If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that last week I took a trip to Iceland, if you don’t follow me on Instagram you might still know this because I’ve probably mentioned it in previous posts, however what you won’t know is that I’ve already had THREE Christmas Dinners this week but let’s not talk about that!
When Donna and I first discussed our trip to Iceland we debated for a while whether to visit in Summer or Winter. Eventually a winter trip won purely because seeing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis was something we both had on our ‘bucket lists’ Although we were fully aware it was still just a matter of luck, especially in our short 5 day trip.. sometimes you’ve just got to take a gamble guys.
A couple of weeks before our trip there had been sightings of the Aurora Borealis in Scotland but much further North from where we stay, so we hoped this would continue until we ventured North ourselves.
We flew to Iceland on Thursday 23rd November and according to Icelandic Aurora Forecasts that night was looking like our best chance of a sighting for the duration of our trip.
We arrived in Keflavik at around 8pm and although the dark skies were clear, we didn’t see any Aurora activity during our bus journey from the airport to Reykjavik.
After dumping our bags in our hotel room we headed to the roof to have another look. There was a guy on the roof who pointed out some very faint lines in the sky and said he thought that could be it. An American girl who stood behind us said she had been on a Northern Lights bus tour the night before and unfortunately they had seen nothing but the guide had told her, ‘if you think you can see them in Reykjavik, the best thing to do is jump in a taxi and get away from the light pollution in the city.’ Donna and I were pretty tired from travelling… I know what you are thinking, it’s only a two hour flight, but we are not the best fliers so it takes it out of us… we decided instead we’d just head for bed.
On the way to our hotel room the guy that had pointed out the faint lines in the sky stopped us and said he had a car he would take us out of the city. HOLD UP. It’s much too early on in the trip to be murdered and left in the freezing countryside. We politely declined his offer using our tiredness as an excuse, I felt bad as he was probably being genuinely nice (trust issues)… ok it’s not always wise to gamble guys.
With snow forecast for the next day we gave up on our hunt for the lights. Or so we thought.
The snow didn’t come the next day, although we had news it had snowed at home, I missed the first snow!!!
We explored the city through the day then as the sky was still clear, debated whether or not we should book a Northern Lights tour. Before we knew it we found ourselves at Reykjavik Old Harbour picking up tickets to board a boat called Andrea.
I haven’t been on a boat at sea for a very long time but, to be on the safe side, I accepted one of Special Tours complimentary motion sickness pills.
After boarding we put on warm overalls for extra layering and I looked a little something like this.
I then followed Donna to find a ‘good’ seat, which she decided was on the top deck and the very back of the boat.
We sat gazing at the sky pointing out the North Star and with it The Plough/Big Dipper then realised we don’t actually know any other asterisms or constellations. I might need to learn some, I love looking at the sky, I find it quite fascinating.
As we headed out of the harbour some very faint, grey streaking was visible and our guide advised us this was definitely Aurora Borealis and that it should, fingers crossed become more visible as we leave the city lights and our eyes adjust to darkness.
We had seen the exact same thing from our hotel roof the night before.
The sea was pretty rough but the pill seemed to be working a treat. The further we headed out to sea the brighter and larger the lights became but still not that vibrant green you see in photos more of a grey, maybe a very faint green at most.
Our guide Tina explained what the Aurora is, if you don’t know google it but in short terms, it happens when the earths magnetosphere is disturbed by solar winds and whether the particles hit Oxygen or Nitrogen determines the colour they show.
Tina explained the best camera settings to use to capture them, but warned strictly no flashes, as our eyes can take 20 minutes to re-adjust to darkness after a flash has gone off (who knew?) by the time she was explaining shutter speeds my hands were freezing so I gave up on photographic evidence and put my gloves back on and my camera back in my pocket ( I’m such a quitter). The crew were taking photos and said they could email them to us, that sounded much better than frostbite.
Now the lights were showing green although still paler than I imagined but the spectacle came when they started to ‘dance’ around practically lighting up the dark sky. I managed to take one photo but I’m not sure my camera settings were correct so it’s not the best.
It was incredible to see. I strangely felt honoured that they made an appearance it felt almost like they aren’t just a scientific incident but something greater, a person, a higher power, an extra terrestrial, something that had chosen us as spectators for the show.
The top deck was now becoming rather crowded as fellow passengers ventured out of the warmth of the cabin to view the show, even with mammoth layers we were feeling pretty cold now, so we decided we would head down the next deck, grab a drink from the bar and warm up.
As soon as I put my feet on the lower deck the motion sickness hit me. Any notion I had for a glass of wine was gone in an instant and I had to get back to the top deck as soon as possible.
When we got back to top the Aurora was actually much brighter and more vibrant so we stayed on the top deck enjoying the show fighting the freeze and the urge to vomit for me.
Some will say it was all about luck and others will consider the £160, near freezing to death and seasickness all about the hustle.
I think we were very fortunate to cross something so rare off our bucket lists… well I did, until I found out the Northern Lights were visible back home in Stirling on the same night, haha! Just our luck!
Have you seen the Aurora? What’s your favourite thing you’ve crossed off your bucket list?
Thanks for reading😊
Have a great day❤️