Northern lights hunting can be frustrating but if you’re informed, prepared, and lucky, the rewards are out of this world!
If you’re coming to Iceland during the wintertime, chances are that you’re gonna want to see the good old aurora borealis! On cold winter nights, thousands of people go searching for them, hoping to catch a glimpse.
There are tour companies that will do the research for you and drive you out of the city, and while comfortable, it’s no match to watching the starry sky alone and seeing the colorful lights dancing high above. If you have a car then we definitely recommend that you use it! And if you don’t, then take a tour! At the end of the night, you’ll be looking up into the same sky!
Here is an extremely brief guide to hunting the northern lights!
First things first.
The website that gives you a good estimate of where you can find the northern lights is called vedur.is.
Here is the link for the aurora page, https://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/
There you can see where it’s going to be cloudy (the green spots on the map) and where it’ll be clear (the white areas). So we obviously want the map to be as white as snow so that our chances of seeing the lights are higher!
Then, on the right side of the page, you can see the aurora forecast.
It tells you on a scale of 0-9 how intense the lights will be. We’ve broken it down for simplicity.
1, 2 – Alright visibility, small greenish streak in the sky. It won’t be like the pictures you’ve seen but if you have a good camera you might get a pretty nice photo.
3, 4 – As soon as we hit a 3 that’s when the lights really start kicking it into high gear. They become bigger, more intense, more colorful and they might appear to be dancing. Your camera is going to get a very good photo and you will see them clearly.
5, 6 – Can become incredibly big and will be dancing right in front of you. This is where people usually start crying.
7, 8, 9 – Here the photos you’ve seen online become real life. If you’re lucky enough to be in Iceland when they forecast a 7 or above, make sure not to miss it!
Now, vedur.is is by no means perfect, but it will give you a rough estimate of where you might be able to see the lights and how intense they will be that night.
The next step is getting there. You know there’ll be northern lights tonight, you have warm clothes and you’re ready to go! We have written another blog about driving in Iceland during the wintertime. It’s short and to the point so make sure to check it out.
Simply check where on the map the white areas are and drive there! It’s as simple as that. Usually about 30 minutes away from the city to get away from the light contamination, you don’t need to drive far at all!
If you have a proper camera, make sure to google the optimal camera settings and take the tripod with you.
The newest iPhones from 2021 and onwards should be able to get good photos of the northern lights. If you have a new Samsung, Google Pixel, or Huawei, you should be good. Whatever phone you have, you’ll want a tripod to keep it steady while it takes the photo.
That is honestly all there is to it! Inform yourself about where the northern lights will be on the night you want to see them. Dress well and drive off into the night! It really is as simple as that!