Do not book your Northern lights tour in Iceland till you read this!
Standing staring at the night sky, completely covered with only my eyes visible to the world, it was 11.15pm and -4 degrees and I was motionless, not from the cold but from absolute amazement by what my mind was trying to process. The Northern Lights had finally come out to play. Dancing so seductively across the sky, illuminating each part as if it was the first time. If you have never seen the Northern Lights, be prepared for your heart to skip a beat or two when they begin.
It is a truly memorizing experience, but it wasn’t the first attempt at trying to get a glimpse of the Northern lights. Unfortunately the weather in Iceland can be so unpredictable, this has many disadvantages when it comes to chasing the lights, as many Icelandic’s say if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes, 4 seasons in an hour is more than possible.
To get a glimpse the skies need to be dark and clear. When I first disembarked on the tour the previous night, the weather conditions weren’t great, it was rather windy but I kept thinking wind may equal clear skies, glass half full and all that but unfortunately this was not the case, approximately one hour into the tour on the way to a viewing point, a snow drift struck, the officials closed the road and the 55 seater bus had to turn, but due to the severity of the drift the bus drove for miles to find a space and when it did, it got struck and buried in snow. Que 5 hours on a full bus unable to move! Four minibus’s came to the rescue and finally I saw my bed at 3am very cold, miserable and a little dis-hearted.
I had a tour of the Golden Circle at 9.30am the following morning and it was truly beautiful all day, sun with clear blue skies, so I decided I wasn’t defeated just yet and rebooked the Northern Lights for that evening at 9.30pm. As the day turned into evening and the skies still clear my optimism was back, full of hope that tonight was going to be the night, and boy it did not disappoint. The bus headed to Thingvellir National Park and before we even reached the viewing point, a scream from the back of the bus I see them, I see them got everyone excited.
Upon exiting the bus, I just stood there, staring at the breath taking Aurora Borealis that was taking place right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe it was happening, lighting up the skies in all different shades of green, dancing and disappearing in all shapes and sizes. The Northern Lights continued for over two hours. When I got over the initial star struck Northern Light moment and got a hot chocolate in me to warm me up, I got my camera out to capture as much as I could, of this beautiful natural phenomena.
Yes, it was worth the events of the night before to be successful and see them on the return trip, and yes it is more often than not more smooth sailing than I have described.
We booked our tour with Get your guide - Reykjavik Excursions. I would highly recommend booking with them, as a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org and your rebooked for the next tour available. Amazing customer services.
Below are some tips I recommend following if you are going doing a Northern Light tour in Iceland:
1. When you travel to Iceland, do the Northern Light tour the first night you arrive. With most companies if you don’t see the lights on your tour, you can rebook on the same night tour each night you are there till you see them.
2. Do not expect to see the Northern lights from Mid-April to Mid-September, the skies need to be dark and from mid-April onwards the skies do not get very dark, as June, July and August are as good as 24hours of daylight
3. It is cold, so so cold. Make sure you come prepared. Hat, scarf, gloves, boots, two pairs of socks etc. Tech gloves, I highly recommend for photos as gloves with the fingers out do not work here, way way too cold for them and no gloves is not even an option.
4. Remember the Northern Lights are unpredictable, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see them, its an excuse for another trip or stopover back to Iceland.
5. All the pictures you see of the Northern lights are not what the eye see's, the naked eye does not pick up the same colours a camera with the right settings does. It is still a really beautiful experience but just be mindful of this to avoid disappointment.
6. If you are using a camera, do not forget your tripod, this is really important as you will have the lens open for longer than you can keep still for. When the lights are bright it is ease pick up on with an iPhone.
If there is any question or advice I can help you with, feel free to contact me