It dawned on us late last year that we keep travelling to distant exotic locations whereby for a long while we hadn’t really taken advantage of our own backyard. So we made a commitment that we would stay ‘local’… That is apart from the trip to Western Australia – HA! Anyhow putting that blip aside we decided to start our exploration with a long weekend to Iceland.
Why hadn’t we done this before? I really can’t answer that – it’s only a 3 hour plane ride? So we started doing some digging and took a chance on a carrier we didn’t know called WOW air… Yes that’s right WOW Air. Beautiful Pink planes! Ha… anyhow the 4 night stay plus flights was less than £500… Great value! The equivalent on Icelandair was nearly double that…
I have to say WOW really was WOW, Slight was on time, we had no issues whatsoever – granted its basic but for a 3 hour non-stop service – no complaints here!
I hear you ask why Iceland? Well 2 reasons spring to mind – the iconic Blue Lagoon and of course the Northern Lights. I have always been fascinated with the Northern Lights, and having previously cruised the Alaskan straights and never witnessed them we were VERY keen on witnessing even the faintest glimmer of them.
We arrived and were transferred to the Hilton Nordica that looked the best option for our limited stay. Being Hilton Honour members we were upgraded and had a great view of the Reykjavik coastline. Immediate exploration of the city was undertaken, and we found out that Iceland really is as expensive as the rumours state… deciding to conserve what money we had for activities, we went to a local supermarket and found a box of cereal retailing for over £10! That’s just simply crazy…. We did however also find some reasonable food and drinks…
So next day entailed a coach tour of the Golden Circle as they call it, it is impressive to say the least. Huge powering waterfalls, an introduction into the Volcanic landscape, a walk along the tectonic plates, a glimpse into the greenhouse agriculture and the very impressive Geysers. Even though a very touristy route – it’s true wilderness. I love the Geysers that spontaneously went off every 10 minutes or so… it was just great to see and photograph. But the highlight was the tectonic plates, they were simply stunning. The earth one side has literally risen above the other side, showing the crust of the earth. It could easily be mistaken for a man built wall, or medieval ruin – a true insight into nature’s immense power and beauty.
Anyhow our Northern Lights adventure that night was cancelled due to dense cloud cover which really did annoy me – I couldn’t believe we were going to be this unlucky and come all this way and not witness them at all.
A grumpy Mr Betts rose the next day to go out Whale Watching, something I have done many a time previous, but Megan really wanted to go… It was also our second option as our Glacier hike had been cancelled due to strong winds… It wasn’t until we were fully dressed in our Huge life jackets and running at one another like Sumo wrestlers that I started to cheer up. We caught glimpses of some minky whales splashing up and down the coastline. It’s a funny thing Whale watching as even if you see the lone whale you are pretty lucky. A dinner at a local restaurant was also very impressive, with local seafood and beautifully prepared.
So would we see the lights would this night be any different? Well Megan annoyed me at the beginning by showing me her app that predicted the activity during the night and unbelievably it said none! Grrrr… We were picked up by a huge 4×4 and driven out of the city and up a mountain. The sky was patchy and we couldn’t really see much… Then out of nowhere the far sky over the sea turned a whitish colour, something like a cloud formation. We were told to steady our cameras and take pictures of the cloud. Remarkably that cloud wasn’t a cloud and came out an incredible green like colour through the lens. All of a sudden there were pockets of this white cloud dotted all over the sky. Nothing spectacular like the pinks and blues you see in the Getty images, but we were impressed nonetheless.
It’s incredibly difficult to keep your hands steady when photographing the night sky, especially in Iceland in the late autumn, but the investment in a new kit especially for this event was already taken care of… I had a new lens, tripod and auto remote. I was ready…
We had our photos and we were about to leave for another location when in the distance I saw something, I asked our guide and immediately he got his camera out and let us know that a shimmer was approaching. What followed was by far the best view of the northern lights we saw, a shimmer of green that the eye could depict without the lens. It came in from the sea and passed straight over us, like a wave in the sky… it was indescribably beautiful. The feeling of elation at witnessing something so magical was transfixing.
We found numerous other locations to witness the white lights during the evening that gave us some further dramatic imagery. One location next to a lake was incredible also, as the white glow on the water gave extremely vivid imagery. WOW… we had witnessed the Northern lights… I am so hooked I so want to head to Northern Canada, Russia or the Nordics to witness them again in all of their glory… Incredible – I would say I was a converted addict to this kind of wilderness beauty.
Nothing could really come close to the lights, but we finished our weekend in Iceland with a trip to the southern beaches and a visit to the blue lagoon at night. The blue lagoon was very touristy, but we played it right, arriving late so we could witness the milky blue waters in both the light and dark. During the evening it emptied out of tourists and we had a great time lounging in the hot water, soaking up the ambiance and the feeling that we were in natures grasp. This was a great climax to a very busy but special weekend together.