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Travel tips

Preparing for a northern lights tour

Dec 15, 2017 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Glaciers, waterfalls, geysers—Iceland is known for its many breathtaking natural sites. But during the winter months, it’s hard to top the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Go Ahead staffer Lori set out on our Iceland: Reykjavik & The Northern Lights tour to explore this incredible country and catch a glimpse of the phenomena.

Northern lights in Iceland

Iceland is like a different planet. Learning about the versatile scenery, getting to see a volcano and a glacier in the same day, and having the chance to see the northern lights made me feel like I was truly in a different world! As I was preparing for this tour, I felt a different feeling than I usually do, knowing that this would be a much more active and outdoorsy adventure than my other trips to Europe and Vietnam.

Here are some tips to get prepared to go on a tour of Iceland—and hopefully see the northern lights!


Visit Iceland in the winter, late fall, or early spring

The colder the weather, and the less light there is, the better chance you have of seeing the northern lights. The best times to visit Iceland for a chance to see the northern lights are October to March. They tend to be very active for two or three nights in a row, and then low for four or five nights, so be sure to add on the extension to our Iceland tours for more opportunities to catch them!

Glacier in Iceland


Pack layers, layers, and more layers!

Long sleeves, sweatshirts, and pullovers are a must under any winter jacket. Your packing list for this tour should look more like one for a ski trip than a European adventure. A good pair of sturdy boots is also a necessity. Iceland does indeed have lots of ice, so things can get quite slippery. It would be helpful to bring along a pair of ice grips that you can slip on over your shoes to help with traction on the more slippery surfaces. And of course, don’t forget a warm hat, scarf, and glove when packing for this cold weather getaway.

Don’t worry about being cold on the northern lights evening cruise though, you’ll be provided with fashionable red overalls to keep you super warm while searching for the lights!

Northern lights cruise


Download an app to take photos of the northern lights on your smartphone

Smartphones now have apps you can download that automatically adjust the exposure to get the best picture possible of the northern lights! I used Northern Lights Photo Taker, which costs $0.99, had three camera options to choose from depending on how active the lights were, and a custom setting. Some of these pictures turned out better on my smartphone than my camera!



Be prepared for less daylight

When I traveled in November, the sun rose between 9am and 9:30am, and went down by 4pm. As someone who loves to watch the sunrise, this was great for me! I was able to be out and about at a waterfall or national park to catch the sunrise with the group. However, if you’re someone who likes longer days, you may want to pay a visit in the summer, when Iceland has 20 hours of sunlight!

Blue Lagoon in Iceland


Enjoy the outdoor activities

There is so much to see in Iceland, and a majority of the sights in the country are outdoors. These include waterfalls, national parks, geothermal geysers, glaciers, beaches, and more. This is a very active tour, and you’ll be constantly on-the-go, seeing new scenery and exploring new terrain. Overall, I’d recommend to prepare for this trip by coming with an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a camera to capture all the memories!

Have you ever visited Iceland? Would you like to go there to catch a glimpse of the northern lights? Let us know on Facebook.

Know before you go
About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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