A Northern Lights tour in Iceland with Gray Line

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Iceland is a country with dramatic landscapes, deep fjords, and impressive mountains. The scenery changes every day depending on the weather and season. From black sand beaches to a shimmering night sky there is an abundance of once in a lifetime experiences on offer in Iceland and the Northern lights is top of the list.

Northern lights are seen as one of the most spectacular natural phenomena that you could possibly witness. January is one of the best times to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Grayline offers tours that will ensure you have the best chance of seeing them. A northern lights tour in Iceland is one of the best and easiest ways to see the Northern Lights.

Grayline tours are led by knowledgeable guides who can share some fascinating stories about Iceland’s history. They also offer a variety of options for travellers, so there is something for everyone.

I can’t imagine anyone travelling to Iceland and not wanting to see the northern lights. Once upon a time that would have been appealing but with two young kids, a tour in Iceland was definitely the way to go.

A Northern Lights bus tour in Iceland is a must!

Along with a trip down the South Coast and the Golden Circle, seeing the Northern Lights is a must. Having checked out a lot of tours to see the Northern Lights in Iceland online we decided we would go with Grayline having had good experiences with Gray Line tours in the past. We choose the Gray Line Northern Lights Mystery Tour for getting around Iceland.

The Gray Line Nothern Lights Mystery tour includes:

  • Watching the Northern Lights flashing across the sky in brilliant patterns
  • Learning about the science of Northern Lights
  • Engaging and educating guidance
  • Complimentary pick-up and drop-off for hotels and guesthouses in Reykjavik
  • Round trip transportation to northern lights sightings
  • Professional tour guide

Northern Lights Mystery Tour Number 1

One thing about the Northern Lights tour is, they are dependent on the weather and as they say in Iceland the weather can change in a matter of minutes. The first night we were scheduled to go on the tour, we received an email early afternoon saying because of weather conditions the tour was off.

As luck would have we were near the Gray Lines office in downtown Reykjavik when the email came through. We went to the office and rescheduled for the next night. Easy as that!

Northern Lights tour in Iceland
Best case scenario on your tour would be to see the lights shine and dance like this

Best time to go to Iceland for the Northern Lights hunting is winter

At 8 pm the next night the Gray Line minivan pulled up outside the apartments to pick us up for our northern lights adventure. We confirmed our names and promptly piled on the minibus. We drove through the dark streets of the Icelandic capital on our way to the Gray Line depot where we would meet up with the full-size bus.

Sitting on the bus you could hear people talking in many languages from all around the world. One thing that was apparent was the excitement in the air. Everyone thinking of possibly seeing the Northern Lights from everyone on board. Iceland guided tours are the way to go in this country.

Book Your Northern Lights mystery tour ↗

We arrived at the depot, we then changed the bus onto a much bigger bus that could accommodate more people. We were greeted by our guide, our names were ticked off again, and we climbed on to get some seats. Our guide was so nice and friendly! Her sense of humour was hilarious, and the girls loved her straight away.

Once the last minibus arrived, we were off!  We headed out of Reykjavik towards Reykjanes to a seemingly well-known spot that tour companies use to see the lights. Apparently, Gray Line is constantly in touch with the Icelandic Bureau of Meteorology to find the most likely spots the lights will appear. The spots to see the lights are void of all artificial light

Your tour guide can help you with camera settings for taking pictures

The spots to see the lights are void of all artificial light. We were given instructions by our tour guide on the way out on how to set up our camera’s to catch the best pictures of the lights. Sometimes it was confusing and we later asked her to have a look at our camera to see if she could help us sort out a couple of the settings.

Make sure you bring warm clothes on your Northern Lights tour Iceland

It was absolutely no problem and within minutes we had some of the settings sorted out. We pulled into a car park in the middle of nowhere. We were joined by about 8 other full-size buses making it about 300 people standing around freezing waiting to see the sky dance. It was about this time I was glad we had bought great quality jackets from North Face for the girls and Columbia for Bec and myself.

Is it easy to see the Northern Lights?

To the untrained eyes, it was really hard to see. Spotting the cloud that would give you the best sighting was difficult for us and once we actually got out onto that lava field it was hard to find your guide again. We would head back to the bus to ask our guide what we should be looking for sometimes just to make sure we were right.

But you would certainly know after you took a picture. Our great guide would say there are some low-quality Northern lights out there, have a look and take a picture. If you had your camera set up right it would easily capture colours that the eyes could not see.

Northern Lights tour in Iceland
The best shot we could manage of the Aurora Borealis at church Kálfatjarnarkirkju

Was our tour rated as a good sighting?

As the lights were not as good as our guide had hoped for they decided to go to another place to try our luck there. So after about 3 hours we packed up and headed to lighthouse Garðskagavita in search of the lights.

Once again we came up empty after standing around for an hour we headed back towards Reykjavik stopping at this beautiful little church Kálfatjarnarkirkju where the Northern Lights finally showed themselves for just a few minutes but enough for the naked eye to see them. The entire Grayline tours Iceland bus was really tired at this stage but our guide was on us all to get off and get the picture!

