How to see the Northern Lights in Iceland – tips and tricks from someone who’s seen them

 

The Northern Lights are magical! They are something you should definitely see – or experience, as it’s more of a happening than a static image – at least once!

The Northern Lights are also called Aurora Borealis – which I personally prefer, because this name sounds so beautiful and has such a nice meaning. Aurora is the Goddess of Dawn in Roman mythology and Latin poetry, so basically it means „dawn” in Latin. On the other hand, Boreas was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the one who brings the winter. This means that Aurora Borealis is something like: the north wind from the dawn. But what does it mean actually?

Although the Northern Lights may look like something from another world, they are a real physical phenomenon which can be easily explained. The beautiful lights dancing on the sky are in fact a collisions between the electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, brought by the solar wind. So basically what we see up in the sky are millions of tiny explosions between the gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere – isn’t this beautiful? They gravitate around the magnetic north and south pole, which means there are also Lights in the south, and, obviously, they are called the Southern Lights – or Aurora Australis (australis means south in Latin).

Enough with the theory; now let’s get to the practical stuff!

 

RO: Luminile Nordului sunt magice! Sunt ceva ce trebuie neaparat sa vezi – sau sa experimentezi, pentru ca e mai mult un happening decat o imagine statica – cel putin o data!

Luminile Nordului se mai numesc si Aurora Boreala – nume pe care eu personal il prefer, pentru ca suna atat de frumos si are o etimologie draguta. Aurora este Zeita Zorilor  in mitologia Romana si in poezia latina si inseamna, de fapt, „zori de zi” in limba latina. Pe de alta parte, Boreas era zeul vantului rece al nordului, si cel care aducea iarna, in mitologia greaca. Asta inseamna ca Aurora Borealis este ceva de tipul: vantul de nord din zori de zi. Dar ce inseamna asta, de fapt?

Cu toate ca Luminile Nordului par a fi ceva din alta lume, ele sunt un fenomen real al fizicii care poate fi explicat simplu. Frumoasele lumini care danseaza pe cer sunt de fapt coliziunea dintre particulele incarcate electric ale Soarelui care patrund in astmosfera Pamantului, purtate de vantul solar. Ce vedem sus pe cer, sunt de fapt milioane de explozii minuscule intre particulele gazoase ale atmosferei Pamantului si cele incarcate electric care provin de la Soare – nu e minunat? Si mai mult decat atat, ele graviteaza in jurul polilor magnetici din sud si nord, ceea ce inseamna ca exista Lumini si un sud, care se numesc, evident, Luminile Sudului – sau Aurora Australa (australis inseamna sud in latina).

 

Ok, gata cu teoria; sa trecem la fapte!

 

 

In the northern hemisphere, Aurora Borealis can be seen from a lot of countries: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Norway, Canada and Iceland.

We were initially talking about going to Tromso, Norway, as I was craving to see them and this city was the most popular on the blogs I checked. But my boyfriend made me a surprise and bought us some tickets to Iceland as a birthday present (see our full itinerary here). It was, for sure, the best idea he could have!

 

RO: In emisfera nordica, Aurora Boreala poate fi vazuta din multe tari: Suedia, Finlanda, Rusia, Norvegia, Canada si Islanda.

Initial ne gandeam sa mergem in Tromso, Norvegia, pentru ca imi doream atat de mult sa le vad, iar acest oras era cel mai popular pe blog-urile pe care m-am uitat eu. Dar prietenul meu mi-a facut o surpriza si a cumparat bilete spre Islanda, ca si cadou de ziua mea (vezi itinerariul nostru complet aici). A fost, cu siguranta, cea mai buna idee pe care o putea avea!

 

 

Once you get to Iceland, you are already in the arctic circle, so any place of the country is basically good for seeing the Northern Lights. The only thing you want to avoid are the artificial lights from the cities (basically only Reykjavik) – you have to search for a remote and dark place, that’s all (and it’s really super easy to find one in Iceland). Oh, and yes, it has to be winter (the Aurora season is between September and April).

What no one told me before going is that the geographical position of Iceland (in the middle of the ocean) makes its weather a bit more unpredictable than other countries like Finland or Norway. That makes you want to book more days on the island, in order to make sure you see the lights. We saw them twice during 7 days (but we weren’t very lucky as we were there during the strongest storm of the year), so I’d suggest a 4/5-day trip.

 

RO: Odata ce ajungi in Islanda esti deja in cercul polar, asa ca orice loc al tarii este potrivit pentru a vedea Luminile Nordului. Singurul lucru pe care trebuie sa il eviti sunt luminile artificiale oraselor (doar Reykjavik, de fapt) – trebuie sa cauti un loc izolat si intunecat, asta e tot (si e chiar foarte usor sa gasesti unul in Islanda). Ah, si da, trebuie sa fie iarna (sezonul Aurorei este intre Septembrie si Aprilie).

Ceea ce nu mi-a spus nimeni inainte sa mergem este faptul ca pozitia geografica a Islandei (in mijlocul oceanului) duce la niste conditii meteo putin mai imprevizibile decat ale altor tari ca si Finlada sau Norvegia. Asta te va face sa vrei sa iti rezervi mai multe zile in Islanda, pentru a fi sigur ca vezi luminile. Noi le-am vazut de doua ori in cele 7 zile (dar nu am fost foarte norocosi, pentru ca am fost acolo in timpul celei mai mari furtuni din an), asa ca as sugera o excursie de 4/5 zile.

 

 

The only website you’ll need to check the forecast is this one. You have to choose the „total cloud cover” tab on the left, and you’ll basically see the map of Iceland with something green on it. The green parts are the clouds – which you want to avoid. In order to see the Aurora Borealis, you have to locate yourself in a cloudless place – the clean white parts of the map (Aurora might be up in the sky, but it’s way way further that the altitude of the clouds, so if it’s cloudy, the clouds would block it).

 

RO: Singurul site web de care vei avea nevoie ca sa verifici situatia meteorologica este acesta. Trebuie sa alegi fila „total cloud cover” din stanga, si ceea ce vei vedea este, de fapt, harta Islandei cu ceva verde peste ea. Partile verzi sunt norii – pe care trebuie sa ii eviti. Ca sa vezi Aurora, trebuie sa te localizezi intr-un loc unde cerul e senin – partile albe ale hartii (Aurora poate fi sus pe cer, dar ea este mult mai departe decat altitudinea norilor, asa ca daca este innorat, norii o vor bloca).

 

 

There are also organized tours which take you somewhere not very far from Reykjavik (but darker), in the hope you’ll see the Northern Lights exactly that day, at that exact time – which is a bit unlikely to happen. If they don’t appear that day you get another free trip the other day, but anyway, I personally don’t recommend those kind of trips. If you rent a car and if you learn how to use the forecast I showed you before, you are free to follow the Lights wherever you want to, so it’s the most convenient way.

 

RO: Exista si excursii organizate care se deplaseaza undeva nu foarte departe de Reykjavik (dar mai intunecat), cu speranta ca vei vedea Luminile Nordului exact in acea zi, in acel moment – ceea ce e putin probabil sa se intample. Daca ele nu apar pe cer in acea zi, ti se ofera inca o excursie gratuita a doua zi, dar oricum, eu personal nu recomand acest gen de excursii. Daca inchiriezi o masina si inveti sa folosesti prognoza meteo pe care am mentionat-o mai devreme, esti liber sa urmaresti Luminile oriunde iti doresti, asadar este cel mai convenabil mod.

 

    


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