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Most people travelling to Iceland in the winter head off into the countryside to improve their Northern Lights experience. However some time in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is also a fun ending to the trip before you head back home. Reykjavik is a fun quirky town and you will find the old town full of interesting local shops and plenty of museums to pique your interest, whilst the harbour houses the stunning new Harpa Center. Below are some of our recommendations as to how to fill your time around the adventures we have included for you.

Reykjavik 871 +/- 2

This museum is right next to Reykjavik Centrum Hotel and indeed the archaeological remains were found as a result of the hotel digging to create a car park! Needless to say the car park never happened and instead the Reykjavik 871 +/- 2 museum was born sharing the oldest relics of Human Habitation in Reykjavik from before AD 871 +/- 2. The finds include a longhouse which is the focal point of the exhibition about  life as a farmer in the Viking Age in Reykjavik.

Whales of Iceland

Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features 23 life size models of whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience. The Whales of Iceland exhibition is located at Fiskislóð in Reykjavík’s harbour area. Getting there on foot from downtown Reykjavík is easy, and there is also ample parking.

Hallgrímskirkja Tower

Rising 244 ft Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest building in Iceland and for the best views of Reykjavik go up the lift to the bell tower. The three bells in the tower represent Hallgrímur, his wife, and their daughter who died young.

The National Museum

For those with a bit more time the National Museum of Iceland is highly recommended. It shares Iceland’s national heritage via over 300,000 artefacts and photographs which range from the original settlers to Christian Chieftains, Norwegian and Danish Rule and right up to the current modern World.

Outdoor Swimming Pools

The Icelanders are almost obsessed with their thermal swimming pools. This is where they go to relax, chat and “shoot the wind”. If you want to do what Icelanders do then head for one of the 7 thermal pools in Reykjavik and become an observer as you sit in the hot tubs or steam baths that invariably accompany the pools.

The Perlan Museum – the Wonders of Iceland

Perlan is a magnificent building on the top of a hill in the center of Reykjavík, with a 360 degree observation deck. The Glaciers and Ice Cave Exhibition is the first exhibition of the new Perlan Museum – Wonders of Iceland. The exhibition is built inside one of Perlan’s six hot water tanks. It illustrates the glaciers, their history and bleak future, and gives visitors the amazing opportunity to experience travelling through a real man-made Ice Cave. You will learn about the glacier’s dangers, the secrets it keeps, and how the disappearance of our glaciers is leading to an enormous change for both Iceland itself and around the world.

Reykjavik Concert and Conference Centre

Recently opened the Reykjavik Concert and Conference Centre overlooks the Old Harbour and indeed overhangs the water. For those interested in architecture this is a beauty worth a visit, but be prepared, the old harbour is a working fishing harbour and not particularly attractive. The centre plans to hold daily performances. Refer to the Hotel for performances during your visit.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

Iceland’s past, present and future are intimately tied to seafaring. The Maritime Museum’s exhibitions are insights into Iceland’s relationship with the sea through the centuries. The main exhibitions illustrate the development from rowboats to modern trawlers and cargo vessels, as well as the construction of Reykjavík Harbor. Docked at a specially built pier alongside the museum is the Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn which participated in all three Cod Wars against Britain in the latter part of the 20th century.

National Gallery of Iceland

The National Gallery of Iceland main emphasis is on 19th and 20th century Icelandic art, but international art is featured as well. The museum owns the most valuable collection of works by Icelandic artists in the country. The collection also includes an impressive array of works by internationally renowned artists such as, Pablo Picasso, Edward Munch, Karel Appel, Hans Hartung, Victor Vasarely, Richard Serra and Richard Tuttle. Opening Hours are 11-5pm except Mondays when it is closed.

Aurora Reykjavik – Northern Lights Centre

​The Northern Lights in Iceland can be seen from September – April. In summer they are not visible because of the ever glowing midnight sun. Aurora Reykjavík – the Northern Lights Centre – is open all year so even if you are travelling in summer you can catch the essence of being out on a cold winter night watching the Icelandic Northern Lights.

