Taking Photos of the Northern Lights at Hotel Rangá - Hotel Rangá


The northern lights glow green over Hotel Rangá on a snow winter night.

Taking Photos of the Northern Lights at Hotel Rangá

Photographs of the northern lights are an amazing souvenir of your trip to Iceland. What's more, Hotel Rangá is an amazing place for northern lights photography. Keep reading to learn why.

Hotel Rangá is located in the beautiful Icelandic countryside far away from light pollution. In fact, we are one of the best hotels in Iceland to see the northern lights. We even offer a special wake-up call service to make sure that you never miss the aurora. What’s more, we are passionate about helping our guests photograph the incredible sight of northern lights dancing in the night sky. Keep reading to learn more about taking photos of the northern lights at Hotel Rangá.

The northern lights glow green over Hotel Rangá on a snow winter night.
The northern lights glow green over Hotel Rangá on a snow winter night. Photo by Kristján Vilhelmsson.

When is northern lights season in Iceland?

In Iceland, wintertime is northern lights time. During the summer months, we experience almost 24 hours of daylight due to our location near the Arctic Circle. We need the skies to begin getting darker and before we can catch the aurora shimmering above. As a result, in Iceland the northern lights are only visible from late August to mid April.

A dark night sky during wintertime also means low temperatures. Be sure to bring warm clothes when you visit Iceland: gloves, a hat and scarf are a good idea. We also have comfy winter suits at Hotel Rangá. Borrow a winter suit, and you will be nice and toasty even on the coldest evenings.

Green northern lights over Hotel Rangá in south Iceland.
Green northern lights dancing above Hotel Rangá. Photograph by Paige Deasley.

Why does the aurora occur?

For centuries, humankind has pondered the existence of the mysterious aurora. Cultures around the world associated the dancing lights with many meanings – some good and some bad. But what are the northern lights anyway? It all has to do with the sun. Solar particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. As a result, colorful light is generated.

This is why we always check for solar activity – it is a simple way to try and determine if the northern lights might appear. You can see solar activity on sites like auroraforecast.is and vedur.is. Look at the Kp index forecast; the Kp number shows the aurora’s strength. The higher the number, the more likelihood there is a huge solar storm. However, northern lights can appear even when the Kp number is quite low. At the end of the day, the unpredictability of the northern lights is where they get their magic.

Four people stand underneath the night sky filled with green northern lights.
Visitors look up and stare in awe at the incredible northern lights. Photo by Kristján Pétur Vilhelmsson

Where can I take photos of the northern lights at Hotel Rangá?

Hotel Rangá is a prime location for northern lights photography. The lack of light pollution makes our property perfect for photographing the aurora. In addition, the landscape around Hotel Rangá is incredibly beautiful and adds something special to northern lights photos. Next to our stargazing observatory are endless fields bordered by epic mountains and far-off glaciers. What’s more, there are two bodies of water beside Hotel Rangá – a small pond and the Rangá River. Taking a photograph of the northern lights reflected against the water’s surface will add a very special element to your northern lights photography.

Green northern lights shining over a pond beside Hotel Rangá in south Iceland.
Green northern lights shimmering in the night sky. Photo by Herman Desmet.

Is it necessary to drive to different locations in order to see the northern lights?

As mentioned previously, cloudy nights are not ideal for northern lights photography. Sometimes, there can be a break in cloud cover and you can catch a glimpse of the northern lights shining through. In these situations, it can be a good idea to take your rental car and drive towards areas with lower cloud cover. You can check this website to view the level of solar activity and current levels of cloud cover over Iceland.

If you decide to take a drive when shooting the northern lights, you need to be prepared and bring warm, waterproof clothing. Icelandic weather can be unpredictable and northern lights season is quite chilly. If you are using a tripod, do be sure to keep close watch if it is a windy night.

Green northern lights above Hotel Rangá luxury resort in south Iceland.
Hotel Rangá is located far from light pollution which makes it an excellent place to see the northern lights. Photo by Sævar Helgi Bragason.

Why is Hotel Rangá a great place to photograph the northern lights?

Our property provides all the luxuries that pair best with photographing the northern lights. Grab a hot chocolate or an icy shot of the local liqueur, Brennivín, while you are waiting for the lights to appear. Or soak in our geothermal heated hot tubs while you wait to view the aurora twirling across the sky.

We even offer a northern lights wake-up call for all our guests so that you can catch up on your sleep while we keep an eye out for the aurora’s appearance. As soon as it starts getting dark, our reception staff starts to keep an eye out. We will call you as soon as the aurora starts to dance – perfect timing to get a great photograph of the northern lights!


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Sometimes the phenomenon begins slowly – a green band of light stretching in an arch across the night sky, that gradually moves and turns like streamers blowing in the wind. On other nights, the sky is black and calm only to be filled with a  burst of pink and purple twisting into infinity in a blaze of movement. One thing is sure – a photograph of the amazing aurora at Hotel Rangá is a souvenir that you will treasure forever. 

Couple embraces underneath the green northern lights in south Iceland.
Romance under the northern lights. Photo by Lina & Tom Allen

What does it mean when we say Hotel Rangá has limited light pollution?

Hotel Rangá is located in south Iceland, far from any cities filled with bright streetlights, skyscrapers and other ambient lights. Our countryside location makes our property a prime spot to view and photograph the aurora, especially in today’s day and age. In fact, statistics from the United Nations show that approximately 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. What’s more, this proportion is only expected to grow.

While cities offer many amenities not available in the countryside, they just don’t allow the same view of the night sky. On a clear night, the stars glow so brightly above Hotel Rangá that it will take your breath away. Limited light pollution also makes the colors of the aurora even more intense.

A band of bright green northern lights above Hotel Rangá.
Hotel Rangá northern lights hotel is located in the Icelandic countryside. Our location offers guests limited light pollution and wonderful opportunities to view the northern lights. Photo by Hreinn Magnússon

How can you be camera ready for Hotel Rangá’s northern lights wake-up call?

Our northern lights wake-up call is easy to set up – just press the button on your in-room phone that says “northern lights Wake-up.” Our night guard is always looking out for the northern lights. If the lights should appear, we will call your room to let you know that the time is ripe for a magical northern lights photo shoot.

The lights are most commonly seen in a general northerly direction. If your room does not face north, it is best to come out to Hotel Rangá’s main entrance. Be sure to dress warmly and wear a hat and gloves, especially in the winter months. If you need some extra warmth, we also offer snowsuits and warm blankets for our guests to use.

Green northern lights dance and swirl above a group of visitors outside the Hotel Rangá Observatory.
To see the northern lights we need clear skies and solar activity. Photo by Sævar Helgi Bragason.

What is the best way to photograph the northern lights at Hotel Rangá?

Phone technology is rapidly evolving. In fact, nowadays you can take good shots of the northern lights on your smartphone. Of course, the newest smartphone models are going to be better at capturing the aurora than older versions. In addition, smartphones are much better at picking up very bright and active northern lights.

For more serious photographers, we highly recommend that you use a DSLR camera. If you plan to take photos with a DSLR camera, be sure to adjust its settings prior to shooting. To learn how, check out our blog post How to Photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland. We created this detailed guide for anyone interested in aurora photography. It has information about smartphone and DSLR settings, as well as other tips and tricks about photographing the aurora.

It is clear to see that Hotel Rangá is an excellent place to photograph the northern lights. If you are interested in staying at our property, check out our offers page. We have some special deals available in the winter months specifically for our guests who are hoping to see the aurora. We look forward to welcoming you to Hotel Rangá!

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