Those that know me are aware that patience is not really a skill I am blessed with. So when I booked to join the Northern Lights trip I was a little concerned. How would I handle just sitting around waiting for the Northern Lights to show up? What if they didn’t show up at all? After all you can’t pre-order them!
I’m not really someone who worries before travelling, I am usually too busy getting excited and annoying my colleagues with a daily (sometimes hourly) countdown to my departure. But there were a few concerns for this trip. Would it just be about the nights, waiting for hours on end hoping to see the Northern Lights. Would I be freezing the whole time? Would the trip be worth it if the lights didn’t appear?
On arrival at Keflavik Airport it became clear that pre-trip worrying was just a waste of time! Andy (our Northern Lights expert) and Hakon (our local guide) gathered us up and en route to the Blue Lagoon gave us a run down of what we should expect over our four day adventure. As we relaxed in the blissfully warm waters any thoughts of the rat race left us behind and we started to get excited. Our accommodation for the first two nights was located in Gullfoss, which felt like it was in the middle of nowhere…turns out that was intentional as it is perfect for avoiding light pollution. For those who were tired there was no worry of missing the lights, Andy and Hakon took it in turns to keep watch and when the lights showed – as they did at about 1.30am – they raced around knocking on doors and getting everyone up. Perfect, as I do need my beauty sleep! For those that wanted to stay up it gave them extra time to quiz Andy and Hakon about the Northern Lights, astronomy, life in Iceland while drinking endless cups of tea (both hotels have a constant supply of tea, coffee and hot water to keep aurora watchers warm).
We were extremely lucky and saw an incredible display of the aurora on the first night. At the time it felt like just a few minutes but looking back at the times on our camera later we realised it was more than 90 minutes, we were incredibly lucky. On the second night we didn’t see anything but still had a brilliant night as Andy talked us through the science behind the Northern Lights as well as pointing out stars and constellations – something those of us based in brightly lit cities don’t always get to see.
During the day we were kept busy exploring some of Iceland’s highlights, from spotting the infamous Eyjafjallajokull, cause of the 2010 ash cloud that caused chaos throughout Europe to being blown around by strong winds as we explore the basalt cliffs at Vik I Myrdal. We spent time laughing in frustration when we weren’t quick enough to get good photos of the Strokkur Geyser (it goes off every 3-7 minutes so we had plenty of attempts) and visited several waterfalls including the stunning Gullfoss Falls which were partially frozen.
The highlight was of course seeing the Northern Lights but for me it was Andy and Hakon who made the trip. Their endless information about both the aurora and life in Iceland, plus tips on how to take great photos or how to avoid eating rotten shark made this trip incredible and it really should be on everyone’s travel list.
My top tips for anyone booking this trip:
- Take a tripod for your camera. You need a long exposure to get good photos and it’s hard to hold a camera still even for a few seconds! Even simple cameras got great photos of the lights, they look much brighter in pictures.
- Take lots of photos but also take time to step away from your camera and just soak up the incredible experience.
- Take layers, it does get chilly in the middle of the night so you’ll want a few extra layers on top of your day clothes.