So, on to the main event. We sat down a few years ago and wrote our own bucket lists. We have tried over the past few years to cross off as much as we could – or at least plan opportunities to do so. My husband has been very determined, and especially as he is also coming up to the big 30 (see previous post on turning 30 and planning achievable goals) has been hammering his. Mine have ranged from the sublime to the absolute ridiculous, but one goal we both had in common was to see the northern lights.
We knew that catching even a glimpse of the aurora was not going to be a sure thing, and made sure that our expectations were kept to a minimum. However, with the greatest will in the world, that’s easier said than done.
There are hundreds of tour companies offering tours of all shapes and sizes – plus, there is the option of hiring a car and going solo. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this option though, unless you’re a meteorology expert…or a psychic. Tour guides (generally) are the experts, and we were so extremely lucky to see what we did.
Tours were cancelled on the day we arrived due to cloud.
Most tour companies offer the opportunity to book onto the following night’s tour if yours is cancelled, so I strongly recommend booking your tour for the first night you arrive. You can also check the aurora forecast online, which helped us to manage our expectations up to a week before arriving.
We were told on the second night that we had 50/50 chance of seeing something, so tours went ahead. We had decided to book through Amazing Tours Iceland, who picked us up from our apartment in, what can only be described as a monster truck. We travelled in cohort with three other vehicles and our driver was fantastic. We left Reykjavik at 9.00pm and drove for approximately 90 minutes towards Vesturland, where there was a break in cloud and the only possibility of seeing the northern lights. However, hope faded slightly as we ventured further and further into the wilderness.
Shortly before 10.30pm, as luck would have it, the aurora appeared above us, dancing away.
Now. I have to say, it was not exactly what we expected. No bright colours, or powerful glow. I hope nobody thinks less of me for saying this, but I did half expect the northern lights scene from ‘The Snowman’. Alas, there was no dance of the snowmen. The aurora did reappear stronger and stronger in all different shapes and sizes and our driver did take photographs of all of us with his incredible camera, which showed the lights in all its glory – even if that wasn’t what we could see with the naked eye. I will warn you, to capture the aurora effectively, you will need some hefty photographic equipment. Maybe, as we had a fairly cloudy evening, it was extra difficult to take effective photographs. The team at Amazing Tours took some incredible footage, which they shared with us all for free via their Facebook page the following day. They are also keen to send high resolution copies to you directly on request – a good touch. Our driver was a professional photographer of the northern lights, therefore has a vested interest in finding them every night. This, we felt, gave us the upper hand in our chase, compared to the bigger operators in larger coaches.
The finale of mother nature’s natural light display was, by far, the best. The brightest, most colourful beam yet, danced and floated on the spot above us, like a mermaid’s tail, before disappearing for good.
An incredible experience, one we will never forget, we were lucky to see and has left us wanting more. Amazing Tours gave us the personal experience and expertise that we wanted, ensuring that if there was even the slightest opportunity to see the aurora, they would find it. Speaking to others, who had chosen the bigger tour companies, they had not been so lucky. The tours were cancelled again the following night.
The Magical Northern Lights from Amazing Tours cost 22.000ISK per person for approximately 4 hours. Pick up is from your hotel/apartment and if conditions are not right, tours are rescheduled for another night.