Do the tour guides do their best to get you a sighting of the Northern Lights?

As our tour guide was telling us to hurry she was also telling us to be very careful but that we had to hurry. At this point, our daughters stayed on the bus and the driver was happy to sit with them. There was also another couple on the bus that had just had enough so they said they would watch the girls for us if we would share our pictures with them.

How long did the first Northern Lights tour go for?

After 5 hours of searching in near-freezing conditions, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. Back in the apartment and in bed by 2 am. As we drove back to Reykjavik our guide and the bus driver decided that the quality of the lights we had seen were to be of a low quality which entitles everyone to another trip.

Were our kids comfortable on your Northern Lights tour in Iceland?

The girls were able to sleep quite comfortably on the bus at different stages throughout the tour. When awake they went outside to explore and look for the lights and chatted to people on the bus.

Nothern Lights Mystery Tour Number 2

The next day we rebooked again for another Northern Lights tour in Iceland and again it was so easy. This time we headed south down the coast away from Reykjavik through Selfoss. We stopped at Hotel Vantsholt which is on the south shore of Iceland, a restaurant guest house where you could buy coffee and cake while we waited for the lights to appear. As we had had a very different experience the night before, Bec was much more prepared but we had not brought any money with us to buy a coffee!

What was the second Northern Lights tour in Iceland like?

This area was known for its Northern Lights activity. Alas, the lights would not appear at all this night for us. Gray Line tried really hard to find the lights as we drove around the countryside in search of them. We stopped and drove and stopped and drove. Looking, searching and hunting in valleys and on flats near the ocean and in the hills. We didn’t even end up getting very cold on this tour as we hardly got off the bus at all.

Northern Lights tour in Iceland
Ideally what you would hope your Northern Lights look like on the south shore of Iceland

What did we think of our Northern Lights Iceland Tour

I really have to complement the two guides and how they kept you entertained and informed with facts and stories, both professional and personal, along the journey. The girls loved the stories they told, and again the guides happily answered questions that they asked.

By the end of the night, both of the guides knew the girls’ names and a few life stories of their own.  I have been on other tours where you get on and you get nothing in the way of information until you get there. With Gray Line Iceland Northern Lights tour, they have both a driver and a tour guide on board for all your needs and inquiries.

On this tour, you will search for the beautiful and mysterious Northern Lights on this exciting 4-hour adventure from Reykjavik. You could head north you could head South. Gray Line is in constant contact with the Icelandic Bureau of Meteorology. This gets the latest up-to-date forecasts on where the Northern lights will appear. The northern lights Iceland tour cost is great value for money considering you get 2 chances to see the aurora.

Book your Graylines Northern Lights tour today!

Book Your Northern Lights mystery tour ↗

So did we actually see the Northern lights on our tour?

In the big picture, we got to see the lights for only a short time. Were the lights impressive like you see in pictures? Certainly not for our experience. Can you control the weather or lights? No way. Did GrayLine do all they could to help us find the lights? Yes, they did, they went above and beyond to give us the best experience possible.

Do we recommend a Northern Lights tour in Iceland?

Would we recommend a Northern Lights tour in Iceland with Gray Line to anyone visiting Iceland? ABSOLUTELY! put it on your Iceland itinerary. Next up let’s see if we can find the Southern Lights in our own country of Australia.

Know before you go! Our top Reykjavik travel tips

Travelling to Iceland requires a lot of planning. Not only is Iceland one of the most expensive countries to visit it is absolutely amazing. Once you are travelling in Iceland you feel like you have to do it all while you are there. Below are the best things to have prepared before you leave for your vacation to Reykjavik.

Where to stay in Reykjavik

You’ll never be short of options for your accommodation in Reykjavik. In Reykjavik, you find a range of hotels, apartments and hostels. You will be sure to be able to find something to fit singles, couples, families and groups on every budget. If you’re not keen on any of our picks below or have specific needs, we recommend using Trip Advisor and Hotellook to find the best prices in Reykjavik.

  • Luxury: Located in the city centre of Reykjavik is the Opel Premium Apartments. Featuring rooms for singles, doubles and 2 bedroom suites for families. Your family can free Wi-Fi in all rooms if you arrive early luggage storage is available along with, car parking and airport transfer.
  • Mid-Range: Singles, Doubles and family rooms for 4 featuring Tv’s, Wi-Fi, refrigerator and coffee maker is waiting for you. Fosshotel Baron is located in the Reykjavik City Centre area of Reykjavik. The hotel has a 24-hour front desk and facilities for disabled guests
  • Budget: If you like communal living then the Reykjavik Hostel Village might be the best budget bet for you in the city center. Featuring rooms for all number of visitors, free Wi-Fi, kitchen and BBQ for cooking. The city center is 300 m away from the hostel.

Reykjavik apartment alternative for your stay

If you prefer a home away from home-style accommodation in Reykjavík then an apartment is the best choice for you on your vacation to Iceland. There are so many options for singles, families and budget-friendly options as well when you visit Reykjavik. Check out the map below to find the perfect Reykjavik apartment for your vacation in Reykjavik. 

