When we saw that the aurora forecast was “moderate” for this cold December night, we jumped in the car and drove from our apartment in Reykjavík to Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park. There’s a fairly long list of places you can chase the Northern Lights around Reykjavík. We were already really familiar with Thingvellir and a friend had spotted the auroras there previously, so we headed to this nearby park.
A Snowy & Cloudy Scene at Thingvellir While We Watched for the Northern Lights
I was hopeful that we would see the Green Lady, but there was a fair amount of cloud coverage, so I really had no idea if we would spot the lights or not. That’s kind of part of the excitement, though, right?
We pulled into a parking lot at Thingvellir, got out of the car, and stood in the cold, waiting to see if the Northern Lights would put on a show for us.
It was cold and windy – it even started to snow, which just added to the magic and excitement. Then, all of a sudden we saw what looked like white clouds roll in. Gradually, glows of green appeared, as the Northern Lights danced and eventually perched themselves above Thingvellir Church. (How perfect, right!?)
Bright Auoroas Danced During Our Drive Back to Reykjavík
On the drive home, we saw even brighter views of the Northern Lights over the suburbs. It was so wild to see such a vivid show while simply driving down the road. I couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
So, What Should You Know Before Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland?
+ Before heading out, check the aurora forecast at the Icelandic Met Office. While you’re at it, check to make sure the roads are safe to drive on by visiting SafeTravel.is.
+ You don’t need a super clear night to see the lights. If the forecast is “moderate”, it’s still certainly worth it to go out and see if you can catch a glimpse of the Green Lady.
+ A good time to get outside and start looking for the lights is around 9:00 p.m.
+ After pulling into a parking lot and getting settled in, turn your car lights off as soon as it’s safe to. Your car lights will make it more difficult to spot the auroras. Doing so will also be appreciated by photographers who are likely nearby, trying to snap some shots of the auroras.
+ Many tourists get bussed into Thingvellir and similar areas for Northern Lights tours. Have no fear, the busses don’t really stay in one spot for too long.
+ Be aware that in many cases, the Northern Lights appear white or off-white with faint glows of green and/or red. In some cases, you might see vibrant colors, but many times, the colors are more subdued in real life than in the photos you see circulating the Internet. This is because many photographers combine a number of shots to create a single image that is stunning but doesn’t precisely reflect what was seen in a single moment. My images I’ve shared with you in this post are each from a single shot. I want to point out that most of the night, the auroras were glowing faintly. Only for a short while did we see vibrant colors. Even when the lights were faint, they were still SO cool and seemingly magical, though. I think I’ll remember how much fun and beautiful this night was for forever.
+ If you’re heading back to Reykjavík after a late night of aurora hunting, stop at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for a couple of their famous hotdogs. Their hotdogs are fairly unique, as they are lamb based and topped with fried onions, raw onions, remoulade, ketchup, and mustard. It’s the best midnight snack after a cold and exciting night of chasing the Northern Lights.
Get in Touch
Do you have any questions about exploring Iceland and catching views of the Aurora Borealis? If so, comment below or email me at email@example.com. I’m happy to answer any questions you have! Or, you can check out some of my other articles about where to stay when in Reykjavík or what New Year’s Eve is like in Iceland.
4 thoughts on “Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland”
Great post! The snow sounds so magical! Is there a time of year that’s best to see them? I’m definitely hoping to see them in Iceland or somewhere in the Scandinavian region at some point 🙂
Thanks, Kimber! The lights can typically be seen from late September through March. The more darkness there is, the better the chance to see them. During this particular trip, we were there in late December, so it was dark a lot of the time. Great for aurora hunting, haha.
That’s so great you got to see them! Bucket list item for sure.
I was so pumped we got to see them!