In search of Aurora

Seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) has long been on my bucket list.  I’ve followed a handful of pages on Facebook for a few years and have several websites bookmarked which give forecasts and alerts of upcoming Aurora events.  About a year ago we started planning a trip to Iceland with my Mom.  I found a great house to rent in the town of Vogar – one of the reviews of a previous renter said they saw the Northern Lights right from the back deck, perfect!  And an even greater stroke of luck, there is a direct 5 hour flight out of Boston.  We read that it is best to have at least 4 nights in order to have a better chance at seeing the Lights, so we went from Tuesday morning to Saturday evening.  It was actually Monday night when we left Boston, with the flight and time change it was early Tuesday morning when we landed in a super windy rain storm.  We had rented a car from Budget (we didn’t plan on any off-roading so no 4WD) and braved our way out to the car and only got lost two times driving to the rental house.  We slept for a few hours and then went on an afternoon drive to the southwest peninsula (Reykjanesbaer) where we had lunch at the Rostin cafe.

The first night we saw the brightest Lights we would see all week and right from our back deck, beautiful! (the first picture is a 3 second exposure taken on my cell phone)  We are amateur photographers so our camera settings weren’t perfect but seeing the Lights in person was amazing, although we give the display about a 2 out of 10.  It was also mostly cloudy the whole time we were there and there was quite a bit of light pollution across from where we were staying. One night we did drive out to a darker spot, but after waiting about 2 hours in the car for the lights we called it a night. We are now planning another Northern Lights trip, considering North Pole Alaska as they seem to see the lights in some form every night.

 

We drove the Golden Circle on Thursday which was forecasted to be the warmest/sunniest day but we found ourselves driving through mini snow storms most of the day.  We started out at Thingevellir National Park to see the Tectonic plate separation as a result of earthquakes in 2000.  This is also where Game of Thrones filmed Eyrie Pass scenes – pretty cool!

Next up on the drive is the Geysir – pretty neat to see snow on the ground but warm water is running down the hillside and steam rising from random spots in the ground. We saw the main Geysir erupt, it seems to erupt every 3 minutes or so.

The final stop is the Gulfoss waterfall. You can hear the waterfall before you see it, and it is immense. Such an amazing sight.  It was cloudy when we were there but it is said when the sun shines there are mini rainbows everywhere from the mist.

We drove down from Gulfoss and through the Southern section of the Golden Circle route, where we saw many geothermal vents in the town of Hveragerdi which has the highest concentration of greenhouses in Iceland and where much of Iceland’s homegrown produce is grown.

On Friday afternoon we went into Reykjavik to complete a few other “must do’s”- we ate fish-n-chips at the Reykjavik fish house (and happened to meet a couple from the city next to where my Mom lives!). I found the EVO Gamer monument for a friend whose name is on one of the tiles. Then we headed down the street to find the famous hot dog stand – Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – for a hotdog with the works. Next we drove to the Sun Sculpture (there is temporary  free parking right by the sculpture) and took a few pictures. Our last planned stop had been the Hallgrímskirkja cathedral but in talking to a couple while getting our hotdogs they said there was a funeral going on and part of it was under construction so you couldn’t go inside…so we decided to just drive by on our way back to Vogar.

Earlier in the week we had found a Dunkin Donuts inside a gas station store and there was a little cafe called Ginger – we ate there twice!  The chicken with vegetables (roasted sweet potatoes!) were delicious. Because of our schedule of staying up almost all night to catch the Lights, we weren’t very adventurous in going to any local restaurants. The two grocery stores are Bonus and Kronan – we preferred Kronan as it more resembled the typical US grocery store.   We found shopping in the grocery store slightly confusing – we had brought coffee creamers with us but ran out so we attempted to buy coffee creamer…it turned out to be yogurt!  We went back to the grocery store and a very nice couple helped us find the right one – if you go, the product on the left is yogurt, on the right is creamer –

 

One attraction we did not check out was the Blue Lagoon – the geothermal hot spa. It was fully booked the whole week we were there! And after reading some reviews and cautions we decided this was for the best for our hair and Mom’s knees.

During the trip we were both reading books by the same author 🙂  And I got the idea to paint my nails in Northern Lights inspired colors from (naturally) Pinterest –

The weather was what I would classify as ‘winter’ – mostly cloudy, in the mid 30s and one day we had a snowstorm with about 3 inches. We didn’t have plans to hike in the snowy areas so we didn’t bring special weather gear and we were plenty warm. The houses there are heated with geothermal heating which worked very well – we could walk barefoot and feel the warm tiles under our feet. We were plenty warm at night and even considered opening a window as it was at times too warm for us to sleep!

The trip was fabulous overall, great time spent with my Mom and our entire travel experience was A+!  Turning my thoughts next to my new and improved garden, looks like the weather will be perfect on Saturday here for beginning the construction…

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