik. We recommend Center hotel Thingholt - a great hotel to stay at in Reykjavik. Very central and close to everything - shopping streets, nightlife or restaurants. In the evening we recommend you to do a guided northern lights tour with e.g. Arctic Adventures.

    Day 2 - Hvalfjörður, Ferstikla, Borgarnes, Snæfellsnes

    You start your travel in Reykjavik, drive through the small town Mosfellsbær - just continue until you reach the fjord Hvalfjörður. When you reach Hvalfjörður turn righ onto road no. 47 because we are going to drive through the beautiful Hvalfjörður - not through the tunnel as most people do. It is a very picturesque fjord and the main beauty if how quite area it is. It is around 30 km long. You can see a former whale station in the fjord but it was closed around 1992 - it is however used couple of days each year for some research fishing of whales. Driving further you will soon find the service station Ferstikla and it has a great photo exhibition about a submarine station situation in Hvalfjördur during the World War II. After you have looked at the photo exhibition at Ferstikla you turn right onto road nr 520. You will now drive all the way to Hotel Budir located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. A great location to see exceptional nature in Iceland - both great beaches, mountains and a glacier. We suggest you to stay at Hotel Budir overnight and go out in the evening for a hike and search for the northern lights.

    Day 3 - Drive to Myvatn and enjoy its nature baths and surrounding

    Today you will first drive to Hofsos swimming pool - a great location with view over Skagafjördur. A place not to miss. Then you will head all the way to Myvatn. We recommend you to stay at Sel-Hotel Myvatn. A nice hotel with good service. The rest of they day you will enjoy the great nature bath they have, have some dinner at the hotel and then go out in the night searching for the northern lights. It is best to wait until 10pm and then simply go out for a walk - however ask the people in the reception about the likelihood of seeing the northern lights before you head out for a search.

    Day 4 - Akureyri - capital of the north and Dalvik

    Today you will drive in the morning to Akureyri from Myvatn. We recommend Icelandair Hotel Akureyri. When you have checked in we suggest you drive out to Dalvik a small fishing village north of Akureyri. A small village in a beautiful fjord. It is a option but you could go for a whale watching with a local tour. Drive back to Akureyri and enjoy staying in Akureyri with some great restaurants. In the evening go for the northern light hunt, but drive out of the city so you dont have any light pollution.

    Day 5 - Driving back to Reykjavik

    It will take you some 6-8 hours to drive back to Reykjavik from Akureyri, so we recommend you to go early in the morning so you will have some time to spend in Reykjavik in the evening. We would recommend Sjavargrillid as nice fish restaurant in the evening. In case you have been very unlucky and never seen the northern lights in the last 4 days we recommend a guided northern lights tour with e.g. Arctic Adventures.

    Day 6 - Departure

    Head out to the Keflavik airport and if you have some extra time go for the Blue Lagoon again as it is very relaxing before going into a long flight.

    Photo credit: Flickr - big-ashb, Ophelia, Julien Carnot, JasonParis, Andrea Schaffer, Olafur Larsen

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    4 days self drive idea : Golden Circle & more

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    Golden Circle & Snæfellsjökull glacier

    4 days self-drive idea including Golden Circle, Snæfellsjökul glacier and northern lights hunt in the evening

    This idea is for people wanting to combine a classic tour to Geysir and Gullfoss with a one day trip to Snaefellsjokull glacier - and a northern lights hunt in the evenings. You will need to rent a car in day two for driving the Golden Circle and then the day after to Snæfellsjökull glacier.

    Iceland self drive tours


    Day 1 - Arrival in Keflavik, Iceland

    Arrival at Keflavik airport. Simply pick up the next Flybus and get over to Reykjavik. It is around 45 min ride on the bus and they normally drive you all the way to the hotel you stay at. We recommend Kex hostel if you want to stay cheap, but Hotel 101 if you want more class. In between Centrum Hotel might be a good choose. In the evening you could e.g. pick up this northern light tour in the evening with Arctic Adventure.

