How to See and Capture the Northern Lights in Iceland

My local tips on how to see the Aurora Borealis with your own eyes as well as tips on how to best capture the moment through photography

Ása Steinars


Learn everything you need to know to help you increase the chances of having a safe and successful Northern Lights viewing experience in Iceland.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

You can only see the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, when the nights are dark enough. Since we in Iceland only get 4-5 hours of daylight during the winter, that gives us endless of opportunities to hunt for the northern lights. The best time to see them in Iceland is therefor when the nights are the darkest, which is between November and January. Having said that if you come well prepared you can still see them all through September and April when the nights are dark enough.

What are the best conditions to see the Northern Lights?

  1. Strong Solar Activity: Northern lights are the result of solar particles entering the earth's magnetic field and ionizing high in the atmosphere. The Kp-index forecast is the measurement unit used to indicate the level of activity. Anything above 3 is a really high chance of you getting a great northern lights show. You can go to Aurora Forecast or use the Aurora App to check out the forecast.
  2. Clear skies: The best way to spot the ideal place to find clear skies is to look at the aurora forecast on cloud covers from the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

What is the best way to photograph the Northern Lights?

To get the very best images, I would say that it is preferable to have a full-frame or 35 mm DSLR camera with decent ISO capabilities (ideally between 2,000 and 12,800). I advice you to not forget to have a solid casing designed for harsh weather conditions. I highly recommend to have Wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses. The best lenses for Northern Lights photography will have a large aperture of f/2.8 or lower, since the standard f/4 will result in darker photographs.

The essential northern lights photography equipments are:

  • DSLR Camera
  • Wide-angle or Ultra-wide angle lens
  • Tripod - a sturdy tripod that won’t shake or slip
  • Shutter Release - helps to avoid camera shake

How to maximise your probability of seeing the Northern Lights?

If you really do not want to miss the Northern Lights while in Iceland, we recommend going to the Aurora Basecamp . We are convinced that they will increase the chance of you getting a positive experience of the northern lights during your stay in Iceland. Many of their clients, after having no luck hunting for the aurora on their own, have expressed the opinion that they wish they had visited the Basecamp at the start of their trip so they would have had a better idea of what to look for. This is why I strongly recommend visitors to go at the very beginning of their visit to Iceland. With their help you will be able to see better in the dark and learn helpful tricks like always look to the North and never into the light of your phone. If you are interested in going, you can use REXBY10 for a 10% discount.

To find ideal spots for Northern Lights Photography, check out my adventure map of Iceland!