My favorite book in Elementary School was called the Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the US) by Philip Pullman. The story is set in a parallel universe and chronicles the journey of Lyra Belacqua into the Arctic. If you haven't read the book, you should (the first and second book are much better than the third). Anyway, I digress. This book was my first introduction to the existence of the Northern Lights. Naturally, being the inquisitive youngster that I was, I did some research on the subject and couldn't quite comprehend that this visual dancing light show was actually a thing. I made it my mission in life to one day see this for myself, and lo and behold, it finally happened.
Flash forward. The year is 2015. I am enjoying my second night in Iceland with my bff Victoria close to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Southern Iceland. We're sitting on the snow outside Guesthouse Gerdi with some other guests chatting and staring at the sky. It's rather cold - I am wearing leggings + snowboard pants + long sleeve shirt + down jacket + ski jacket + boots + headband + scarf + gloves. Every once and while we snap a picture to see if there is any action, but the outlook is bleak. Nevertheless, we're still in Iceland and not at work in San Francisco, so that alone is pretty awesome. Some more time passes. Someone snaps another pic and there is a very minuscule, almost not there spec of green in the photo. This gets us excited, so, naturally, we all start shooting and slowly on our cameras and above more and more hints of greenish light begin to appear. I start squealing, Victoria starts squealing, the other people start squealing. The lights start low over the small collection of buildings in the area and slowly dance their way back and forth over the mountain tops. Fading and then getting brighter and then fading and then getting brighter etc. etc. until they slowly disappear into the night.
I can safely say that this experience was one of the most amazing, humbling, and completely indescribable moments in my 24 yr life. It really cannot be put into words, you just have to see it for yourself.
I was lucky enough to see the Northern lights 3x during my 9 days in Iceland. The most spectacular show was probably the last night where this (above) and this (below) were taken. The goal, going forward in life is to experience the Northern Lights again (maybe in Norway?! in the fjords...), but this time have a legit tripod and camera so I can actually do them justice. But really, it would not be the worst thing, to just lie there and watch them.
For those of you interested in seeing the Northern Lights yourself in Iceland, there are a few key elements to consider:
You have a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights between October & April (dark skies for more hours)
You need a clear, dark night for optimal viewing. Visit vedur to check cloud forecasts.
You need there to be a high level of aurora activity (3 or higher is ideal). Visit vedur to check aurora activity forecasts.
Plan to wear many layers and bring gloves!
If you're planning to take photographs, bring a tripod (even mini ones work). You will need to set a super slow shutter & high ISO for optimal captures, but it really is a trial and error thing.
NORTHERN LIGHTS VIEWING PACKING LIST