The Aurora Borealis, often referred to as “The Northern Lights”, are a natural phenomenon of dancing, colorful waves of light that can be seen in high-latitude regions. During certain times of the year, you can even see them in certain places in Iceland!
Currently, there are many Northern Lights tours in the country, however they vary quite a bit in experience and quality.
We’ve done the work so you don’t have to, bringing you the best northern lights tours in Iceland! Expect a beautiful, dreamlike experience surrounded by the country’s flora and fauna.
Top Northern Lights Tours in Iceland
The 7 Best Rated Northern Lights Tours For 2023
- Small-Group Premium Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik
- 3-Hour Northern Lights Tour From Akureyri
- Golden Circle and Northern Lights Combo From Reykjavik
- Reykjavik: 3-5 Hour Northern Lights Mystery Tour
- Northern Lights by Boat in Reykjavik
- Northern Lights Tour with Hot Chocolate & Icelandic Pastries
- Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour From Reykjavik
Now lets take a closer look at the Icelandic northern lights tours so you can find the right one for you!
Iceland Northern Lights Tour Reviews
- Departure: Call for pickup locations
- Duration: 4 hours
- Includes: Bus fare, guided tour, refreshments, entrance to the Aurora Museum, small group
- Other: Intimate group tour, excellent attention from guide(s)
To start off, we have the Small-Group Premium Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik. While viewings are never 100% guaranteed, we’ve found that the guides are incredibly skilled at knowing where and when to look – even in weather that’s less than ideal.
You’ll start out by meeting your guide at the designated spot in Reykjavik, where you’ll board a luxury bus and head out into the night.
As you can probably imagine, there aren’t too many options when it comes to tour times as the night sky is ideal. However, once you see them, it’s more than worth it!
- Your group size will be a max of 15 people, so you won’t have to wait around for people to move together.
This also offers a more intimate experience that offers more time to do what you want and to ask the guide any questions you may have. You’ll hunt for the Northern Lights in the countryside, which by itself is quite beautiful!
Operating from September to April, they have a great guarantee where if the lights aren’t visible while you’re on the tour, you’re able to reschedule free of charge!
On top of that, they also give you a free ticket to visit the Aurora Museum in Reykjavik, which is a great complementary experience to seeing the lights in real life. Just remember that the free entrance is only valid on the day you join the tour.
Exhibits to vary, but you’ll get to learn about the aurora borealis in mythology and science, photographs of the lights, and other fun stuff.
- Departure: The meeting point is at Whale Watching Akureyri, however, hotel pickup is also available
- Duration: 3 hours
- Includes: Fully-guided tour, transportation in a comfortable minibus, hot chocolate
- Other: Tour includes pickup and an overall luxurious way of seeing the lights
Next up, we bring you the Akureyri: 3-Hour Northern Lights Tour. We really like that they offer a hotel pickup so you don’t have to worry about any meeting points or extra transportation, getting lost, etcetera. Before you hop on board, remember to bring warm winter clothing as Iceland can get very cold at night!
The minibus is incredibly comfortable and relaxing, and only adds to the pleasant experience you’re sure to have on this tour. Did we mention that they even include hot chocolate? It’s sure is a fun and tasty way to warm up, and while it may be a relatively small detail, just shows how much the company cares about their guests.
With a professional guide who is an expert aurora borealis hunter, you’ll begin driving out to either the countryside or the mountains.
This is to allow for the sky to be completely clear of interfering city lights. Once you arrive to the perfect spot, you’ll get out and walk into a serene, quiet atmosphere.
Once you get out to where the lights shine best, you’ll have some time to take photos but also to absorb this incredible experience. Sip your hot chocolate while you gaze around. It’s absolutely stunning in photos, but seeing the Northern Lights in real life is honestly on another level.
We recommend at least spending half of the time putting the phone or camera away and stowing these memories deep into your mind.
- Departure: BSI bus terminal
- Duration: 9 hours
- Includes: Golden Circle tour, Northern Lights tour, free Wi-Fi onboard the bus
- Other: Longer, more comprehensive tour for a night-and-day, varied experience
While the shorter northern lights trips are certainly memorable, some people would like a longer, more comprehensive trip. If that sounds like you, then check out the Golden Circle and Northern Lights Combo tour! Be prepared for a day (and night) full of adventure by wearing sturdy, comfortable shoes and clothes appropriate for cold weather!
