Iceland (Winter)

26 March 2015

At the huge Gullfoss waterfall, another classic Iceland landmark transformed by the winter.

Iceland is a fantastic place in summer. See my August highlights here.

Predictions looked good (pre-clouds).
I wanted to see Iceland plus the northern lights in winter. But it's a gamble. Seeing the aurora borealis depends on
  1. sufficient solar radiation hitting the earth's atmosphere;
  2. the cloud cover;
  3. timing of the moonrise;
  4. not sleeping through the show;
  5. and luck.
All we saw was a quick glimpse of
the northern lights (for maybe five
minutes) peaking through a hole
in the thick cloud cover. This is a
rough representations what we saw.
We tried to maximize the odds.
  • March equinox is said to be a good time.
  • 2015 like 2014 was to be a peak year.
  • We visited on days when the moon did not rise until the final hours of the night.
  • Hotels had us on the call list and I checked throughout each night.
Alas, clouds conspired to allow us only one tantalizing glimpse during our four nights in Iceland. Yet, for the two following nights ― after we departed ― the northern lights were apparently the strongest and most dazzling of the year!

Despite missing the spectacular sky show, my friend Martin and I had a blast.

Jökulsárlón where the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier empties into a lake.

Hexagon basalt columns on black Reynisfjara beach near Vik. They look man-made but come from cooling lava.

The town of Borgarnes west of Reykjavik.

The Blue Lagoon (Bláa Iónið) is Iceland's most famous geothermal spa.
Soaking in the giant natural hot tub was a great start to the trip.

We may have missed the sky filled with northern lights, but we did get to endure
one of the most powerful hurricane-like storms that Iceland had seen in decades.
One big bus was blown off the road. It was an intense, exciting 20 hours.

Powerful winds off the Atlantic blowing these South Iceland waterfalls into the air.

Fákasel Horse Park has a good evening show featuring Iceland's famous breed of horses.