Northern Lights Holidays: Best Places to Visit 2019

Northern Lights Holidays: Best Places to Visit 2019

What are the best places to see the Northern Lights? 

The Aurora Lights (or the Northern Lights­, famously named after their geographic location) are one of nature’s spectacular phenomena. There are several places close to the Arctic Circle where it is possible to travel and see the Aurora Lights, but my top Northern Lights Holidays destination has to be Iceland.

 

Iceland Northern Lights Tour with Exodus Travels

Why travel to Iceland? 

Iceland is ‘The Place’ for Adventure travel

It’s one those, “out of this World”, places that gives you memories to last a lifetime, and it was definitely at the top of my personal bucket list. One of the first obstacles of our Northern Lights Holidays was the fact that my other half does not like the cold, which does not bode well considering the name Iceland! Nevertheless, I dragged him along with me having booked the Iceland Northern Lights Tour with Exodus Travels for my 40th Birthday. 

My initial interest for booking with Exodus Travels came from their variety of Adventure travel choices. They provide a very good range of Adventure Holidays packages and featured Iceland on the Exodus Travels “popular list”. When it came to booking, we wanted to arrive few days ahead of the planned tour, so Exodus gave us the option to book our own flights on convenient days and then join their Guided Iceland Tour in Iceland. Our friends from the Netherlands had heard about our planned trip and decided to join us at the last minute. The Exodus booking team went out of their way to help us coordinate our trip with our friends who were flying from the Netherlands and ensured that every eventuality was planned which meant we all arrived at Reykjaik at the same time.

View of Reykjavik from our room at the Alda Hotel

      View of Reykjavik from our room at the Alda Hotel. 

The Alda Hotel has excellent Tripadvisor reviews and deservedly so. The Alda Hotel is located right in the centre of Old Reykjavik and is within walking distance from all the little shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are so many things to do in Reykjavik.

Is Iceland really THAT cold? 

The answer is no - that was our first surprise. It is far from the 40 degree heat of Dubai, do not mistake, but much to my other half’s delight it’s really not much colder than Northern Scotland (although that’s still pretty cold by most people’s standards), but it is nowhere near as cold as most of Northern Scandinavia or Northern Russia. I would say that Iceland is one of the warmest places to see the Northern Lighthts but prepare yourself for the Northern Atlantic wind which rips straight through you. If you want to make sure you’re dressed accordingly, then I would recommend stocking up on appropriate outdoor wear, and a god waterproof winter hat is a must. You can get the right clothing for your trip and save money at the same time with Berghouse voucher codes or Regatta voucher codes and deals.

Why is Iceland called Iceland? 

Apart from the fact that it is filled with Glaciers and Icebergs, we learnt from our Exodus Travels tour guide that the very first settlers who came from Norway, gave Iceland a “cold” name to deliberately warden off their fellow Norwegians from following in their footsteps. The first ‘Icelanders’ found that this Land of Ice and Fire was way more comfortable (and much warmer) than the cold they were used to in Northern Norway. Hot Springs provide hot water all year round in Iceland, and the climate itself is much milder. During winter, cold air masses from Greenland can lower the temperatures to around -10/-15 °C (5/14 °F), however, these cold spells are short lived as before long mild winds from the south begin once again. With the average winter temperature in Iceland being around the 0 degrees Celsius, hot Icelandic geysers provide plenty of “natural heating”.  The average winter temperature in Norway for comparison is -17.1 degrees Celsius, with cold spells of -40, or even the record lowest temperature of -50 Celsius. Iceland must have felt like the Florida coast for the Ancient Norwegians, especially when you take into account that first settlers did not heat their Icelandic Turf Houses which meant the mild weather came in handy.

Land of Fire

                                      Land of Fire

What are Icelandic Turf Houses made of? 

A classical Icelandic Turf House structure is made up of rock walls, a wooden front, and Turf roof with extra layers of turf along the sides of the house for insulation. These houses were very small, largely because of lack of wood in the area. There is local joke, “How not to get lost in an Icelandic Forest? Get off your knees!”

The local landscape is mostly made up of Tundra, with low shrubs and Icelandic Birch. To date, almost all of the birches in Iceland are lower than 2 meters tall and so first settlers mostly relied on driftwood to build their house fronts, wood fires were limited for cooking. Houses being small, the rooms were even smaller, with thick, well insulated, walls to preserve body temperature inside of the house. Families would typically share beds and sleep in pairs to keep each other warm at night. On our adventure travel trip we stopped at the old Icelandic farm and had the chance to have a little nose around the old farmhouse and workshops. One thing I learnt here – Icelanders are amazingly resourceful! 

Icelandic Turf House

                           Icelandic Turf House

Is Iceland dangerous to visit? 

