Northern Lights

Is seeing the Northern Lights on your bucketlist? Then Mývatn is right place to make that happen! Tag #VisitMyvatn

When this „art of nature“ illuminates the sky with spectacular displays of green, purple, pink, even red, our hearts jump with joy over the chance of exploring and experiencing with our customers for 8 months out of the year. Just imagine standing in the cold dark night, not a sound to be heard. The wind barely moving a strand of hair, and the sky is flaring with colors of green and purple.
Northern Lights Dimmuborgir Mývatn

The first question we get when we meet our fellow spectators is ‘What are the Northern Lights and what causes them?’ and our first response is normally:

“The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.” (Aurora Center)

But the best explanation is from Finland where it was believed that the lights were caused by a fox who ran so quickly that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky creating the Northern Lights. Indeed, the Finnish word for the Northern Lights “revontulet” translates literally as “fire fox”. Not necessarily correct, but a good story, and you should never ruin a good story with the truth…

Why go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights?
If you really want a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights, come to Iceland. There are several reasons for that. First of all there are several tours, holiday packages and short breaks available that focus on hunting the Northern Lights.  Iceland also has the infrastructure to welcome you wholeheartedly. Secondly, Iceland is perfectly located. We are middle of the zone that offers the best changes to see the Northern lights, between 65° and 72° Latitude North.  Finally we have the correct weather here, you may not believe it but it is often very favorable towards Northern Lights spotting, but more on that later.

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon beyond our control.
To witness the Northern Lights you will need four things to be in order. You need to be relatively close to the North Pole, you will need a dark night and you will need relatively clear skies, clouds don’t necessarily mean no sightings. Finally you will need some sort of solar activity and solar winds, but as we said before the Lights are caused by a collision of particles from the sun with gaseous particles from the earth. But the fact is however that the Northern Lights are unpredictable. We’ve had clear nights following a very active solar phase but seen absolutely nothing and then sometimes following very low solar activity the sky has turned green.

Northern Lights Herdubreid Mountain Mývatn

How do I make sure I will see the Northern Lights?
There is no worldly guarantee that you will see the northern lights on your trip to Iceland, for they are beyond human control. But we can plan a holiday were the chances are very good, up to 90-95% chance if you stay for 5 nights. If you spend one night in Iceland and expect to see the lights we would call you an optimist, but the chances increase with every night spend here. And don’t wait until the last night of your Iceland visit to go out on the hunt, try the first night, and then try again if nothing is happening, or if you want to see them again. We also recommend to everyone to plan their Northern Lights holiday not just for the Northern lights, but also go for a destination that has more to offer. This means that when on your holiday you should look at the Northern Lights as a perfect and desirable bonus to a great trip to where ever you go. 

Reykjavík City or North Iceland?
You should always try for the Northern Lights in Reykjavík. All international flights arrive in Reykjavík and visitors of Iceland almost always need to stay 1 or 2 nights in the capital. And as we said before, when on the hunt for Northern Lights, start straight away to not miss the ever evasive Northern Lights. The chances of spotting the Northern Lights are slightly better in North Iceland for several reasons. The area is receives less precipitation then other in Iceland and has less cloud coverage on average. The area is also less populated and has larger inhabitated areas and less light pollution from towns and villages. Sel Hotel by Lake Mývatn, a popular destination in our tours, conducted a research of visibility and found that the likelihood of spotting the Northern Lights went from 41% for one night in the area to 71% for three nights. The situation is similar in Akureyri and Eyjafjörður Fjord area. If you are staying in Reykjavik and have no luck spotting the Northern Lights, you have the option of visiting North Iceland for a day or two, it could be worth the while.

Northern Lights Mývatn

Happy spotting from Team Saga Travel