We recommend wearing layers if you can, as the daytime may be significantly warmer than nighttime. The bus is very comfortable and you shouldn’t have to worry at all about staying warm, but once outside, you may find it gets a bit windy or chilly.
From Reykjavik, you’ll head to the geothermal environment of the world-famous Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle includes 3 amazing spots: the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. As you can imagine, it’s one of the most visited attractions in the country!
If you’ve been to Yellowstone (or would like to), then you have an idea of how crazy geysers can get! You’ll get to see boiling water shoot from the depths of the planet at the Geysir and Strokkur great geysers.
The Gullfoss waterfall is water falling in the opposite direction, which come from the Hvítá River. Plunging into a crevice over 100 feet deep, it’s a very interesting site to see. The Þingvellir National Park is a way to really relax the mind and get in touch with the nature we’ve been given.
Here is where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia are pulling apart, so you can imagine there’s quite a bit of activity going on.
After this day of trekking around, you’ll head back to Reykjavik and relax for a few hours before you board for the evening northern lights tour. Once the sky is properly darkened, you’ll tour around looking for the best spot to view these legendary lights. Take photos and take it all in before your group boards and heads back to town.
- Departure: Hotel pickup
- Duration: 4 hours
- Includes: Transfer by bus, English-speaking guide, WiFi onboard
- Other: Educational, fun night tour
Judging by the name, you may be expecting a murder mystery game onboard, and while that would definitely be fun it would also be difficult considering the lights are just too captivating!
The 3-5 Hour Northern Lights Mystery Tour is “mysterious” due to the breathtaking nighttime phenomena of the Aurora Borealis! This stunning, natural display of countless patterns and shades is different each time and even if you’ve seen them before they remain a treasure.
Hotel pickup is optional, so while you can definitely meet your group at another point, they offer roundtrip transport to and from your Reykjavik hotel. Everything is very well-organized and seamless so you aren’t waiting around at any point in time.
With an English-speaking guide, you’ll get a full education on the area, the Northern Lights, and how they’ve impacted local culture and culture around the world. Once you get away from the city lights a bit, you’ll begin the hunt for the auroras.
If you’re lucky, the sky will be free from any clouds and you’ll be able to see them in all their vibrant beauty.
- The swirling lights make it look like someone took a neon paintbrush to the sky; it’s truly magnificent.
The experienced guides know exactly where to go and do their research when it comes to weather conditions so everything goes on without a hitch. For whatever reason you need to have internet access while on your tour (maybe you’d like to livestream the experience?), there is also WiFi onboard!
- Departure: Reykjavik Old Harbour
- Duration: 2.5 hours
- Includes: Warm overalls (includes children’s sizes, WiFi & heated indoor seating, photos of the tour available to download for free, experienced guide, ticket for second trip if nothing is seen, app available in English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese
- Other: Brief yet comprehensive trip great for the entire family, seen from a unique perspective
While seeing the northern lights in any location is impressive, sometimes the best vantage point isn’t feasible due to the environment. Well, this isn’t the issue with the Northern Lights by Boat in Reykjavik tour!
As you’ll be boarding a boat, you’ll be able to get pretty much as close as possible to the lights and potentially even glide right under them!
This 2.5-hour tour is wonderful for all ages, and includes warm overalls for adults and children which is a necessity given the cold temperatures at night on the water. However, there is heated indoor seating so you won’t be left outside shivering in the cold if it gets too intense.
You’ll meet up first at the Reykjavik Old Harbour, which is quite a sight to see on its own. You’ll depart in one of two luxurious boats: either the Rósin or Andrea. Account for about half an hour to be getting on board and suiting up, while the staff gives you a bit of a tour around.
The other 2 hours are just pure smooth sailing, with beautiful views of the Reykjavik coastline. The capital is often underrated in terms of physical aesthetics, and you can take it all in from this perfect view. In just 15 to 30 minutes you’ll be right where you need to be to get the best looks at the Aurora Borealis.
The mountains in the background offer the ideal complement to the neon lights in the sky, reflecting off the water to make for a natural masterpiece.
