Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland and Norway



One of the most amazing natural splendour has to be the Northern Lights.

The Northern lights are also known as Aurora Borealis.The Northern Lights are bright dancing lights which are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora australis' in the south.

Aurora appears in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

The best places to see the Northern Lights are from Iceland and Norway, however not from all places in the country you will get a good view of the Northern Lights. This blog post will cover the best places and will detail how you can increase your chances of seeing the light.

What to Expect?

One word of caution before you start chasing Northern Lights. Northern lights which you see from Norway or Iceland is a natural phenomenon on which you have no control. So if you are planning to visit these places only to see Northern Lights then drop the plan now. You should keep in mind that you are going to enjoy Iceland or Norway and if you happen to see the Northern Lights its an add-on.
There have been instances when people have returned from Iceland or Norway without seeing an iota of Northern lights.

The Northern lights are active for 2-3 days and then vanishes for 5-7 days and sometimes even longer. So longer you stay in Iceland or Norway the higher are the chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

Now since you know what to expect let's look at how can you make the best from your trip to Iceland or Norway so that chances of viewing the Northern Lights increases.

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When to Go?

The northern lights activity start from mid-September and goes on still mid-April.
Basically, to see Northern lights you need clear skies and dark areas. Since it is mostly found during winters hence it is said that the best time to watch the Northern Lights in Iceland & Norway are during the winters.

As I said earlier there is no specific time or date when you can see the northern lights in Iceland or Norway, it depends on how lucky you are and are you chasing the Northern lights scientifically which increases the chances. So you have to predict the Northern Lights based on the atmospheric conditions. There are many websites & apps which you can use to predict the northern lights. I am putting down my favourites ( these are not sponsored and are handpicked) :




While searching for the prediction in the app look for something called as KP Index. This KP Index denotes the probability of seeing the Aurora and how strong it will be. The Kp index has values from 0 to 9 ( 0 being the weakest and 9 being strong geomagnetic storms with extremely good visibility of Aurora or Northern Lights). If you are seeing a Kp Index between 2-4 don't get disheartened at all as Northern Lights are seen 90% of the time when the Kp index is between 2-4 and rarely only 2-3% of the time the Kp index reaches 7-9.

The best time to watch the Northern Lights is between 12am-2am/3am, however, this is an indicative time and the sighting completely depends on the occurrence of the natural phenomenon.

What to Pack?

During winters the temperature can go below  -10°C and if you are not carrying the right garments soon your trip can get spoilt.
While wearing dresses ensure you layer it so that it can keep you warm.
Carry Heavy Jackets, Scarfs, Gloves, Waterproof Shoes, Woollen Socks. Open your wardrobe and take out all the woollen clothes that you have and carry it during your trip.

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Cost of Travelling to Chase Northern Lights?


Travelling to Iceland and Norway to chase Northern lights is not going to be cheap. The cost of travelling is higher than most of the countries in Europe.

Accommodation: You need to budget at least $80-$120 per night for rooms in a hotel. If you are planning to stay in a hostel then reduce the cost by another $20-$40 per night.

Food: If you are not planning to eat out in sit down restaurant then the average cost of meal will be around $15-$25 or if you are planning for a sumptuous meal at a restaurant then expect to pay $30+ per course of meal

Transporation: For local transport budget around $10-$20 to be on safer side. 
If you are taking day tours then the average cost of the tour will be approximately $ 50-$100.

Hence keeping an average budget of $ 100-$120 per day should be enough.Keep in mind that if you are only travelling to Iceland the cost will be much cheaper and average cost will come down to $70-$100 per day.
Best Places to see the Northern Lights?

While chasing the Northern Lights you can't have a set itinerary as the place and duration of stay will depend on the occurrence of the Aurora. However suggest you to spend minimum 2-3 days in a place to increase the chances of sighting the Northern Lights and yes remember what I said in the beginning, you are going there to visit the place and viewing Northern Lights is an add-on.

So keeping the same in mind we will suggest you an itinerary so that you can not only enjoy the places but also get a higher chance to watch the Northern Lights.

We are breaking up places into two countries i.e. Norway & Iceland so that if you want to travel to a single country and soak up the culture you can do so.

We will cover the itinerary of Iceland and Norway in detail in the country-specific Itinerary posts.

Iceland : 



The following are the places in Iceland from where you can see the best Northern Lights :
  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Grotta, Iceland
  • Vik, Iceland
  • Seltjarnarnes ( Reykjavik Area), Iceland
  • Thingvellir, Iceland
  • Threngsli, Iceland
  • Jokulsarlon, Iceland
  • Hvitserkur, Iceland
  • Kirkjufell, Iceland
  • Skogar, Iceland
You should start with Reykjavik and plan at least 3 nights here as the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are relatively higher. Depending on the Aurora predictions you can move to other places in Iceland.

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Norway:



The following are the places in Iceland from where you can see the best Northern Lights in Norway :
  • Tromso, Norway
  • Alta, Norway
  • Narvik, Norway
  • Senja, Norway
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Svalbard, Norway ( This is an archipelago in Norway and you have to go by flight or cruise)
Start with Oslo and stay there for 1-2 days and take a flight to Tromso. There are many places near to Tromso from where you can see the Northern lights. The chances of seeing the Northern Lights from Tromso are much higher as it is closer to the North Pole.

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