Northern Lights in Iceland

One of the best places to see this natural spectacle

The Northern Lights are an absolute spectacle. Especially in Iceland. But where should you be? And when? How to take pictures of the Aurora Borealis, as it is also called.

If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights, you’ll agree: it’s one of the most beautiful natural occurrences in the world. Curtains of light dance upon the night sky, in different colours. Iceland is one of the best places to see this graceful show that Mother Nature puts on. It might be the most beautiful show of all.

See my tips below; I've seen the Northern Lights more than five times. All information about the Northern Lights in Iceland can be found in this article.

The best spots for the Northern Lights

In fact, every place in Iceland is good for the Northern Lights. There is remarkably little light pollution, so you can see the spectacle everywhere when it is there. A tip: Lie on the floor and look up. Then you have the best view of everything that is happening in the sky. But there are places that are even more special. Like these:

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake

Northern Lights at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake.

You can see the lake of Jökulsárlón remarkably often on photos of the Northern Lights. The ice floes and the unique light above them guarantee good photos. Don't forget to walk to the black lava beach by the lake. You can see small icebergs and it will make special photos.

The beaches of Iceland

Anyone who knows something about the weather will not be surprised that coasts more often have a sky without clouds than inland areas.

The wind at sea often blows the clouds away, while inland a large cloud cover can be seen. And so you have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Iceland has countless beaches, so pick a spot and wait.

Vatnajökull Glacier

The Vatnajökull is the largest ice mass in Iceland. And a wonderful place in itself. In clear weather (check this in advance) you can see the Northern Lights above the ice, which guarantees good photos.


The capital Reykjavik is not the best place for the Northern Lights. This is due to the light pollution from street lamps, houses and cars, for example. But if you walk out of the small city center and look for a dark place, you can also see it from the city. And even take beautiful pictures of houses with behind (or above) the Northern Lights.

Taking photographs of the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Ten years ago it was a real challenge to capture the Northern Lights. All cameras have now been greatly improved. You actually have to have a compact camera or system camera, with the mobile phone the result is usually disappointing. Although it is possible with this, if you have a mobile phone where you can adjust the settings.

A tripod is actually necessary for good photos. And a lens of 2.8 (or 1.4). You can set the ISO to 100 and then give it a try with 15 seconds of shutter speed. Put your focus on infinity, but sharp. It varies from camera to camera, so you should keep trying. Good luck!

How are the Northern Lights created in Iceland?

This special phenomenon is also called aurora or aurora borealis. The spectacle of nature is caused by large amounts of charged particles. These are the result of explosions from the sun and they disappear into the immense universe. Our earth is surrounded by a large magnetic field that deflects the charged particles.

Near the North Pole, they enter the atmosphere at great speed. The particles collide with our atmosphere, causing discoloration. It is these discolorations that you see in the sky. And the color (green, purple, red or even blue for example) depends on what the particle consists of. The special thing is that every day is different. In fact, every minute is different. This also happens at the South Pole, although it is then called the Southern Lights (or Aurora Australis).

The Northern Lights are located at a great height; between 50 and 600 kilometers in the air. Which makes it extra special that you can see it with the naked eye.

What time at night?

There is no fixed time when the Northern Lights can be seen. Most of it is seen between 7 PM and midnight. And it can suddenly disappear and then show up in full force ten minutes later. So don't think it's over if you don't see the sky for a while.

Check in advance how big the chance is of the Northern Lights:

View the daily forecast for the Northern Lights in Iceland: Aurora Forecast

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