So you’re coming to Iceland and seeing the Northern Lights is HIGH on your bucket list. Am I right?! I hear you my friend, that was my biggest wish as well.
Good news…I am here to help you fulfill your bucket list!
Thankfully, my bucket list wish came true, and with loads of photos to remember them by. It was definitely the highlight of 2014, and perhaps in the top 5 most memorable moments of my life. We have also been lucky to see the lights a few times since we moved here, even from the balcony of our apartment! I can’t wait to see what these beauties have in store for the winter!
So if you are planning on visiting Iceland in the near future, you are in luck! Read on for the best tips for viewing the dazzling Northern Lights.
What are the Northern Lights?
First, a little lesson on what makes the Northern lights. Because, science.
It all starts with the sun. The sun releases solar flares which travel towards the Earth in the form of electrons. The earth has a geomagnetic field that acts like a shield to protect the Earth. The flare wraps around the Earth’s atmosphere and then separates at the poles. This is why you can only see the lights from the extreme hemispheres. (Fun fact! There is also a Southern Lights known as Aurora Australis – commonly seen from Antartica, Australia and New Zealand.)
3 rules to view the Northern Lights
Now let’s talk about the basic rules to follow to ensure your Northern Light viewing, plus photo tips on how to best capture them!
- Long exposure time, i.e. 20 seconds
- Mid range ISO. I like to keep it around 800 (this will be different depending on surrounding light pollution).
- Aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6
- Keep the camera completely still. A tripod is a must for this. If you have a shutter release that would be extra helpful to minimize any blurring.
- Tours can be a great way to see the Northern Lights, especially if you are not renting a car. However, obviously the tour cannot guarantee a Lights sighting. (Like when we were so excited to go on a while watching tour and saw the tail flick up once. It happens.) Again, it all depends on the cloud forecast and solar flares, and Iceland weather can be very unpredictable. Be patient!
- Aurora Reykjavik Northern Lights Center is located downtown and actually a really impressive museum. Their motto is “where the Northern Lights are always on display!” The museum has interesting information about the mythology and science of the Northern Lights, and of course, the photos are incredible! There is also an amazing wide screen room where you can watch time lapse video footage of the Northern Lights captured from all around Iceland. It will make you want to hike to all places through Iceland in the dark and freezing cold just to become a professional Northern Lights photographer!
- Iceland Weather + Aurora
- Shows cloud cover
- Geophysical Institute
- Rating of how likely/intense they will be
- Soft Serve News
- Breaks down kv activity in half hour increments
- Aurora Iceland App
- All-in-one checker! This is literally the only thing you would need to check the forecast based on your specific location. I love to use this app because I can set alerts to where I am at the time.
With this download you also get access to the FREE resource library FILLED with printables, checklists, and guides to help you plan the best Iceland trip ever!
Trip planning is hard enough as it is! That’s why I created this resource library, to make your life easier.
ALSO. When you sign up, you get instant access to the Iceland Travel Team Facebook group! A community of people to connect and interact with, ask questions, and share your awesome Iceland travel experiences!
Not a member yet? No worries, just enter your name and email address, and I send you the password to unlock the library!
**Already a member of the team? Click here to instantly download your Northern Lights photography guidebook!
P.S. Please check your spam/junk folder if you don’t automatically get an email response.
Happy planning, Team!
And now you are a Northern Lights pro! I wish you luck on your quest to find the Northern Lights. Iceland is an incredible place to see the Lights because of it’s wild and untouched landscapes. I promise, they will not leave you disappointed!
Question: Are the Northern Lights on your bucket list?!