This post (probably) contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links, and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking through one. This is at no extra cost to you and allows the site to keep running! Thanks for understanding.
I booked myself a solo trip to Iceland at the end of November in 2022. My only goal was to see the Northern Lights and, despite their unreliable nature, I was lucky enough to see them two out of three nights.
So if you’re thinking about booking a trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, then I have some tips to share with you. Keep reading to discover the best Northern Lights tour in Iceland, exactly what happens on the tour and my best tips for seeing the lights during your stay.
Everything You Need to Know About Seeing The Northern Lights in Iceland
My Top Tips For Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland
Here are my top tips for seeing the Northern Lights on your trip to Iceland. Make sure to keep them in mind when booking your tour.
- Book your Northern Lights tour for the first night of your stay. That way, if the lights don’t show you will be automatically booked on a tour for the next night.
- Do not book an early departing tour for the next day. The Northern Lights tours run late, think 1-2am return time, so the last thing you need is a 6am pick up time for your tour the next day.
- The best time to see the lights is between September and April.
- Make sure to wrap up warm. Layers are key as the bus will be nice and toasty, but when the lights appear you’ll want to be outside in the freezing Iceland night for long periods of time. Gloves are an absolute essential, ideally the kind that still allow you to touch a phone/camera screen.
- If you’re serious about getting some great photos of the lights you’ll need to bring a tripod for stability when using long exposure. Make sure to get familiar with your camera/phone settings before the trip.
- Book a small group tour or a private tour for a more personal experience and less strangers getting in the way of your photos.
- You can check the aurora forecast on this website which tells you the likelihood of the lights appearing.
- The Northern Lights aren’t always obvious, sometimes they can simply look like a slight colour difference in the sky. However, your phone/camera will bring up the bright greens and purples that are really there. It takes a minute to get your eye in, but then they become very clear.
- Patience is a virtue. Some nights you might need to drive around for hours before you see the lights, but rest assured that it will be worth it in the end.
My Northern Lights Iceland Tour Experience
I booked my tour with East West via the Reykjavik Sightseeing website. The tour is a small group tour with a maximum of 15 people. I didn’t want to book a big coach tour for something like the Northern Lights because I didn’t want crowds of people in my way.
The tour offically starts at 9pm in November but hotel pick up starts 30mins before that so you need to be ready at 8.30pm. The tour lasts around four hours. I got back to my hotel around 1.30am, exhausted and delighted that I hadn’t booked an early tour for the next morning.
During my tour our driver told us about the history of Iceland as he hunted for patches of clear sky where the lights might shine through. He had a radio to communicate with other drivers in case one spotted them in a certain area. In my opinion the chase added an extra layer of excitement and anticipation.
When we found a spot when the clouds cleared our driver pulled in and let us off the bus. While we took our photos the driver prepared hot chocolate and kleina (Icelandic doughnuts) for us.
The driver even set up a tripod and and got some photos for us. However, on the night I went it was so windy that the tripod wouldn’t even stay steady so, unfortunately, the photos were a bit blurry.
Some people got a bit impatient because it took us a couple of hours to find the lights, but personally I thought that was stupid. Did they expect the lights to just put on a show the minute they stepped foot on the bus? I don’t think they had done any research on how tricky finding the lights can be.
I would say that the Northern Lights tours are not ideal for small kids, mainly because of the hours that they take place and the patience that they require. There were a couple of small children on my tour and they were clearly very tired and fed up by the end.
Would I Recommend Visiting Iceland to See The Northern Lights?
I would 100% recommend visiting Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Yes, of course, Iceland is expensive, but it is worth every cent. You only need a few nights (I recommend three) to see them and if you book a flight + hotel combo deal with Iceland Air it can be relatively budget-friendly.
Seeing the Northern Lights had been on my bucket list for so long that I was a bit emotional when I finally got to see them. Sure the waiting can be frustrating, but when they appear it is truly magical!
Want to learn more about Iceland and things to do in Iceland? Then check out some of my other Iceland articles;
Sign Up to My Email List