Search more Airbnb rentals in Reykjavík

How to get to Reykjavik

  • Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. Reykjavik is located in South Iceland. Travel to Iceland is via Keflavik International Airport. The airport is 50 kilometres from Reykjavik. 6.8 million people travelled through Keflavik airport in 2016. Search your flights to Iceland with Kiwi.com
  • Smyril Line car ferry M/S Norröna sails between Seyðisfjörður in Iceland, Hirtshals in Denmark and Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands once a week. This allows you to bring your car and drive to Reykjavik.
  • You can reserve a rental car and have it waiting for you at Keflavik International Airport

How to get around Reykjavik

  • The city buses in Reykjavík are yellow. The Icelandic word for them is strætó, which is short for strætisvagn (streetcar). These buses are the only public transport in the city.
  • The Reykjavik Hop on hop off bus is another excellent option for seeing the sites of the city and surrounding area.
  • The Reykjavik City Card entitles you to entry to some of Reykjavik’s major attractions and free public transport on the buses. More information is available here

Reykjavik City Card

The Reykjavik City Card helps visitors save money on Reykjavik attractions around the city. Sightseeing in Reykjavik and Iceland is pricey and adds up quickly. The city card helps keep the costs down with free entries and discounts to top Reykjavik attractions, free transportation and discounts at restaurants. You can get a Reykjavik City Card for 24-, 48- and 72-hour duration. Buy your city card for your Reykjavik trip today

Do you need a sim card for your trip to Iceland?

Relying on Wi-fi when you are travelling in Iceland can be hard. Making calls and staying in contact with who you need is a top priority when you are on vacation in Iceland. Plan your trip to Reykjavik out and order your sim before you leave home to stop any stress about travelling, data, and calls on your vacation to Reykjavik.

We hope this article from us here at Wyld Family Travel has you inspired to visit Iceland. There are so many things to do in Iceland when you visit that will have you entertained and inspired on your vacation.

For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in Iceland click through to our Iceland Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.

More travel inspiration for your trip to Iceland

13 thoughts on “A Northern Lights tour in Iceland with Gray Line”

  1. Seeing the Northern Lights is at the top of my travel wish list! I would probably go with a tour too since I don’t want to be driving around hoping for a sighting.

  2. Really like the first image immediately below the ‘Northern Lights Mystery Tour Number 1’ heading. There appears to be dolphins leaping through the clouds.

  3. Wao! Amazing post, loved all the pictures as well as the useful information!, I’m from Mexico and I’m planing to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights in a couple months so I was doing some research because I have no idea of where specifically can I find them and this is great! Liked that the tour is a combination of watching the lights with educating guidance and the complimentary pick-up and drop-off sounds very convenient! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is the second blog post I’ve read within a week that gave an honest review of what it’s like to try to see the Northern Lights. I think what I’ll take from this is that you shouldn’t make a trip for the sole purpose of viewing them. So I hope you got to see and do much more while you were in Iceland! It would be a dream to get great pictures of the Lights, but from what I’ve heard, there are so many other beautiful sights in Iceland, not to be missed!

  5. wow 300 people that seems busy in Iceland but thanks for your post and great experience!! I joined Grayline day tours before too and they are great. I would recommend them if not self-drive. ???????

  6. Interesting. Home to me is in the midwest, and we often times can see the northern lights. The sky is beautiful and I often wonder what they are like in Iceland. Looks like it’s a hit or miss experience. I’m sure there were other things to see and experience, which made the trip worth it. This tour company looks like they did everything for you, except control Mother Nature.

  7. Mother nature has a mind of its own! I’ve been reading a lot of stories about the Northern Lights, seems like it’s a once in a lifetime experience regardless.

  8. This is high on my list of things to accomplish. I was in the Ukraine and had planned on going North from there for just this purpose but did not realize that the countries North were Schengen and I had not more days left. I know that the lights are a hit or miss but at least you did get the one night. I know there was much much more for you to see in Iceland with or without the lights so it must have been a great family outing.

  9. It really sounds like the tour company worked hard to make this great. Another tips for seeing the lights would be to go to a meetup of travellers- everyone will be discussing tips on seeing the lights and planning to go out and see them. I saw them by walking to a lighthouse outside the city.

  10. Northern Lights is definitely a must see in ones’ lifetime kind of phenomenon. You are really privileged to have seen it. I have heard about the weather and you need to be luck to witness it. The Grey line seems to be a great way to see the lights. It always adds value to your experience when you have informative and helpful guides with you.

  11. That sounds like a great tour! I would love to do this, but sadly I will be in Iceland in the summer so it’s not possible. But I’m glad you had such great guides and were able to take beautiful photos of the Northern Lights!

  12. Iceland has always been on my bucketlist and my feet get itchy seeing this beautiful picture of those beautiful northern lights. It’s really awesome that they organise tours, I never thought of that. I will do now, thanks to you.

  13. Thank you for letting me know that there are Southern Lights as well! I did not know that.

    Living in Manitoba, Canada, I have seen spectacular Northern Lights in Churchill. I would be curious to see if they were any better in Iceland. But we do see them regularly in southern Manitoba and they are indeed a spectacle to see.


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