Just remember that as both sailing and viewing the lights are highly dependent on having the right weather, there’s always the chance that it will get cancelled. However, we found that this is definitely the exception and usually isn’t the case.
- Departure: Pickup from your hotel in the Reykjavik Capital area, or from your closest bus stop
- Duration: 4 hours
- Includes: Hot chocolate, Icelandic pastries, small group tour
- Other: Very romantic tour with treats and views
If the hot chocolate from our second tour caught your attention, then you’re in for a real “treat” with our next one! The Northern Lights Tour with Hot Chocolate and Icelandic Pastries Tour offers all that and more.
- If you’re looking for the perfectly romantic way to spend an evening in Iceland, this completely fits the bill!
Clocking in at 4 hours long, this tour is just the right amount of time to really relax and take advantage of the incredible experience. Pickup is right from your Reykjavik Capital area hotel, or your closest bus stop should your hotel be outside of this area. Make sure to bring warm clothes and definitely gloves!
Once you meet up with the rest of your tour, they’ll go through a brief meet-and-greet and you’ll board the tour vehicle. The vehicles tend to be very comfortable, so right from the start you can tell it’s going to be a good one.
Tour guides actually consult with the local meteorologists to ensure that the night will have clear weather conditions for maximum views of the Northern Lights!
Once you find the perfect spot to check the lights out, your guide will start offering up all kinds of interesting anecdotes and information. Moreover, they possess great insight into the local culture and history, nature, and the people of the country, themselves.
Due to being an island – and one with such unique landscapes – it’s a completely unique place that you’ll probably end up finding just as charming as we did.
During all this, you’ll sip on some delicious hot chocolate which is just what a cold night calls for! They also offer some traditional Icelandic pastries, which are equally as yummy and a nice snack to finish off the night.
- Departure: BSI bus terminal
- Duration: 8 hours
- Includes: Comfort admission ticket to the Blue Lagoon, silica mud mask, use of a towel, and a drink of your choice at the Blue Lagoon, Blue Lagoon return transfers, professional live local guide in English on the Northern Lights Hunt Tour, free Wi-Fi on the tour bus
- Other: Longer, more comprehensive tour that also visits the Blue Lagoon + more
While the Northern Lights are certainly worth making the trip to Iceland, why not maximize your time there and take a longer tour? The Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour is truly life changing, no matter who you are. With this combination of fun and invigorating winter activities, you’re sure to want to go on it again!
The 8-hour tour starts off in the afternoon, with your group heading out to one of the most iconic Icelandic locations: The Blue Lagoon.
Yep, you’ve surely seen it before on the Travel Channel or all over Instagram. That electric blue color of the lagoon is recognized worldwide for its luxuriousness and natural beauty.
The enormous geothermal seawater spa’s milky blue water makes for the perfect contrast against the forest-y green-and-black lava fields. Aside from its appearance, the location also offers state-of-the-art facilities, silica masks to tighten and firm skin, and more.
- Your tour ticket will include your entrance fee, a silica mud mask, towel use, and a beverage of your choosing.
Once you’ve fully relaxed, you’ll head to Reykjavik on a comfy coach that includes free Wi-Fi. Once you arrive to the city, you’ll have a bit more time to relax, eat some dinner, etc. Once it’s dark out, you’ll get back on the coach to start the Northern Lights Tour.
Where exactly you visit will depend on the day and weather, and the experienced guides will ensure you’re at the best location possible.
Iceland Tour Guide
Basically all international flights are going to land at Keflavik Airport. It’s located about 30 miles from Reykjavik, which is the country’s capital city.
Currently, over 20 airlines offer scheduled flights to Iceland. From the US, you can expect flights to be anywhere from around 5 to 8 hours, depending on where in the US you are flying out from. Flight prices vary widely, depending on the season. During peak season from June to August, flights are going to generally be the highest, along with the couple of weeks before Christmas and after New Year.
If you want the cheapest tickets, buy them within November to March.
Car – The most popular method of transportation is definitely by car. These are pretty easy to rent as Hertz, Avis, Budget, and other major rental companies are found here. A cool alternative to this, is Campervan Iceland, which let’s you rent a camper so you always have a place to rest your head – even if you’re in the middle of nowhere.
