Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending 7 days in the beautiful country of Iceland, exploring the landscapes by day and hunting the Aurora by night. It was a truly wonderful experience and one I will never forget! I had never been on a holiday to somewhere cold before so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but with my thermal layers at the ready I headed out to have an adventure of a lifetime...
As soon as we landed in Keflavik Airport I knew we were in for an amazing time - the scenery just around the runway was stunning and I couldn't wait to see what was waiting for us in the rest of the country! Our first challenge involved locating the rental car company we had booked with, which turned out to be across the large car park, leaving us practically ice skating over there with our suitcases wondering how on earth we were going to be able to drive on such slippery roads! However, once we had nervously driven out of the treacherous car park and onto the main road we were fine, and the adventure could really begin! The first night brought us a beautiful sunset - the roads were clear giving us an easy drive to Reykjavik where we had a stunning view of the snow topped mountains from our apartment window. Later that evening, after doing a quick supermarket shop and refuelling ourselves with pasta, we set out on our first night hunting the Aurora.
The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun react with gases in Earth's atmosphere, releasing different colours depending on which gases are present in the reaction - green is the most popular colour of the lights as this is when the solar particles react with oxygen. They are commonly referred to as the Northern Lights but the Aurora are also visible at the South Pole. I'd been longing to see the Aurora since I was only a little girl, first learning about them when watching a wildlife documentary about the Arctic years and years ago. There have been a few occasions recently where the Aurora have been visible in the UK and I've actually been out to search for them a couple of times in the Lakes, but never been successful in seeing them.
On this first night in Iceland the sky was forecast to be clear but the Aurora activity was expected to be low so I didn't really think we'd see anything. However, off we drove into the pitch black countryside, not really knowing where we were heading and after a while we finally decided to pull over in a large lay-by. The stars were so clear that I decided to take some photos of them as we still hadn't seen the lights. But luckily enough just as we were getting out of the car the lights made an appearance! They started as a soft white glow on the horizon - unsure as to what I was looking at I took a photo and when looking back at the screen I saw it was green and couldn't believe it - I was looking at the Northern Lights!
After a frantic few moments setting my tripod up in a better position and changing my camera settings I was finally ready and began to shoot more and more images. Every single one was different and the longer we stood there, the brighter the lights got. I couldn't believe how lucky we were to be seeing them on our very first night! We were also the only people around - the occasional car drove past but they were few and far between and nobody else pulled up in the lay-by with us! We stayed for maybe an hour then decided to move on and get a different view point. We ended up driving slightly higher up so when we pulled over again we had a totally different perspective and watched as the lights danced over the mountains around us.
After another hour or so the lights seemed to fade and we decided to head back to get some sleep after a long day of travelling. The rest of the week was filled with adventures including a day investigating Reykjavik after having to turn back while trying to drive further north to Mount Kirkjufell. We'd got ourselves caught up in a heavy snowstorm while driving in the darkness of the morning, expecting to get to the mountain for sunrise. As the snow got heavier we decided to turn back in case we got stranded somewhere! We spent the rest of the day in Reykjavik, trying our best not to lose our bearings in the snowy surroundings - it's funny how places can look so different under a blanket of white!
The next few days involved visits to Þingvellir National Park, a road trip along the South Coast stopping at Seljalandsfoss, Selfoss and Vik, a dip in geothermal pools at Laugarvatn Fontana, watching the geysirs bubble and erupt, basking in the beauty of Gulfoss waterfall, finally making it up to Mount Kirkjufell, and another day in Reykjavik. Not to mention a second night of spectacular Aurora activity and another scary driving experience in the snow!
Looking back, we had a truly amazing time. Driving through the long, open roads surrounded by mountains, glaciers and volcanoes with not another person in sight was just breathtaking. I would really love to return to Iceland one day but maybe in the summer months so we can explore the north of Iceland and more of the mountains (most of which are difficult to get to in the winter).
If you'd like to see more from my trip to Iceland please watch the video below that I have made!