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Natural Wonders, Free, Sightseeing Type

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  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

The aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be an almost eerie sight: Picture emerald green swirls coloring the otherwise darkened sky. But scientists have a boring explanation for this phenomenal natural light show – "collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth's atmosphere," according to the Northern Lights Centre. Still, it's a pretty breathtaking sight, and if you're visiting Reykjavik in winter, you might want to stake out some time for northern lights gazing.

Although you can see the lights from Reykjavik, you'll increase your chances of viewing them outside of the city. Previous travelers recommend taking a tour with local companies like BusTravel Iceland or Reykjavik Excursions. (But keep in mind that the aurora borealis requires a perfect cocktail of climate conditions in order to show – so you're not guaranteed to see the elusive display of lights even if you book a tour.) If you'd rather hunt for this natural phenomenon on your own, time your visit between September and mid-April.

Spotting the aurora borealis is free to do, but organized tours will set you back 6,400 to 39,900 Icelandic króna (or $62 to $386) per person, depending on the tour operator and type of excursion. Learn more about viewing the northern lights in Iceland by checking out Visit Reykjavík's Aurora Borealis page.

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#2 Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a very popular, 190-mile-long tourist route that runs by Thingvellir National Park; the 105-foot dual cascading waterfall Gullfoss (Golden Falls); and the geothermal Haukadalur valley's Strokkur, a geyser that gushes water 60 to 100 feet into the air every five minutes; among other attractions.

According to recent visitors, the Golden Circle, which sits in South Iceland about 25 miles away from Reykjavik, is a can't-miss part of Iceland, even on a rainy day. But public transportation does not travel to the region, so plan on hiring a car or joining an organized tour. Past travelers recommend companies like Gray Line Iceland and Reykjavik Excursions.

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