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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…

View of the Salmon River from Hotel Ranga in Southern Iceland © The Wandering Wanderluster
Hotel Ranga in Southern Iceland

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.

Our spot half an hour outside Reykjavik
Our spot half an hour outside Reykjavik

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.

Northern Lights in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park Iceland © The Wandering Wanderluster

Northern Lights in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park Iceland © The Wandering Wanderluster

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…

14 thoughts on “The Scarlet Pimpernel of Mother Nature…The Northern Lights

  1. Alexis says:

    Growing up in Alaska, I saw the Northern Lights a lot and took them for granted. Now it’s been at least 10 years since I’ve seen them and I know I would fully appreciate them if I could go back!! These are wonderful photos and I’m glad you got a good show:)

    • Samantha Hussey says:

      Thanks for your comment Alexis. I could stare at the Northern Lights for hours and never get bored. I wish I had grown up with these magical lights in Alaska and I wish I had taken better photos. These ones are ok, thanks for your kind words…but I actually left disappointed when you compare my pictures to those you see on Pinterest for example. The things is they are so slow to appear but so quick to leave so I panicked and didn’t get the best shots! :((

  2. Alli says:

    Congrats on seeing this beautiful, elusive phenomenon! I will be in Iceland this October and can’t wait to search for them! I have to practice my nighttime photography big time!

    • Samantha Hussey says:

      Allison, I do hope you get to see them. I think this year is the last opportunity to see them before they die down a little for a decade I think I read. They will still obviously appear over the next 10 years, just not as frequent or as strong. So enjoy them while you can! I hope to see them one last time this year too!

  3. Madi | Restless Worker says:

    I’m hopefully going to visit Iceland later this year and I cannot wait! The remoteness of some parts of the country are what make it so unique and amazing. What a cool experience you had. You’re so luck you got to see the Northern lights — hopefully I am too!

  4. Kate says:

    I’d love to go to Iceland and see the Northern Lights. Its so hit and miss though. At least there are other things to see and do if you aren’t as lucky. The green light looks really strong in your photos. Great post

  5. Jackie says:

    So glad you finally got to see the Northern Lights! That’s such a bucket list experience! Iceland is at the top of my list and I’m hoping to make it there later in 2016. If not there, than maybe the northern Europe for Christmas!

  6. Svet Dimitrov says:

    You write so beautifully I got goosebumps just before the last two photos of the lights. Well done and congratulations for seeing them! What a view!

    Waiting in patience always pays off, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Best regards,

  7. Pingback: How To Spend 5 Days In Southern Iceland | The Wandering Wanderlusters

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