My Iceland trip writeup and video
Hi readers- I posted some Aurora images from my surprise birthday trip to Iceland in December, the aim of the weekend was to see the northern lights but my wife had also arranged a tour for something to do during the day.
We arrived late on Sunday night, at a wonderful guesthouse in the village of Mosfellsbaer not far from Reykjavik. After a brief chat with the owners we retired for the evening as we were up early morning for the Island tour, but not before I managed to grab some nice views from the bedroom(the panorama image).
Next morning breakfast was fresh homemade bread and cold meats/cheese, then we got wrapped up and the owner dropped us off at a local hotel where the tour bus was picking us up.
First stop was the geothermal power station, quite interesting from a geeky point of view! All hot water on the island is pumped from these stations for free – they use high pressure steam to generate electricity then pass the now cooler and condensed water (still at around 80 degrees if I remember correctly) along pipes to islanders homes and also to heat the streets in Reykjavik! The cold water is from springs and stinks of sulfur! not pleasant when having a shower….
Next up was a little church, I cant remember its name or much about it unfortunately. It really was a lovely setting, I got some nice pictures and especially like the one taken showing the church and the little crosses on the graves – even out here, they all had little Christmas lights on them. After about 20 mins we got back on the bus – freezing! and headed off to the next stop….
The Gullfoss Waterfalls – at this time of year they are mostly frozen and a wonderful sight, very slippy underfoot though. We got some nice pictures, had a wee wander round but it’s too cold! So went inside for some lunch and a Viking Beer 🙂 (just found out that beer was banned until 1989 in Iceland as well!).
After lunch we headed off to see the Geysir area where the world famous Geyser is located (which gave its name to all other erupting springs), the main attraction no longer erupts, I think it only does so after a major earthquake and thankfully there were none when we were there… The Strokkur Geyser does however erupt, with a frequency of around 5-8 mins, so we stood and watched this shoot boiling water 30m in the air. There are also lots of other little bubblers around as well, its quite a surreal place, very otherworldly.
By now it was getting late in the day and starting to get dark – it gets light at this time of year around 11:30 and dusk is around 3:30. The next and final stop was Thingvellir national park and running through it is a massive fault line on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. By this time, we had fallen asleep on the bus as it was around an hours drive from the waterfalls up here. We both awoke cold and my wife got off the bus, had a quick look round then headed back inside, I felt the same but ventured off in the now well below freezing and gusty wind for some pictures, by the time I got back 10 mins later my fingers were numb! This is also the place where the first Iceland general assembly was established but nobody knows exactly where, there is a small area with a flag, cordoned off, that they think would be the area but nobody knows for sure. I got my pictures, wandered around and found another little church so got some more piccies of that and then headed back to the bus to thaw out, then we headed back home, a really nice and different day out.
After dinner at a local restaurant – Alafoss Cafe, we headed back to the guesthouse….. the owner came up to greet us and asked if we wanted a dip in the hot tub, well when in Rome as they say! He also asked if I had seen the weather and Aurora forecast, since he knew that was the primary reason for the trip. I said it looked to be starting but it would be another hour or so before it reached us. He agreed but also said that there was weather coming in so it might be cloudy by the time the Aurora arrived 😦 He then went on to say that if that was the case, he would call a friend who lived in the mountains around midnight and if there was any activity he would drive me up – this really brought home what wonderful hosts we had, they really would go out of their way to make their guests stay a pleasure. We got changed for the hot tub, at this time the weather was OK, maybe 20-30% cloud, -10 degrees but no wind. We settled into the hot tub, which is bizzare, a really hot bath, outside in -10 degrees, the steam from the tub must freeze and drop back down – when you get out your hair is frosty but the rest of you is lovely and warm!
So, on to the main event(for me!) – we were sitting in the hot tub, relaxing, I was looking up expectantly but not really seeing much, maybe a wee hint but nothing to get too excited about. The wife of the owner came round and asked if we wanted some Icelandic delicacy – rotten shark and a spirit known as ‘Black Death’ – how could we refuse! She also said that she thought there was some Aurora activity and she would switch off the outdoor light. Once the light went out, we could see it, still faint but definitely the Aurora, amazing, sitting in a hot tub in Iceland watching the Aurora overhead – just what I wanted, it was a bit like a jets contrail, going right over us from horizon to horizon. I watched for maybe 10-15mins then had to get out to get some images, in this short time it had grown a lot brighter and was very easy to see, quite like the early images in the video, a strong green colour, no real structure yet….
The next 2 or 3 hours were spent with me setting the camera up and letting it take a series of images then moving it as the Aurora shifted (next time I would try to take 2 cameras, one to move about and capture the best bits and one to leave on and take multiple images to turn into a time-lapse). It was everywhere by now, at the east side looking up into the dark mountains it seemed to be getting pulled down to earth, to the west it was sort of swirling around very slowly, overhead was a bright neon green band, in front at times, the hills had an ethereal glow above them…… I was like a child in a sweet shop! The best was near the end, looking straight out in front of me above the hills it was like fingers, playing on an invisible piano, that’s all I can describe it as, this only lasted a few minutes unfortunately and I did not manage to get an image but I was ecstatic with what I had seen 🙂 By now the wind was really getting up and more than a few minutes outside was too much, the clouds were nearly obscuring all the Aurora and I decided to bring the camera inside. I did stand at the window of one of the empty rooms (Which the owner had kindly unlocked for me) and watch the last remnants of the display with a glass of wine, before heading off to be, knackered but delighted to have seen such an amazing display of the northern lights.
Next morning was my birthday, we gt up to fresh pancakes, a little card and traditional Christmas tree decoration from the owners, its little things like that which made the trip extra special, and then we were told that a storm was coming so we should leave a little earlier for the bus to take us to the airport. In the event though, the bus had to pull into a service station as the road to the airport was closed due to the snow, its amazing how quick the storm came in and how much snow fell in only a few hours. Our flight was cancelled but thanks to Easyjet we were put up in a local hotel for the evening and flew home next day – this is where the Dorito’s and beer shot was taken, the hotel room that night, we had nothing to eat since breakfast and did not yet know what was happening with regards to food, so we walked to a local garage on got some supplies, beer, chocolate and crisps!
The whole trip/experience is something I will never forget, I really had no idea my wife had planned this, the location and the guesthouse was perfect, I really could not fault it, the owners were lovely and you really got the sense that they enjoyed what they did. The day tour was great, the frozen waterfalls, the geysers – you really appreciate that Iceland is a little island sitting on top of the earths crust. Obviously for me the main purpose was to see the Northern Lights and they certainly did not disappoint, simply stunning, a wonderful display put on by the interaction of particles from the sun and the earth’s magnetic field – well done nature and well done Mrs Blinky for organizing such an amazing weekend 🙂
So, you have seen some of the Aurora images, here is a short(ish) video of the highlights of the weekend, starting with the view from the bedroom balcony when we arrived and finishing with the wonderful Northern Lights:
Link to 1080p highest quality video (Download from Dropbox, richt click and choose save as, then play locally)
Link to YouTube video, will stream online but not as good quality, especially evident with the aurora