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The Northern Lights in Iceland: A Once in a Lifetime Experience

By Viktoria Walker | 17 Dec 2019 | OUR GUIDE TO TRAVEL

If you were to ask me about my Bucket List, the Northern Lights has been up there for some time. I have seen the beautiful image of the skies lit up with the greens and purple of the Northern Lights many times, but I knew to really capture the magic of the Aurora Borealis, it had to be done in person. This year I decided it was time for me to head to Iceland, for the chance to see them for real.

The best time of year is between late October - March so with that in mind I found myself a deal to Reykjavik, with a Northern Lights Tour and headed off, with all hopes and dreams of experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon.

We arrived in Reykjavik early afternoon. We had planned our Northern Lights Tour that night. We knew there was no guarantee of seeing them and decided if we booked it for the first night and was unlucky, we still had 3 more nights to re-book and get another chance.

Reykjavik Iceland

Our coach collected us from the hotel at about 7pm. It was already dark, and the excitement was building as the coach filled up with fellow light seekers. We headed out of the city into the unknown. There was a silent bond throughout the coach. We all knew we would witness this once in a lifetime experience together.

Our fantastic tour guide explained to us that this was a Mystery Tour. There was no planned destination that we was heading for in order to see the lights. There was a science behind it, and the tour operator had to work alongside the local weather station outside of Reykjavik in order to give us all the best possibility of experiencing the lights.

We needed activity in the Sky. The Aurora Borealis is the magic result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. Depending on the type of gas particles that are colliding, different colours are visible: from the most common yellowish-green, to blue or purplish-red auroras to the very rare all-red auroras.

We needed darkness, the darker our surroundings the stronger the lights in the sky would be. So we headed away from the bright lights of the city. We also needed a clear night. We happily could tick this off the list on this occasion. It was a beautiful clear night. Surely we have a good chance of seeing them I thought.

Our first stop... In the middle of nowhere. We all raced off the coach in anticipation. I remember standing there in the middle of the field looking up to the sky disappointedly as nothing appeared. It was freezing by this point. We were all wrapped up by but the bitter wind got too much for all of us. “We are moving!” our tour guide announced. "We are not likely to see anything hear but we have just received notice to say the lights have been spotted a short distance away. We must leave now and chase the lights". We all made our way back on the coach to join the chase.

I couldn't believe it a few minutes into our journey when the guide shouted in excitement for everyone to look out of the right window. "There are the lights. We can see them above where we are heading". She was so happy, and proud to be able to bring the unbelievable dream to life for us all. It was getting late and I was starting to feel tired and lethargic - all of a sudden my energy levels rose and I couldn't wait to get outside. You could tell we all shared the same thoughts. Going through the motions of excitement, anxiety, disappointment and then back to excitement again. Everyone started to point and cheer, there was smiles and laughter all around.

We arrived at our mystery destination and the guide jumped out and did a little celebratory dance as she welcomed us all off the coach. Head that direction away from the lights of the coach she shouted. We walked along a path of trees, shielding us from the coach light. The sky was calling us.

The lights were now visible, dimming in and out of the sky at first, and then after a while the whole sky seemed to be filled with a curtain of green lights travelling across the night sky above. It looked like a laser light show, the Aurora Borealis was dancing for us. There were waves of light twisting and turning, it was just incredible to see.

The cold frosty air was completely forgotten about by this stage. We stayed there for an hour or so watching this magnificent light show. Lots of people were taking photos on their high tech cameras. A normal phone camera just wouldn't capture the lights and do it any justice. I would recommend a good camera and some research into photographing the lights if you want to capture the lights for yourself. You can get some stunning pictures if you are well equipped.

It was the most amazing light show I have ever seen, and one that only Mother Nature can provide. She certainly put on a show for us lucky people that night.


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