Northern Lights aka Aurora Borealis was one of the main reasons for me to visit Iceland. The other being the diverse landscape dotted with natural wonders. In fact, I feel that Iceland’s landscape alone has already made my trip so worthwhile as I move around the island. But surely, seeing the Northern Lights would be an icing on the cake. It will be a nice consolation for the Lofoten trip last year where the cloudy nights diminished any of my chances. I had a déjà vu feeling since the first night in Reykjavik because the cloud cover forecasts have not been favourable. That’s until I arrived at Akureyri where the odds had finally tilted to my favour, I thought.
Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland
I have initially planned to do the lights chasing on my own for all 3 nights. But I ended up joining a local Northern Lights tour for the first 2 nights. As I wanted to tap on the local expertise while maximizing my chances when the clouds were least expected. The first night’s KP index was really low and the local guide said we might not get to see any actions at all. More so when some clouds decided to show up uninvited.
Still, he drove us to various locations in his minibus to check out the night sky. And before we know it, a very faint green glow appeared on the horizon. It’s the Northern Lights! I finally get to see it happening live!
The natural phenomenon happens when the Sun’s solar wind carrying charged particles, get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. These particles will then ride on the magnetic field to either the North or South Poles. Once they enter the atmosphere and interact with either oxygen or nitrogen, an energy in the form of light will be released. These shows are known as Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and Southern lights (Aurora Australis).
However, it was a very brief showing of what this natural phenomenon is capable of. As the clouds decided to bring down the curtains on the show. “That’s all folks!”, I could almost hear them saying. Perhaps sensing all our disappointment, our friendly guide told us to join him for tomorrow’s tour and it will be free of charge.
The Northern Lights and a painful lesson
I was in for a treat on the second night. The Northern Lights showed up brightly and danced across the sky. It was doing all sorts of curling and twisting while occasionally fading away, only to reappear with more actions. I was split between taking crazy loads of pictures and staring admirably at the show, for the fear to miss out on either. I thought there will be plenty of nice pictures for me to edit back in the hotel after this aurora show.
But instead, it was a rude shock that almost all the pictures were out of focus and blurry! What a memorable night with such mixed feelings. I was so excited that I forgot to preview the captured images by zooming into the distant objects… It was indeed a rather painful lesson learned after seeing such a wonderful show on display. Anyhow, here are the disastrous photos. I have pieced some of them together as GIF file to illustrate how beautiful the Northern Lights were that night.
I wanted to redeem myself on the third night but the clouds have other thoughts. It’s just not going to happen. I have to wait till the following year to see the Northern Lights again, but in Canada.