When should you see the northern lights?
The northern lights are actually active year-round but near impossible for the human eye to see during summer, when skies at northern latitudes aren’t dark enough. Aurora-viewing season in Iceland is typically September through April, as the skies are darker for longer, giving you more opportunities to catch the aurora.
Dark skies make up just half of the equation, however—you’ll also need to account for the weather. Ideal viewing conditions are both dark and clear, so you’ll want to avoid the heavy rains that bring cloudy skies. If you’re unsure, the aurora forecast gives up-to-date information that can help you determine your likelihood of being able to see the northern lights on a given night.
As for time of day, successful viewings generally occur between 9:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Not a night owl? Many hotels offer wake-up calls that will alert guests when the aurora appears.
If you’re planning a trip to see the northern lights, keep your schedule flexible because you might need multiple attempts before you’re able to see an aurora. If you’re lucky enough to see the northern lights on your first try, you may be so awed that you’ll want extra time to try and catch them again.
On the upside, the Sun’s activity has been increasing as it heads toward the next solar maximum, predicted for July 2025. This means more solar particles will be headed toward Earth, likely resulting in more frequent and more visible aurora viewing over the next few years.