It was my first time travelling with my dad since I was young. We’re similar in many ways, but don’t have lots in common. Our spirit for adventure made Iceland the perfect choice for a week long break away from the everyday grind. We’d both wanted to see the Northern Lights throughout our lives, and with March fast approaching, it was the perfect time to go. The weather was generally stable, and the nights long enough to give us a good chance of seeing them.
“Have you farted?” I proclaimed as we left the airport in our far-from-snow-ready Hyundai i10 towards our first destination near Skálholt. It wasn’t the aroma of Methane that was filling our nostrils, but rather one of Sulphur. Being an island created on volcanic and tectonic activity, the smell was soon to become a familiar friend throughout the journey. We soon arrived at our accommodation, an absolute gem of a discovery. They wished to remain anonymous as “they don’t want to become too popular!”
It was our first evening, and we met others in the guesthouse. They informed us that the recent snow-storm had brought 51CM of snow, only 2CM short of the highest ever volume recorded. The skies were clear and the KP index was high (download the “Aurora Alerts Northern Lights” app by the way, if you’re going!) making conditions optimal. We headed out on a storm-chasing style mission, driving down all sorts of roads to escape the luminosity (largely thanks to the large greenhouses dotted around Iceland) of artificial lighting and towards a better view. Over the next two nights, we witness something that far surpassed expectations, something that was impossible to capture in a photograph or video.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis
Cosmic rays of Green, Red, Purple and even Yellow danced across the sky. Their rays spiralling into a Fibonacci style pattern, intertwining with each other and dashing from North to South in a glorious acme of science and art, fused together in perfect harmony. A large horizontal glow of green provided the backdrop, while east and west saw vertical lines shimmering away in a display of beauty. We learned that this was very uncommon to see, the Northern Lights at all, but certainly extremely rare to see such colours. The American tourists staying at the guesthouse had been there for 1 month, and not seen them yet.
Skating about in a 1 litre hire car
The next two days saw us zipping about in the i10, sliding from place to place on the icy roads (not as bad as we thought, though!).
We visited the mammoth Gullfoss waterfall, the famous “Geysir” Geyser which jetted gallons of hot streaming water into the air every 8 minutes, a US Navy DC-3 plane wreck on a beach heading to Vik, and many other waterfalls on route, including a “secret” waterfall, Gljúfrabúi, which saw us wading through a stream to get to (cold… but worth it!).
On the way to the capital city, Reykjavik, we went to visit a large crater, but took a detour through one of the national parks, Þingvellir. All I can say is WOW, what a stunning area of beauty…here, I took one of my favourite photos, after sliding down a fun road that was unfit for a 2WD car for about 5 miles!
We also found this church, in the middle of nowhere! The composition was perfect.
Reykjavik – one of the most expensive cities in Europe!
We made it to a hostel in Reykjavík. There is a fair amount to do around here – day tours out to Ice caves, whale watching, plenty of museums, bars, clubs and the heavily promoted Blue Lagoon. When we saw the prices however, it was eye-wateringly expensive! Just to give you an indication, to head out on a large boat for a whale watching tour with others, it was about £150 / $180 per person! We opted for the cheaper option of drinking plenty of beer and hanging out with Aussies from the hostel. A word of advice, actually – buy beer from the airport when you land (thanks for the tip, Carla!) – it’s a lot better value for money, as you’d be looking at paying £8+ for a beer in the bars over here!
We sit here now in Borgarnes, back to the “norm” of Iceland’s infamously common overcast weather, winding down from our whirlwind adventure in what I can honestly say was one of the best experiences of my life. The fresh snowfall, endless blue skies and solar activity made the perfect conditions for seeing the sights of Iceland, including the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Captain Hindsight says…
We booked an 8 day trip here. Because we were on a budget, we should have opted for about 4/5 days, with only 1 day in the city of Reykjavik. I’d like to have ventured out towards the South East a little more too, as there are some really cool places in that direction.
….and I definitely would have come at a time where I could have afforded the expensive trips to Blue Lagoon, glaciers, ice caves and beyond!
BUT given the conditions of which we toured the south, I’d say our trip was worth every penny. Iceland is one of the most stunning places I have visited in my life, and I feel privileged to be here.