Archive | August 2014

Iceland Day 4: Northern Lights Sighting!

This is a continuation of the Iceland trip report, you can read more here:
Center Hotel Plaza Review
Iceland Day 1: 871 Settlement Exhibition and Northern Lights Tour
Iceland Day 2: South Shore Tour
Iceland Day 3: Reykjavik and that time I kind of saw the Northern Lights
Iceland Day 4: Golden Circle Tour

This was our final night in Iceland, and our last hope for really seeing the Northern Lights. We had technically “seen” them but it was a faint, faint glow and barely there. Again, our boat tour was cancelled due to rough seas and rain and the best chance of seeing them being on land. We headed by bus to the same site we were at the first tour. Only this time we explored a little.

The first day we arrived it snowed, so we stayed near the building by a picnic table. I didn’t want to haul a big tripod to Iceland, but wanted to attempt to get good pictures of the Northern Lights – which requires a camera stability. I bought a small gorilla pod, which was only like a foot long. So I was happy there was a table to set the pod on so I didn’t have to sit in the snow to mess with the camera!

On the evening we returned the snow had melted a little bit. We wandered around the building and found out we were by a black sand beach and had no idea! We hung out there for a little bit, until someone hurriedly called everyone to the front of the building for a sighting.

The lights were much better this evening, visible with the human eye. I had researched possible camera settings and was able to get a few pictures. Since this was our third attempt, I was able to figure out some camera settings and actually capture them. I am by no means good with my camera so I was thrilled to get anything. Surprisingly it seemed a lot of people had trouble. I wound up sending my pictures to several people with much nicer cameras!

My first "real" Northern Lights Sighting!

My first “real” Northern Lights Sighting!

We got back on the bus at the end of the tour and were psyched. I remember high-fiving my friend because we actually got to see them. But we didn’t know the tour wasn’t over yet!

After driving for 10 minutes the bus randomly pulls over and the guide says “the Lights are getting a little brighter, anyone who would like to step off the bus is welcome to.” So we did and the display was even better! We took a few quick pictures then got back on the bus. At this point we were ecstatic. We came to Iceland in February hoping to see the Northern Lights but knowing there was no guarantee.

Brighter Northern Lights on the side of the road on the way back to Reykjavik

Brighter Northern Lights on the side of the road on the way back to Reykjavik

After driving five more minutes, the bus stopped again! The guide said “this one has to be a really quick stop but they’re even better. Anyone who would like to look be quick!” I lost a glove in the mad rush to get off the bus so I took pictures standing on the side of the road in the snow absolutely freezing. Entirely worth it! The display was even brighter. It wasn’t the “dancing” amazing display you hear about, but even at a faint glow it was still gorgeous and amazing to see. I managed to snap this picture when we got off and made a lot of new friends who wanted me to send it to them when we got back on the bus.

Northern Lights outside of Reykjavik

Northern Lights outside of Reykjavik

Seeing the Northern Lights was incredible, and entirely worth freezing in the cold. I had a lot of people tell me I was crazy for going to Iceland in February but I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Iceland Day 4: Golden Circle Tour

This is a continuation of the Iceland trip report, you can read more here:
Center Hotel Plaza Review
Iceland Day 1: 871 Settlement Exhibition and Northern Lights Tour
Iceland Day 2: South Shore Tour
Iceland Day 3: Reykjavik and that time I kind of saw the Northern Lights

We woke up early the next morning to head out on our Golden Circle tour. I had booked this one through a different tour company – IGTours. The thought was if one company was bad we’d at least get another shot. I’m normally not a huge organized tour fan but I live in Florida and while I spent a winter in Indiana once I had no desire to attempt to drive in snow in Iceland. So we went the organized tour route. What was funny was that our tour guide from the South Shore tour worked for both companies! She strolled in to our hotel lobby to pick us up and we laughed. We were actually really glad though, it turned out to be a great tour! She tried really hard to come up with different stories and history information for us since she didn’t want to repeat what we had already heard on the first tour. We learned a lot and had a blast. And got to know a little more than the standard tour guide type information.

Our first stop on the Golden Circle tour was to check out some Icelandic horses. This was just a quick stop on the side of the road. They were very friendly and came right up to the fence allowing for some petting and better pictures. The horses were beautiful and we learned that Iceland has very strict laws against importing/exporting horses and therefore few horse diseases.

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

Our next stop was at Gulfoss – a giant waterfall. It was beautiful, and partly frozen. We were also partly frozen as the wind gusts were incredible that day. But we stuck it out as long as we could and walked around to explore.

Gulfoss

Gulfoss

Gulfoss was very pretty, even during the winter. Read More…

Reykjavik Day 3, Exploring town and that time I kind of saw the Northern Lights

This is a continuation of the Iceland trip report, you can read more here:
Center Hotel Plaza Review
Iceland Day 1: 871 Settlement Exhibition and Northern Lights Tour
Iceland Day 2: South Shore Tour

On our third day in Iceland we decided to explore Reykjavik on our own. We had a makeup Northern Lights tour that evening since we didn’t see them on our first night, but nothing planned for the day.

We stopped by the tourist center and bought a bus pass. If you remember my trips to Paris and Japan last year, I have a tendency to choose the wrong buses and/or wrong directions. I am therefore a huge fan of unlimited bus passes!

My friend also wanted to check out Hallgrímskirkja. I wasn’t that excited about it but was along for the ride. Turns out it was great!

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Hallgrímskirkja

There was an observation deck with great views! Make sure you keep an open mind when you travel – my friend wasn’t crazy about the South Shore tour and I wasn’t crazy about some of the sites she wanted to see, but we were both very glad we went after all.

View from Hallgrímskirkja

View from Hallgrímskirkja

After Hallgrímskirkja, we wandered the area nearby before stopping in a cafe for a warm drink and snack. The cafe seemed fairly touristy, but we enjoyed it anyways.

Read More…