Iceland – Aurora Huntress
I am no expert. I am no scientist. But I do know how to use the internet to research. And I made it a personal mission to see the elusive Aurora Borealis. Part of my determination originated from being unable to see the Northern Lights on our trip to Alaska in 2016. Was I successful in Iceland? Yes, we saw very distant dancing lights on two separate occasions and one night where they really blew up and blew my mind in the process. I’ve included some tips from my research to help you with your hunt.
Unfortunately, I do not yet have a fancy camera to show you what I saw (except for the very pixelated cover photo). Boo. BUT, I do have a short video of the beautiful lights at the Harpa Concert and Conference Hall in Reykjavik. The design of Harpa was inspired by the northern lights and was stunning during the day and night. See the mini-vid at the bottom.
TIPS FOR THE HUNT
Visit Iceland during winter.
If you decide to take on this mission, you also need to give yourself the as many hours as possible per night to see the Aurora Borealis. The night when the northern lights were strongest, they began quite early at 8 pm. There was still a tiny bit of light left after sunset. So it’s not necessarily about staying up until 3 in the morning, so much as it is more darkness (see tip #3). From my researching about how the Aurora Borealis is formed, it seems like they would be happening all year long (???) and all day (?????), but a sure(ish) bet would to go when you know it’s going to be dark. I saw on other sites September – April is the best.
Give yourself 7 nights of clear skies and darkness.
The Northern Lights are fickle beast, due to how they are formed, but do have a very rough rhythm to them that is about every four days they will have stronger colors.
It needs to be really f***ing dark.
Okay, this is obvious, but it is seriously it needs to be D-A-R-K. I purposely chose Airbnb accommodations that were far away from all cities, thank goodness, because even a passing car would cause you to lose sight of the Northern Lights. Don’t choose a small town, choose a rural location, without super tall hills, so you can see in all locations in the warmth of your accommodations. Alternatively, you could always sign up for a bus tour or cruise, wherein locals know the best spots for viewing.
Track the cloud cover.
Because if you cannot see the sky, you cannot see Aurora. Here is an excellent website to check the cloud cover Iceland:
Track the Aurora.
Some of these sites get VERY technical, so I will not try to explain them. But I used a combo of these to see if a certain night was going to be better than others.
Check EVERY clear night.
Might as well, right? You’re all the way in Iceland. Anyways, what we saw first was what look like a light grey cloud in the sky. On two occasions, I asked boyfriend, “is that a cloud?”, but then each time it would move too quickly to be a cloud and sometimes turn a bright green color. I would then excitedly freak out.
Optional: Go with someone who will take on the mission with you OR doesn’t mind your shenanigans in the middle of the night.
Do you have tips for viewing the Aurora Borealis? If you took a tour, how was that?