September to April, approx. 3-4 hours, price: from £175
Join an Aurora expedition with a friendly and knowledgeable guide, and travel out into the darkness in the comfort of a Land Rover Discovery. Leave the main roads and search with a very small group of up to 6 people in search of the lights. The guide will try to take photos of you or your group with the Aurora behind you, and will also offer you help with your own photography. And when you start to feel a bit chilly, Hot Chocolate is served!
Guide price ££ – £100 to £200
It’s also possible to combine the Golden Circle as an evening tour with a hunt for the Aurora, please ask us for more information about this.
How to hunt for the Northern Lights
We suggest that, to give yourself the most chances to see the Northern Lights, we book you on an Aurora hunting expedition from one of our recommended providers on your first available evening in Reykjavík, which will take you away from the lights of the city. Tours, which include a pick-up from your hotel, can be by bus, jeep or by boat, or can be combined with a seafood feast or even a caving expedition. On most of these trips, you should expect to be out until after midnight, and the length of the chase ranges from 3-4 hours to the whole day and evening if combined with other activities or sightseeing.
Seeing the Northern Lights depends on the intensity of the Aurora and the cloud cover and sky conditions, and in general the tours are confirmed or cancelled in the late afternoon each day. Re-booking is offered if a tour is cancelled, and if this isn’t possible a refund is given.
For any Northern Lights hunt, we recommend wearing your warmest clothes and plenty of layers, including hat, scarf, gloves and extra socks. It can be a long night so water and a snack are good to take too.
Please contact us for information about other tours, or to take trips from locations other than Reykjavik.
What are the Northern Lights?
Iceland is an excellent place from which to view the Lights. Named after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn, and Boreas, the ancient Greek personification of the North Wind, they are at their most intense in a circle around the North Pole and are best viewed on the long dark nights between October and March.
So what causes this spectacular natural phenomenon? The solar wind – a stream of electrically-charged particles emitted from the sun at speeds of between 300 and 1000km per second – is the ultimate source of the Northern Lights. They result from collisions between these solar particles and high atmosphere gases. These excite the gases’ atoms causing the release of photons, or light particles.
The Earth’s magnetic field deflects the charged particles but some enter our atmosphere at the poles, where the field is weaker, and an Aurora is formed. It can also be visible at lower latitudes and much excitement was caused when they were seen in parts of the UK in the spring of 2016.
The colour of the lights varies according to the type of gas – oxygen or nitrogen – that collides with the solar particles. Typically they are green, pink and red, yellow and multiple shades of blue and purple. Oxygen produces green or orange-red lights while nitrogen causes them to be blue, purple or red. They may appear static in the sky or highly mobile, swirling and dancing as they are blown about by the solar wind.
There are many stories connected with the Aurora Borealis. Some Inuit people in polar North America believed they were the spirits of the deceased. The ancient Greeks thought they were a predictor of war and disease while the Vikings believed they were the Valkyries riding across the sky.
Related Holidays from Iceland Traveller