Read time – 2 minutes
Clouds on the final approach cast a gloomy grey cloak over both the capital of Iceland and my mood. Insulated in thermal, fleece and Goretex, I shuffled gingerly across the ice-caked tarmac and boarded the bus with little optimism for the evening ahead.
Searching for the Northern Lights
Clouds are notorious for obscuring the mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights. Despite Teutonic levels of organisation – I’d timed my arrival midway through the lunar cycle, the lodge was situated far from any light pollution, solar activity forecasts were encouraging, the tripod was in the holdall – nothing was guaranteed with nature’s fireworks.
Bound for Snaefellsnes, a 100km peninsula jutting out of Iceland’s rugged, wind-sculpted west coast, I settled in for an uneventful, four-hour journey to Langaholt guesthouse with just two things on my mind: the Northern Lights and the Aurora Borealis!
The sun was sinking, almost as fast as eyelids were on drooping on the bus. Sure enough, I woke in darkness about two hours later. Blinking the sleep from my eyes, I pressed my forehead against the icy window and scoured upwards hopefully. The cloud cover had dissipated to reveal a star-studded sky, but there was still no sign of the leading lady and her colourful handmaidens.
For another 20 minutes or so I squinted through cupped hands, patrolling the twinkling canvas diligently.
Then I noticed something moving strangely, it seemed to be almost glowing. I blinked a few times to refocus before confirming the faint greenish swirl over my left shoulder was genuine. Nervous about being the first to call it, I glanced around the bus to see if anyone else has noticed the ethereal glow.
I caught the eye of the woman in the seat behind and gestured: “Look – is that it? What do you think? Is it the lights?” Suddenly the Aurora evangelists started fidgeting. Shocked at our unbelievable good fortune, we hurriedly fumbled for hats, gloves and cameras for fear of missing this coruscating light show.
Leaning against the bus to help us stand firm against the howling wind that sliced through any chink in the Goretex amour, I instantly regretted having not practised using my still unfamiliar DSLR at night.
Over-excited and inexperienced, and with my tripod still stowed away in the luggage compartment, I was unprepared for the long exposure setup required for a successful Aurora capture. A few fuzzy handheld shots later, I let the redundant Canon hang round my neck opting instead to record the aquamarine and cerise ribbons rippling across the sky on my own hard drive.
“We’re lucky to be seeing so much purple and even a hint of blue tonight guys – blue is incredibly rare. Green is the most commonly sighted Aurora” our Icelandic guide Gudni informs us – so far the most spirited and enthusiastic islander we’d encountered. Tornados of colour twisted and morphed into glimmering waves spanning the horizon, these celestial shapeshifters treated us to quite the opening night. We hadn’t even checked in yet.
View our Iceland Northern Lights tours below and go hunting the Aurora.