    Day 2 - Golden Circle trip

    Begin your day with picking up your car rental. You can do that at BSI. Today is a day for the Golden Circle tour. Visiting Thingvellir National Park and then head to Lyngdalsheidi on our way to Geyser hot spring area. See all the hot spring, photograph Strokkur and check out Fullsterkur - some interesting stones to lift close to Strokkur. Go to the Geysir shop and shop some Icelandic knit "lopapeysur". Drive to Haukadalur - a small forrest close by and check out the small country style church. Great area. Drive to Gullfoss waterfall now. Get close to the waterfall and experience the spray from the waterfall in your face. Shoot some photographs and head up to the restaurant next the waterfall. The Icelandic meatsoup is the best choice on the menu. Head back to Reykjavik now - but stop at Kerið on our way home. Kerið is a dormant volcano close to Selfoss. Arrive in Reykjavik close to 19:00 should be possible. Go for some nice restaurant in the evening e.g. Sjavargrillid before driving out of Reykjavik around 9pm to hunt for the northern lights. It depends on weather condition where to head and best to ask the hotel personnel for direction.

    Day 3 - Snæfellsjokull glacier and Hotel Budir

    Driving to Snæfellsjokull today with some stop-over at Landsnamssetrið (The Settlement Centre). It is in the village of Borgarnes just one hour drive from Reykjavik on road no 1 towards the north (and Snæfellsnesjokull). In the centre we recommend The Egils Saga Exhibition. We head now towards Snæfellsjokull with some stop at Lysuholl swimmingpool. After hiking a bit around Snæfellsjokull glacier we head to Hotel Budir that is a nice country style hotel at Snæfellsnes. We stay here for one night. Great place for hiking and seeing the nature in Iceland. Especially hunting for the northern lights in the evening.

    Day 4 - Departure day

    Today is your departure day so just wake up, pack your things and drive to Keflavik airport. This is of course only possible if your flight leaves late in the day - and if time allows, go to the Blue Lagoon and relax before you fly back home.

    Photo credit: Flickr - AlexKr, Arian Zwegers, Ophelia, Matito, Jeremy Vandel, Yellow book



    Northern Lights Forecast for Iceland

    One Stop Northern Lights Forecast

    The Northern Lights season runs from 1st September, through winter, until 15th April, typically. 

    To see the Northern Lights with your naked eye, you need: 

    1. Darkness (winter only)
    2. Clear skies (no clouds)
    3. Aurora activity (Northern Lights)

    Todays Cloud Coverage and Satellite Images of the Aurora

    Here’s How To Read The Map

    The map is updated daily and gives you an indication of Northern Lights viewing. It’s a little confusing as the green colour is very similar to the colour of the actual Northern Lights but in fact the map shows green as cloud coverage and white as clear skies. The white areas are where you need to head for.

    On the map you can see areas of white, light green and dark green. The white colour in the forecast means no clouds, so clear sky. This is ideal as you need to have a clear sky to see the Northern Lights. The light green means partly cloudy and dark green means very cloudy so a low chance for sightings as the visibility is low.

    Basically if you can see the stars, then you have a chance of seeing the lights.

    Why Does Cloud Coverage Matter?

    The reason why we want to have the areas without clouds (or light clouds) is because it is impossible to see the lights when the sky is covered with clouds. When it is partly cloudy (light green areas) you still have a chance seeing the lights by finding a gap in the clouds.

    How Often is the Map Updated?

    The forecast is updated around 6pm daily so it’s best to keep a close eye on the forecast before heading out on your hunt.

    For more information on viewing the Northern Lights in winter time, please read this article.

    How are the Lights Monitored and Expressed?

    Satellites are the main tool for observing and monitoring the sun and particle fluxes heading for Earth. Without these it would be difficult to create a reliable Northern Lights forecast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin of the USA (NOAA) operates a couple of these, both covering the rear and the front of the Sun. The satellites both generate images and have sensors for observing particle fluxes from the sun. By using these observations we are able to create a Northern Lights forecasts based on numerical simulations and forecast models.

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    Whale watching in Reykjavik

    Whale watching in Reykjavik

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    SHORT TOUR - Enjoy the unspoiled nature and wildlife of Iceland on a brand new and fast whale watching boat, one of its kind in Iceland. See the whales in their natural environment. Over 90% viewing success!

