The Northern Lights are on most people’s bucket lists these days, and are truly an incredible natural phenomenon. I finally hit Iceland with the goal of watching the lights dance above my head in it’s stunning green, red and blue hues - the land of fire and ice did not disappoint.
Otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, the bright colours can be seen around both the North & South Poles and is caused by the sun’s radiation. Commonly seen in the northern hemisphere in Arctic countries such as Norway, Finland, Alaska, Iceland and many more. They are also very occasionally seen further south, and I’ve even seen them once in Bath (Southern England) which is super rare! It’s only possible to see them at night as the lights aren’t strong enough to be seen in the daylight but are still going on - similar to how we can’t see stars during the day!
When I was in Iceland, I hooked up with Reykjavik Excursions who took us out on their Northern Lights tour. They use all the sciencey knowledge to monitor where the lights are most likely to be seen each night and, as long as there is a chance for a clear sky somewhere in Iceland they take groups out to stand and look up at the night sky. It’s a minimum of a 30 minute bus ride to get out of the city and away from the light pollution. While the lights can be bright, they’re sometimes We stood and stared at the milky way, which was truly spectacular - I wish I could have got you some photos but they didn’t come out unfortunately without enough light! I have no idea how long we waited under those stars, but it was long enough for most people to head back into the warm bus, and for me to find a patch of moss to lay down on to get a better view. Eventually though, we saw something slowly getting brighter in the sky and after a few excited hollers, it was clear that this was what we came to see! My travel buddy and photographer literally pulled me up and we ran over the rocks to get the best position far from the buses on the top of this volcanic mountain in the icy air.
The lights went from a very pale ribbon in the sky getting brighter and brighter until they were dancing in reds and greens above us, moving through the sky and was truly better than I could have imagined. I’m not ashamed to say I was completely in awe and even shed a little tear (This isn’t a big deal for me though because I will cry at a good advert on TV if there is a slightly emotional aspect to it).The pictures say a thousand words so I’ve put them in below - they had to be taken on a SLR to allow for a very long shutter speed to capture the light. All I can say is they are amazing and you need to see them for yourselves!
Now, obviously the Northern Lights have been happening long before we started tracking it or even understood the so there was a look of folklore and stories about what they were! Some believed they meant grave danger was on the way, and would carry a knife with them when the lights were on show to protect themselves. Others believed it was the spirits of children who died or were stillborn dancing in the sky above them! If you’re interested in some of the many stories, check them out here!
Because Iceland is known for the midnight sun through summer, and is dark 90% of the day during the winter so if you want to see the lights it’s pretty obvious you need to go between September - April. It’s also cold these times of year, so take a lot of warm layers, hats and scarfs as you’ll need to stand in the cold and be patient for a while, these lights don’t have an on/off switch and will appear and disappear without warning!
I cannot thank Reykjavik Excursions enough for the way they ensured we all saw the lights, and it’s their policy is to let you on the tour again for free if you don’t see the lights or if they have to cancel due to bad weather so you won’t be out of pocket. Make sure you get out to Iceland and see them for yourselves - take it from me you definitely won’t regret it!
This trip was sponsored by Reykjavik Excursions however all views of the experience remain my own