The Northern Lights are quite the scene to catch – if you are lucky. I just returned from a week long trip in Iceland, where my primary goal was to catch these beautiful lights that dance across the sky.
Unfortunately, my tour was cancelled every night that I was there because of the overcast and little to no visibility of the sky. But as luck would have it, on my way back from a tour of Southern Iceland, they appeared and my tour guide was so gracious to make a few stops for us to get out and see them.
So how do you catch the Northern Lights in Iceland? The first thing that needs to happen is that there needs to be a completely dark and clear sky. If you are lucky, you will see many colors dancing across the sky in beautiful waves. Second, the time of year is everything – from about September to the middle of April, give or take. It is not guaranteed that you will see them, but the longer you stay in Iceland the better chances you have. The weather clears up eventually.
There is an art in Iceland travel photography when it comes to the Northern Lights. You cannot capture these beauties with just a camera phone.
Photographing the Northern Lights:
A common misconception is that you can just film or photograph these from a phone. In some cases you can – but the reality in most cases is that you need a tripod and you need to set up your camera correctly. Long exposure is going to be crucial in catching this on photo paired with the stillness of the tripod. There are various settings that you will need to work through with your camera to set this up and I would highly advise a tutorial online prior to setting off (if you don’t already know).
There was one person on my entire tour who was able to catch one green ray of light on their phone and everyone with a camera and without a tripod was unsuccessful. If you are just after seeing them and not photographing them – enjoy your time out there, its truly magical.
- You can book a tour here with BusIceland Travel
- Book at the begining of your trip. If your tour gets cancelled you can keep rescheduling for the following day. Do NOT wait until the last day of your trip for this – try early to get the best results
- Tour of the Northern Lights lasts about 3-5 hours as you adventure out for them – there needs to be complete darkness, so plan to stay up late that night
- Current cost for tour is about $57 dollars usd
- Dress warm and bring layers – it gets very cold at night and the winds could make it feel colder
- If it is windy, stay with your tripod – you do not want it to knock over with your camera
Thank you for this post. Some great advice here. Especially about photographing. I got caught out the other day without my tripod trying to photograph something on long exposure. Such an easy mistake to make if you aren’t a pro!
I want to see the Northern Lights! This is the one thing that makes me think it might be better to go to Iceland in the winter. I just got a new camera so I need to brush up on how to do the long exposure shots too.
I have never been during the summer and both times I have gone in the winter have been magical. I would highly suggest the visit. I want to go back this summer and see the country in a new light – do more exploring while there is 24 hours of daylight
Also hoping to go there in July!
Oh wow, these colours are gorgeous!
You caught such lovely shots- really glad you lucked into seeing them in the end! You can also see them in warmer temps in September which is nice, and I saw them by walking to an old lighthouse from Reykjavik one night with friends 🙂
I was so happy to see that you got to see the lights! I traveled up to Alaska a few years back to see them but sadly it was too overcast (I did see them from the plane though, so that was something!). I hope to see them again and maybe it will be in Iceland!
I have seen the northern lights and the one you captured is equally magic! I am glad you finally saw them even you are not really looking for it. And I agree that it is important to have a steady tripod to capture the northern lights.
Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for the longest time! Reading this post just makes me want to go even more! They’re so beautiful.
The pics are wonderful. Its great how you mention that taking a pic of the northern lights with a phone is quite difficult. It would have been quite sad to miss out on some great pics just because we didn’t know. Obviously in that circumstance your suggestion of letting the pic be and just enjoying the magical moment would be very apt 🙂
So cool, love the photos! We were just in Iceland a few weeks ago for the first time, but it rained the entire time and we didn’t get to see the lights :/. But we were lazy and were just hoping to see them from the porch or hot tub of our cabin. 🙂
This is amazing! I’ve always wanted to go there. It really is beautiful. But I guess I have to work on my budget and photography skills right?
Loved reading this post, and more importantly looking at your beautiful photographs! The Northern Lights are something that I have always wanted to see! Truly amazing.
Lucky you! It must’ve been amazing! The Northern Lights are definitely on my bucket list as well
this is just fantastic
I hope I’m going there one day, its just amazing and so fairy