When you’re going on a trip to Iceland, there’s only one thing you hope you’ll be lucky enough to see. Obviously, I’m talking about the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis – a phenomenon that’s pretty rare and always depending on various uncontrollable factors, so seeing them is never a certainty. Of course everyone of the Icelandair travel group put this on their bucket list, so we were quite excited when we set out to “chase” them on our first night in Akureyri. The funniest guide ever (again, from the amazing Saga Travel) picked us up, and even though his jokes certainly set the mood, we weren’t feeling too hopeful in seeing them since it was raining and quite cloudy (you have a way better chance to see them when there are clear skies). Since they ensured us they wouldn’t be taking us on this trip if there wasn’t a chance in seeing them, a slight glimmer of hope was still present (which may have resulted in us getting all excited over a simple cloud – apparently commonly referred to as “Northern Lights Hysteria” by the locals). But alas, the hours passed and there were still no pretty lights in the sky to be seen. Tired, cold and slightly disappointed we returned and crawled in our comfy beds at the Icelandair Hotel Akureyri.
Our blurry Northern Lights group picture!
What followed the day after, was pretty damn amazing. That Saturday, we saw so many beautiful things that any bad feeling about not seeing the Northern Lights the night before were definitely washed away. Our last activity of the day was enjoying the Myvatn nature baths at sunset before we headed back to the airport to catch a flight back to Reykjavik. This was about an hour-long trip, and the mood was joyful but zen. As I sat in front next to our guide Anton, I noticed him looking a bit nervous at the sky after a while. I asked him what he was doing, quickly adding “is there a possibility we’re going to see the Northern Lights?” – to which he silently responded “yes, but don’t tell the others just yet – I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up”. I suppressed my urge to scream and joined him in searching the sky for any sign of the Aurora Borealis. Since the sun was still setting, it wasn’t fully dark yet – but after a few minutes I saw something. My first reaction was: “don’t be crazy Kim, it’s probably just another cloud” but when Anton started poking my arm, I knew I had caught the first glimpse of the Northern Lights. Cue me screaming to the group and our van pretty much stopping with screeching tires on the side of the road.
The lights were still pretty unclear at that time, but visible enough – let’s just say we had no idea this was only Hysteria phase 1 for us compared to the remaining part of the drive. As we drove further and further, and it became darker and darker, the lights kept on appearing more clear and beautiful than any of us could have hoped for. And while all of this may sound like a serene experience, the reality of the matter was that we were on a strict deadline to catch our flight and actually didn’t have time to make stops. Luckily our guide realized that this was a once in a lifetime experience for us, so he did everything he could to let us enjoy this moment to the max. He made several stops, helped us with the pictures, and dropped us off at the airport action in true high speed chase kind of style. The whole experience was just perfect and made it all the more memorable – even more so because it was our last night.
Since it’s very hard to get clear, full shots of the Northern Lights (especially when you don’t have lots of time) I added some extra pictures (the one above and below) that were taken by Saga during other tours. On very rare occasions, the Northern Lights can appear quite strong in different colors like yellow, purple or red – and even though we weren’t so lucky to see them like that, I still wanted to share these beautiful pictures with you.
Icelandair offers the possibility of a free stopover up to 7 nights when you’re on your way to the United States or Canada (you can choose out of 16 destinations). Their flights leave between 3 to 7 times a week from Brussels, and ticket prices start from €349 (this includes flight, a 3 night stay and breakfast).