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Northern lights Akureyri

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Reykjavik, Iceland
Destination Expert
for Iceland
posts: 1,613
reviews: 2
Northern lights Akureyri

Well, I just got inside having spent some hours in a park that is located inside the town of Akureyri. Long story short, the northern lights were AMAZING tonight. Around 1 am they peaked with magnificent movements and colors. At one point there was pink and purple. At other times they were faint green but got very intense at times, moving a lot and across the sky.

For those that are staying in Akureyri and don't have a car to get away from the lights of the town - there are quite a few places that are sheltered from the streetlights. I will share the location of the park I was at for those that are interested in trying to see the northern lights without having to leave the town. Here it is on a map: ja.is/kort/?type=map&x=541302&y=576150&z=10

The park is surrounded by the streets Hamarstígur, Byggðavegur, Þingvallastræti and Þórunnarstræti. There are several good aspects about this spot. First of all it has almost no artificial lights. There are streetlamps but only very few of them are lit, and you can stay away from them easily. There are trees surrounding the park (but still enough open area to see the sky from all sides) and the trees keep the wind out of there. Then this park is quite close to downtown. It's on the opposite road from the IcelandAir Hotel. This is not the only good viewing spot in Akureyri but it's a damn good one.

Now, the best thing to do if you really really want to see the northern lights is to get out of the town and drive to an area far away from ALL lights. But for some that's not always possible and that's why I'm posting this. I hope someone can benefit from this advice and perhaps I'll see some of you in that park sometime!

I might keep this thread active and post here whenever I'm seeing some NL's in the area in or around Akureyri. Anyone should feel free to do the same. We are all chasing the same thing after all :)

Edited: 11:45 pm, August 27, 2013
posts: 3,319
reviews: 46
1. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

Good for you! I was hoping to shoot the northern lights last night, but the cloud cover was total over here. I did notice that in Akureyri you'd be having clearer skies. Good to hear that you could watch :)

posts: 224
2. Re: Northern lights Akureyri


Should we look at the lower, middle or high cloud cover?

Reykjavik, Iceland
Destination Expert
for Iceland
posts: 1,613
reviews: 2
3. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

@Diana, thanks! You'll be able to shoot some lights soon let's hope. I didn't have a camera but someone posted this picture from the East fjords last night: mbl.is/frettir/… It's magnificent.

@skyymanz you should consider all of them. Any one of those (low, middle or high clouds) can block your view. Yesterday the cloud cover consisted mostly of low and middle clouds. They were moving a lot and eventually they opened a big gap in the sky, and that's where the northern lights decided to make an appearance. It was directly overhead, which is my favorite. In that case you can lie down on the ground and gaze upon this fantastic phenomenon. I hope you get lucky when you go searching for them.


Cloud cover and aurora forecast: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

Alaska Geophysical Institute (check the Short term (1hr) map on the right just before going out in the nights): www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europe/

Surrey, United...
posts: 433
reviews: 104
4. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

Thanks Northice - I will be flying out to Keflavik on 7th October and am hopeful that I will be able to see something - it will bus tours and walking boots for me though, as I am on a budget and can't afford to hire a car.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Destination Expert
for Iceland
posts: 1,613
reviews: 2
5. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

I hope you get fortunate enough to see something GeysirGal. Best of luck.

Geelong, Australia
posts: 15
6. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

Thanks for the info Northice

Looking forward in this in October.

posts: 1
reviews: 4
7. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

I'll be in Akureyr at the beginning of November. What are my chances of seeing the Northern Lights this time of year? Do you think the weather will be clear enough? Also, do you have any suggestions for scenice drives that are close to Akureyr?

Reykjavik, Iceland
Destination Expert
for Iceland
posts: 1,613
reviews: 2
8. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

Hi Marycsab. I'll write some of my thoughts for you and all other northern lights seekers out there.

The Northern Lights are present all year round. In the summers they are not visible due to the fact that the nights don't get dark. From the end of August until March/April we have dark nights so they can be observed in all those months. November is a good month in terms of required darkness.

