Northern Lights is a “specialty” to experience in Nordic countries, especially in Iceland. The magic of this experience is that you will have an opportunity to be able to admire the magical beautiful, mysterious strip of light acrossing the sky in the middle of the night, something to Vietnamese people like me are still very unfamiliar with. And this experience showed me how amazing and overwhelming nature is, enough to make us more passionate about traveling and to keep experiencing new things in our lifetime. So, how to see Northern Lights in Iceland? Let’s check out my field Iceland Northern Lights trip (trip to see Northern Lights Iceland) to know where, when to see Northern Lights Iceland as well as some useful tips to hunting Iceland Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights Aurora Borealis Iceland).
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Iceland northern lights trip: How to see northern lights in Iceland?
Hunting for the Iceland northern lights “girl” is a soulful and memorable experience trip. During the first 4 nights, the conditions to see the Iceland aurora borealis were almost hopeless with cloud cover, rain, snow of all kinds covering the view and the KP index to see the aurora was not very positive.
In Reykjavik there are Northern Lights hunting tours that start at 8pm and end at 10pm. This hunting trip guarantees you the certainty of seeing the Iceland northern lights, only when you see it, they just collect money. If you buy this tour, they will notify you to cancel the tour if the weather is not good on the day of the tour and reschedule to another day. If you still don’t see the Iceland aurora borealis during the tour, they will let you go again the next day until you see it. If you have to fly on the next day, the tour operator will send you a voucher indefinitely so that any time you return to Iceland you can take this tour.
On the penultimate night, just getting on the hunting trip, one member of the group saw the aurora borealis to the right side towards Keflavik airport and the whole group flocked there.
It feels so magical, a whole sky with full of stars, and the Northern Lights “girl” dancing above with her “sexy curves”. At that time, I could only say “WHAT FAIRYLAND AM I IN!?” Well, it’s just a rhetorical question, because I know I’m in Iceland, a real place on Earth.
The next day, we planned to explore the West of Iceland, that night I went to the house of a Vietnamese man who living in Iceland for a long time, and we had to try to eat a very large and delicious icelandic lamb leg, while our group has only 4 people. Icelandic lamb has been a specialty here since the 9th century.
Well, just stop talking about lamb, let’s talk about the northern lights aurora borealis Iceland.
While eating, my friend saw that the sky had “GREEN symptoms” and so the group hurriedly packed up to get on the car to hunt this clumsy girl again. And Duc (the homeowner) carried us to a frozen lake with a backdrop is a snow-covered mountain in the distance. Oh my god, it’s so amazing and mesmerizing because now the aurora is clearer and more beautiful than yesterday, it keeps winding and even though it was -9 degrees Celsius, the adrenaline increased in our body makes us forget the cold.
But capturing the aurora is not easy, having to expose is one thing, to lighting up yourself too, it must be accompanied by an iPhone’s flash to support it, need to be shine it up for 3 seconds and then put it down. The model – me – had to standing still in that position for 5-6 seconds. And you think it’s not easy to move? Try standing there without shaking and to know that experience how it is. And the result is a lovely picture here.
What is the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)?
The Northern Lights are formed when solar wind interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere (the Earth’s magnetic field). Countries located at high latitudes can see this phenomenon. The Northern Lights range in color from white, green, blue, to pink and purple from low to high intensity. The most popular colors are still green and blue.
Time: The aurora borealis season is from September to April, the best time to see it is from November to February.
Location: Alaska, Northern Canada, Northern Sweden, Northern Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Finland.
Conditions to see the Northern Lights: The season time of the Northern Lights is in winter is from 8 pm to 2 am, the sky is clear without clouds, the moon is not fullmoon, the temperature is extremely cold and there is no light pollution.
Why is Iceland the best place to see the aurora?
Iceland is the country with the lowest winter temperatures to see this aurora ‘girl’. The reason comes from the gulf stream flowing through this country, making winter temperatures in the capital Reykjavik only reach a maximum of -15 degrees Celsius on the coldest day.