The center is divided into sections which include:

  • History of the Northern Lights
  • Interactive Displays
  • Legends and Stories from around the World
  • Introduction to Northern Lights Photography
  • The Northern Lights Theatre – Capturing Nature at its Finest! The high point of your visit to the center will certainly be the theatre where a continuously running HD film is playing throughout the day. Projected onto a 7 metre wide screen, you can sit back and enjoy this 20 minute film that features some of the most magnificent aurora displays seen over Iceland. The film is accompanied by soft music in surround-sound, making this a therapeutic and restful experience.

The Imagine Peace Tower    

  • The Imagine Peace Tower is lit from around 1 hour after sunset until midnight each night except on John & Yoko’s birthdays and on New Year’s Eve, when it remains lit until sunrise. On 9th October and 20th – 27th March it lights at 8pm.
  • The Imagine Peace Tower which is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow Yoko Ono,is  located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavik. It consists of a tall tower of light, projected from a white stone monument that has the words “Imagine Peace” carved into it in 24 languages. These words, and the name of the tower, are a reference to Lennon’s peace anthem Imagine!

Of course we believe the best way to experience Iceland is to take some of the adventure activities and any of our Reykjavik Aurora Breaks include some fantastic adventures like Whale Watching, Northern Lights Hunt by Boat or SuperJeep, and of course the famed Golden Circle with the erupting Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Waterfall.

It is a little over 10 years since Joanna Lumley, on a trip to the Lofoten islands in Norway, set of an explosion of interest in seeing the northern lights.

I remember coming into the office the day after the programme was aired on TV and saw a 400% increase in traffic to our web site and knew that the interest in seeing one of nature’s great phenomena was real.

A lot has transpired since then and the whole of the Arctic Region has benefitted from a wave of travellers from all over the world who have flocked to search for the Aurora Borealis.

Media hype has played its part and various interpretations of the science behind the aurora have been adapted to try and drive the market but the simple reality remains and that is one most nights in the arctic during the aurora season ( Sept-March) you stand a good chance of seeing some activity – clear skies being the overriding requirement.

Over time we have seen a shift in holiday makers looking for destinations where the weather is more stable and predictable and that are why destinations like Abisko in Swedish Lapland have exploded in popularity. With an 83% chance of seeing the northern lights in a 4 night visit in Abisko through the season these are the odds that most travellers are happy to take.

The Best Northern Lights Holidays of the Future

However 10 years on the basic break of aurora hunting, snowmobile and sled dog trip as the core of a break are making way to clients seeking more multi destination breaks with more luxury included. As the market has evolved so has the quality of accommodation and food in particular. There are some wonderful small lodges and cabins with private services now available.

Additionally the countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland have joined forces on a project entitled Visit Arctic Europe with the goal of developing transport links between the 3 countries in the Lapland region north of the Arctic Circle. This is beginning to bear fruit and in the foreseeable future it will be easier to do exciting multi destination northern lights holidays across the 3 countries.

Weekend a la Carte’s Aurora Nights has been at the forefront of developing northern lights holiday for 15 years and is already offering some incredible longer journeys through Iceland & Sweden, Greenland & Iceland and Sweden & Norway.

For some inspiration take a look at our Multi Destination northern lights holidays.


The opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis in the Polar Regions has attracted holiday makers from all over the world on a northern lights holiday quest to see the green ribbons of light that burst into action during the Arctic Nights.

As one of the leading northern lights holiday providers, we are often asked when is the best time to go to see the northern lights and where should I go.

When Should I Go to The Northern Lights?

The simple answer to this is when the arctic nights begin to lengthen (September) until when the spring begins in early April. So the window that is open to seeing them is large.

There are two overriding factors that will dictate whether you get to see the northern lights during your holiday. The first is driven by the sun and the level of radiation that is produced and then channelled to the Polar Regions by the earth’s magnetic field. Basically, the higher the activity the more pronounced the Aurora Borealis is.  This can only really be determined with some accuracy a week or so beforehand. There are a number of aurora tracking sites and the two we use are Space Weather and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical institute site.

So whether you choose the right time to go is largely down to luck but the further north you are the more likely you are to see the northern lights on even a low forecast night.

The second factor is weather. You can have a wonderful aurora display but excessive clouds block this from the naked eye. In the arctic there are a lot of weather fronts so this needs to be taken into consideration. Coastal regions, for example, can be cloudier on average than mountainous regions.