    Whale watching is a unique experience. To see the whales in their natural environment is simply wonderful and they usually get very close to the boat. During puffin season we make a stop by puffin island to admire these clever little birds. Puffin season is 1st May – 20th August and during that time, thousands of puffins are on the island. It only takes around 20-25 minutes from the Old Harbour in Reykjavík to get to where the whales are and the guides will tell you about the different kids of whales you can expect to see.

    This whale watching tour is different from other whale watching tours offered in the sense that the boat used is new, fast and luxurious. On this tour, you get the same amount of time whale watching as on other whale watching tours, just less time waiting.

    The viewing success rate is 90% but if you are one of the few unlucky ones, you will get another tour free of charge. If you are cold, we have warm overalls you can borrow and there is also a lovely heated seating area with large windows for viewing. Your guide and crew will be of assistance during the tour

    - Whales in their natural environment
    - Puffins (during puffin season, 1st May - 20th August)
    - New, luxurious and fast whale watching boat
    - 90% viewing success
    - If no whales are seen on your tour, you get another tour for free
    - Experienced guides and crew


    Tour to see the magic in Iceland

    Northern Lights from John Welsh on Vimeo.


    Northern Lights Iceland TourNorthern Lights Iceland Tour: To plan a trip to Iceland to see the Northern lights will probably be one of the best trips you have decided to go on.  Northern light evening tours in Iceland are one option in fullfilling your dream to experience the Northern lights.  If the sky is clear and the temperature is below zero, these wonderful lights will give you an amazing and colourful show.


    The best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern lights is from October to April.   Tours are offered during winter so it is easy to book one.   It is predicted that the lights will be at their brightest level in 2012 so do not miss out of the opportunity to see this wonder of nature at its best. Northern lights Iceland tour is something that can be a great experience.


    The Northern lights in Iceland are magical and it is possible to see them in Reykjavík but they are even more clearer away from the city lights.  Therefore, Northern lights Iceland tours will help you experience this wonder of nature and give you the time of your life.  It is easy to book and if you need any help planning your Northern lights trip, we are happy to help you find the tour that suits your needs.  Just send us an email and we will reply as soon as possible so you will get a great Northern Lights Iceland tour.

    Hotel Gullfoss

    Hotel Gullfoss

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    Located between Gullfoss and Geysir, Hotel Gullfoss is a perfect place to relax after a long day touring the Golden Circle.

    Our rooms are small size and fairly prices, so nothing fancy, but they are well equipped with large beds, your own bathroom, tea/coffee facilities, wardrobe, TV and fluffy pillows. Outside we have two hot tubs waiting for you. The hotel is the only hotels located in walking distance from the world famous Gullfoss waterfall, so the location is great for travelers wanting to avoid the rush hours. Close by we have Geysir geothermal area - only 10 min drive away.



    The New Year in Iceland seen from a Wi-Fi quadricopter

    The New Year in Iceland

    Bird-eye view from a Wi-Fi quadricopter

    Great video from Andres Sighvatsson living in Iceland

    This video is shot in Aslands area in Hafnarfjordur (Reykjavik area) in Iceland and is shot 3 minutes to midnight. He got the quadricopter in December and this was his third flight. He said he did not need any experience to start flying the quadricopter, just inserted the battery and start flying. The drone has a Go-Pro camera embedded.

    Reykjavik & Akureyri in 5 days

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    Reykjavík & Akureyri in 4 days

    Explore and enjoy the two largest cities in Iceland: 4 day self drive

    If you are planning a self drive in Iceland and need ideas for a route, then the northern coast is a lovely choice. You can either pick up your car at Keflavik airport or choose to fly from Reykjavik to Akureyri and pick up your rental car there. The northern coast has many gems so you could spend days there but here we suggest a 4 day self drive route of the area


    Day 1 – Arrive in Keflavik Airport, Overnight Stay in Reykjavik

    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: pocius

    When you arrive at Keflavik international airport, either take a taxi or the Flybus to Reykjavik where you spend the night. The domestic airport is in the city center and easy to get to. Here we suggest you fly from Reykjavik to Akureyri where you pick up your rental car but of course you can opt to pick up your car in Keflavik and drive from there to Akureyri (takes around 6 hours when road conditions are optimal and with 1-2 stops on the way).
    They day you spend in Reykjavik, make the most of it and get to know the city a bit. Here you can find a few ideas what to see and do. There are many lovely restaurants in the center that we advice you to check out. Here is a list of our favorite places.

