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Seeing the Magical Northern Lights in Iceland

Photo courtesy of Thor Ostensen of Discover Iceland

I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember.  Every year I’d see the cheap deals to Iceland and want to book a trip to see them, but never did.   This year, however, I finally took the plunge and bought one of the crazy deals from WOW Air to see Copenhagen and hopefully see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland.

I booked the Disco Northern Lights minibus tour with Discover Iceland for my first night in Reykjavik.  If you don’t see the lights the first night, they’ll let you go out another night for free so this left me with 2 more chances to see them if the first night didn’t work.

As soon as we left the lights of Reykjavik, our guide, Thor, pointed out the start of the Aurora Borealis out the windows of the minibus.  He opted to take us near the mountains only 20-30 minutes out of town as we could already see them.

On the way, Thor told us exactly how to set our DSLR cameras, so we were prepared to take pictures as soon as we arrived.

Once I got out of the minibus, the lights were on full display.  I couldn’t believe my luck!

The interesting thing is that they don’t look exactly like they do in the pictures.  They’re more white wispiness with occasional colors.  They’re still spectacular and I felt so lucky to finally see them with my own eyes.

Photo courtesy of Thor Ostensen of Discover Iceland

Photo courtesy of Thor Ostensen of Discover Iceland

Photo courtesy of Thor Ostensen of Discover Iceland

Thor helped me set up a tripod and I started snapping picture after picture.  In the meantime, he took a bunch of pictures which he later shared with us.  He also took pictures of each of us in front of the lights by having us stand frozen for about 10 seconds then briefly flashing a light on us.  What an amazing keepsake!

Unfortunately, none of my pictures turned out well at all – I think my focus wasn’t set right but it also appears my tripod kept moving so they ended up blurry.

Here are my best shots 🙁

The stars were also incredible that night and Jupiter was so bright it was like a tiny moon in the sky.

Photo courtesy of Thor Ostensen of Discover Iceland

At least some of my star pictures turned out ok

After about an hour, Thor broke out the hot cocoa and cookies to help warm us as we stood in the 14°F cold.  My hands and feet started to get quite cold, but I didn’t care as I took in the beauty of nature around me.

We stayed in the same spot for about 1:30 before finally calling it quits and heading back to Reykjavik.  We could see the lights on the trip back and they started to get even more incredible, so Thor pulled off for a brief view.  As soon as I got out of the bus, the lights were a brilliant green and were lighting up a huge section of the sky.  They were even more magical than what we saw earlier and I think I stood there with my mouth open uttering “wow” as I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I swear those images are forever sealed in my memory.

I got back to my hotel a bit after midnight still pinching myself.

I highly recommend Discover Iceland especially after talking to other travelers that went on the big bus trips.  They didn’t have nearly the same experience, didn’t get help with their cameras, didn’t get their picture taken, and didn’t get the guide’s pictures emailed to them later.  Also, while we were out there alone, they were somewhere else with 100s of others.  They definitely made the experience even greater.

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  • Joan Bergey February 10, 2017, 1:23 pm

    Very exciting!