The northern lights are some of the most beautiful natural phenomena at the top of many bucket lists. Where are the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland? When is the best time to go? And how will Covid-19 impact my travel plans? Today we answer them and more!
1. When is the best time to go?
You can see northern lights in Iceland from September to April, with the best chances in October to March. Some years you can see them towards the end of August, but the lingering sunlight makes them very faint. And contrary to popular belief, the temperature doesn’t affect aurora activity! You are far more likely to have a better experience the warmer it is, as you’ll be able to stay out longer without feeling like you’re getting frostbite.
2. Where are the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland?
To ensure that you have the best chances of catching the aurora, travel to the Westfjords or North Iceland. These areas have longer hours of darkness and statistically less frequent cloud cover, which means better chances of seeing the aurora. You can also join a guided tour, which runs regularly from September to April. If the tours are canceled for some reason or unsuccessful, you will usually get another tour to see them for free.
But what if you’re only staying in Reykjavik or other parts of Iceland? Not to fret, here are some great places to see the aurora.
The best way to see the aurora in Reykjavik is to find the darkest place possible and wait for your eyes to adjust. Thankfully Reykjavík is quite a spread-out city with many parks, and some great spots to do this is by the Grótta lighthouse in the capital’s northwesternmost point. There is minimal light pollution here, which means that on clear nights with a good forecast, you have a great chance of seeing them.
Or, take a drive to Thingvellir National Park. In the winter months, it’s a popular location to catch the northern lights. The aurora borealis forecast website provides regular updates on the conditions and the best spots to watch, so make sure to check it before heading off!
The most southerly village of Vík is one of the best places to catch the dancing illuminations. Walk along the shore of Reynisfjara, one of the most dramatic black sand beaches in Iceland just next to the small fishing settlement. The basalt columns and sound of the crashing waves provide an excellent backdrop while the night sky puts on its show.
From Vík, you could also continue along the Ring Road to get to Jökulsárlón in the southeast. This glacial lagoon offers a unique landscape to watch the northern lights. The glaciers pick up the glow of the aurora, creating a kaleidoscopic effect.
3. How will Covid-19 impact my travel plans?
The Icelandic border is open to anyone with a valid visa who can provide certificates showing proof of vaccination or Covid-19 antibodies, along with the required negative rapid antigen or PCR test results.
Travelers must register with Icelandic authorities by filling out a pre-registration form before arrival. Foreigners who are subject to a visa requirement must also have a valid visa issued before traveling to Iceland.
Travelers who are fully vaccinated are exempt from the 5-day quarantine and testing upon arrival at the border. However, fully vaccinated travelers without close ties to the Icelandic community or have had confirmed cases of previous infection will need to present a negative Covid-19 rapid antigen test or PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
Vaccinated travelers with strong ties to the Icelandic community will not be required to present a negative Covid-19 test. However, they are required to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arriving in Iceland.
Non-vaccinated travelers will also need to provide a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before entering Iceland. They will also need to further undergo two Covid-19 tests, with a 5-day quarantine between. Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition can choose a 14-day quarantine instead of testing.
For updated information, do refer to this page, which will reflect any changes in Iceland’s Covid-19 policy.