Iceland is considered to be a rather young country, and it wears such youth well. It is a reckless gentleman and a free spirited lady all at once; wild, full of power, and not at all shy. It is a land of history and myth, a place of legends, and a location at the top of many people’s bucket lists. The latter was why I had come; I was there to hunt for the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis is a fickle creature and difficult to find if the conditions are not perfect. I knew this, and the anxiety of maybe not seeing them haunted me as I hopped on my airport transfer and was seamlessly shuttled into the heart of Reykjavik.
That being said, the Lights were not the only reason I had ventured here. Iceland is a remarkable place, and there is so much to see during the day that I was never bored. This experience began in Reykjavik where there are beautiful buildings, grand views, and plenty to do, eat and explore. You could visit the famous allgrímskirkja, a church known as an architectural marvel, or stop in for a hot-dog at the renowned Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand. You might even enjoy the orchestra at the Harpa Concert Hall, or visit one of the many museums within the city limits. It’s all within easy walking distance, and all very beautiful.
Once I’d taken my time to explore the city, I returned to my hotel and washed up, climbed into my thermals and wool, and waited for my bus to take me on a Northern Lights hunt. The activity level was high, but the cloud cover was thick. You need 2 things to find the lights: activity, and a clear sky. We had one of those things. The guide did not give up, however. He hunted the clearest patch of sky and parked us there.
At midnight, buffeted by an icy Atlantic wind, it appeared. The aurora started as grey, grew to white, and then became green. It danced through the sky in places and lingered slowly in others. It was on my second night there that they’d truly show themselves, putting on a display that had people cheering in the dark. I expected folk to cry, but they didn’t. They laughed instead. They laugh and they cheer and then they stand silent. It is an experience that cannot truly be explained, but people laugh. It is impossible to explain, but it makes your heart soar.
Even the guides were beaming as not just green, but gold, red, purple, and blue lit up the sky. Some people took pictures, some just stood with their hands in their pockets and their heads turned up. I lay on my back in the snow and watched. This happened 3 nights in a row for me. I was lucky. Some people see it once, some not at all.
It was this knowledge that spurred me on to experience more of Iceland – to do more than simply hunt for the Northern Lights. This saw me horseback riding through lava fields, swimming in the Blue Lagoon, walking on Black Sand beaches and glaciers, traipsing alongside geysers, and making wishes behind waterfalls.
You’d think you’d have to be young and spry for such things, but you’d be wrong. The country is accessible, and most sights are easy to reach and enjoy.
I was booked into a 5 night guided tour for some of my stay. It promised to take me along the western peninsula of the country, accommodating me in countryside hotels, and opening the way to experience Iceland and not simply visit. I even went on a cruise where the ship drew seafood fresh from the Atlantic and brought it up for a Viking Sushi experience. There was so much to do, and it was all so easy.
This was a country that had to be felt and not just seen. It is full of stories, and plenty of opportunities to make your own. My bucket list said I should look up to see the Northern Lights, but looking down at Iceland saw me fulfil more adventures I’d scarcely thought to dream of.