There are very few natural phenomena which have the dynamism to keep you spellbound for the rest of your life. Once observed, Aurora Borealis imprints your memory with its multifarious colours which are hard to erase.
A Guide to the Northern Lights in Iceland – Where to Stay, What to Expect
If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience that simply takes your breath away, Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, is it. Here’s what to expect and how to make the most of your Northern Lights experience in Iceland…
What is Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)?
Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights is the greatest light show on earth, caused when electrically charged particles emitted from the Sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as Nitrogen and Oxygen. When different particles collide with different gases high above the Earth, there’s a spectacular show of an array of colours in the sky.
Particles colliding with oxygen atoms create a yellow or green colour through interaction with higher altitude oxygen can cause an all red show in the sky too. Similarly, particles interacting with atoms from Nitrogen are responsible for the more vivid blue and purple lights. Only countries in the tips of the Northern and the Southern hemispheres (such as Iceland) as are blessed with these lights dancing around in the sky.
What to Expect of the Northern Lights in Iceland?
If you ever happen to watch the Northern Lights, it will instantly transfer you into the land of fairy tales. One moment your eyes are relinquishing the lucid green blanket covering the sky which then abruptly gives way to an eloquent purple.
This theatrical show of colours, as if having a mind of its own, then suddenly decides to disappear only to reappear at a different horizon in a more dramatic shape. It might appear in all its glory one night and might not show up at all the next. One attribute that she expects from the travelers is patience.
Aurora Borealis definitely varies in colour and intensity at any given time. Different people with perspectives of their own decipher the shapes in their own way…
Some say it looks like flickering curtains or a dancing Sea-horse or a crescent moon twisting and curling across the sky. The longitudinal extent of this arc of light can be as long as several thousand kilometres, but the width is usually narrow.
How to Make the Most of the Northern Lights in Iceland
So, now that you’ve traveled as far as Iceland and ready to catch a glimpse of Aurora Borealis (which is marked in bold and in capitals in your bucket list), there are a few pointers you need to remember to make sure you have the best experience of viewing these lights.
The first and the foremost rule is to avoid light from any source around you. That means you have to get away from whichever city you are in. The darker the area around you the better the chances of you viewing them in all the prominent colours. If you’re in Reykjavik, Grotto lighthouse is your best bet for catching a glimpse.
The second important factor is the cloud cover. So there could be a spectacular dance show going on in the sky but if there is a thick blanket of cloud over you, forget about it. So always make sure that before you plan your trip, you keep a keen eye on the weather forecast over the region you’re planning to stay.
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Planning the time of the year when you’re going to visit is of equal importance, if not more, to improve your chances of a sighting. The best months for viewing the Northern Lights are August to April with the most intense colours visible in October and April.
These are some useful links which will help in planning your quest for the Northern Lights in Iceland:
- Icelandic Met Office (Shows cloud cover)
- Soft Serve News (Breaks down activity in half-hour increments
Where to Stay to See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Whether you want to experience a unique stay in an igloo, or sleep up high in the tree-tops at a treehouse hotel, there are no shortage of accommodation options throughout Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights.
Here is a list of the best Northern Lights hotels to stay in if you want to enjoy spectacular views of the sky.
The Mythical Lights
In the pre-scientific era, the Northern Lights were a profoundly unsettling experience. Imagine the mystery created by a massive blanket of bright lights up in the sky dancing away to glory or fiercely depending upon how you look at it, made the people in the region uncomfortable. They came up with myriad stories about the Northern lights.
Among the inhabitants, the stories that came up were from their own religious beliefs. Some claim that the lights shine from the armour of war-like virgins riding horses in the sky, while the others say it is a fire bridge across the sky built by the Gods. Native Americans call in the Dance of the Spirits. Some consider it as omens from God.
Some Fun-Facts about the Northern Lights
- The closest the Northern Lights ever came to earth was 80 km above the surface.
- Contrary to common notion, the Northern Lights can be seen even on a full moon night.
- It doesn’t have to be cold to view the Northern Lights; it just needs to be dark.
- The Northern lights are here to stay; they are not going to disappear as claimed by many a click-bait websites.
- So when in Iceland, bundle up, get out of town, stay up late and be patient to tick-off the most significant box on one’s bucket list.
Happy Northern Lights sighting!
Related Reading: Top 10 Best (And Safest) Travel Destinations For Solo Travelers In 2019
Saumya Tiwari works at The Villa Escape – Iceland Packages From India as editor. She is a 20-something fun-loving and ambitious female who loves traveling and loves to share her traveling experiences. She loves solo travel trips. If not traveling you can find her behind her laptop playing games.