We rose bright and early this morning, ready to take on the road once again. It was going to be a long drive to the West Fjords, and we were looking forward to the dramatic scenery on the road, that is, until we looked at the Northern Lights forecast.
Locals will always tell you the chances of seeing Northern lights from September onwards are high. In fact, we’ve heard it so many times, “You’re here for two weeks in Iceland? Don’t worry, you’ll definitely see it! We see them almost every day” was a common response. We didn’t want to take any chances though. It was day 10, and we hadn’t had any luck. We’d be gone in less than a week.
To see the Northern lights, you need a few main conditions-
- A dark night sky. This is why it’s not possible to see the Northern lights in summer with the midnight sun hanging around.
- Cloudless skies. This is very important. If there’s high activity, but the skies are cloudy, you won’t be able to see any lights. The clouds move quickly in Iceland, and if they’re there in the morning, they might be gone at night due to strong winds. Always check the weather page for the latest updates if you’re chasing the lights.
- Aurora activity level. Aurora activity is measured between 0-9, 0 being no activity and 9 being the highest. You’ll be able to see the Northern lights from a level 3 onwards. An activity of 5 is considered high and, and this is when you’ll be able to see the lights “dancing”.
So far, we’ve had nights with 3-4 activity levels, but it was always cloudy. I’d admit I was getting a little despondent. This morning though, the forecast was a 5 and very clear skies! Only problem was, the clear skies were going to be around the areas between Husavik and Sauðárkrókurr, not Isafjordur, where we were headed. There was a cloudless spot in the West Fjords, but it’d take a few hours to get to, and it was a tiny area, and that wasn’t guaranteed. We had pre-booked our non-refundable accommodation in Isafjordur at a hotel and made plans to explore the West Fjords area. If we stayed, we would be forgoing the hotel which was pretty costly, lose a day in the West fjords, and would have to find accommodation again around Sauðárkrókur. We also had nothing planned in this area since we had only planned on spending a day riding horses here.
On the other hand, northern lights. We weren’t sure when we were going to see it again, IF we’d even have a chance to. We were getting nowhere fast, just kept flip-flopping between the pros and cons. So we packed our bags, loaded them into the car and drove to have lunch. We’d make our decision during lunch we said, we just had to get a breath of fresh air.
Decision time. We chose to stay, afterall the Northern Lights were a big part of our decision to come! We didn’t want to regret not seeing them. We arranged to stay an additional night, and even decided to go fishing for cod. I enjoy fishing, but I’m always skeptical these days because the last two times I went fishing, my total catch was 0. But I’m glad I did this time.
We didn’t bring a camera on the boat as a precaution, and there aren’t many pictures with our phones either because within 5 minutes of being out in the sea, we were catching fish every few minutes and getting our hands dirty, but OMG it was so much fun and SO worth it!
We mostly caught cod fish, and had 1-2 of another type of fish which I unfortunately can’t remember as of right now. Cod fish is notoriously expensive back home, and it’s one of my favourite fish because done right, it melts in your mouth. I couldn’t believe the amount of cod we caught, more than we could eat! The hosts cooked us a wonderful dinner with some of the fish we had caught. Definitely our best meal in Iceland.
After a late dinner, we headed out to chase the lights – we weren’t having much luck at our place and decided to drive back towards Husavik. It was the right choice. When I saw first started to spot the lights, I just kept screaming “LIGHTS, LIGHTS, THE LIGHTS ARE OUTTTTTT!!” It was insane. I’ve dreamed of seeing them for so long, I didn’t even take the time to pose for pictures, all I wanted to do was stare at them.
You know how people have commented about the lights “dancing”? I’ve never quite believed that till I saw it with my own eyes. The lights literally dance through the night sky, doing a little boogie woogie. The feeling is indescribable. You have to see it with your own eyes.
We spent six hours chasing the lights, just taking them in after awhile, and finally got back around 5am and immediately crashed.
PS. Another pro of being on a roadtrip – you’re able to change plan when needs must! It’s all up to you after weighing out the positives and negatives.