Edit: June 8th, 2020 The Golden Circle in Southwest Iceland has for years been one of the more famous routes to go sightseeing in Iceland. The circle includes Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall or Golden Waterfall but that is where the name comes from. However, the Golden Circle has now got…
Before we begin, you need to know what the northern lights are. Solar winds and electrons produce the lights when protons in the magnetospheric plasma enter the upper atmosphere. They are then pushed to the North and South Pole, and their energy is lost there. They are also called the aurora borealis, and there is an equivalent in the Southern hemisphere called the southern lights or aurora australis
The colors of the lights can range from white to green to red, blue, and purple. The intensity of the lights then depends on how big the solar storms are. Sometimes you will only see a tinge in the sky that might seem like light pollution while other times you will not know where to look because the sky is alight with dancing northern lights.
The second thing you need to know is when you will be able to see the lights. Technically, if Iceland would get nights during the summer, it would be possible to see them all year round. However, because of the nifty midnight sun, we can only see them between August and April. However, the time of year is not enough, the skies also need to be clear of clouds, so if it is raining or snowing, you will not be able to see the lights.
But where are the best places?
Places outside of the range of city lights are the best ones. We recommend you check out the northern lights forecast on the Icelandic Met website Aurora Forecast as well.
Here are our favorite spots:
We did say that places outside the range of the city lights were the best spots to see the lights. However, one of our favorite places is within the city limits. Grótta is a part of the town of Seltjarnarnes which is only about a 10-minute drive away from downtown Reykjavík. Grótta is a nature reserve and a popular area amongst cyclists and runners. At the far end of the peninsula is a lighthouse. Since you turn your back towards the city lights, you can get a great view of the lights, the lighthouse, and Mount Esja.
Þingvellir is only about 40 minutes away from Reykjavík but has a great camping ground with all amenities. Park your camper and enjoy the view. Þingvellir is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland and even though it will be dark when you are on the lookout for the northern lights, the lights, when they do show up, will light up the sky just as much as a moonlight. Enjoy the view!
In Southeast, Iceland is the beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which began forming in the early 20th century when Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull glacier, started retreating from the coastline. Today, the lagoon is one of the largest lakes in the country and is the deepest at 248 meters deep. It is not possible to camp by the lagoon, but there’s a camping ground some 40-minute drive away. There usually aren’t many people around the lagoon during the night time in the winter, so sit back and enjoy the show!
On the northern side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, not far away from the town of Grundarfjörður, sits this famous mountain. It is so famous now that it was featured in one episode of Game of Thrones. A small waterfall is not far away from the mountain which gives a great photographic moment, add the northern lights and you have got a winner. It’s also believed to be the most photographed mountain in the world by now.
If you want to know more, check out our Ultimate Northern Lights Guide, where we break down each month and discuss the daylight aspect, aurora frequency, and other factors.
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