    Day 2 – Depart from Reykjavik. Local Flight to Akureyri

    In the morning, take a taxi to the domestic airport and fly to Akureyri where you will pick up your rental car.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: mlcastle

    When you arrive in Akureyri have have gotten the keys to your rental car, your adventure of the northern coast will begin. Akureyri itself has a lot to offer so we recommend you spend the day in the city, exploring and enjoying everything it has to offer.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: JasonParis

    In summer the Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to visit. There you will find a unique collection of Icelandic flora and fauna along with imported flowers, trees and shrubs. In winter it is also worth visiting on a nice winter day.
    In Akureyri you will find various museums, such as the Akureyri Museum and the Aviation Museum. The Akureyri Museum contains will give you a good overview of the life and history of the area. There you will also find a garden that is a popular picnic spot among the locals. The Aviation Museum is where you will find the history of aviation in Iceland.
    Gasir, a medieval trading place, is an interesting site to visit. It is where you can find the remains of a trading post from the Middle Ages. It was the main trading post in Northern Iceland before so here you get a true taste of history!
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: joaoleitao

    The church in Akureyri is a site worth visiting. It is symbolic for the town and is known for its many steps. It is a Lutheran church that has great architecture designed by Gudjon Samuelsoon. The stained glass in the center and the bas-reliefs on the nave balcony are just some of its great features that people look at.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Jennie Faber

    You spend the night in Akureyri at the end of day 2. You can find many nice hotels and guesthouses in and around the city. Just boo in advance as Akureyri is a popular vacation site among locals, both in winter and summer.

    Day 3 - Skiing and relaxing

    Akureyri is one of the most popular places for locals to go skiing. So if you visit in winter, the northern lights aren´t the only attraction. No need to mention but if you are in Akureyri during winter then you should for sure put aurora hunting on your list every night.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: axelkr

    Eyjafjordur Fjord is one of the best places in the country to do downhill skiing. You can go to the skiing area of Mt. Hlídarfjall or Mountain Kaldbakur, and you can also opt to drive out of Akureyri to Trollaskagi or Dalvik where you will find splendid skiing sites. If you aren´t into skiing then you should do a tour of the area with an experienced guide or in summer simply just drive around and enjoy the amazing views.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Michael Voelker

    To go swimming is a must. All pools are heated by natural geothermal water and has various playing and recreation areas for everyone. You will find great pools in the area and it doesn´t matter whether you go during winter or summer, the water is warm so you don´t need to worry that you´ll get cold even though the pools are outdoors!
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: spi516

    Day 4 - Sightseeing and Whale Watching

    In the morning one option is to take the sightseeing tours, either by plane or helicopter, if you want to see Akureyri and surroundings from above. It is a nice option as you can see sites that aren´t always accessible on land, like Askja.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Bernt Rostad

    In the afternoon you can join a whale watching tour either from Akureyri or from Dalvík. The northern coast is optimal for whale watching but please note that the whale watching tours don´t operate during the winter months. If you want to go whale watching in winter, then you must depart from the harbor in Reykjavik. In the evening, fly back to Reykjavik.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Julien Carnot

    Day 5 - Blue lagoon and departure day

    If your flight leaves in the afternoon, it is ideal to enjoy the morning in Reykjavik and then head to the Blue lagoon where you can soak and relax before you go to the airport. The lagoon is close to Keflavik airport so it is an ideal last stop on your journey.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Sarah_Ackerman

    This route is just an idea so you can enjoy in only a few days what those two cities have to offer. Of course you can expand the tour or make it shorter. Also add D-tours to the route, like Lake Mývatn, Ásbyrgi and Húsavík. What ever you decide to do, it is certain you will enjoy the wonderful two cities and their surroundings.

