One of the main things people who come to Iceland in the winter are seeking are a chance to spot the Northern Lights, also known as the beautiful Aurora Borealis. October is the beginning of the “season” as days are much longer and darker (very different from when we were here in May!).
I am definitely one of these people. And of course, so is Stratton.
So when I heard from a possible couchsurfing host (who subsequently declined our request – we got a LOT of those!) that the Aurora had been around a lot lately, I was ecstatic and believed that there was no way we were NOT going to see them. I mean we were going to be there for 12 days, there is no possible way, right????
I’m not sure if we mentioned this, but when we landed in Reyjkavik it was a humungous snow storm. Not rain, snow. Blizzarding. I looked to Stratton and said, “Now THIS is how you come to Iceland.”
But when it blizzards, that means snow. Snow means clouds. Clouds mean moisture. Moisture and a cloudy sky mean no Northern Lights. But I didn’t worry because that was only our first day.
Off and on for the next, I don’t know, at least 7 days, it rained and was almost completely cloudy at night.
The night we got back from our southern trip we heard everyone talking about how this was going to be the night to see them. The website said it was a “3”, which is moderate, but apparently can still be pretty breathtaking (honestly I feel like anytime you see green lights in the sky its going to be breathtaking).
Naturally, we decided to take a drive. Alongside our host and one of our fellow travelers from the previous days we set out to get away from the city lights. We found a dark area about 20 minutes outside of the city and set up camp. I had heard from one of our AirBnb hosts during our May trip that sometimes you can capture the northern lights on camera even when you can’t see them. I figured, what’s a better thing to do while waiting then test this theory, so while the boys were in the car, I was out setting up my tripod and hoping for some green on my screen.
Suddenly, we see three vans shoot by on the road, traveling quite close to one another. We watched them pass and all pretty much said in unison, “They’re probably going to see the Northern Lights” (there are tours based out of Reykjavik where they take you to a good place to spot the natural phenomenon). We paused for a second seemingly going to continue waiting and then once again said, “They’re probably going to see the Northern Lights!!!” This time with more excitement and realization that they probably know a good place to see them. Stratton shouted for me to get in the car. I threw my tripod in and he sped off after the vans.
It was a bit like a high speed chase, although they seemed to lose speed as we got deeper into the outskirts. They turned down a road and we followed. Another, and we followed. Yet again another, and we followed. Our host had made up a song about finding our sweet Aurora and we were laughing pretty hard. He was singing, “Where are you Aurora? We would love to find you Aurora!” And as a Lithuanian, he had a thick accent that made Aurora sound so beautiful. We wanted to find her!
Not going to lie, it felt a little exciting. It felt like we were doing something we weren’t supposed to although all we were doing was driving. Ok following, but there’s no difference, right?
We started to get a little nervous that we were going to get lost and my GPS would stop tracking us. It also started raining and a quick glance at the sky showed complete cloud cover.
Not the ideal time to see miss Aurora.
We spotted them take another turn ahead and this one seemed like the end for us. The road had bright orange signs warning that you need the proper tires and car for the roads ahead. Our SADcar was definitely not one of those cars, so we decided to turn around.
No Aurora tonight.
The next day we headed to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and stayed the night in Stykissholmur. We, of course, checked the forecast for the Northern Lights, which said a 3 once again. The city (well, not really a city, more like a small town) was quite dark so we knew if they were out, we would have a good chance of spotting the illusive green lights.
The group got into chatting and time passed. Its hard because you don’t know the “exact” time to go out to see if they are out. Is there a prime time? Not really. You just have to go and wait. So we were waiting inside, guessing when to go out.
And then we did.
And it was right there.
I didn’t expect that. To just see these light green lights streaming across the sky. It wasn’t particularly strong, but it was there and it was unlike anything I had seen before. After jumping in the car and taking a quick drive to the pitch dark, we sat and we watched.
Amazing. Ok, more than amazing.
The sky was dancing. And changing. And moving. And dancing again. One moment it was a bright green, the next a little faded. Twisted and straight. Swirled across the sky. Princess Ana in Frozen sure was right when she said, “The sky is awake.”
As I sat on the ground setting my camera up for longer exposures, I didn’t feel the cold. I was mesmerized. Hours could have passed and I would not have realized.
It was then I truly connected to the magic of Iceland.
We also had the chance to see the lovely Aurora in Reykjavik as well. We almost missed her! We were resting and watching a movie when our Couchsurfing host texted us to look out the window. “Can you see the northern lights from the window??”
I attempted capturing them through the window and also tried outside, but the city lights made it a bit difficult. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the view. I was amazed at being able to see them so clearly in the city center. Bright green across the sky once again. This time it started at one side, and went all the way to the other. Then of course changed. Then changed again.
I was staring up at the sky as people passed me in the street. They weren’t looking up. They must be from here. They aren’t as impressed with Aurora anymore. They’re used to it. And I get that. They’ve probably seen it their whole lives. But not me.