They say that once you get to see the Northern Lights, it is going to be your life changer. Mainly because from then on, you will have an urgent need to see this spectacular show again and again.
First, when I heard this saying from an Icelander, I was a bit sceptical about it, and I considered it to be only one of those great marketing tricks, how to use an overrated natural phenomenon, in order to sell an overpriced ticket for Northern Lights hunt. When I asked this man how probable it was for our hunt to become successful, all I got was a sly look and something about the weather, solar activity and of course: good luck.
The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are a very important part of Icelandic tourism, so there are a great variety of organised observing trips for you to choose from. Some last hours, some even days. Some will cost you 50€, some up to 1000€. We also did consider going that way too. For a very short time. Then we decided to stick with our original plan, and to undergo this adventure on our own. As you know, we are not big group activities fans.
So it happened that Aurora Borealis became one of our main aims on our second trip to Iceland. We chose to go in mid September, when the Thorsmork trails are still open, and Northern Light season is already on. There are some factors, which you have to keep in your mind when going Aurora hunting. Patience and good luck might not be enough. These circumstances may help:
- Beginning of September-the end of April
- As little light pollution/ artificial light, as possible
- Dark night, full moon is a bit of a spoiler and makes the visibility poorer
- Very few, or no clouds
- Enough solar activity
Westfjord’s north part of the island meets these requirements pretty well. The possibility of seeing Aurora is quite high, especially thanks to the low light pollution and bigger amount of “dark hours”. Still, it is NOT a sure thing to spot Aurora. In fact, it might happen, you will not get to see it during your entire stay at all. But a simple rule stands. The more nights you stay here, the higher the chances of catching a glimpse are.
A proper Aurora hunter is not only equipped with a lot of patience and determination to spend hours and hours outside in cold, but also with solar activity and cloud cover app. It will show you (in 6 hours intervals), what the probability of the Northern Lights occurrence is, and where in Iceland the weather conditions are favourable. It works like this: on a scale from 0 to 9, the higher the number, the higher the solar activity is. (0-no activity, 9-high level of activity). No.4, and all the numbers higher than 4, those are a signal for you to start packing your stuff for a night trip, and to make up your mind, where from you want to watch this spectacular show.
We found this link to be most useful for us:
0-9 are just numbers, which do not guarantee anything 100%. You have to understand, it is still only a forecast. And you know how those are. Nature is the master in the end, isn’t it? Which we had the “pleasure” to experience on our own too. The second night, right after our arrival, we had the no.7. Very rare phenomenon! And how kind it was from all the hotels and shops’ staff to have pointed it out for us. Their excitement and encouragement not to miss on our chance were very disarming. But as I have said already, not even no.7 was a guarantee. All excited, we waited eagerly for 4 hours on our hunt outside (in a car). Nothing. The problem is, you never really know, when Aurora appears in the sky, and how long it is going to stay. Our first try was accompanied by a full moon. Which was gorgeous, but it was also illuminating the sky too much unfortunately.
Our second attempt brought our first success. After thorough planning, spot finding and hours of waiting, we finally got to see it. Our first Aurora Borealis! To tell you the truth, it hasn’t changed our lives as such. But you’ll get to understand, it is really something extraordinary, when you find yourself, grinning away like a child, standing in the middle of nowhere, in awe, with vocabulary limited to interjections like wow, ooh, whee and woo. Both of us pointing to the sky, as if the other one wasn’t experiencing and seeing just the same thing. Experience so powerful, that you are holding the camera in your dangling hand, not wanting to miss on anything happening up there, and not wanting to spoil it by trying to take a picture. Our first Aurora wasn’t too strong, neither did it take too long. No light shows or dancing creations, nothing of the kind that you can normally see on the internet. Still, it was enough for us to feel satisfied and think of it as mission accomplished. Everything extra would be just a super bonus and a pleasant surprise.
And a surprise it was in the end. It is quite difficult to put it into words. This show, directed by nature itself. Quite impossible, to express what has happened there in the Icelandic sky, and explain it to someone, who has never experienced such thing in their lives. We spent 4 hours outside. In those 4 hours we took some pictures and made a time-lapse video, which you can see attached to this blog. We saw this phenomenal performance of nature in all its beauty and all its variations. Plus, our last but one hunt attempt was accompanied by burning meteorites whooshing through the sky. That was really something unbelievable. And after all, it did change our lives a bit. Because we most definitely want to get tickets for the next show again and again.