The world is full of natural wonders, but not many of them come close to the spectacle of the northern lights.
Also known by its scientific name, Aurora Borealis, the lights are a natural phenomenon that usually occurs during winter in certain parts of the world, with Iceland being one of the most popular to see them.
How do you see Iceland’s northern lights? A trip to Iceland during winter is the best way to spot Aurora Borealis, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll see them while you’re there.
There are a number of natural factors that have to align for the spectacle to be seen, and it’s not always a certainty.
A trip to Iceland can be just as enjoyable on its own without seeing the auroras, and many people consider the lights to be the cherry on top.
Iceland is a wondrous place to visit with lots to see and do, so check out our guide to seeing the northern lights and everything else this majestic country has to offer.
What Are the Northern Lights?
The northern lights are a natural wonder that can only be seen at night, and they’re the result of solar particles entering the magnetic field of the earth.
As they enter, they ionize higher up, and the intensity of the lights that they create depends on their speed and what the sun is doing.
A glance into the sky while the northern lights are visible will look otherworldly and it’s an experience that you will never forget if you’re lucky enough to see it.
The lights dance and shimmer across the night sky with bright colors of green, blue, purple, pink, and orange and light up everything around them.
What makes these lights even more special is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get to see them, and the solar activity that causes them isn’t always occurring.
Although commonly believed to occur at night, there is a chance that this activity could happen while the sun is out as well, but just not visible to the human eye.
Where in The World Can You See Them?
Northern Iceland is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis, but it’s not the only one.
Although this ranks highly on people’s bucket lists as the place to be, you can also catch the northern lights at these sought-after travel destinations, if you’re lucky:
Rovaniemi, Finland: Visiting Rovaniemi in winter is a magical treat, and if you have kids, they’ll be pleased to know it’s also where Santa Claus calls home. There are lots of places out of the main town to catch the northern lights, as long as you can put up with the cold.
Galloway Forest Park, Scotland: Scotland might not be the first country you think of when seeing the Aurora Borealis, but it should be up there. At Galloway Forest Park, you get a unique experience of seeing the lights with a forest surrounding you, and it’s about 90 minutes out of Glasgow for no hustle and bustle.
Jukkasjärvi, Sweden: Sweden has the right northern proximity and cold weather that the lights love, and you can take your trip to the next level by staying in an ice hotel while you’re there. Although chilly, you get your own warmed room, thermal sleeping bags, and sleepwear to keep you comfortable.
How to Get to Iceland
If you’re an American hoping to get to Iceland to see the northern lights, you’re in luck.
It’s never been easier to travel to the Nordic island as you can fly direct from many of the major airports in the US.
There are multiple flight options, including direct from New York and California, with a maximum flight time of around nine hours.
You’ll arrive in the capital of Reykjavik which is located on the southwestern side of the country, and from there, you can try to spot the lights or head north for some of the best spots for the Aurora Borealis.
The Best Time to Visit
One of the best things about Iceland, when compared to other countries, is that there’s no bad time to visit.
Of course, if your ultimate goal is catching the northern lights, you’ll need to visit during February, March, September, and October when the conditions are right and other factors can align.
Those who want to see a different side of Iceland can visit during summer, and during these months, the country experiences pleasant temperatures and sunlight that’s still shining at midnight.
Hiking is better done in July and August because of the optimal weather, and the range of activities available at this time.
Other Attractions in Iceland
In addition to the wonders of the lights, there are lots of other cool things to see and do in Iceland. Be sure to add these to your itinerary so you can make the most of this special place:
Also known as Fly Lake, this is one of the only places in Iceland where you’ll notice insects.
There are clouds of flies that hang around the lake shoreline, but it doesn’t ruin the experience at all.
At the lake, you’ll find everything from volcanic rock formations to craters, and you can easily spend a day here exploring.
You might not assume that whale watching would be on the cards in a place like Iceland, but as it turns out, it’s one of the best places on earth to do it.
On a guided boat tour, you’ll get up close and personal with beasts like blue whales, minke whales, killer whales, and huge humpback whales, plus lots of cute local wildlife like puffins.
This is the most prestigious spa in Iceland and should be on everyone’s list as a splurge activity.
You’ll experience a range of natural, therapeutic treatments like silica mud, steam stacks, and healing water, which they incorporate into all of their services at the spa.
There are loads of hot springs and hot pools to be found in Iceland and one close by to just about every town.
You’ll witness mud pools, steaming volcanoes, and hot natural springs, thanks to the geothermally active status of this country.
If you like your natural wonders with a bit of drama, the Dettifloss Waterfall is a must-see.
This waterfall is where the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river meets the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon and creates a huge crash. Known as Europe’s most powerful waterfall, you’ll be shocked at just how raging it can be.
The Westfjords isn’t the most popular tourist spot but it should be, offering guests a look at true Iceland culture and history.
While here, you’ll learn about magic, mysticism, and folklore, so it’s a treat for people who love to explore more than just natural sights.
The scenery is breathtaking as well, with cute cottages, bird cliffs, glaciers, and islands covered with puffins, so there’s a lot to see and do.
Light Up in Iceland
As a country with plenty to see and do, you’ll only feel slightly disappointed if you don’t catch a glimpse of the northern lights while you’re in Iceland.
The Nordic island nation has so many natural wonders to behold and a fascinating culture and history, with the Aurora Borealis being a cherry on the top of an already wonderful trip.
Iceland is one of the most desirable tourist destinations on earth, and seeing the northern lights is on many people’s bucket lists.
If you’re considering a visit to this Nordic island country and want to find out more, we’ve got the FAQs that you are looking for.
How Far Is It From USA to Iceland?
The most common route taken from the USA to Iceland is around 5 hours and 40 minutes, so it’s not that far to travel to see the unique country.
This popular route travels directly from New York to Reykjavik, but other options can take longer and last up to 12 hours in travel time.
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive countries for tourists to visit, and it’s hard to cut costs like you can with others.
According to the Numbeo Cost of Living Index, Iceland placed third as the most expensive country in the world to live in, and the costs can be even higher for visitors.
How Many Days Do You Need in Iceland?
To see most of the popular sights in Iceland without being rushed, it’s recommended to spend at least seven days there.
If you can afford it, travel experts believe that staying two to three weeks is even better, but this might be out of the budget reach of some travelers.
Laura Martinez is passionate about traveling, and when she is not on the road or air-bound, she is researching the best information that will help travelers have the best experiences away from their homes. Whether you are more interested in travel education or you want to get the best advice regarding travel items to make your trip more expedient, Laura is the woman to consult. Do yourself a world of and bookmark her website. This is most likely the only place you need to visit for all your travel-related questions.