Looking for the Northern Lights in December? Just before Christmas last year, I travelled to Iceland. Known as the Land of Ice and Fire, my main aim was to seek out the spectacular Northern Lights. Travelling through snowy landscapes, blizzards and cloudy skies – did I manage to catch a glimpse of this incredible natural phenomenon? Read on and find out…
Landing into Keflavik International Airport was the start of an amazing adventure. Firstly it was almost impossible to see the airport through the snow storm but we safely landed to a great round of applause from the passengers. Immigration was a doddle, the most smiling and welcoming greeting from a customs official ever! The Flybus shuttle transfer made short work of the snow and I was safely deposited outside my guesthouse. We made our way into Reykjavik centre for a divine meal of puffin (not at all like chicken) and whale (not at all like fish) and our first glimpse of the Northern Lights, albeit very faint. We were still very excited!
It didn’t get light until 10.30am, so getting up in the morning felt like waking in the middle of the night. We met our great tour leader and driver and hit the road out of Reykjavik with our tour group. Heading through the snow to the Reykjanes Peninsula, we stopped to take in the coastal views (in blizzard like conditions). Later, we immersed ourselves in the therapeutic hot waters at the Blue Lagoon. The coach trip to Hella was very quiet as most were fast asleep!
From Hella, we got saturated at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, passed the notorious Eyjafjallajökull volcano for pictures (and to shake our fists) before continuing along the south coast, through snow covered farmland with towering cliffs and mountains on one side, and a grey mean looking ocean on the other, to the small town of Vik. Close by, at Reynisfjara, we took a stroll on the black sand beach and witnessed the true strength of the ocean; huge waves crashed up onto the beach nipping at the toes of unsuspecting tourists. Luckily our tour guide was a very cautious fellow and we didn’t dare get too close to the water’s edge. We were all outside in our many layers late into the evening, although the Northern Lights had yet to make another appearance due to the horrendous weather and constant cloud cover. That’s right, one thing to consider when visiting Iceland to see the Northern Lights in December is that although the dark is great for spotting the Northern Lights, the adverse weather can sometimes get in the way!
Our fourth day was beautiful and sunny, not a cloud in the sky – and I believe the coldest I have ever been in my entire life! We made our way inland to visit the Golden Circle – a stunning landscape of geothermal activity. Upon return to Reykjavik, we were all a little despondent about not seeing the Northern Lights in their full glory (these things happen!) so we booked an additional excursion, and headed back out of town, into the hills and away from the light pollution. Our wonderfully enthusiastic guide was almost beside herself when she received reports that the lights were out and at their best, even thought there was a full moon! We piled off the coach on the side of the road and stood up to our thighs in snowdrifts and witnessed what I can only describe as the most incredible display – not just greens, but blues, purples and pinks dancing across the sky, almost as if they were close enough to touch! It may have taken three nights of standing outside in freezing weather and blizzards, but it was definitely worth the wait!