I talked about seeing the Aurora for months before even booking my plane ticket, I was obsessed with it for all the weeks leading up to my flight, and “Have you seen an aurora yet? Where? When? How?” was my conversation starter throughout my whole trip in Iceland (after “where are your from?”, I have to respect the traveler etiquette).
I saw a very faint one on my second night, and I was already loosing it. Mid-trip, I finally got to see the real deal, even though it was not a big one, there was still this huge ribbon of green light going from one end to the sky to the other, and I couldn’t stop smiling for an hour after that.
There’s no word to describe it. This is true magic.
So, between all the reading, all the question-asking and all the looking for them myself every night, I now have a good deal of Aurora knowledge. Basically, to see them, you have to know these 10 rules.
1 – Tired you will feel
That’s kind of the downside of spending your nights obsessing over whether or not that star is getting brighter and if this piece of sky is getting lighter because of a lamplight or an aurora. You have to be prepared for it, and maybe manage things so you have time to sleep in the morning.
2 – The forecast you will distrust
I hate the forecast. No, sorry, deep breathing. The forecast is lovely but it made me believe that I was exactly in the right spot to see the Aurora of my life when in fact the only thing in the sky was a lot of clouds and the crazy light show was happening … on the other side of the mountain range where there wasn’t suppose to be anything. Weather changes really fast in Iceland, so don’t trust the forecast.
3 – From cities you will flee
It’s still possible to see the Aurora in a city, but the city lights will make the show less impressive.
4 – The moon you will curse
This thing is making a lot of light, way worse than a city. Nights where the moon is thin will be your best bet.
5 – From the clouds you will run
Well, no need to explain that one. Look above, and try to drive towards the brighter stars, so you know the sky is clear.
6 – To locals you will talk
They don’t get as excited as we do when we talk of the Aurora, but they can tell you if you have a good shot to see one, and where to find the nearby spots to wait for them.
7 – A car you will need
It’s often referred to as “Aurora Hunting”, because you have to check the cloud cover, find dark places, etc. And to hunt it’s best to have a quick mode of transportation. A car, a batmobile, a running tiger, anything …
8 – Your camera you will throw out
I know you want to show those amazing pictures to everybody once you get home, but remember also that seeing an Aurora might be a once in a lifetime thing. Don’t forget to look at it, before thinking of immortalizing it. The camera is not essential to the experience.
9 – A night plane you will book
If you weren’t lucky on the ground, a night plane might be your last shot at seeing the Aurora. As it flies above the cloud cover, the chances are rather high. Try to figure out which side to sit on in order to face north!
10 – Faith you will keep
It’s the sad truth, seeing the Aurora is as much a matter of luck as anything else. You can see it on your first night or spend your entire trip without one. I truly think the key is to believe in it, and that it will happen if it’s meant to be. In the meantime, you’ll need all the faith you’ve got to keep looking at the sky every night if you don’t see anything. It will happen, one day, have faith.
Let me know if you see one!