22 Photos of the Aurora in Iceland

22 Photos of the Aurora in Iceland

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The Northern Lights above snow-covered lava fields and majestic mountains.

See a selection of wonderful photographs that capture the magic of the northern lights throughout Iceland.

These beautiful pictures by renowned nature photographer Iurie Belegurschi are a wonderful example of how the aurora borealis is one of the most incredible things you'll ever see. 

Also known as the northern lights, they appear above the planet's magnetic poles when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with the Earth's atmosphere, creating dancing displays of green, red, purple, and blue. 

We hope we see you under the aurora in Iceland next winter. Enjoy the pictures!

These celestial phenomena make up the top of the bucket list for countless amount of people from all over the world, wishing to behold their incredible beauty. When the earth is covered with a blanket of white snow, the green of the lights strikes out with an otherworldly appeal. 

The Northern Lights Above the Coast in Iceland

The green of the lights reflecting in the blue of the lake below.

The lights are always there, but you can only see them when the sky is dark. Because of Iceland's midnight sun during the summer, the time for northern lights is usually restricted to the winter months of September until April.

The Northern Lights at Thingvellir National Park

A particularly starry night with the Northern Lights appearing like a cosmic sunrise by the horizon.

Besides darkness, for the lights to appear, optimal weather conditions are needed since the sky should be clear. From then on, it's all up to the sun's magnetic activity. You can check the forecast of the strength of the aurora's visibility at the aurora forecast.

The Northern Lights Over a Farm in Iceland

The Northern Lights above an old turf house church in rural Iceland.

Although the lights can be seen anywhere in the country, including from the capital city of Reykjavik, the sky becomes the optimal canvas when there's no light pollution to be found. Besides, going somewhere rural provides the perfect backdrop for phenomenal photography—and a solitary moment with the cosmos. 

The Northern Lights Over Iceland's Ring Road

A lonesome, snowy road leading to infinity and beyond.

Remember to look up from your lens from time to time when hunting for the aurora to remind yourself of the infinity of the universe. In the words of the one and only Carl Sagan: "The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time, we are becoming a part of it."

The Northern Lights Above a Geothermal Area

The fog of the lake creates a mystic atmosphere for this stunning photograph of the Northern Lights.

It gets mightily cold during the Icelandic winter, so remember to dress warmly when you plan on spending time in the great outdoors to gaze up at the night sky. For the optimal northern lights excursion, a fantastic tip is to bring a thermos of piping hot chocolate or coffee. 

The Northern Lights Above Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

The Aurora dancing above the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Iceland not only boasts wonders up in the sky but also down below. Here you see a photograph shot by the fantastical Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in South Iceland, where icebergs from Europe's largest ice cap Vatnajokull have broken off to float together in a beautiful lake by the South Coast.

The Northern Lights Above a Snowy Mountain

Bright green Northern Lights with hues of red and pink

Who says you have to go hunt for the northern lights alone? According to our highly scientific research, there are hardly any ideas more romantic than leaving the city lights behind and going to hunt for the aurora with that special person, so bring a date—and enjoy a night out together the two of you will never forget.

The Northern Lights Form a Rainbow

Here we see a very different kind of Northern Lights formation.

Although their most common color is green, the lights sometimes boast purples, blues, pinks, and reds. These are, however, rarer and only appear if the activity of the lights is especially strong. So if you catch pink or purple auroras, know that you are one of the lucky few.

The Northern Lights Over an Icelandic Lake

Aurora in strong pink over a snowy Icelandic landscape.

If you haven't made your way to the edge of the Arctic as of yet and have only seen the northern lights in photographs, know that they're far from static. In fact, depending on their activity, they dance wildly across the sky. For an idea of their hypnotic movements, take a look at this video of the aurora waltzing over Jokulsarlon.

The Northern Lights Above Iceland's Highlands

With the right camera and clear skies, you can capture the milky way along with the Aurora.

Since the northern lights need clear and dark nights to appear, that means when the lights are out, the stars are out as well. With the right camera equipment, you might catch the lights coiling themselves around the Milky Way.

The Northern Lights Above an Icelandic Mountain Range

If you want to learn the ropes from local experts, there are specialized photography tours available that function as workshops.

If the night in question is still enough, you can see the northern lights of the sky reflected in a body of water below, creating a mirror image like none other. There are plenty of scenic lakes to be found all over Iceland for such a mystical display. 

  • For information and pictures on the lakes of Iceland, see this article: Lakes in Iceland 

More Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

If you capture the lights through clouds, the shot becomes even more special and layered as a result.