Where Should I Stay on a Northern Lights Holiday?

So when to go to the Northern Lights is a little bit down to lottery but where to go is a little more scientific and there are some places that have a higher statistical probability of seeing them than anywhere else.

After years of providing northern lights holidays for our clients, there is one place that consistently has a higher incidence of seeing them. That place is Abisko  in Sweden.

Situated in a mountainous area on the border between Norway and Sweden, Abisko is blessed with a unique micro climate that results in significantly less precipitation than anywhere else in Sweden and thus has less cloud cover.

On average, 4 out of 5 nights has some level of northern light activity during the season. This does not mean 4 out of 5 nights has a huge display – that is driven by the first point I made relating to the sun spot activity happening 93 million miles away on the surface of the sun. But, for clear nights, Abisko in Sweden is hard to beat.

If you are planning one Northern Lights holiday in your life, then I would not hesitate to recommend a northern lights holiday to Abisko  , Sweden.


Of all the destinations we offer we get more requests from clients celebrating a wedding anniversary or big Birthday for a break to Lapland than any of our other destinations.

It’s really not difficult to see why as a trip to the Arctic for most people is once in a lifetime experience and so completely different to almost any other holiday they have been on before. After all if you are celebrating a silver wedding anniversary or a 40th or 50th Birthday then you want an experience that stands out from what you have done previously.

Who could not be captivated by the idea of being pulled through a pristine snowy wilderness by a team of eager to please Huskies or by the thought of staying in the world famous ICEHOTEL in an individually designed Art Suite? To crown it all of why not go Northern Lights hunting in Abisko in Swedish Lapland probably the best place on earth for consistent sightings of the Northern Lights.

In addition you have unique wildlife, the indigenous Sami culture centred on reindeer herding and all manner of unique settings from fjords to mountains and icebergs to volcanoes.

In terms of places to stay there are small lodges, wilderness cabins with private chef and the unique Tree Hotel with its quirky rooms such as the Mirror Cube, Birds Nest ad UFO! Whether you are travelling as a couple or bigger group to celebrate we can suggest itineraries that fit best for your group size.

Click on this link to see our suggested breaks for celebrating a special occasion

If you truly want to make your special moment an amazing adventure, why not combine more than one country on your Arctic Northern Lights holiday adventure. We offer great combinations of Sweden and Norway, Iceland and Sweden and Iceland and Greenland for spectacular journeys that will be forever etched on the memory.

Click on this link to see some of our longer journeys

We have, over 14 years, built up the expertise to knit together arguably the best journeys possible in the region and have reams of feedback from satisfied clients over the years. If you have a special occasion on the horizon, then give us a call to see what we can do for you.

Northern Lights – The Age of the Aurora
Solar activities, also known as sunspots, are what regulate the intensity of the solar wind which in turn creates the aurora borealis. The sun has an 11 year cycle – or “pulse” – which regulate the intensity of the sunspots/Northern Lights and thereby also their consistency. Scientists have been monitoring this for hundreds of years and also know when to expect increases in activity.

As we now head into a period with very high sunspot activity – one could say we are in The Age of Aurora – which should therefore bring about some fantastic displays of aurora.

The next time this high sunspot occurs again will be around 2022 – so if you want to view this nature’s splendour in the foreseeable future – now is the time to book a trip to the northern latitudes where this is viewable.

To see the Northern Lights Holidays we offer.

The amazing spectacle known as the Northern Lights is an experience you will never forget and if you use your camera correctly you will be able to share your experience with others.

The Aurora Borealis occurs in the North and the Aurora Australis occurs in the south.  We are talking extreme north and extreme south close to the Arctic and Antarctic circles.  The majority of activity forms a kind of halo at both ends of the earth.

Required Gear
Camera – almost any DSLR is suitable. The deciding factor is the ability to open the shutter for long periods.  Check to see if your camera has a bulb mode and maybe invest in a cable. A tripod or any other means of keeping the camera still for long exposures is essential. Lens – if you are dedicated, choose a lens with a super wide aperture. I use a f1.4 lens although I rarely go past f2.8.  Wide angle is best … quite simply, wide angle improves your chances of getting a shot and also the stars start to trail much later on a wide angle.

