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Iceland is the land of unparalleled beauty. Wherever you turn, the chances are you will have splendid vistas of the mesmerizing landscapes, majestic waterfalls, or steaming hot springs. It really comes as no surprise why Iceland is usually very high on anyone’s bucket list. Also, for many, seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is at the top of their Bucket Lists. In this post we intend to help you make your dream come true.
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Best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights
As if the natural splendors weren’t enough excuse to visit, Iceland is the perfect place to spot the Northern lights – a magical celestial phenomenon that paints the night skies with colorful strokes of bright hues. Winter is usually the best time to spot Aurora Borealis above Iceland, especially from September throughout April.
The chances are also significantly higher in high-altitude regions away from towns and cities as the artificial lights might impede the spotting. Whatever the case may be, you probably won’t find a better place to spot the Northern lights as Iceland and other Scandinavian countries are perfect to go sky-gazing.
The Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
Right at the edge of the peninsula where the capital Reykjavik is located, you can find the Grotta Lighthouse – a perfect spot to catch a glimpse of auroras regardless of the proximity to the bright lights from the city. Despite popular belief, Northern Lights above Reykjavik can be brighter than in some remote inland regions, provided that you set out on a bright winter night.
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Þingvellir National Park
þingvellir national park is an hour’s drive from Iceland’s capital and apart from being absolutely stunning, it is also an ideal location to spot Aurora Borealis. Many of the attractions in this national park are included in the Golden Circle tours so it’s best to set off earlier during the day, explore the park’s many highlights, and wait for the night to admire the light show – ideally by the mesmerizing Lake Þingvallavatn.
The Kleifarvatn Area
As the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Kleifarvatn is ideal for nature lovers and aurora spotters alike. Not only does this area boast several active volcanoes but it’s also famous for its outstanding geothermal activity. In fact, it is here that you can take a dip in the iconic Blue Lagoon. The visit to the lagoon will be all the more magical during the night, as you can enjoy the heavenly light show as you relax in the steamy warm bath under the open sky.
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Snæfellsnes Peninsula is the jewel of West Iceland but also one of the few places that have golden beaches. Lava fields, quaint villages, and large craters contribute to its unmistakable charm so you should probably set aside a few days to explore the whole area before catching auroras. The best spot to do so is a small village of Hellnar. Though there are only a few permanent residents in this hamlet, there are quite a few camping options at hand, ideal to spend the night and revel in the aurora light display.
If you’re planning on spotting the Northern Lights while vacationing in Iceland, the area around Akureyri is the best place in the North to head to. This city of Akureyri is the second largest in the country and is surrounded by some amazing attractions of the famous Ring Road, including Goðafoss, Jökulsárgljúfur, Námaskarð, and Dettifoss. If you’re based in Akureyri, it’s best to head for Gásir, a former trading port just 13 kilometers North of the city’s center. On a similar note, Krossanesborgir (nature reserve), Lake Ljósavatn, and Grenivik village are also very close to Akureyri and make up for the most ideal aurora spotting locations.
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Located in Southern Iceland, Jökulsárlón is a huge glacial lake accessible from the Ring Road. It offers some splendid vistas of the surrounding icebergs and the Diamond Beach although the most spectacular highlight is certainly the authentic ice cave in the Vatnajökull glacier. Many tour operators offer excursions to the cave with the additional Northern Lights spotting tour. Jökulsárlón is possibly the most famous location in the South to catch a glimpse of the elusive light phenomenon so make sure to position yourself there for maximum chances of the sighting.
Having in mind how evasive the Northern Lights can be, it’s always a good idea to arm yourself with patience and warm, comfortable clothes because you will be in for a waiting game. Just to be on the safe side and increase your spotting chances, make sure to check Aurora Forecast charts and cross your fingers.