Traveling the world can lead you to unsuspected places, and in addition, the Mother Nature can surprise you with one of her many wonders.
Have you heard about the term Aurora Borealis? Or the northern lights?
Well, aurora borealis occur mainly at the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere (they also occur in the southern hemisphere, but they are called Aurora Australis), and last until the end of winter, what in those latitudes of the planet would be from the end of September to the first week of April, being the best months in January and February, and it is one of the attractions to discover when traveling well north… yes! Well north! Because in order to have a better chance of seeing them, you should get as close as possible to the Arctic Circle, being in Europe, the Nordic countries the ideal to hunt the northern lights, recommending Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland as the best locations to see them!
How to see the Aurora Borealis?
I hope that my experience can motivate you to try and go to see the Aurora Borealis, but you have to consider that it is something that is not 100% reliable to schedule, since there are several factors that influence whether it can be visualized or not, being the most important to have a good darkness, being away from the city to avoid contamination by the lights, plus that it must to be cold and to have a clear sky.
Generally, it is fulfilled with the bliss that if you can see a starry night in the Arctic circle, you could see the northern lights. And I say you could because apart from everything initially commented, you must learn to cultivate patience to see it, since I have read of cases of people who have been waiting for hours to see the Aurora Borealis, and tired of waiting are going to sleep, and in 5 or 10 minutes afterwards it was possible to see them. And also, add to hunt the Aurora Borealis as one of the options when traveling to these latitudes, not as the main priority, but remember that if you have the ideal weather conditions, it would be a matter of waiting patiently … and marvel with these lights!
Let’s go step by step.
I pointed out initially that we would have to go as close to the Arctic Circle as possible, but, how do we define that zone? Well, it is an imaginary circle from which, at least once a year, there is a 24-hour day, coinciding with the summer solstice, and a 24-hour night, coinciding with the winter solstice, that is, there are at least one day every 365 days in the year when the sun does not set or appear.
But, why not see Aurora Australis in the southern hemisphere?
Well, as I pointed out earlier, this phenomenon occurs in a limited circle at the poles of the planet, and there are not many places near the South Pole, with the exception of Antarctica, which is already in itself a difficult destination to access.
In the search of the Aurora Borealis in Iceland
With a group of friends, in November 2013, we decided to make a trip to Iceland, in which one of the ideas of the journey, apart from discovering such a magnificent country and its nature, we would intend to try to hunt the Aurora Borealis. I, just then, began to learn more about the northern lights, why they are produced and see more and more wonderful pictures of them.
It was a week-long trip when the winter chill was about to begin to appear, even though we traveled only through the southern part of Iceland. Although it was only November and autumn still, there were already sectors with enough snow. All of this did not matter to us, we were well prepared, wearing warm clothes and high mountain equipment and we were willing to make any sacrifices to try to see such a magnificent spectacle of nature.
One of the best decisions we made was to rent a campervan, but it was not those typical giants with showers and everything, but it was closer to a passenger van (those typical that pick you up at the airport) modified, and suitable for 4 people to sleep comfortably in it. Thus, we would have more freedom to move wherever we wanted, and try to move away from the city and contemplate the natural charm that Iceland had to offer us. This campervan we rented it in the city of Rejkavik, capital of the country, and the company I recommend it completely is called Kuku Campers.
Moreover, on a later trip, but this time on summer, I went back to rent another one with them!
And the day finally arrived… on our second night already in the country, the sky was clear, you could see the stars, and around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, it was dark enough, with all this, we already knew that we were having very good chances of being able to find somewhere to park and try to see this gift of nature.
Our plan was to get as far away from the city as possible, to avoid the light pollution, and thus to increase even more our options of seeing them. We had been during the day in the area of Strokkur, which is where the geysers are, and we went further into the direction to Lake Sandvatn, so we were away from everything, deciding to park almost halfway. The rest, it was a bit lucky that the solar winds reached the earth and affected the magnetic field, and that we were in the right place and thus, to be able to marvel at them. At sun raising, we saw that the location chosen was really in the middle of nowhere!
With my friends, we still remember that magical night. We decide to check the night two by two, while the other two slept, and so be aware in case the sky was lighting. It was just after dinner, around 6 in the afternoon, we were beginning to see some signs of light, so we decided to leave the campervan, and there everything was a wonderful gift of nature!
Seeing the sky dance with green colors lighting in the middle of the darkness, is a spectacle that I wish many can contemplate … it is very difficult to describe, and not even the photographs or videos can show what it is like to be in the right place, at the right time. It was a very cold night, but that did not matter, we were more interested in our final approach, which we were already contemplating, exciting and marveling!
We never knew exactly what temperature did that night, but the excitement made me to be at least an hour out the campervan to take pictures of the northern lights show, and the next day we noticed that the tap water in the campervan was frozen, as you can notice on this photography.
I hope you are the next to see them!!
Greetings … and see you on the road, travelers!
If you know Spanish, you can read more about Pancho’s travel stories and his experience with the Northern Lights AQUÍ
ABOUT THIS POST AUTHOR
I am Francisco Carmona, born in Ovalle, Chilean, ACBV member, couchsurfer, engineer and traveler of heart, known as Pancho by the community of travelers Couchsurfing, community in which I became Country Ambassador. I have participated in a large number of activities, I have hosted many travelers and I met enough people of the world, people that in the end, were motivating me to be able to know, to see and to travel around the world … at that moment the appetite to travel already was starting to grow and grow …
Passionate about traveling and discovering how the world is through my eyes, in August of 2013 I left my country, Chile, to embark on a journey that would initially last only a year … but fate gave me a surprise and I am still living in Europe, without an exact date to get back … What I really hope, is to be able to fulfill my childhood dream of being able to continue touring the world … let’s see what happens … see you on the route, travelers !!