We were picked up from our Reykjavik hotel by the Special Tours minibus we had booked through Reykjavik Excursions. Once at the harbour, we collected our Northern Lights tour tickets and shuffled round on the ice to our boat, the Andrea. The tour had been cancelled two days earlier due to inclement weather but the night before they had seen a marvellous auroral display apparently. Our skies were clear and full of stars, a promising sign as we boarded the slippery deck and made our way inside the boat. The Andrea is also used for whale watching tours and the layout was similar to that of whale watching tour boats in Sydney. The guide pointing out the local harbour sights over the tannoy had a brilliant sense of humour and the whole trip felt fun, we were getting a true Icelandic welcome.
In Search of the Northern Lights
It didn’t take long at all for the action to start. Over the tannoy came the news that the lights were showing in the distance so we cautiously raced up the frozen steps to the top deck and joined the crowds.
There they were.
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting but I certainly hadn’t anticipated seeing the aurora borealis within ten minutes of leaving Reykjavik harbour. All thoughts of how cold I was were temporarily washed from my mind by the glimmering green shimmers on the northern horizon.
The longer I stared at them, the better my eyes adjusted to what I was seeing and I could observe gradual changes in the position and structure of the lights. There was something wild and dramatic about being offshore at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans a couple of days from the winter solstice that just added to the majesty of the experience.
Before long the cold on our hands as we tried to take photos (something which requires a decent camera, but when done right can deliver far better results than are actually visible with the naked eye) so we clambered inside to the lowest deck and donned super thick toasty boiler suits, resembling the Michelin Man and family on holiday. The complimentary hot drinks went down very well too, I must say.
The northern lights ebbed and flowed throughout the two hour trip a few miles out from Reykjavik harbour. We chatted to other passengers, listened to the hilarious tour guide (who seemed as confused as us at the choice of some ‘modern art’ architecture on the harbour front!) and enjoyed some live music downstairs on the return journey (the folk version of LMFAO was nothing short of superb). The boat slowly spun but the beautifully clear skies enabled me to navigate my way to Polaris (the Pole star) via the Ursa Major constellation and fins north, the direction of the Aurora naturally. In the other direction, the mountains surrounding Reykjavik loomed out of the darkness ominously, a dramatic setting indeed.
Delighted as we were with having just had clear skies allowing us to sail at all, and getting a glimpse of the elusive lights for the first ever time, Reykjavik Excursions were not as impressed. They told us that because the lights were not as bright and vibrant as they could have been, they would give us a free refund to return whenever we wished in the future to try to observe a better display. Given that we did actually glimpse the lights, I thought this was a pretty impressive gesture from the company and I hope to use my second ticket and return with them one day.
Need To Know
Cost: 10,000 króna
Runs: September – April
Duration: 2-3 hours
Booked with: Reykjavik Excursions
Operated by: Special Tours
Complimentary extras: free hot drink, boiler suit
When I went: December 2014