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world to travel in. The crime rate is extremely low and medical care is of the highest quality. Your biggest danger in this wonderful country is the unpredictable weather. It’s necessary to take precaution when plan your adventure travel in Iceland due to its natural hazards. The weather conditions can change at a moment’s notice so always travel with professional guides or in areas that are marked as safe. 

Is the volcano in Iceland active?

Icelandic volcanoes are still active due to Iceland's location on the mid-Atlantic Ridge. The most recent eruption in Iceland was in April 2010 when the volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull (although relatively small eruptions) caused massive disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe for a week. When touring Iceland with Exodus, you can visit the farm that is located just below Eyjafjallajökull, talk to the owners about the events of 2010 and watch a documentary about the days of the actual Eyjafjallajökull eruption. 

Eyjafjallajökull and the farm below

                Eyjafjallajökull and the farm below

You will also get the unique opportunity to cross the cause of Iceland’s explosive reputation on foot, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with the Exodus Northern Lights Tour. Iceland is the only place in the World where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be seen on dry land – this is the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

                           Mid-Atlantic Ridge 

magnet of Iceland made from Eyjafjallajökull’s volcanic ash

My very own Iceland made from Eyjafjallajökull’s volcanic ash. 

Does Iceland have geysers?

Iceland is home to some of the most famous geysers in the world because of its high rate of volcanic activity. You can find geysers and hot springs all over the island, but the majority are located in Haukadalur, although geysers are also known to have existed in at least a dozen other areas on the island. The water and steam is extremely hot here and you need to take additional caution if visiting geysers on a windy day as the hot steam and water can be blown around, and could risk burns.

Geyser in Haukadalur

                              Geyser in Haukadalur

Are there icebergs in Iceland?

The magnificence of the Icelandic landscape is truly reflected in its amazing glaciers and icebergs. Some glaciers are now sadly sliding into the water of their glacial lakes and then further into the open ocean, as a result of global warming. Iceland has several glacial lakes but Jökulsárlón is the largest. Icelandic icebergs are made up of age - old glacial ice; some icebergs might be as old as 1000 years.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

                         Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

You can see icebergs as part of the Iceland Northern Lights tour with Exodus, but please take notice of everything that your guide tells you. Just after we left this amazing lagoon, there was news on the local radio that group of tourists got too close to the edge of the large peace of ice and it broke off with the tourists still on it – a rescue operation was called in. 

Icelandic Icebergs

                                  Icelandic Icebergs 

Iceland has 269 named glaciers.

Icelandic glacier

                             Icelandic glacier

You will definitely get the opportunity for glacier walk during the Exodus Northern Lights Adventure Holidays

1000s years old ice from the Glacier walk

             1000s years old ice from the Glacier walk

Can you swim in the ocean in Iceland? 

Some of Iceland's beaches are incredibly popular tourist destinations, especially the Reynisfjara black sand beach on the south coast of Iceland. 

Reynisfjara has been picked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world but it's also one of the most dangerous tourist destinations in Iceland, again, due to unpredictable weather. There have been recorded cases of tourists drowning after powerful sneaker waves knocked them off their feet and swept them out to sea. We were advised by our Exodus Tour Guide to always keep an eye on the waves and walk around the beach always facing the water line. It’s hard to put into words the feeling you get when you are on Reynisfjara beach, it’s like something out of this world. It’s no wonder that Iceland is a popular ”back drop” for the top film makers: Oblivion (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Interstellar (2014), and of course, the Star Wars - The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and more.

Reynisfjara black sand beach

                      Reynisfjara black sand beach 

Can you get lost in Iceland? 

I want to mention that Iceland is very thinly populated with the total number of Icelanders being only 338,349 (2017). Yes, the whole country’s population is about as big as Cardiff. Iceland’s dramatic environment attracts many tourists, but I would not recommend unguided tours, simply because you need to know how to handle the local climate and landscape, otherwise you could easily be putting your life in danger. 

Driving on the road in Iceland requires skill. If you don’t know how to drive on snow, don’t hire a car in Iceland for your Northern Light trip. The Exodus Guide drove us around in a 4X4 minibus with large studded winter tires. If you remember, the average winter temperature is about 0 degree Celsius, so in many places you have to drive on icy slush. It is illegal to drive off road in Iceland, partially because of the nature protection, and partially because of the danger of it.

Local petrol station

                                Local petrol station

Iceland Lava Tunnel caving.

Want to go to the centre of the earth? Then this is how to get there. 

Exploring a lava tunnel seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve visited many caves in my time but hopping down a hole where deadly, molten, liquid had once been, some, millions of years ago, was somewhat a different experience. 

