We are going through a period of very intense solar activity, which means beautiful Northern Lights displays. And since I know seeing them is on many people’s bucket lists, I want to encourage you to go by the end of this year!
The peak of solar activity will be on next autumn, but there’s also time until April or so if you’re up for a last minute trip. Otherwise, wait until September at least to go hunting them. The “Northern Lights Season” is roughly from September to April, even if I’ve heard about beautiful displays in August too, but this is more like an exception.
If you’re planning to go to Iceland and your main purpose is to see the Northern Lights, first of all do it! And then keep in mind that if you are on a tight budget or you don’t have much time to travel around the country, it’s still ok because you can see amazing auroras in Reykjavik too.
The first night of my stay I drove for about one hour, destination unknown, just to be far enough from the city lights, and found myself freezing and scared in the middle of nowhere waiting for something I wasn’t sure how it looked like and where it would have come from. In the end I didn’t see anything and had to drive back for another hour.
Don’t do that (unless you know where you’re going).
There are a couple of places in and around Reykjavik that will offer you amazing views of the Northern Lights so no excuse for the lazy bums. Go book your flight to Iceland. It’s that easy!
1. Grótta Lighthouse
I am sure you’ve seen photos of the Northern Lights with amazing reflections in the water. We all look for this kind of scenic setting especially when it comes to take photos! Well, the good news is that not only this is the perfect place, but it also has a lighthouse (very photogenic!) and it’s just 5 minutes away from the center of Reykjavik. Here:
Here you can just come by car, and then wait for the show. You can either stay in the little parking, comfortably seated in your car with heating on (as I did most of the times), or walk to the beach for the best photos. In any case, if you go on the right night, you won’t be disappointed.
Even if they say that the Northern Lights show up after midnight, this is not really true… If the sky is clear you can go as soon as at 9pm or even at sunset, and find a show that will last for hours. Or maybe it will stop and come back again later. You never know! So if you want to see an aurora, you really just need one thing: sleepless nights. I met too many people that said “there were no Northern Lights last night” and I was like “uhm yes instead!” – they just didn’t wait enough time.
2. The Golf Course aka Björk Park
This is very close to the Grotta Lighthouse, just behind it really, and it still offers a view on the lighthouse but with a more frontal view on the sea. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of Northern Lights from this location but I did see a beautiful sky full of green curls from there. I just didn’t have my camera on me!
Just before the actual golf course, there’s also a small lake called Bakkatjőrn, which I guess can be good for reflections again, or creative photos of Northern Lights and… ducks. Why not?
In case you are wondering, Bjork the singer lives just a few minutes away from this place, in a black house (look for it!).
3. Þingvellir National Park
If you’re up for a short drive, the Þingvellir National Park is where you want to be during a spectacular aurora display. Unfortunately this was not my case, I’ve been there during the day only, but I head great stories (and saw beautiful photos) of Northern Lights there.
The sky will definitely be darker in Þingvellir then in Reykjavik, so the show must be literally breathtaking. Next time I am in town, I won’t miss it and you shouldn’t either.
The country’s biggest lake is there, and this is good for reflections. It’s worth going to the national park in the day too because it’s really scenic. This is usually included in the Golden Circle tours.
If you just want to see the Northern Lights, then you can do this in Reykjavik. But if you are also looking for a photographic experience, then here you have a few easy options that I hope will be helpful for you!
- The Northern Lights can show up anytime after sunset. You really never know, so be patient, keep checking the sky, and have your camera on you at all times. I remember having the aurora on my side all the way from the Blue Lagoon to Reykjavik, and it was only around 7-8pm.
- Any place with a dark sky is good to see the Northern Lights. So if you have time you can always experiment a bit. Just try and stay away from the city lights (unfortunately in Reykjavik the streets are very heavily illuminated).
- Be patient and wait. One night I waited for 4 hours in the cold, and there was absolutely nothing in the sky. Then just when I decided to give up, I saw the most spectacular aurora I’ve seen! So be prepared for sleepless nights. It’s ok, you’re on holiday and anyway it will be so worth it!
- The Northern Lights will usually show up from the North side, so that’s where you have to look for them. This is not always true, and when they are really strong the whole sky will be dancing above you!
Ok so now no excuses. If you want to take the Northern Lights off your bucket list, you know what you have to do. It’s that easy!
If you’ve been to Reykjavik and you have more suggestions on the perfect spot to watch the Northern Lights, then please share your tips in the comments below. Thank you! :)