When traveling to Northern Europe, in addition to the ancient architecture and charming scenery, the Northern Lights (or Aurora) is an experience you should not miss. Admiring the strip of light across the sky in the middle of the night creates a picturesque scene, attracting many tourists to explore every year. And Iceland is one of the best places to see the Aurora when you visit Northern Europe.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights (or Aurora) are produced between solar atoms interacting with the Earth's atmosphere. We can see this phenomenon in high latitude countries. The Aurora includes many colors from low to high intensity, from white, green, blue to pink, purple. Green and blue are still the most popular colors.
Time: September to April, the most perfect time is from November to February
Location: Northern Sweden, Northern Canada, Northern Norway, Greenland, Finland, Alaska, Iceland
Conditions to see the Northern Lights: The Northern Lights appear in winter from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., when the sky is clear and cloudless, the moon is not full, and the temperature is above freezing.
Reasons to come to Iceland to see the Northern Lights
Iceland has the coldest winter temperatures in the world, making it the best place to see the aurora borealis. The reason comes from the gulf stream flowing through this country, making winter temperatures in the capital Reykjavik also only a maximum of -15 degrees Celsius on the coldest day.
The conditions for viewing the aurora borealis in Iceland are also ideal due to the sparse population and low light pollution that makes it possible to see the Northern Lights even in the city at high intensity. One good thing about the weather in Iceland is that the wind here is so strong that the clouds are always changing, so the sky will always be clear, perfect for Aurora hunting.
You should keep your body warm by many layers
- Principle of 3 layers: layer close to the body, a layer of wool, and a layer of the windbreak. Wear a few more layers until you feel warm enough.
- Warm gloves: required as the cold outdoor conditions will make you very shivery and unprepared for the photoshoot
- Wool hat: keep your head warm and keep your ears warm because this is where body heat is most easily lost.
- Warm water: it is not superfluous to bring a pot of hot coffee or tea so that the body always regulates and retains heat.
Aurora prediction app
- Basic weather app: check the weather first because if it's rainy, snowy, or cloudy it won't be ideal to go see the aurora, if it's forecasted to be cloudy or snowy that day you should pack a blanket and don't waste time.
- Aurora application checks Aurora intensity: this is a Mechanical application used to check Aurora intensity. If your KP is up to 3, you can track the Aurora. And the application also has a map to track where the aurora bands are moving on Earth. You can download the application at the link.
- DSLR or smartphone camera can take dark photos (you can completely expose with a smartphone but I do not recommend it because the image will not be beautiful and sharp enough)
- Flashlight or flashlight from phone
- Power bank for both camera and phone if you stay long
Book a tour or drive to hunt the aurora borealis
There are 2 ways for you to hunt aurora is to drive or take a tour bus for them to drive you.
My experience has gone both, each has its advantages:
By car: you must know how to drive and you will automatically run to find it if the aurora indicator app's signal is high
Take the bus tour: this will be easier for you, you just need to book the tour on the first day when you arrive, on the day there is no aurora borealis, they will move to the next day until you see the aurora borealis. You will be refunded if you do not see the aurora at the end of your travel plan in Iceland. The bus tour is the ideal choice for travelers who do not know how to drive.
The most ideal place to hunt Icelandic aurora is Akureyri, a mountain peak with clear bands of light, many images such as waterfalls, thunder... It quickly became one of the polar hunting tourist destinations - the most famous optical in the world.
Akureyri is a town in northern Iceland. It is the second-largest metropolitan area of Iceland and the fourth largest. The population in 2017 is 18,800 people.
The Northern Lights Tour departing from Akureyri takes you on an unforgettable journey, hunting for one of nature's most beautiful nighttime wonders. Visible only under certain weather conditions and only in certain areas of the globe, viewing the Northern Lights is considered one of the most unique and memorable experiences.
Your guide will take you on a winter night tour of Northern Iceland, where you'll hear about the beautiful landscapes around you, as well as the best conditions required for the Northern Lights to appear. You'll enjoy hunting for the lights and watching them spread kaleidoscopic colors into the night sky, far from the influence of city lights. The tour will end at midnight, and you'll be dropped off at your desired destination.
Let’s start traveling to Akureyri with us.
Like many other cities in Iceland, Akureyri Tourism is your chance to discover extraordinary natural vistas, and learn more about the unique history and culture of the second most populous city in the country.
What time of year should I go to Akureyri?
With relatively low average temperatures, it's not surprising that the city's peak tourist season falls between June and August when the weather is warmer and more suitable for outdoor sightseeing activities. September is also a good choice if you want to explore the city, because the weather is still quite nice at this time, and the number of visitors has also decreased somewhat.
Means of transportation to and within Akureyri.
The shortest way to Akureyri is to fly from Reykjavik. Therefore, you can completely schedule a visit to both these important cities when visiting Iceland.
In Akureyri, the bus system is the most suitable transportation option for you. Even the inner city bus in Akureyri won't cost you a dime.
Experiences you should have when traveling to Akureyri
Go on a whale-watching cruise
Whale watching is one of the most popular activities for tourists when coming to the Northern part of Iceland. These trips usually last at least 3 hours and you can simply relax on the boat with a hot drink, taking in the vast views of the ocean and the giant whales of all kinds.
Walking around the city botanical garden
This is the highest northern garden in the world, with many of the most typical plants in Iceland and many other continents in the world cared for in excellent conditions, creating a space Green that is suitable for relaxation.
Proudly named God's waterfall, this majestic natural landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and not too far from the city of Akureyri.
Church of Akureyrar Kirja
Like the cathedral of Reykjavik, Akureyrar kirkja has a very unique architecture and is an iconic work of this city.
Go on a Northern Lights hunt
The Northern Lights are a wonderful natural phenomenon that not everyone has the good fortune to see. However, given the geographical location of Iceland and the city of Akureyri in particular, the chance that visitors can see this phenomenon is quite high.
Compared to Reykjavik, the city of Akureyri lies further north and, with only about 20,000 inhabitants, has very little light pollution, which combined with the long nights makes perfect conditions for exploring the Northern Lights. In particular, you can only see the Aurora in winter when it is dark and clear because summer in Akureyri is very bright.
Although the area is not too large, this museum is still a popular attraction because the artifacts displayed here can give visitors a panoramic view of the history and culture of the city and the country Iceland.
The dining experience at Akureyri
A few places where you can enjoy delicious meals when coming to Akureyri is the restaurant Rub 23 – a place that is highly appreciated by many tourists for its friendly atmosphere. Strikið is an upscale restaurant where you can enjoy your meal and enjoy the natural scenery through the restaurant's window.
What COVID-19 Means for Akureyri
All domestic restrictions in Iceland were finally lifted at the end of June 2021, following the delivery of 400,000 vaccination doses and an excellent contact tracing system. This means that visitors can enter all of the architectural sites, shops, museums, galleries, restaurants, and bars without the need for a mask, and tours like whale watching, river rafting, and Diamond Circle sightseeing are all operating normally.
The only difference between now and before the pandemic is that there are far fewer visitors, allowing you to enjoy the attractions and services in greater peace, away from the usual crowds.
Those who have received a full vaccination, those from specific countries, or those who have certification proving that they have recovered from COVID-19 with antibodies recently can now enter Iceland with ease; such travelers only need to fill out a pre-registration form.
Hope you have all the information you need to decide to plan your aurora trip. Let's start now.