If the activity of the lights is strong enough, a few clouds actually don't hinder them from appearing. So if you notice a few veils in the sky before you head out on your hunt, don't let it stop you—since you might still get your lucky shot.

The Northern Lights in the Westfjords

The Northern Lights in the desolate Westfjords; Iceland's oldest terrain.

Traveling the Icelandic Westfjords in winter is not for the faint of heart, but the scenery at hand is unique and desolate in the most stunning of ways. This shipwreck nests in Patreksfjordur fjord, providing a gorgeous backdrop for a northern lights photo. If daring the journey, make sure you rent a 4x4 vehicle.

The Northern Lights Over the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

The eerie allure of the black church at Búðir on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

The historical monument that is the black church at Budir is another example of an ethereal backdrop, as seen in this shot of the northern lights. The furthest tip of these auroras hovers over the twin peaks of Snaefellsjokull glacier and National Park, one of Iceland's three magnificent National Parks. 

You can find the Búðir Church on the Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, along with countless other historic and natural wonders.

Even More Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

A beautiful shot of the Northern Lights dancing above the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on the island's South Coast.

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is but one of the incredible sites to be found near Skatafell Nature Reserve. Both are part of the greater Vatnajokull National Park, the most recently created and largest National Park in the country. 

The Northern Lights Above Iceland's Golden Circle

Due to the high exposure of the lens used, the lights at the farmstead shine particularly brightly in this shot.

This photo was captured at Thingvellir, not only the country's third and final National Park but also a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site. This magical valley was home to Iceland's very first legislative body, the Althingi, where lawmakers of the past would gather to discuss legal matters and settle their bloodiest family feuds. The Althingi continues today in Reykjavik, almost 1,100 years old.

The Northern Lights Over Icelandic Buildings

Picture of the Northern Lights in the continental rift valley Þingvellir in South Iceland.

Thingvellir is located in a continental rift valley, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Rift. It's the literal conjunction of two worlds, and only more beautiful with the northern lights dancing above.  

The Northern Lights Over Iceland's Glaciers 

One of the allures of the glacier lagoon, the same as with the Aurora, is you never get the same shot twice due to their constant changing.

All three National Parks are the ideal backdrops for aurora photography, with few buildings and thus very little light pollution; they all also boast spectacular landscapes.

The Northern Lights in Iceland's Skies

Pointing the camera upwards to capture the lights and nothing but the lights.

FAQ's about Photographing the Northern Lights

Want to see the northern lights yourself? Have you always wanted to photograph them? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the northern lights, which can help you out!

When is the best time to see the northern lights in Iceland?

The optimal time to see the northern lights in Iceland is during the winter months, from late September to early April when the nights are the longest. The sky has to be clear of clouds, and activity has to be high. Make sure to check out the Icelandic aurora forecast before going out to hunt for them.

Where are the best locations in Iceland to see the northern lights?

Look for places away from city lights, like Thingvellir National Park near Reykjavik, that offer dark skies for optimal aurora viewing.

Can I see the northern lights in Reykjavik?

When activity is strong and the skies are clear, it's possible to see the northern lights in Reykjavik. It's not ideal due to light pollution, and for the best experience, it's best to head to the outskirts of the city or nearby countryside. The skies will be darker, and the aurora can be seen more clearly and vividly.

Can I photograph the northern lights with my smartphone?

While smartphones with good cameras may capture the northern lights, the image quality will likely be limited. For best results, use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with adjustable settings.

What equipment do I need to photograph the northern lights in Iceland?

To capture great photos of the northern lights in Iceland, you'll need a proper camera with manual settings and a tripod to stabilize your shots. A fast, wide-angle lens is also typically required. It's also a good idea to bring warm touch-screen gloves so you can adjust camera settings without removing them.

Do the northern lights in Iceland look like the photos in real life?

When the northern lights are at their strongest, they can look like northern lights photographs to the human eye. However, it's more common for them to appear more muted and pale. Cameras, especially when set to long exposure settings, can capture and enhance colors and details that might be faint or even invisible to the human eye. The colors, brightness, and visibility will vary greatly depending on factors like solar activity, weather conditions, and location.

We hope you enjoyed these magnificent photographs of the natural phenomenon that is the northern lights. Now, all there is left for you to do is get out there and collect equally stunning shots of your own. Iceland looks forward to your visit!

Where would you go to see the northern lights in Iceland? Would you go on a northern lights tour or get a rental car? Have you seen the northern lights before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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