Iceland is a place where the Northern Lights often appear with a high KP index. Iceland also have the ideal conditions for viewing the aurora borealis due to the sparse population and light pollution at low level that makes it possible to see the Aurora Borealis even in the city at high intensity. The wind in Iceland is also among the third strongest in the world, so the clouds are always changing, making it easier to get a clear sky than the rest of the world.
How to see northern lights in Iceland: What to prepare for an Iceland northern lights trip
Aurora forecast app
Basic weather app: Need to be check the weather first because if it’s rainy, snowy, or cloudy it won’t be ideal to see the aurora, if it’s forecasted to be cloudy or snowy that day you should pick a blanket for your sleep and don’t waste time.
Aurora app to forecasts the Aurora intensity: This is the app (My Aurora Forecast & Alerts) I used to forecast Aurora intensity. If the KP index is up to 3, you can track the Aurora. And the app also offers a map that tracks where the aurora borealis is moving on Earth. You can download the application at the link: http://apple.co/2Cdis4m for iOS and here for Android.
Keep your body warm
- The 3-layer rule: A layer close to the body (you can buy heattech from Uniqlo), a layer of wool and a layer of windbreak. If your clothes aren’t warm enough, wear a few more layers.
- Warm gloves: It’s required due to the extremely cold outdoor weather that will make you very shivery and unable to get ready for shooting.
- Wool hat: To keep your head warm and keep the ears warm because this is where you are prone to sudden heat loss.
- Warm water: It is not redundant to bring a pot of hot coffee or tea so that the body always regulates and retains heat.
- A DSLR or smartphone with camera can take photos in the dark or in lack of light conditions (you can completely expose with a smartphone, but I do not recommend it because the image will not be beautiful and sharp enough).
- Flashlight or flashlight from phone
- Power bank for both camera and phone if you intend stay long
How to see northern lights in Iceland: Book a tour or self-drive to hunt aurora borealis
There are 2 ways for you to choose from to hunting aurora is self-driving or take a bus tour. I have took both ways, each has its own advantages:
Rent a self-driving car: You must know how to drive and you will actively run to find aurora if the KP index of the aurora forecast application is getting high.
Take the bus tour: This will be easier for you, you just need to book the tour on the first day when you arrive, on that day if there is no aurora, they will move schedule to the next day, until you see the aurora. If you have to leave Iceland before seeing the aurora with the tour, you’ll also get a refund or receive a voucher which allows take another tour at anytime when you return to Iceland. Bus tour is good for those who go without renting a car or don’t know how to drive. You can book a tour to see the Northern Lights with KLOOK here.
Iceland northern lights trip: 3 simple but not simple steps when taking photos of the Northern Lights
Shooting only the Northern Lights is very simple and easy, you just need to expose (long exposure) and focus on the right edge of the light. But I only share here the experience to take a photo “for a lifetime” with this blue “girl”.
Step 1: Setting up the camera
With very bright and fast moving northern lights: Exposure for 3-10 seconds and ISO 1600 – 3200, f1.4 – 2.8.
With slow moving northern lights: Exposure for 10 – 30 seconds, ISO 600 – 800, f1.4 – 4.0.
Step 2: Posing and hold the pose
This step requires the model to be really patient because just moving a bit will much blur the face due to the conditions are also dark.
Step 3: Shooting
The photographer presses the shutter button, and immediately raises the flashlight or flash from the phone to the front for 1-2 seconds, just enough to see the face of the model, then immediately covers the flash and thus completes the shooting process.
These two steps require a great deal of patience from both the photographer and the model because of the extreme weather conditions. But Iceland is the place with the most pleasant temperatures, others will be even colder and this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so be patient and let’s try together.
Are you looking some best Iceland northern lights tours, you can refer to best ones below
- Northern Lights Premium Tour
- Northern Lights Classic Bus Tour
- Northern Lights Mystery Tour from Reykjavik
- Northern Lights by Boat
- Northern Lights and Stargazing Tour from Reykjavik
- Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Day Tour from Reykjavik
- Golden Circle and Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavík
- Northern Lights Horizon Small Group Tour
- Northern Lights Exploration Small Group Tour from Akureyri
Read more Iceland travel guide here: Iceland travel blog — The fullest Iceland travel guide blog for a trip to Iceland on a budget for the first-timers.