Northern Lights Hunting in Winter Land
04 Jan-7 Apr fr. £ 2005
The Icelandic winter is hard to compare with anything else, and at the top of many wish lists of nature's spectacles is the northern lights. This trip is specifically designed to maximize the chances of getting to experience the aurora borealis for yourself. The journey takes you across large parts of southern Iceland, from the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west, to Vatnajökull in the east. During six nights of the trip, you will also attend the Northern Lights Academy, where you will experience evening shows, lectures, movies, and guided tours of the northern lights.
Day 1: Land in Iceland
Day 2: Reykjavík, Hot springs and Waterfalls
Day 3: Snaefellsnes
Day 4: The Golden Circle
Day 5: Black lava beach
Day 6: Glaciers and Ice Lagoons
Day 7: The Blue Lagoon
Day 8: Journey home
Departures: September to April. Thursdays and Sundays.
Direct flights from Belfast (BHD), Bristol (BRS), Edinburgh (EDI), London Gatwick (LGW), London Heathrow (LHR), London Luton (LTN), Glasgow (GLA) and Manchester (MAN). Connecting flights from other airports in the UK also available.
Note: Despite our long experience in leading groups, please note that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that is very hard to predict, hence sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Land in Iceland
When you land at Keflavik, Iceland’s airport, the airport bus will take you to Reykjavik. The evening is free for you to explore the capital. Discover any one of the city's popular restaurants, or stretch out at the hotel and recharge your batteries for tomorrow, when the journey begins in earnest.
Head west to Sagodalen Borgarfjörður
After breakfast at the hotel you will meet up with your guide, who will show the group the highlights of Reykjavík. Then we start the journey west, towards Borgarfjörður, which is known as a “fairytale valley” as the site has been the center of many historical events. In the area you get the chance to climb the volcano rater Grábrók and warm yourself at Europe's most powerful hot spring: Deildartunguhver.
During the day you will also visit Hraunfossar, a series of waterfalls that descend into the sea from a large lava field. Nearby there is also Barnafoss, the waterfall which according to Icelandic mythology is the site of a tragic tale. You spend the night in Borgarnes. In the evening you will have a lecture on the northern lights, and after dinner we will go together to the hotel's garden to look for the northern lights. We round off the evening with hot chocolate or tea.
Discover the Snæfellsnes peninsula
On the third day the trip continues to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, with its characteristic snow-capped mountains. The peninsula is much like a microcosm of Iceland, with its varied nature and dramatic mountain range.
We visit the charming fishing village of Stykkishólmur for a boat trip on Breiðafjörður. After a light lunch, an Icelandic surprise is waiting at Bjarnarhöfn: fermented shark. If the roads permit, we will visit the fishing village Grundarfjörður which has a striking coastline complete with mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Here is also one of Iceland's most photographed mountains, Kirkjufell.
On the way back to Borgarnes, where you will spend the night, the guide gives advice on how best to capture the northern lights on camera. When the darkness falls, we return to the hotel's garden to chase the northern lights and swim in the hotel's hot tubs. Hopefully you will get the chance to test your new photo skills.
Experience the Golden Circle
Today we travel along the Hvalfjörður fjord. The first stop is an Icelandic wool outlet where you can shop for knitted products. We then continue inland to the Golden Circle's first stop: Þingvellir National Park. The park is world heritage-rated by UNESCO and is both geologically and historically significant. The fault line between two continental plates runs through the national park, and marks its route with crevices and lava formations.
The next stop in the circle is Geysir, the geyser which has given its name to the natural phenomenon itself. But if you want to see outbreaks, it's not Geysir to watch, but Strokkur: about every five to ten minutes, Strokkur throws up 20 meter-high cascades of hot water. The area is exciting to wander around in with several hot springs and bubbling water holes. The chef at Restaurang Geysir invites you to taste bread baked over the hot springs. You may also sample geothermal cooked eggs and herring. In addition, anyone who wants to can enjoy a glass of ice cold Geysir Schnapps.
We continue to Gullfoss, a double waterfall raging 34 meters right down into the river Hvítá. In the afternoon, you will learn about Icelandic horses and visit a geothermal greenhouse before we reach the accommodation for the night, in southern Iceland. When night falls, we go out to try to see the northern lights. A small tip: check out the beautiful hot baths at the hotel.
Hike on the black lava beaches
Today we follow Iceland’s amazing south coast. At Eyjafjallajökull's information center we learn how life at a glacier and an active volcano can be. Further east we visit one of Iceland's best cultural history museums, which contains a collection of agricultural artifacts from several old peat houses.
Near the museum there is Skógafoss, a 60 meter high waterfall that is among the country's most powerful. In the afternoon we walk on beautiful black lava beaches at the bird cliffs at Reynisfjara. We spend the night near Kirkjubæjarklaustur in Vatnajökull National Park, where the darkness is undisturbed, giving us good opportunities to see the northern lights.
Explore Europe's largest glacier
This day is all about the ice. We start by visiting the glacier lake Jökulsárlón. The lake is full of floating icebergs and we explore this special place with the hope of seeing seals.
In the afternoon we visit the small square church Hof, and wander around Europe's largest national park with the highest mountains in Iceland; an alpine environment which also has Europe's largest glacier. In the evening you will see a film about the northern lights, before you go out in the quiet dark night to chase the same.
Option Activity Day 6 - Visit an ice cave
Between 15th November and 15th March, you can choose to visit a spectacular ice cave in Vatnajökull during this day. The feeling of being in the cave is like standing under a frozen sea surrounded by infinitely many shades of blue, deep beneath the massive glacier. The visit takes about 2.5 hours in total (30 minutes drive from Jökulsárlón and 5-15 minutes walk to the actual cave where you have about 1 hour to explore). Be sure to bring warm hiking boots and warm clothes that keep you dry even if the cave is dripping with melting ice. The age limit is 10 years.
Swim in the Blue Lagoon
Today we travel through Eldhraun's lava field to the village of Vík, where we stop to collect our cameras. The black lava border, with the tall bird cliffs along with the ocean that crashes all around, is an impressive sight. From there we go west, until we reach the high waterfall Seljalandsfoss. Be sure to go behind Seljalandsfoss, but be cautious on the slippery stones.
In the afternoon we return to Reykjavík, where you have about 2 hours to explore the capital on your own. Visit a museum, or shop or relax in a café. In the evening, a true life experience awaits: Blue Lagoon. In fact, it is even said to extend your life.
The blue lagoon is in the middle of a low field, where the underground activity keeps the water warm all year long. Microorganisms in the water make the pools opaque light blue and are also said to have a whole range of healthy effects. The area offers many cozy angles and crutches, water bars and natural hot tub areas. After the bath you will have an Icelandic dinner at a local restaurant before we finally spend the night chasing the northern lights. We will return to Reykjavik for the night.
Today it is time to return home. The airport bus takes you from the hotel to Keflavik Airport. Hopefully you will leave Iceland with the camera full of amazing pictures of the northern lights, but certainly you will take with you memories that will last a lifetime.