Northern Lights in Iceland
The Heavenly Light Show
The extreme dark of the Icelandic winter has a few perks. Between September and April, Iceland is treated to a magnificent natural display: the phenomenon of aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. This is what we commonly call the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights are formed by particles emitted by the sun during solar explosions. When these particles interact with the atmosphere in the Earth's magnetic field, energy is released, causing these peculiar luminous green streaks across the skies.
On clear winter nights, many sightseeing trips are organized around this spectacular—though fickle—natural phenomenon. The ideal location for sightings varies and excursion leaders are skilled in "hunting" the lights, finding locations where conditions are best for seeing them on any given night. There are no guarantees that you will see the aurora borealis during your stay, but in almost all cases, however, sightings are immediately improved outside populated areas, especially away from the light-pollution of the capital.
However, the Northern Lights are sometimes visible from within the city, and on many cold winter nights news spread quickly between locals around town, who implore each other to go out for a look at our local wonder. The Icelandic Met Service provides a daily Northern Lights forecast, which will further improve your chances of catching this wonderful display of nature.
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descendent from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation.
The local natural wonder that is perhaps most ingrained in the fabric of Icelandic culture is the bounty of geothermal energy, the naturally heated water that powers our lives and heats our homes, baths and pools, public as well as private. And as unlikely as it may sound, Reykjavík sports its own geothermal beach, with white sands and warm ocean water.
When making a trip to Iceland, it is hard not to pay special attention to the country's namesake—namely, its 4,500 square miles of glacier. Ice climbing on Iceland's glaciers is practiced year-round and takes place mainly on the Sólheimajökull and Svínafellsjökull glaciers in the south of Iceland.