Wandering around Iceland in freezing temperatures, searching the skies until 2AM - all to finally see the natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights!
Seeing the Northern Lights has been on our bucket list for quite sometime. This natural phenomenon has been tantalizing us for the past few years, so when we decide to visit Iceland, we knew that we had to try and make a sighting happen.
Although we heard it was possible to see the lights from Reykjavik, our best chance would be to head outside of town, where the lights of the city wouldn't compete. With public transportation not on our side, we decided that the best option would be to book a tour with Viator and let a comfortable coach bus take us around.
Trying to view the lights is a full on hunt. You move around to different locations, stay in one place for what feels like hours, in the freezing snow and the minute you hear there is a sighting in another area, you jump back in the bus and hightail it to the next location. Only to realize you missed the sighting by 5 minutes. But when you do finally see the lights dancing in the sky, it is one of the most rewarding moments. You’r standing calf deep in snow, it’s windy and freezing and then all of a sudden you see green lights dancing in the sky. As quickly as they appeared they disappeared, yet it was one of the most beautiful and frankly coolest things we’d ever seen…and totally worth the frozen toes.
Don’t book the tour on your last night!
We made the mistake of booking the tour on our last night, but fortunately we were able to still see the lights. Phew! At 6:00 PM the tour company will make the decision if a sighting is possible for that evening and alert all hotels, guest houses and concierges. If the weather reports indicate that a sighting will be poor they will reschedule and invite you to try again the next night. Lucky for us, predictions were good.
Even though a positive prediction might be in your favour it’s still not a guarantee. On our tour we did see the lights but only after hunting for about 4 hours and even then, the quality was still pretty poor. Our tour guides offered vouchers for everyone on the trip to come back the next night and try again. Since we were leaving we couldn’t take advantage of the offer, but never less we left amazed and incredibly happy we got see the lights, even though it was only for a few seconds.
Notes & Tips
- If you want to capture the lights on film, DO NOT USE your flash. It just won’t work. For your best chances of capturing the lights on your camera, make sure to bring a tripod as you will be standing under the stars with no light.
- Be prepared to be with a lot of people. We were on a full sized bus and there were about 6-7 other buses in our fleet.
- Dress warmly. I cannot stress this enough! In order to have the best chances of seeing the lights, you will be escorted to the more remote areas of Iceland, where temperatures can get as low as -15 °C. If the tour guides think there is a good chance to see the lights in your location, you might end up waiting for an hour in the cold. So bundle up!
- Although you might be tempted to bring your kids, we don’t recommend it. The tour can last until 2AM and toddlers and infants don’t seem to do to well, when they are up past their bedtime. Several families brought their young ones and they cried and screamed nearly the entire time…it can be a bit frustrating for the other guests.
- Pack snacks. There are times when you will be on the bus for an hour or so at a time and let’s just be honest…snacks are always a good idea! FYI hot food isn’t allowed.
- If you don’t see the lights on your trip or if the quality is pretty poor, you can received a voucher to attend the next night. So don’t book your trip on your last night, in case you need to reschedule.
- Being in a fleet with a few hundred people does have it’s perks. One of the areas we stopped had a cute (and very warm) cafe that re-opened just for our arrival. A cup of hot chocolate never tasted so warm and gratifying….especially after standing in the snow for an hour.
For more information on this tour, make sure to check out Viator's website: