The Best Northern Lights Tour in Iceland
Finding the best Northern lights tour in Iceland is a nice headache to have while you’re visiting the country. There are so many tour operators who offer Northern Light trips in the winter months and you won’t be short of choice once you arrive.
The best time to see the Northern lights in Iceland is between September and April, the activity of the aurora borelis is always there but the winter months bring those idyllic clear and dark skies.
People arrive at Iceland hoping to see the Northern Lights during the height of summer in June and July but the obstacle of the midnight sun phenomena will guarantee a no-sighting for at least a couple of months.
Types of Northern Lights Tours
Large group tours
The biggest provider of Northern lights tours in Iceland send tourists out in their thousands whenever they get wind that the activity is high and the clouds are clear.
The pros of these tours is that they are cheap, offering a trip out into the Icelandic darkness for around £40/$50USD per person and you can go as many times as you like, usually within a year, if you don’t see them.
The large buses sent out by the major tour providers are only able to access certain roads in Iceland and they rely a lot on seeing the lights at accessible locations. The Northern lights don’t show up everywhere in Iceland, all tour providers use official Aurora Borealis and weather resources to determine whether they will go out that night. Your chances of seeing the lights with a larger tour provided are usually slimmer than with smaller group tours who have specialist off-road vehicles.
Guests on the larger tour groups are also responsible for their own photographs, and clearly capturing the lights requires intermediate knowledge and possession of a good DSLR camera as well as a good lens and tripod.
It’s true that iPhone picks up the Northern Lights somewhat but nothing beats invested equipment with the correct settings and knowledge. This is our friend’s picture he took with an iPhone on a large group tour at Þingvellir National Park.
Seeing the Northern Lights yourself
The Northern Lights can be seen in the center of Reykjavik, most commonly at the Perlan, the Sun Voyager statue and the Old Harbor. All three areas are somewhat away from the light pollution from the city and a sighting, as always, would rely on strong aurora borealis activity and clear cloud cover.
Iceland’s advantageous position close to the Northern Lights oval allows visitors to see the Northern lights from anywhere on the island and it is dependent on two factors, the cloud cover and geomagnetic activity.
Hunting for the Northern Lights is effectively hunting for clear skies and this may not be easy on foot in the center of Reykjavik. Hiring a car may give a better advantage but knowledge of accessible roads, reliable weather forecast resources and aurora predicting tools are essential.
Understanding how clear the skies need to be depends on the activity. If the Kp level number is low, the lights are low on the horizon. Kp0 means they are on the horizon, Kp 3-4 means they are overhead in Iceland, Kp 5-9 means they can be seen further South. The Kp level tells more about where on the sky the lights would be seen rather than how strong or vivid they will be.It’s mother nature playing a teasing game, and she does it very well.
We saw the Northern Lights over Reykjavik whilst walking on Snorrabraut at around 3am one night and we weren’t expecting to! She put on a mini show for us as we walked home from a boozy night in the Kiki bar, or maybe we were drunk, who knows, but the sky was convincingly green from both of our perspective!
Small Group Northern Lights tours
Small group tours are the cherry on the icing on the cake for us and it’s the only way we would take a trip out to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Think about it, you’re in Iceland looking for that once in a lifetime opportunity of seeing the famous aurora borealis, a phenomena only visible in a small part of the world. Would you want professional photographs to capture the moment? Taken with heavily invested night photography equipment, as many as you like, at no extra cost, with special effects? The clearest night sky, twinkling stars and shots of you standing beneath your own unique moment underneath the green-lit sky?
The pros of a small group tour are endless. You’d be given an experienced outdoor viking-type of guide who isn’t afraid to drive off-road in the darkest terrain to give you what you want. Guides who provide endless free photographs with their extensive knowledge of DSLR settings, high level lenses and star-gazing? Guides employed by the small group tours work in their job to ensure every single person who attends is given the most memorable experience of their lives, and that’s a fact with the team over at Happyworld.
The only con to a small group tour is the cost, they are slightly more expensive that the large group tours, but take it from us, it’s so worth spending that little bit extra to be taken out in an off-road vehicle, into the deepest and darkest parts of Iceland with a true professional.
How about a tour guide who will teach you stargazing while you wait? Explaining the story of Orion’s belt and the seven sister as well as upcoming supernovas, the milky way and clusters of stars? You’d want to see that too, right?
How about a warming hot chocolate or a nice hot cup of tea in Iceland’s harsh night temperatures and considerate hand and feet warmers as well as the comfort of a super jeep’s heater? And wouldn’t you like to step into a haunted ghost house or even safely beside a 20-foot ferocious North Atlantic wave in the dark as it crashes on cliffs beside you while you wait for the Northern Lights?
We want to share our story on why we wouldn’t go out to see the Northern Lights in Iceland with anyone but Happyworld.
For a start, you know you’re onto a good thing when you see their online chat…
And a ‘family portrait’ of their staff…
Then there’s the initial email where they’ll send a notification by 18:30 on the date of the tour on whether the trip is going ahead or not. If the tour is ON, Happyworld provide useful information which is easy to read and understand, on the satellite imagery, cloud cover, activity forecast, what to wear, who your guide is, what the jeep looks like and details on re-booking.
If the tour is OFF, the mail will explain why and they will provide information on re-scheduling and refunds. If your tour is not running due to the weather, the Happyworld team will send a mail the following day asking if you want to re-schedule. If you’re unable to reschedule, you will be offered a full refund.
If you go on a Northern Lights tour with Happyworld, and you don’t see the lights, they will offer you a Re-try/Re-run. This means you can go on the tour again as many times as you like until you see the lights for free within two years of the first date you tried.
Happyworld cancel 50% of the time due to the weather, the unpredictability of Iceland’s hostile environment is as exciting as it is frustrating sometimes and Happyworld use reliable weather resources to decide on whether or not they will take the group out. When they do decide to take a group out, their sightings rate is an incredible 90%!
All retries are offered on a first come first served basis. The Happyworld team are always happy to help with any queries on their online chat, social media or over the phone. They all speak impeccable English too!
The truth is, Happyworld Iceland are the most persistent and adamant Northern Lights hunters out there, true to their Icelandic blood, and true to their viking heritage, their persistence is present from the moment you meet your guide.
They’re fuelled up and raring to take you out on the adventure that lies ahead, and every time, it’s your own unique and personal experience. The guides will literally not stop until you see the dazzling aurora boralis (nature permitting!).
The Happyworld team have a fleet of two 7-seater jeeps. They also have an extensive range of stargazing and photographic equipment that allow you to capture one of a kind and once in a lifetime photographs.
Watch on as your guide writes a message in the air in front of a long exposure setting and see how it looks on the captured photograph there and then. They’ll write any message you like and they’ll even feature you in the background. Imagine a marriage proposal like this, or the mark of an anniversary, the Happyworld team will accommodate your every need.
Enjoy the story of the stars as the Happyworld guide points to the sparkles of the night sky with an advanced star gazing laser and a professional telescope aiming at the most interesting features.
Sometimes, when your guide is high on adraneline, they’ll forget how to write backwards…
Maybe a couple of times, but they will get there in the end…
The investment in equipment made by Happyworld ensures that you will have fun even while you are waiting to see the Northern Lights.
Our Northern Lights Trip
We literally had the best two nights of our lives when we booked the Northern Lights and Stargazing Tour with Happyworld.
The first night, we didn’t see the lights due to stubborn cloud cover but we stargazed once the clouds broke and our guide, Þröstur, gave us the option of being safely hit by the tip of a 20 foot wave, in the pitch black on Iceland’s hostile coastline. Of course we said yes, and it was one of the most liberating and frightening experiences of our lives. We felt the ground rumble as the waves crashed against the perfectly sliced cliffs beside us and we got a little bit wet! We also saw the milky way during a deliciously clear breaking of the clouds.
One of the best things about Happyworld Iceland is that no two nights are ever the same on the Northern Lights tour. The locations differ most times and the fun had while waiting for the lights will always bring a smile to our faces and we left for our guest house in the early hours of the morning with a heart full of memories.
Space is full of interesting surprises and stories, we saw three shooting stars while we waited for the lights to show. Instead of staring aimlessly at the sky hoping for something to happen, Happyworld will make sure you’re not bored or cold while you wait.
On the second night of our tour, Þröstur was very excited that we were going to his favorite Northern Lights hunting location at the ‘Ghost House’.
The haunted house is located at Vatnsleysuströnd and there’s a remarkable legend on one of the approaching roads that had us spooked as soon as we drove on one of the smaller roads. Þröstur told us there were many reported sightings of a ghostly young girl who was barely clothed and she’s appear distressed. Several drivers claimed to have picked her up on the road to take her to safety and when they looked around inside the vehicle, she had disappeared.
So yes, we were pretty freaked out at this point already, the roads were pitch black, nothing but twinkling stars and the jeep’s headlights.
Then we pulled up at the haunted house, and nobody wanted to get out of the car. Seriously, it was creepy, and cold and nobody wanted to see the spooky distressed girl by the side of the road.
This haunted derelict house that sat in the middle of the Icelandic darkness, off road, and in complete isolation.
After waiting for the lady aurora to show up for a while, and a little more stargazing, Þröstur offered the group the chance to head into the house to hear another spooky story.
Half of the group remained in the car and the remaining brave warriors of the Icelandic night headed up to the top floor of the house, with minimal light, to hear a bone chilling story of what happened at the ghost house many years ago.
The story started with a widower, who once lived in the house with her husband. After her husband passed, she allegedly disappeared without a trace. Some young kids visited the house many years later in more recent years and they were said to have conjured her up after looking for a night of adventure.
The ghost house was incredibly dark, cold, and super spooky with an eerie noose collection and the noticeable presence of ‘666’ dripping on the wall.
If your Happyworld guide tells your group that are going to the ghost house, be very excited and prepared for an incredible once in a lifetime experience. We haven’t stopped talking about it since we left Iceland!
After the successful tour, and a night of not sleeping because you still have adrenaline running through your veins, Happyworld will send you a link to the photographs taken on the night. There may be up to 200 photos from one night on the tour so be sure to look through and download the ones you like.
The beauty of the Happyworld Northern Lights tour is the mystery of where your group will end up on the mission of finding the lights. The guides are friendly, persistent and if the lights are there, they will do everything they can to find them, on or off-road. You will be able to keep the photographs taken from the night forever.
Happyworld offer an amazing collection of tours from the Golden Circle, Buggy tours and the South Coast to Paragliding and Snowmobiling.
For more information and to book your Northern lights tour, go to the official Happyworld website.
Like the best Northern Lights Tour in Iceland? Pin it!
Have you experienced a trip with Anita’s Happyworld or would you like to know more? Share your experiences in the comments below!