Because the Northen lights are just so amazing, we want to help you hunt them
Photo by Sean and Molly Busby of the Busby Hive (featuring one of our Group F Subarus)
Some of you might be coming to Iceland just to see the Northern lights and it would be a shame if you would miss them during your time here. So, we decided to comb the internet for some tips and tools from travelers to better your chances of catching them. Plus we added a couple of tips on our own.
I wrote a blog about hunting the Northern lights in Iceland using the Icelandic met office Aurora borealis website. I recommend you read that blog as well before going on your hunt as it has a lot of useful tips and tools!
Aurora borealis world forecast
Researchers have discovered that Aurora activity occurs in roughly 11 year cycles. Scientists at Nasa have predicted that December 2013 is the peak of the current cycle which means that we should have some awesome Northern lights this winter with strong sightings also in the winter 2014/2015! So get over here to see them in action!
Northern lights hunting tips from real travelers
A lot of tourists and travelers have shared their own experience with hunting the Northern lights in Iceland. So we asked ourselves, who better to give advice then people that have been in your position and found the lights! Check out the tips we found.
Have your own rental car! If this is not an option then hitch a ride with other Northern lights seekers. This way you will be much more flexible on your hunt. People that have a rental car often want to fill empty seats in their car to share the cost so check for ads on message boards in your hostel or guesthouse. You might get lucky and make some new friends on the way. If you do find the Northern lights the memories you have shared will last you a lifetime.
Giulia Cimarosti of the Travelreportage.com searched in the countryside but finally found the Northern lights in Reykjavik! Her tip is to go to Grótta lighthouse about 5 minutes from downtown Reykjavik. This is perfect for people that have little time. So if you have checked the likelihood for Aurora activity and the chances for Reykjavik are good, this spot is perfect.
Giulia, as well as lots of other bloggers, also recommends Þingvellir national park, about a 30 minute drive from Reykjavik. The beautiful scenery and Lake Þingvallavatn are the reasons for the location tip, the Northern lights reflect in the water making the show even more spectacular. I think this is a great tip that applies to any body of water, try to find a spot with an ocean or a lake view when you are picking your spot.
A final word from Giulia is to be patient, ready to wait and prepare for sleepless nights.
Wonderful photos by David L. Smith, of the Malarrif lighthouse and by Mt Kirkjufell respectively, both located in Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Nigel Tisdall of the Telegraph offers a few tactics to improve the chances of a good sighting. His tips are: "It helps to pick dates that avoid a full moon and to visit locations away from the light pollution caused by large settlements. Good weather is also crucial, but this is harder to predict. Local conditions can vary wildly, with sensational sightings at one spot but thick cloud just a few miles away. One solution is to go for as many nights as you can spare, and to visit more than one place.“
Sophie from Hostelbookers.com has a couple of great location tips. She suggests you head for a geothermal pool and combine the possible viewing of Northern Lights with a midnight swim. Since most towns in Iceland have a swimming pool and many of them are open until 22.00 (10pm) or 23.00 (11pm) this sounds like an excellent idea.
GuidetoIceland.is offers some great location tips as well. One cozy spot is the comfort of your car at the old harbor in the town of Borgarnes with little fishing boats floating around. Or from a little town called Álftanes (15 minute drive from Reykjavik) where you have a view over the bay and the city of Reykjavik.
From reading various comments online I would like to add one more tip: Prepare for the disappointment of not seeing the Northern lights! This is a big one as Iceland has been presented as a place where you can pretty much look up in the sky and they will be there. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case as the right conditions have to occur and there cannot be clouds in the sky. We would love to be able to turn them on but it is better to prepare for the worst....but hope for the best!
Buy a tour and enjoy the ride while someone hunts for you
If you don´t have a rental car and haven´t found travel companions you can always buy a tour to see the Northern lights. There is a selection of all kinds of tours; bus, super jeep, boat tours, horse riding and glacier hiking to name just a few. We can book your tour at our own SADcars free booking site or at our partners' Bus hostel site.
One last tip: book your Northern lights tour date on the first days of your vacation in Iceland. Most tour operators let you come back for free if you do not see them the first time so if you book it early, you will be able to go again and again, increasing your chances.
We would love to see photos of successful hunts. Please share Northern lights photos with us using the hashtags #sadcars and #northernlightsicelandhunt.
We hope you get to see the Northern lights, they are fully worth all the effort. And who knows, maybe they will boogie for you.