Most people who travel to Iceland on a Northern Lights Holiday stay in the countryside to give themselves the best chance to see the Aurora Borealis away from interfering artificial lights. Many also combine with a one or two night stay in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The old town is quirky and fun with many wooden houses and unique shops. However there is so much more to Reykjavik with a vast array of museums to choose from to visit.
So i was off to see Hotel Ion, a brand new hotel that opened in April 2013,an hours drive from Reykjavik in Iceland. It is situated next to a geothermal power station, but don't let that put you off as it is believed the power station has a direct positive effect on creating clear nights - critical for seeing the Aurora Borealis. It is believed that the steam plumes create a special micro climate which creates clear skies allowing the Northern Lights to shine through.
I have been to Iceland so many times for Weekend a La Carte that it's easy to forget what i take for granted as i know it so well. Here are ten things you might not know, which should help you make the most of your trip to Iceland, and take some of the worry away about a new destiantion for you.
Several years ago I had gone out to Iceland to find a local guide who could offer a highly personalised and local guide. I was delighted to meet Saeli who met my brief in every way.
"So all you should take with you into your room is your thermals, a hat, your thermal boots for walking there and a fleece"...."No way" i thought. I'm going to wear much more than that. I was at the Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland and was at the briefing of what to wear when you went to bed. The rooms are made from snow and ice and are a constant minus 5 degrees celcius. The bed was a slab of ice covered in a reindeer skin and we had an arctic sleeping bag each. This was not like the James Bond movie - no romantic candles, log fires and silk sheets. I turned to my husband "FYI tonight is NOT the night!"
We arrived at the Kennels and the Husky Dogs were already harnessed up and waiting for us for our Northern Lights Hunt. We were hustled into a wooden shed where we put on our arctic clothing - an all in one, boots, gloves, balaclava and hat. I'd already layered up with thermals, tights , t shirts, jeans and fleece so i looked like the proverbial Michelin Man, but i didn't care ...I just wanted to be warm!
Would you like to be a passenger?" No, i thought i want to drive as well! It was minus 20 degrees, and i was about to set off on a 3 hr snowmobile journey up through the hills and forests around Kiruna in Swedish Lapland.
Icelanders gather for big family dinners in the evening followed by gathering around a local bonfire . According to Icelandic folklore there are several magical traditions that are supposed to happen on New Year's Eve. Cows are meant to be able to talk, seals take on human form and elves move house!
We get asked all the time…… what are the best conditions for seeing & photographing the Northern Lights. The simple answer is : whenever the northern lights are visible! Brushing that comment aside, I really don’t think there are “best conditions”.
I was so excited; I was going Husky Dog Sledging in Swedish Lapland…and we were being allowed to drive our own team! I was so thrilled I felt like a child as we walked down to the kennel with its deafening noise of barking. All of the dogs in the kennel were barking constantly, tails madly wagging. They could clearly see that it was time for a sled ride, and they were
as excited as me!