This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
The words “what have we done” entered my mind as we landed with a bump at Keflavik airport. Outside was foggy and wet and all I could see was a vast flat land of nothing. Where were all the mountains and glaciers we had read so much about before our trip? The dread of trudging around the Golden Circle and glaciers in cold, wet and windy conditions was not filling me with the joy I had hoped when we landed on our dream trip to Iceland. A full 3 day itinerary had been discussed in-flight of all things we hoped to see and do during our flying visit – and of course no trip would be complete without a show of the Northern Lights! “Not a flying chance of that if the weather stays as miserable as this” I told myself…Hope had already begun to fade.
Having previously worked for an Iceland specialist Tour Operator, I had done a lot of research into the country and knew the perfect place to stay. Hotel Ranga. South Iceland’s only 4 star hotel, perfectly situated by a salmon fishing river with absolutely nothing around it. An ideal place to see the lights. So we thought…
The whole three days we stayed it remained wet with low cloud and not a star in the sky could be found at night. Every night we signed up for the Northern Lights wake up call, with our camera already set on the tripod and our jeans and jackets ready waiting to pull on and dash outside. Still nothing.
We debated whether we should jump in the car at night fall and drive to clearer skies but was advised it probably wasn’t worth it – low cloud was in its abundance and it wasn’t going anywhere.
As we woke Sunday morning, the sun shone through our window. Clear skies surrounded the hotel. “Just our luck” I thought as we were leaving Hotel Ranga to head for the city for our final night in Iceland. With our tails between our legs having not seen the elusive lights we drove to the city. We certainly weren’t going to see them here, although a relatively small city compared to the city of London, Reykjavik still has enough light pollution to completely block out the night sky.
Having been assured by the hotel owner that our final night was probably the best night we would have and advice from the Hilton as to where the lights were predicted, we grabbed our hats, coats, iPads and snacks and decided to drive to the hills outside the city at dusk. Settling in a nice spot on the hill, with ice and snow around us on the ground and the clear sky ahead of us, we sat back as the sun set. This was it, this was a perfect spot.
Think again…luck just didn’t seem to be on our side.
As we sat watching episodes of 24 waiting for the darkness to over come the landscape, low cloud hit us once again. Driving off again towards Þingvellir National Park where the lights had been predicted, we chased the clear skies. With Leo driving and my head firmly pressed against the window searching for stars we looked for the perfect spot to stop and wait. Driving down a windy road with blustery snow hitting us head on we spotted a clearing in the distance and we stopped. All of a sudden we were sat under the night sky with all its shining stars on show. If there was ever a spot the Northern Lights – this just had to be it. And it was.
Just after 11.20pm having had our eyes glued to the sky for over an hour, we spotted a wave of light washing over the skies. Jumping for the camera and quickly winding the window down, we sat in awe as the light danced across the sky above. It was more than I ever imagined it being. The colors of green, white and yellow filled the sky.
Although not quite as bright as I had pictured in my head it was an experience I will never forget. Some people have travelled Scandinavia and the Arctic circle many times and still never seen them. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen the Northern Lights on my very first trip north. My mind certainly ran away with the lights and made an ever lasting memory and I only hope I’ll see them again one day…