When planning our trip to Reykjavik we thought it is best if we look around for a Northern Lights tour in Iceland. After all, we didn’t want to go driving around outback Iceland in the middle of the night with no idea what we were looking for. January was the best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Once upon a time that would have been appealing but with two young kids, a tour in Iceland was definitely the way to go.
Having checked out a lot of tours to see the Northern Lights in Iceland online we decided we would go with Grayline having had good experiences with Gray Line tours in the past. We choose the Northern Lights Mystery Tour for getting around Iceland.
The Northern Lights Mystery Tour Included
- Watching the Northern Lights flashing across the sky in brilliant patterns
- Learning about the science of Northern Lights
- Engaging and educating guidance
- Complimentary pick-up and drop-off for hotels and guesthouses in Reykjavik
- Round trip transportation
- Professional tour guide
One thing about the Northern Lights tour they are dependant on the weather and as they say in Iceland the weather can change in a matter of minutes. The first night we were scheduled to go on the tour we received an email early afternoon saying because of weather conditions the tour was off. As luck would have we were near the Gray Lines office in downtown Reykjavik when the email came through. We went into the office and rescheduled for the next night. Easy as that!
Northern Lights Mystery Tour Number 1
Best time to go to Iceland for the Northern Lights is Winter
At 8 pm the next night the Gray Line minivan pulled up outside the apartments we were staying at. We were asked to confirm our names and then we promptly piled on the minibus. We drove through dark streets of the Icelandic capital on our way to the Gray Line depot where we would meet up with the full-size bus. Sitting on the bus you could hear people talking in many languages from all around the world. One thing that was apparent was the excitement in the air. Everyone thinking of possibly seeing the Northern Lights from everyone on board. Iceland guided tours are the way to go in this country.
Where do we stay in Reykjavik
We stayed at Downtown Reykjavik Apartments. Located on the edge of the Reykjavik City Centre. Fully self-contained including cooking facilities in your room and a guest laundry. We stayed in a family room for 4
Book your stay at Downtown Reykjavik Apartments HERE
Once we arrived at the depot we then changed bus onto a much bigger bus that could accommodate more people. We were greeted by our guide, our names were ticked off again and we climbed on to get some seats. Our guide was so nice and friendly! Her sense of humour was hilarious and the girls loved her straight away. Once the last minibus arrived we were off! We headed out of Reykjavik towards Reykjanes to a seemingly well-known spot that tour companies use to see the lights. Apparently, Gray Line are constantly in touch with the Icelandic Bureau of Meteorology to find the most likely spots the lights will appear. The spots to see the lights are void of all artificial light.
Make sure you bring warm clothes on your Northern Lights tour in Iceland
The spots to see the lights are void of all artificial light. We were given instruction by our tour guide on the way out how to set up our camera’s to catch the best pictures of the lights. Sometimes it was confusing and we later asked her to have a look at our camera to see if she could help us sort out a couple of the settings. It was absolutely no problems and within minutes we had some of the settings sorted out. We pulled into a car park in the middle of nowhere. We were joined by about 8 other full-size buses making it about 300 people standing around freezing waiting to see the sky dance. It was about this time I was glad we had bought great quality jackets from North Face for the girls and Columbia for Bec and myself.
And wait we did, to the untrained eyes it was really hard to see. Spotting the cloud that would give you the best sighting was difficult to us and once we actually got out onto that lava field it was hard to find your guide again. We would head back to the bus to ask our guide what we should be looking for sometimes just to make sure we were right. But you would certainly know after you took a picture. Our great guide would say there are some low-quality Northern lights out there, have a look and take a picture. If you had your camera set up right it would easily capture colours that the eyes could not see.
As the lights were not as good as our guide had hoped for they decided to go to another place to try our luck there. So after about 3 hours we packed up and headed to lighthouse Garðskagavita in search of the lights. Once again we came up empty after standing around for an hour we headed back towards Reykjavik stopping at this beautiful little church Kálfatjarnarkirkju where the Northern Lights finally showed themselves for just a few minutes but enough for the naked eye to see them. The entire bus was really tired at this stage but our guide was on us all to get off and get the picture!
As she was telling us to hurry she was also telling us to be very careful but that we had to hurry! We were all laughing as we got off the bus for this last try at seeing them! At this point, the girls stayed on the bus and the driver was happy to sit with them. There was also another couple on the bus that had just had enough so they said they would watch the girls for us if we would share our pictures with them.
At this tiny little spot was where we got our best pictures of the Northern Lights! After 5 hours of searching in near freezing conditions, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. Back in the apartment and in bed by 2 am. As we drove back to Reykjavik our guide and the bus driver decided that the quality of the lights we had seen were to be of a low quality which entitles everyone to another trip.
The girls were able to sleep quite comfortably on the bus at different stages through the tour. When awake they went outside to explore and look for the lights and chatted to people on the bus.
Nothern Lights Mystery Tour Number 2
The next day we rebooked again for another Northern Lights tour in Iceland and again it was so easy. This time we headed south down the coast away from Reykjavik through Selfoss. We stopped at Hotel Vantsholt which is on the south shore of Iceland, a restaurant guest house where you could buy coffee and cake while we waited for the lights to appear. As we had had a very different experience the night before, Bec was much more prepared but we had not brought any money with us to buy a coffee!
This area was known for its Northern Lights activity. Alas, the lights would not appear at all this night for us. Gray Line tried really hard to find the lights as we drove around the countryside in search for them. We stopped and drove and stopped and drove. Looking, searching and hunting in valleys and on flats near the ocean and in the hills. We didn’t even end up getting very cold on this tour as we hardly got off the bus at all.
What did we think of our Northern Lights tour in Iceland
I really have to complement the two guides and how they kept you entertained and informed with facts and stories both professional and personal along the journey. The girls loved the stories they told and again the guides happily answered questions that they asked. By the end of the night, both of the guides knew the girl’s names and a few life stories of their own. I have been on other tours where you get on and you get nothing in the way of information until you get there. With Gray Line, they have both a driver and a tour guide on board for all your needs and inquiries.
Gray Line Northern Lights Mystery Tour
On this tour, you will search for the beautiful and mysterious Northern Lights on this exciting 4-hour adventure from Reykjavik. You could head North you could head South. Gray Line are in constant contact with the Icelandic Bureau of Meteorology. This gets them latest up to date forecasts on where the Northern lights will appear
Book you Northern Lights tour in Iceland with Gray Line right HERE
In the big picture, we got see the lights for only a short time. Were the lights impressive like you see in pictures? Certainly not for our experience. Can you control the weather or lights? No way. Did GrayLine do all they could to help us find the lights? Yes they did, they went above and beyond to give us the best experience possible. Would we recommend a Northern Lights tour in Iceland with Gray Line to anyone visiting Iceland? ABSOLUTELY! put it on your Iceland itinerary.
Read more fantastic Iceland articles by Wyld Family Travel