    4 Days Self-Drive Idea to the Highlands, Golden Circle and Reykjanes Peninsula

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    4 Days Self-Drive Idea to the Highlands, Golden Circle and Reykjanes Peninsula

    Combine adventure and relaxation in this 4-day self drive trip to the Highlands, Golden Circle and Reykjanes Peninsula.

    If you are up for an adventure but don’t want to go extreme and still need room for relaxation, this 4-day self drive idea with a rental car from Thrifty is the right one for you. You not only stay in a luxurious hotel called the Hotel Highland, but you also get to explore the Gullfoss-Geysir area where you can do some snorkeling or other outdoor activities. For some relaxation, you can go to the Blue Lagoon that will leave you energized and educated. Plus, of course, you will have the chance to get a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights.

    South Iceland


    Day 1 – Arrival in Keflavik, Iceland and Check-In in Hotel Highland

    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: mckaysavage

    Depending on your flight, you can arrive in Keflavik Airport at around late afternoon (4 or 5pm) to do the necessary things needed for your 4-day vacation. The first thing to do is get your rental car in Thrifty and do the drive to Hotel Highland in the interior of the Icelandic Highlands. Once checked in, you can unpack, eat dinner and lounge at the hotel restaurant that serves gourmet food made from the purest and finest local ingredients prepared by international chefs. Then, you can just relax for the rest of the night by exploring its surroundings or---given the chance---have a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Here is the map for Day 1.

    Day 2 - Gullfoss – Geysir Tour and Snorkeling

    You can leave the Hotel Highland early in the morning since it will take almost three hours to get to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), the undisputed queen of Icelandic waterfalls located in the canyon of the Hvita river. Once there, you can ask Reykjavik Excursions to take you to the Gullfoss-Geysir tour. This amazing tourist destination is very famous because the water rushes down the three steps of lava layers with breathtaking power and splendor. The flow of the water and how it “vanishes” in the crevice that is obscured from view is one of the things that makes it magnificent and will leave you at awe. After touring this, you will have the opportunity to taste and feast in the traditional Icelandic meat soup and lunch of the Gullfoss café.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: JasonParis

    The next part of the tour is the geothermal area of Geysir , which is known to be The Great Geysir. It is known to sprout boiling water of various formations that goes up to 70 meters in the air and the ground gurgles and bubbles. There are also various hot springs in the vicinity and you can try for relaxation before you snorkel in the Silfra fissure.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: big-ashb

    Before the day ends, it is good to visit Thingvellir, which is home to Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. It is one of the best parts to do for this day because it is relaxing and exotic at the same time. Dividing is also an option here and if you have diving equipment, you can dive into The Silfra fissure---one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets because it combines crystal clear waters and blissful shades of blue. The best part here is you don’t have to be stressed while diving as you will feel weightless as you float your way into the lazy and peaceful current.
    The day ends by going back to Hotel Highland and having your dinner in their restaurant and bar. Lounge a bit and prepare for the next day tour before going to sleep. Below is the map of Day 2:

    Day 3 - Reykjanes and Blue Lagoon

    This day is about touring simple yet interesting attractions. You can check out from Hotel Highland and start driving towards Reykjanes, a peninsula and volcanic system, and start explore at 2-3 attractions. We would suggest The Leif the Lucky Bridge near Grindavik that is known as the boundary mark of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. You can also visit fishing towns such as Grindavik and eat at a great restaurant or just explore the town.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: rwhgould

    After the touring and being out in the sun the past days, it is time to relax and be energized by going to the Blue Lagoon. You can get water massages and beauty treatments or have a day tour with the establishment. Either way, you can spend the rest of the remaining day here so you can feel energized and serene. There are various services to choose from in Blue Lagoon that will match your preferences and tastes.
    seljafjordur snæfellsnes

    Source: Stephen_AU

    Once done rejuvenating, you can drive to Hotel Northernlights Inn and check in so you can double check your stuff before leaving Iceland the next day. Here is the map for Day 3:

    Day 4 - Day 4 – Departure from Iceland

    Once done with you last-minute preparations, you can drop off your rental car in Thrifty and go to the Keflavik Airport for your departure. Hope you had a wonderful vacation here in Iceland. Below is a map of Day 4:

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