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Tips for seeing the Northern Lights

Seeing the Northern Lights was something that had been on my bucket list for years. So when we visited Iceland in November I knew this was the perfect time to make this dream a reality. We booked a tour and set off in search of this natural wonder. And we got really lucky. We managed to see them and it was so amazing. But it is not always possible to see the lights and there is actually a lot to factor in when searching for them. Here are some tips for seeing the Northern Lights.

They are best seen from September – March

Ok admittedly this is the thing that everyone tells you. Obviously the lights will be visible when it stays dark for longer.

You have to be prepared to stand around and wait….a lot.

We booked a tour that took us out to a national park in Iceland in the pitch black. It was freezing, so cold in fact that we alternated between sitting in the park’s cafe, standing outside and sitting in the bus. You really need to dress appropriately and you need to be patient. About 90% of our trip was waiting and the final 10% was actually seeing the lights.

If you go on an organised tour you stand outside for an hour. Get bored and head into the cafe to get some hot drinks. You wait. Suddenly someone screams “it’s happening” and you run outside with the rest of the tourists hoping to catch a glimpse. You look up and….nothing. It was a false alarm. You go back inside and repeat the process. We recommend booking through Viator a company that we use a lot to book tours.

Be ready to drive around and look for them. On our tour we stopped at a few different locations before arriving at our final one. If the lights won’t come to you sometimes you have to go to them.

Be prepared for the fact you may not actually see them

So many things need to align for you to see the lights. This includes a clear night, and a certain level of darkness. We chose to go on the night we did because the weather forecast was saying clear skies. We were then advised there was a chance we would not see them as the moon way really bright and this would affect darkness levels needed for seeing the lights.

If you want to take photos a simple iPhone will not cut it

All those pictures you see of the Northern Lights were taken with good quality cameras. Unfortunately we weren’t hugely into photography when we saw the lights so we ended up with pictures of black screens on our iPhones. This was something I didn’t realise before we went. In hindsight I was looking to purchase a proper camera anyway so should have invested before the trip.

They don’t look the same to the human eye as they do on camera

All those awesome photos you see won’t necessarily be what you see. A good camera pics up a lot more than the human eye. Another reason to invest in a good quality camera!

They will be one of the most amazing things you will ever see

If everything pans out and you do get to see the Northern Lights then genuinely this will be one of the most amazing things you will ever see. It is a once in a lifetime experience, which serves as a reminder of how beautiful this world really is.

Wondering if Iceland is worth visiting? Here is a helpful guide.

Looking for more Iceland inspiration checkout out these posts.

How to experience Iceland in 4 days

Everything you need to know about visiting the Blue Lagoon

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