Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Today is day one of a short break to Iceland for the Iceland Airwaves Festival. I’m here with my friend Bekki and we couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland for absolutely years but I had this impression that it was expensive and inaccessible so always chose somewhere else. I was wrong. Flights were reasonable – £190 ish return during the festival (you can get them far cheaper at other times), hostels were normal European prices and food and drink was no more than London, which for some is expensive, but for me fairly normal.

I was excited about the Blue Lagoon, the landscape, the music and of course, the potential of seeing the Northern Lights. Due to the solar activity at the moment this winter is one of the best for the lights so we were really hoping for clear skies.

Iceland HouseWhen we arrived at our hostel they told us we’d been double booked. They made us pay up front but put us in a taxi and sent us to somewhere further out of town. I felt really uncomfortable about doing that but didn’t know what my options were. I’m fairly new to hostelling and was annoyed that they hadn’t warned us beforehand. By the time we got to the new place it was dark and we headed out to find a bus into town.

icelandic horses

As we walked down the street we were studying the map to try and understand where we were. “I think it’s this way” Bekki said pointing to one end of the road. “Hmm I think it’s that way” I said, pointing in the opposite direction. This was going well.

We were on a hill so had a view of Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. I turned, with the map, to figure out which way we were facing, and looked up. Suddenly, all I could blurt out was “Ahhh! Uuuuhhhh! UUAHHHHH!! Look! Look!” as I pointed to the sky. Bekki was in front of me, and well wrapped up with a hood and scarf around her face so couldn’t see me waving my hand around like a lunatic. “What? What?” she said urgently, wondering what I’d seen. “The… the.. uuahhhh! The lights! The northern lights! There! Ahead!”

A vibrant green whisp of light was snaking up from the horizon over us in an arc. It danced and flowed; it was breathtaking. I had been convinced that photos of the Northern Lights were all taken on a long exposure, and that the real thing would be a disappointment, but again I was proved wrong. It really looks that stunning. We were on a street full of street lamps, next to the glow of the capital city, and still we could see the Aurora clearly in the sky.

I’m happy. Really happy. It’s a dream come true, and it has set us up for a great trip in this magical country.

NB: I did manage to snap a picture of the lights for my own benefit but due to the street lights the picture is so poor it’s not worth sharing. At least I have an incentive to go again one day so I can take a decent photo.

iceland countryside


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