While the vast majority of the roads will be paved well, you do need to keep in mind that in every season you can encounter strong winds, ice on the roads, and sandstorms. This can be difficult to drive in, especially if you aren’t used to it.
Bus – In the summertime, buses are a great option as there are many long-distance options. Strætó, SBA-Norðurleið, and Sterna are the main bus companies and travel to the top tourist destinations, making it easy to get to and from them. Just remember that in the wintertime, they’re not as frequent – if running at all. If you would like to plan ahead or have any doubts, just check out their public transport site.
Bike – Just like with any other mode of transportation, you need to keep an eye out for extreme or changing weather conditions in Iceland. Due to the beautiful environment, it can be a very pleasant experience, but as the towns are spaced pretty far apart typically you’ll need to be in at least moderate shape.
Walking – As you can probably imagine, there are a ton of hiking trails around. Walking around Reykjavik is pretty much a breeze, and it’s fun to check out the charming little cafes, eateries, and shops. In fact, if you’re staying in the city, we recommend taking some time to do just that. Just remember to bring some warm shoes, as even in the summer, things can get chilly.
Ferries – If you need to get to surrounding islands, ferries are a great help. The Baldur and Herjólfur lines let you bring a car onboard, so if you’re renting a car this is the way to go.
Where to Stay
You’re most likely to stay in the capital of Reykjavik, which has the most options by far regarding accommodations. You’ll almost certainly find something to suit any budget and requirement. From budget-friendly to lush and luxurious, it’s here waiting for you.
Hotel Borg is absolutely one of the crowd favorites due to being so spacious, consistently reliable, beautiful, and smartly located right in downtown Reykjavik. Their art deco design is also perfect for some photo ops!
The Konsulat Hotel Curio Collection is another great choice, also located in the heart of the capital city. Boutique rooms, top-notch dining, beautiful wellness spas, and an overall cozy vibe will always invite you back after a day of adventuring around. The Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina overlooks a gorgeous harbor, and if you’re looking for more refined accommodations you have it here.
If you don’t mind being a bit further away from the city center but still want luxury, then the Radisson Blu Saga or the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica are excellent alternatives. If you’re on a budget, then you may choose to stay in Keflavik, where the international airport is located. The Nupan Deluxe Guesthouse is a charming, clean place where you can get very affordable, cute rooms!
Restaurants and Eating Out
Now on to the real fun stuff: food! From traditional to modern cuisine, Iceland is sure to have some tasty treats you’ve never tried before.
Icelandic traditional food consists of quite a bit of fermented dishes, fresh fish, lamb, and heavy use of local-only products. The fermentation is used because hundreds of years ago, it was hard for residents of the island to keep their food long enough to last through the dark winter months. Instead, they had to resort to preservation methods like fermenting fish and smoking meats.
Fine Dining –
Apotek – As the name suggests, this restaurant is housed in the building where the oldest pharmacy in Iceland used to be! Here, you’ll find many traditional Icelandic dishes, mouth-watering cocktails, and hearty desserts.
Lobsterhouse – This one is pretty straightforward, and yes, you can expect some delicious lobster here. However, the overall theme is French cuisine with a Nordic twist. Who knew that mixing these two worlds would combine so well?
Icelandic Street Food – From fresh Black Lamb with flatbread and hummus to Gemlingur and Piparmey, you’re likely to try something you never have before, here. If you’re on a budget, this is a great, delicious option.
Loki – Located in the heart of Reykjavik, this is where you can grab a warm, homemade Icelandic meal. Our favorites are the rye bread ice cream and the rye bread with mashed fish. From sheep head jelly to smoked salmon, you can enjoy it all with a beautiful view of Hallgrimskirkja.
One thing we would like to mention, is that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it is relatively difficult to find a veg-friendly menu here in Reykjavik. While it’s definitely become more popular in recent years, it’s still quite limited. Glo is probably the most popular option, and there are several locations around the city.
Cafes – Trust us when we say that huddling up in a warm, cozy café in Iceland is one of the best experiences in the world. Luckily, you have plenty to choose from.
Stofan Café – This is like walking into a good friend’s house, who happens to make delicious coffee and pastries! Sandholt Bakery is quite possibly the most popular in the city, and have endless treats to select from. Maybe just take them all!
