The Northern Lights are reason enough to travel to Iceland. The catch? You’ll have to go in the winter.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that is visible in the northern latitudes only during the winter. The green, white, blue, and sometimes other colors can be seen due to solar winds. These solar winds cause electronic particles to enter the magnetic fields of earth. The collision with atmospheric gasses form the light about 100 km above the earth.
Seeing the northern light is really one of those things you have to do once in your lifetime. The excitement of watching the twisting and morphing of the colors in the night sky is something unlike any other marvel on earth. You’ll have to battle the cold weather and most likely have to make a special trip to a northerly destination, but you won’t regret it.
Northern Lights viewing tips in Iceland:
- Make sure you stay at least a week in Iceland because the lights are visible to different magnitudes on different nights. Some nights they may be very active and other nights, not at all.
- Although the lights are visible from October to April, the closer you visit to December 21st, the better your viewing will be.
- The farther north you travel in Iceland, the stronger the lights will be.
- Get out of Reykjavik! Although it isn’t exactly a huge metropolis, it does give off its fair share of light pollution. Light pollution drowns out the intensity of the lights.
- Most travel agencies offer Northern Lights tours. They know where to go and the right time to view them. If you are intrepid, do you own research as to when the lights will be best, rent a car, and get far out of the city.
- Bring a Tripod! Even an amateur photographer will need a tripod to steady his or her camera during the multi-second exposure time.
Although I didn’t have a tripod, my photos didn’t come out too bad. See them here: Photos of the Northern Lights
Photo and text by Stephen Bugno