The Northern Lights in a Nutshell

What?

Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, are a natural light display in the sky, created when charged particles from the Sun, known as the solar wind, interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. When these particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, roughly 100 km high, light is generated.

The Aurora at Hotel Rangá. Picture by Sævar Helgi Bragason

Where?

Iceland is ideally located to see the Northern lights, something people in more southerly latitudes hardly ever or never see. The Aurora can be seen anywhere in Iceland as long as the so called auroral oval is over the island. You can follow up to date Aurora forecasts here and here.[1] Light pollution makes the aurora hard to see so it’s best to escape the city.


When?

The Aurora is almost always in the sky, but it can’t be seen during an Icelandic summer due to the midnight sun. The nights start getting dark enough for stargazing around the middle of August. Given the right circumstances, there are plenty of opportunities to see the Aurora during the dark winter months but the light starts taking over again in April.

The best time of night for viewing the Aurora is usually around 11 pm and midnight, although they can appear earlier or later, of course. You can ask our reception staff to alert you, should the lights be out later in the night.


How?

There are a few necessary conditions for viewing the Northern Lights.

As previously stated, the auroral oval needs to be over the country. It also needs to be dark out and the sky needs to be clear, as clouds will block the view. Clear Icelandic winter nights tend to be cold, especially if it’s windy, so make sure you have warm clothes on: a coat, warm socks, mittens and beanies are recommended.

Here at Rangá, you can sip Irish coffee or hot cocoa while enjoying the display in the sky on our porch. You can also take a closer look at the night sky and stargaze with state of the art equipment and expert guides in the Rangá Observatory.