The Northern Lights

Written at the end of January 2023.

Well, I think this trip merits a post of it’s own.

We visited the Perlan museum yesterday, and one of the reasons why, was so we could learn more about the Northern Lights, how they happen, and why they happen, It was so helpful and interesting, but we left thinking that we needed to temper our expectations for the evening, because the Aurora app I downloaded said there was a really low probability, less than 2%, and the KP index was also low.

We had dinner, a most delicious Icelandic lamb burger with Bernaise sauce, and kept one eye on my emails for the confirmation that our tour would be cancelled, as with that probability of a sighting, we were convinced it would be.

Nope, the e-mail came and we were on people!

Back to the room for a couple of hours, laid out all the thermals on our bathroom’s underfloor heating for a touch of luxury, and at about 8.00pm, we started to drag on our million layers, ready for our pick up at 8.50pm.

Our tour provider – Iceland Everywhere tours, had great reviews, plus the benefit of a professional photographer so you didn’t have to worry about getting that perfect shot. We were picked up in a minibus that seated about 20 or so people, from our designated bus stop, number 9, just a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

Our guide Siggy, taught us that basically, all our apps were useless. The low probability didn’t mean we wouldn’t see them, just that we couldn’t see them over the city with the naked eye. He told us that all was really needed was clear skies, low light pollution and some solar flare activity. He said that they were there most nights, if you knew where to look.

With that, we drove for about 45 minutes to a site close to once of Iceland’s many volcanic craters, and Siggy started to see arcs in the sky getting brighter as we arrived. Out of the darkness, and by just the light of the moon, a mountain behind, Icelandic horses to the right, and there she was, Aurora herself. She started as a thin green ribbon of light just above the horizon and snaked to and fro, and it was magical. So magical that a couple got engaged on the spot.

I started pointing my iPhone at her, not expecting much and was thrilled with the pictures I got. Perfect, no, I had no tripod and was literally not breathing to try and keep still enough for the long exposure needed, but it’s low light pictures we’re generally great. The go-pro was next to useless so it only came out of the pocket once.

We were in a really exposed spot, and was immediately vindicated by having on the requisite base layers, even if I couldn’t bend my joints properly. I operated my camera as much as I could, but it was only seconds before the gloves had to go back on as I couldn’t feel my hands. Siggy pointed out Mars, Jupiter and Venus, all visible at the same time, in this beautiful spot. We could opt to have pictures taken with his professional camera, so those will be e-mailed to us later today, can’t wait to see them. We stayed for about half an hour, watching it fade and brighten, then moved off for the gas station loo break that we’d previously forfeited because we’d spotted her so early.

Next we drove for about another half an hour, as there was another viewing spot, this time over a lake so you could get the reflections in the water in your photographs.

Once we pulled off the road it was apparent that the snow there was much deeper, and so we had to walk part of the way to the water. This is where the adventure part of our “Northern Lights Adventure” began. It was only about a 5 minute walk, and the ground that looked solid enough, was actually fairly deep snow that had a relatively durable icy crust. I say relatively…. As soon as we started to walk things deteriorated rapidly. You’d be fine for several paces, then just sink straight to the knee. First couple of times I recovered, then the lady next to me just happened to fall down a hole and instinctively grab me for support. Next we were linked arm in arm, clinging to each other like limpets, swearing and laughing, just couldn’t do anything for hysterics. Once you were down, like quicksand, getting up was almost impossible, the more you flailed the more you sank. It was just an absolute scene, next we sank in snow right up to mid thigh and collapsed again, adults all around us in fits of giggles rolling about on the floor. My face still hurts from laughing. After some time, and much lost dignity we arrived at the lake shore, and Siggy was straight out on the frozen ice to set up his camera. There was no way I was going down there, but I watched a few of the others clamber down to get another photo. I was happy watching and photographing from the bank. It was about 10 to midnight, and one of the things we learned from Siggy was that they intensify around midnight due to atmospheric conditions being more optimum. Sure enough, the green was more intense, and easier to see with the naked eye, rather than through the camera lens. We stayed there for a while, heard another tour bus arrive and it’s occupants in fits of giggles, like us as they tried to negotiate the path of doom.

Then to was back to the bus for hot chocolate, and homeward bound, me trying to sleep on the bus but being concussed awake by my head hitting the window as Siggy took to the terrain like a rally track.

It was a lot of fun, and we feel very lucky to have seen them on our first time of trying. The previous 10 tours had to be cancelled due to weather, and with snow forecast this week, the next few days look unlikely too. It was just our time last night, and I am very grateful.

We arrived back to the hotel at 2.00am, a little chilly still, but slept like a champion.

If you come here, ignore the apps, trust the experts, and book the trip. That’s all I can say.

You can read my other Iceland blogs here

The Reykjavic Chronicles – Part 1

Is Skylagoon Worth it?

Day Drinking in Reykjavik

I’ve also added Youtube links to my other videos at the bottom of this blog.


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