Lava Tube cave

                                Lava Tube cave

But what could possibly go wrong? We followed our Exodus Tour guide down the narrow hole, arrived at our planned destination, listened to the guide and then started to go back up through that same narrow hole. Being at the back of the queue on the way down meant that we were one of the first ones to go back up. We quickly walked back, a bit too quickly… Yet our way up seemed longer then the way down and about 15 minutes later we realised that we somehow took a wrong turn into what looked like just a straight lava tunnel, and could not see the rest of the group anymore. Thankfully, our Exodus Tour Guide came to our rescue and not without a stern telling off­ (quite rightly) as we had wondered into the second tunnel unaccompanied. 

Lava Tube  

                      Icicles in the Lava Tube Cave

 Iceland Lava tube

After our successful, and risqué, operation we went to de-stress in the famous Blue Lagoon, (this is where your hat will come in handy again, the water was nice and warm, but the air was cold, and my head was freezing), and headed back to Reykjavik for the final day of our Adventure Holidays.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon - a geothermal spa in south-western Iceland.

Things to do in Reykjavik

Cafes and Restaurants.You can check up-to-date places to eat on TripAdvisor, but all of the food in Reykjavik was exceptionally good in my opinion. We only had two full days in Reykjavik itself, but we ate in as many of Reykjavik’s cafes and restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as we could and we never had a bad meal. Most places offer a large selection of fish, but you can also try local food, which is somewhat exotic. Iceland is one of the few countries that preserved the rights to use local resources in their traditional ways, and you can still try whale meat in the Icelandic traditional restaurants. (Voucher Shares does not endorse the consumption of whale meat). Puffin meat, fermented shark and local horse meat are also on the menu, and if you’re not into that kind of thing there is plenty of alternative options available. 

local food

                                          Local food

Shops. There are many nice shops in central Reykjavik that sell unique local produce. Woolly blankets, socks, and jumpers made from Icelandic sheep wool – the itchiest, toughest and warmest wool around. Icelandic herbal teas, made from local herbs, and used as natural remedies by locals. Lovely selections of Jams from the local berries are absolutely delicious. There was also something quite unusual, fish “crisps”, a popular snack in Iceland. Bags of “crisps” containing dried fish (mostly cod). The local potato crisps alternative. 

Geothermal energy in Iceland and Heated Pavements. I wanted to give a special mention to the Pavements in Reykjavik. They are always dry and easy to walk on, even when outside of the city there is slush. This is as a result of Iceland’s use of Geothermal energy, including heating the pavements of Reykjavik and keeping massive greenhouses warm to grow tomatoes for the whole country. Greenhouses left me well impressed, taking into consideration my gardening passion. (See my gardening blogs)

Geothermal heated greenhouse

                 Geothermal heated greenhouse

Do Trolls exist in Iceland? Yes – in Bookshops... According to Icelandic folklore, trolls lived in the mountains and would only come down to forage for food. Iceland is the land of Trolls, Elves and other magic creatures. It’s no wonder why; Iceland is like a storybook itself. Reykjavik has lovely bookshops where you can find all kinds of books about Iceland, and of course, about Trolls and Puffins. My kids absolutely love ‘Icelandic Trolls’ by Brian Pilkington in particular. You can get this book from Amazon in the UK. 

Brian Pilkington. Icelandic Trolls

                Brian Pilkington. Icelandic Trolls. 

Local attractions. There’s no shortage of unusual things to visit in Iceland, but I’ll let you explore the rest for yourself... I hope that Iceland may become one of your top Adventure Travel destinations too.

What month is best month to see Northern Lights in Iceland? 

The High Season to see Northern Lights in Iceland is from September to March. We went there in February. Oh, and did we see the actual Northern Lights on our Iceland Northern Lights tour? Yes, we did! 

Iceland Northern Lights

                              Iceland Northern Lights

 

 

You can take advantage of the exclusive 10% OFF October Discount with Exodus Travels voucher code and book your Iceland Northern Lights tour now.

Happy Holidays!

Places to see the Northern Lights in 2019 - 2020:

  • Nortern Lights Holidays in IcelandExodus Travels offer Adventure Holidays tours to Iceland, special voucher codes and discounts are available. 
  • Northern Lights Holidays in Lapland, Finland. You can book your unforgettable Christmas Break and Northern Lights Holidays and save money with Santa's Lapland Voucher Codes
  • Northern Lights Holidays in Sweden, Northern Ireland and Scotland with easyJet Holidays. Save £200 with last minute easyJet holidays voucher codes
  • Northern Lights Holidays in Norway. Check out our lastminute.com voucher codes to save money on your Norway Northern Lights trip.

 

 

Tanya Larsen

Tanya Larsen, mother of 3, keen gardener, world traveller and a business owner

 

More blogs from Tanya:

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Get ready for the Wimbledon finals this Sunday with Strawberries and Cream

VoucherShares Garden Design Ideas. Product revew: Petunia "Night Sky" from Thompson & Morgan

Summer kids shoes product review from VoucherShares

 


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