The auroras are formed some 100+ km (60+ miles) above ground. That means that if they are visible in one part of the country they should be visible in other parts too. The hunt for the lights is therefore quite simple:

1) Find a place where there are little or no artificial lights, in other words get out of densely populated areas (although strong displays can be seen from within city- or town limits).

2) Find a place where there are little or no clouds. The clouds are formed very close to the surface which means they will block your view of the auroras. If you can see stars in a good portion of the sky then you have already won half the battle.

3) Wait - be patient - be hopeful - stare into the sky! When you have found a good spot that fulfills requirements 1) and 2) you have won half the battle. Now you will have to hope that there will actually be some magnetic activity up there.

Let's imagine that you just pulled your car off the road in a good spot. There are no lights around. Turn off the car lights. Try not to look at your cell phone or brightly lit camera screen. Your eyes need to adjust to the dark now. I hope you are dressed warmly with a had, gloves, good jacket, thermals, you know, all the usual winter clothing that this forum recommends. The nights in the winter can get very cold. With good clothing, that won't matter. Anyhow, it's very likely that if you look into the sky now you will see no signs of northern lights. That's normal. They are not a ever present light that just hangs up there for hours, posing like a celebrity on the red carpet.

Typically they might appear somehow like this: You see a faint band in the sky, you are not sure if it's a cloud or the lights. Until it starts to move, change shape, expand or contract and intensify in glow and color. White is a very typical color in the beginning or when the activity is low. But it can intensify quickly into faint green, then green and bright glowing green. If you are lucky they will move intensely and you'll see red and purple colors appear in the top. Or, you know... they might be very weak and you'll say to yourself "I drove all the way out here for THIS?!" Boo hoo try again tomorrow and then the other night and then the other night and then... :-) (huh? what do you mean you're only here on a weekend getaway.) Sigh. Three days might be enough. BUT if northern lights are really your priority then you should come for at least a week.

The activity level is predicted and measured on a scale from 0 - 9. If they predict 2 or 3 then you should consider going out on a northern lights hunt. Anything over 3, definitely go out! (see the links in post #3).

The first moment when you witness a display of 5 or more (give or take) is the moment when even Hulk gets emotional. Normal reactions vary between, speechlessness, shouting of joy and excitement to crying - and all between. If not then you are a robot.

For me, the beauty of the northern lights is not just the color but it's movements. For a photographer obviously the color is the priority. Even a white northern light will usually appear green on photos. The camera collects light for several seconds and the result will be an exaggerated image of what was seen. But if you ever see a display of 8 or 9 it will look almost like the most exaggerated online photos.

Having said this all. The most likely scenario is that you see a display of 2-4. Even those can be impressive, it just depends on how you look at it.

The usual advise applies. Don't come here JUST to see the northern lights. Plan sightseeing in the days, try thermal pools, horse riding, try some delicious local food (no I'm not talking about rotten shark and sheep heads), see waterfalls, a geysir and bubbling mud pits, glacier lagoons, volcanos, try snowmobiling, dog sledding, super jeeping, visit museums, shops, historic places. Iceland has a lot of activities in the winter which means you can easily spend the days while you wait for the night to come. If you see the northern lights in the end it will be the perfect bonus of an otherwise amazing trip.

That's all for now, happy NL hunting!

Oh and Marycsab, you asked for scenic drives around Akureyri. Go to Lake Myvatn or drive around the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Visit the Christmas Garden just 10 km from Akureyri. Check out those two pages I'm about to link and see what you like from there. Cheers :-)

Visit Akureyri: http://www.visitakureyri.is/

Visit North Iceland: http://www.northiceland.is/

Edited: 10:13 am, September 07, 2013
Salisbury, United...
posts: 3,419
reviews: 98
9. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

Another tip, if you are not sure if you are looking at the NL's or wispy cloud, take a photo. Don't bother with a tripod just a quick photo. If it's NL's they will show up greenish.

It can be pretty windy in Iceland so a good tripod won't go amiss.

And as has been said put the camera down and just look and marvel, sometimes we get too obsessed with taking photos!

Hope to be in Akureyri this March.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Destination Expert
for Iceland
posts: 1,613
reviews: 2
10. Re: Northern lights Akureyri

A LOT is happening right now. Get out if you're not there already!