“Northern Lights and…” nights

My new passport arrived on Monday. All credit to the passport office, I sent it off last Monday lunchtime and the new one was waiting for me when I got home from work the next Monday, despite being told repeatedly three to four weeks. It’s very shiny and I’m christening it by taking it to Iceland next week.

I was thinking about what to do over there and decided I’m going for RE’s Warm Bath & Cool Lights tour, which combines hunting for the Northern Lights with a trip to Fontana spa. It’s always exciting to go out looking for the Lights but it becomes something more if you do something else because if the Lights don’t show up – which, to be honest, is more than likely – you’ve still had an interesting night out.

For example, I’d almost forgotten that part of the reason I went out snowshoeing in Sweden was to look for the Lights. They were uncooperative but I still had a great night out pitting my wits and my strength against a pair of plastic tennis rackets (and losing badly), pattering over a very frozen lake and then fika in a barbecue hut with a roaring fire. If you go looking for the Lights by dogsled, then you get the fun of the dogs and the sledding and the adrenaline even if the sky stays dark (I have never done this but I’d like to). A little over a year ago, I basically got the Golden Circle tour by moonlight – after we’d been in the spa in the dark, we went round Þingvellir and Halldor Laxnes’s house and Skálholt and visited some horses and got frozen half to death and I don’t think anyone really cared that all we’d seen in the sky was a blindingly bright full moon.

I really like this photo, actually taken in near-total blackness.
I really like this photo, actually taken in near-total blackness.

On the other hand, the best Lights I’ve ever seen were a night where we did nothing but look out for them, on a bank on my favourite campsite, 8 or so coachloads of tourists, most of whom stayed in the little restaurant drinking coffee all night. But if the Lights hadn’t come out, it might have been a very cold and tedious night indeed.

You can always get a car and go out by yourself but I find it’s cheaper and easier to go as part of a tour, with drivers and/or guides who know what the Lights are like and where they’re likely to be visible. Even better, most tour companies offer these activity nights and those I hugely recommend. So go and do that, if you’re visiting the right part of the world at the right time of year and it’s a good clear cold night.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping the Lights behave themselves next Thursday.