Nightlife and Entertainment
Reykjavik is relatively small for being the capital of a country, but there is still some great nightlife to be had! In fact, as all the best spots are within walking distance from each other, it’s even better! You generally don’t have to deal with lines to get in, and dress codes are also nonexistent as no one wants to be walking in the cold with uncomfortable formalwear.
20 is the legal drinking age in Iceland, and if you look older than that, you’re not likely to be carded. Just remember to dress for the cold, though you can still dress up if you’d like. Overall, you’ll find nice, welcoming vibes anywhere you go. The streets are pretty safe, as well.
Clubs typically close around 5-6 am, and most Icelanders will start going out around 1-2 am which tends to be late if you’re used to nightlife in America. There are clubs with all genres of music on Laugavegur street on the weekends, and Thursdays also have some nice live music nights!
There are tons of breweries, beer tours, and pub crawls so if you’re a fan of beer you’re in luck!
As we’ve mentioned a few times throughout our guide, Iceland is typically quite cold. Summers are short and cool, though there are months that are really sunny and maybe even warm. However, weather changes quickly here and we heavily suggest bringing warm clothes, no matter the season.
The “warm” season is from about mid-June to the first week of September, though never really goes over 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold season is about 5 months long, from the beginning of November to the beginning of April. The highs will be around 40 degrees, while the lows can be less than zero.
Blue Lagoon – The Blue Lagoon is a stunning spectacle to see or dip, with its pastel blue waters. These geothermal spas are wonderful for the skin, and our overall health.
The Northern Lights – Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are something you simply can’t miss. There are many tours that will take you to see the Northern Lights, with trained guides that know exactly where and when to look!
Maelifell Volcano – The volcano looks just like what you’d imagine one to look like, with the traditional cone shape. During the warmer seasons, you’ll find it covered in a lush green moss that makes it look almost like it’s from another planet!
Skaftafell Ice Cave – These caves, if caught at the right time, are filled with unreal blue lights! Consisting of various glaciers and ice caves, it’s certainly a unique place. There are many different visitor centers to ask any questions you may have. Be sure to take a tour of the glacier, they can be dangerous.
Hallgrimskirkja – This modernist church will sure turn your head! The tallest, most iconic building in all of Iceland was inspired by The Black Falls. If you’re willing to take on the 73 meters of stairs, you’ll be able to take in some of the most stunning views of the city. Okay, you can also take the elevator but that doesn’t make as good of a story!
ATV Treks – If you love adventure (and you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this!), you’ll love trekking around Iceland’s lava fields on an ATV! It’ll make you feel like you’re riding around a Game of Thrones set!
Svartifoss – With black basalt hexagonal columns hanging over it, Svartifoss is one of the most special waterfalls in the world! The dark columns perfectly contrast the bright blue waters pummeling down over the side.
Reynisfjara Beach – The iconic black sand beaches of Reynisfjara are something you just can’t find anywhere else. Just be careful of the rough waves that can appear on shore!
- Spend at least a. bit outside of the city and head into the countryside. The vast majority of the country consists of just uninhabited, wild land. As you have probably picked up by now, Iceland is full of natural beauty and wonders!
- If you feel confident enough, try renting a car! This is (in our opinion) the best way to see the country. While gas is a bit pricey, some rental agencies will offer you a discount card.
- If you’re planning on using your credit card, you’re likely not to have to exchange currency. This is a handy, money-saving move that’s also safer. Not that Iceland is particularly known for its pick-pocketers, but you just never know.
- Are you going to visit in the summertime? If so, make sure you pack an eye mask as it’s going to be light outside almost constantly. Many hotels will provide these, but it’s better to just bring your own and not risk it.
- Be prepared for literally any kind of weather. You’ll almost certainly encounter rain and windiness, even in the summertime. Remember to layer, as this is going to keep you warm and dry better than anything else. Oh, and bring gloves and some kind of face covering.
- As you’ll be near the water, you want to bring some rain gear, too. This means a waterproof jacket and boots! Definitely don’t skimp on the extra socks: it’s even better if they’re wool!
- While the vast majority of people in Iceland speak great English, it’s always smart to learn some basic words in Icelandic.
- If you go during the winter be sure to see the migrations of the humpback whales. Be sure to take a whale watching tour so you have the best chance of seeing them,