What are the chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland?

September 28, 2022

By Jonathan Rempel, Head Guide


The northern lights are an amazing natural phenomenon that has astounded humanity throughout recorded history. Only the slightest minority of people had ever heard about these celestial lights, much less seen them with their own eyes. But over the past 1-2 decades, thanks to the internet and social media, photos of the lights – or aurora borealis, as they were nicknamed by Galileo – have spread like wildfire and ignited the burning desire to venture into tiny corners of the world where the lights can be seen. One of which, of course, is Iceland.



Northern lights are the result of the charged particles in solar wind – protons, electrons, and alpha particles – with gas molecules hundreds of kilometers up in our atmosphere. The excitement of those gas molecules causes them to produce light, which we perceive as auroras. Generally, auroras only occur within a narrow band at high latitudes, because the Earth’s magnetic field deflects the majority of the solar wind towards the north and south poles.

While it is occasionally possible for this “auroral oval” to widen, such as during strong solar storms where a significantly higher amount of solar wind is sent our way, generally one must venture far north to have a chance at witnessing the northern lights – and Iceland usually lies right within the brightest part of that auroral oval. Just check out this Aurora Forecast, with a screenshot taken right as I was writing this article:



That means that by visiting Iceland, you are already in one of the best places in the world to spot the Northern Lights. Well done! But that isn’t always quite enough, of course. The weather has to cooperate as well. Now, you may have already heard about Iceland’s famously fickle weather – well, that applies even more so to weather in the winter, which is the only time of year the auroras are visible here. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate – which means aurora hunting requires patience, and a few tries. But overall, your chances of seeing the auroras here are good. Just don’t get lazy – during your trip to Iceland, be sure to try every single night, no matter how tired you are. And who knows? What you see might just be the experience of a lifetime.

Special Tours Wildlife Adventures was the first company in the world to offer northern lights tours by boat, an incredible experience that goes far beyond what any bus company can offer. And we are well aware of the weather – if your tour is cancelled due to cloudy conditions, we provide a backup plan to give you an enjoyable way to spend your evening, plus the option to rebook for the next evening.

Keep your eyes on the skies, and happy hunting!