Hunting for Northern Lights in Iceland

After spending time in NYC, Paris and London, it was finally time to head to Iceland.  This was after all the actual destination for this trip – everywhere else was added on during our planning!

We flew out of London and arrived in Reykjavik around 3:30pm.  Since there is only about 6 hours of daylight during mid-November in Iceland, the sky was already getting dark.  There was also a fresh dusting of snow which looked beautiful was we approached the airport.




Nanci is a happy clam – finally at her bucket list destination!


We had originally scheduled an excursion on a boat to check out the northern lights but I got an email that it had been cancelled that evening due to the weather – so we rescheduled for the next day.  We then got all checked into our hotel and then ventured out for some dinner at a recommended spot, Sjávargrillid Seafood Grill.  I was even adventurous and tried the fermented shark (first and likely last time!).

The next day, we bought some bus tickets and made our way to the harbor area to check out Fly Over Iceland.  It is a ride that simulates flying over various points of interest throughout Iceland.  It was a really cool experience, although sadly it did not last long enough for me!  And I think we both agreed it made us want to come back as many of the beautiful places shown were on other parts of the island than we would be venturing to during our short visit.  After that, we grabbed some lunch and then checked out the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which was really “something”.

Unfortunately our rescheduled boat ride was once again pushed due to weather so we ended up canceling it and decided to book a tour with a Super Jeep for our last night (assuming the weather would cooperate).  For the next day, we had a Golden Circle tour planned so we called it an early night so we could be fresh for our new adventures!

Our tour ended up getting upgraded to a private tour so Nanci and I had the driver and vehicle to ourselves for the day which was really nice.  We drove for over 2 hours south to the first stop at Reynisfjara Beach, also known as the black sand beach.  It was a cold and rainy day, exacerbated by some incredibly strong winds.  Even with the bitter cold, the beach was a beautiful sight!


Our next stop on the Golden Circle tour was at Skógafoss.  This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland.  On sunny days, the water spray droplets can produce double rainbows.  Obviously, we were not fortunate enough to experience that but it was still a beautiful waterfall.


Next up was Seljalandsfoss – a waterfall you can actually walk behind!


We then headed more west to see Stokkur, a geyser located in a geothermal area along the Hvítá River in southwest Iceland.  While the more famous geyser, aptly named Geysir, is also in the area, it erupts infrequently whereas Stokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes.  We were fortunate enough to experience Stokkur erupt a few times while we were exploring.



Next up was Gullfoss, which I personally found to be breathtaking!  We arrived just before dark so we didn’t have a ton of time to spend there since we had one more stop to make before heading back.



Obligatory selfie with waterfalls in background

For our last stop on the Golden Circle tour, we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. In addition to being the site of the world’s longest running (and still ongoing) parliament, it’s also where the North America and Eurasia tectonic plates intersect.  The rift between the two plates expands 2.5 centimeters per year.

We had a wonderful time during our golden circle tour!  The next day, we spent our morning and afternoon checking out Hallgrímskirkja and doing some last minute souvenir shopping.  We started the day off optimistic about being able to see the northern lights and all of the workers in the shops kept telling us it was a good forecast.  Not having received any cancellation notices about our northern lights tour, we started getting excited we may actual get to see them!  We had met a woman from the UK the day before who said she had been to Iceland 8 times and had not been able to see the lights before.

Our northern lights tour was confirmed as being a go!  So we got all bundled up and our ride picked us up around 9pm.  The vehicle was a super high modified cross between a van and a large SUV.  Thankfully our driver, Thor (yes, I swear that was his real name), had a stool we could use to get into the vehicle.  The first stop was near a lake and we could see the peace light shining.  We all set up our tripods and took some pics but then the guides decided there was too much cloud cover so we ended up moving.


The light going straight up in the air is from the Imagine Peace Tower. You can learn more about it at


You can see the green glow faintly


Once we moved further in, we were in a pretty dark spot so the electric transmission tower is the point of reference in the other shots.  While not as scenic of a backdrop as the lake, we definitely were able to see more of the northern lights from this spot.  Iceland is one of the only places in the world you can see red Northern Lights, which are produced at a higher altitude.  While not the best night to see the northern lights, we were lucky enough to see the green ones, along with some slight red ones.






This is the pic that Thor took of us from his camera

Both Nanci and I agree that Iceland was the highlight of our trip!  I would love to experience it in the summer.  So Iceland – ég kem aftur! (I’ll be back!)

Thanks to Nanci for asking me to join her on her bucket list trip and for allowing it to expand to France and England as well!  It was a FANTASTIC trip!