Aurora Borealis in Iceland – My Northern Lights Experience

April 13, 2016

Amy Trumpeter

Last night I had the most incredible experience of my whole life. I was lucky enough to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland. My aunty did say that they only reveal themselves to you when they are ready, and last night, the were more ready than ever! I hope you enjoy reading about my Northern Lights Experience with Reykjavik Excursions.

The day before, I was meant to go to see them, but there was pretty much no chance for a glimpse of the lights, because it was far too cloudy. If you book a Northern Lights tour and don’t get to see the lights, your ticket is valid again until you actually see them! So, I just rescheduled for the next day.

Northern Lights Forecast was not Good

The next day, there was a Northern Lights forecast of 2 out of 10 – a very low chance of seeing Aurora Borealis. Our guide, Runar, said, “don’t worry, we will try to catch them, but I can’t turn them on!”

Reykjavik Excursions Northern Lights Tour Departed

The bus was completely packed full – not a spare seat in sight! We departed from Reykjavik just before 10pm and everyone was excited. Runar was shouting down the mike the names of the different countries where he though we came from, and we had to shout when he said out country!

We drove for about an hour through Thingvellir National Park (on the Golden Circle), and found a secluded spot to park the bus. The sky was clear with low levels of wind or cloud coverage – perfect conditions for the Northern Lights to reveal themselves!

Aurora Borealis in Iceland – My Northern Lights Experience

When we arrived at our chosen viewing spot, Runar gave us the opportunity to stay inside the warm bus if we wanted to, but he said that if he saw lights he would drag us off! I was just enjoying the evening, and any sight of the Northern Lights in Iceland would be a bonus.

Within minutes, someone was going in the bus saying “I don’t know if you can see them, but they are starting to appear very faintly!” We shot straight off the bus, of course!

As soon as I got off the bus there was a really clear green arc across the sky, increasing in intensity. It was getting thicker and becoming more vibrant.

I don’t have a digital SLR camera and a tripod myself, but Renar, our guide had set his up for us. He took pictures of everyone standing in front of the green arc, and mine looked like the lights were coming out of my pink ear muffs!

Northern Lights Aurora Borealis in Iceland

We were getting colder, but the display was too amazing for us to return to the bus! One arc became two, and then the lights changed into dancing spikes above the mountain on the left hand side. We were there for about an hour admiring the view and looking at the stars.

The atmosphere was electric. People were cheering and screaming! There were four Chinese students who were crying and hugging each other! This truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and an experience that we will never forget.

Northern Lights 4 copy

When we got back on the bus, and started to drive away, Renar said down the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the lights!” and everyone applauded!

But wait, there’s more! After 10 minutes of driving, Renar said “look right!” and everyone went “oooooooooh!” Lo and behold, the lights had appeared on the other side as a massive green curtain! Mass exodus from the bus yet again!

This was truly impressive, and Runar said that they had increased from a 6 to a 7 (bear in mind that a 9 or 10 is very rare indeed). I can’t thank Reykjavik Excursions enough for such an incredible experience!

Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis in Iceland

  • The best months to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland are March and September.
  • SIghtings do occur all through the period from September to Mid-April. My sighting occured on 9th April, and the 15th April is the date when the tours stop for the summer.
  • The summertime is not dark enough for a sighting of the Northern Lights in Iceland.
  • The sky should be clear (no cloud coverage) and low wind.
  • Wrap up warm – it gets FREEZING out there! I’m talking thermal base layers, fleece, winter vortex jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, two pairs of loophole socks and even heat warmers!
  • Your phone camera or a basic auto point and shoot won’t take photos of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland. You need a digital SLR on manual with 1600 ISO and a 10 second shutter speed.

https://youtu.be/YYIyM76tnvk

  • You can drive out to see the Northern Lights yourself – you just need to get about an hour out of Reykjavik, because of the light pollution.
  • If you would like to book on the Reykjavik Northern Lights tour that I did, click here. Let them know if you want a hotel pick up, otherwise it’s 9.30pm boarding for a 10pm departure at the BSI bus station (check your ticket time of course – times can change depending on time of year).
  • If you go on the tour, it is a late night. Expect to get back around 1.30pm or 2pm. You will be dropped near the city centre or near your hotel. We got off the bus at Hallgrimskirkja.
  • You can follow Reykjavik Excursions on Facebook to get up to date pictures of the lights, and download your images if you were on the trip.

Have you ever seen Aurora Borealis in Iceland? If so, I’d love to hear your story. They are different every time!

You might also like to read about The Golden Circle and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

*I went out on this Northern Lights Trip with Reykjavik Excursions, and as a travel blogger, I received this amazing trip for free. Images on this blog are by Runar and his colleagues from Reykjavik Excursions. I also received free accommodation with ODDSSON Ho(s)tel in partnership with Worldpackers. Many thanks to my sponsors for making this amazing experience possible.