To increase your chance of a successful aurora hunt, you need to be aware of the weather.  If it is cloudy on earth, your chances of seeing the aurora grow weaker. You can increase your chances again by eliminating light pollution.  A really strong Aurora can be seen in the city, but you really need to get far away from the city lights to improve your chances.  The moon can also work against you. If you can see stars you have a chance, if you can see the Milky Way, you have a good chance.

Get your camera set up so that it is easy to handle.  I would suggest chest height.  Using a flashlight make sure your cable is connected, your lens is set just short of infinity and the camera is level. Then turn off the flashlight and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Then wait. You can use the waiting time constructively.  You can practice with your bulb and find a good composition.  Set your camera to f2.8 (or as wide as possible) iso 800 and take some test shots for 30 seconds.  Do this in all directions but mainly due north (Aurora Borealis).  You may start to see a green hue on your pictures near the horizon. This is a good sign and this is the part of the sky you need to watch.

As the aurora starts to get brighter you need to start adjusting your settings accordingly.  Start by bringing down your iso.  Always check the brightness of your image on the histogram and never rely on the camera preview screen.  Your eyes have adjusted to the dark so an underexposed image will look fine – until you get it home!

If the whole sky explodes and the Aurora casts a shadow, you need to be quick to adjust your exposure times.  The best Aurora shots occur during these brief moments.  A faster shutter of 8 – 20 seconds will preserve some of the details of the display.

Sometimes you cannot avoid star trails if you don’t trust iso 800 and your lens stops at f4, you might be exposing for 2 minutes with a weak aurora.  Generally it is preferred to expose for less than 30 seconds to prevent noticeable star trails.

Click here to see our Abisko breaks

We get asked this question more than any other question.

Firstly you can never guarantee seeing the Northern Lights. If there was a magic switch somebody would have found it by now!  However there are certain places in Europe which record much higher overall levels of sightings. The three most celebrated and visited are Abisko in Swedish Lapland, Ranga in Iceland and Tromso in Norway.

The seasons vary and Iceland, due to the non-reliance of snow for the destination to work, has the longest viewing season. This runs from October – March. Abisko and Tromso have a shorter but more intense season running from December – April.

If I was to choose between the 3 destinations I would pick Abisko as the best. Not only does the percentage of nights during the season when the lights are viewed register the highest but the drama of seeing them up at the sky station is unbeatable. You feel you can reach out at times and touch them!

So having established the best location we focus on the best time. There is certainly an argument to say that the lights are seen at their best when there is low lunar light but from experience it should not be the overriding reason of the timing of your visit. We have found that what is more important is finding a spot where there is a high chance of a clear night (Abisko being the best) and then it’s down to the intensity of the solar wind bouncing off the earth’s magnetic field.

However having done this break for many years what is equally as important during a Northern Lights Holiday is to ensure you have a full programme of exciting activities to do during the day. This is where the best tour operators earn their stripes ensuring your break to the Arctic is a once in a lifetime experience with a mix of Husky Dog Sledding and Snowmobile Safaris to name but a few.

To see our Northern Lights Holidays click here.

This was written by Chad Blakley, a professional photographer whom we work with offering Northern Lights photographic evenings in Abisko. See the Northern Lights Photographer course we offer with Chad.

It is officially aurora season in Abisko National Park! After a summer of round the clock sunshine, the midnight sun has taken a bow and offered the stage to the magical Northern Lights. As the winter season kicks into overdrive I find myself overjoyed with the fact that I get to spend my nights under the stars with excited guests from all over the world!

Due to the current solar maximum the 2012-13 aurora watching season is poised to be one of the best in recent memory. Scientists and aurora forecasters predict that solar activity will be unusually high during the next few years, causing the auroras to increase in intensity and to appear in the night sky above Abisko Nation Park with more frequency. When I look back at the last several aurora seasons I am filled with excitement to know that things will be getting better and better. I hope to see you under the crystal clear skies of Abisko National Park this winter and I look forward to helping you photograph the Lights Over Lapland!

Here are a few tips to help hopeful photographers prepare their camera for the lights before they have an opportunity to join one of our tours:

Your camera will need to be set to full manual program mode including manual focus.

  • Start with an ISO and exposure time of 1600 and 15 seconds. Exposure time will vary but this is a good place to start.
  • Use a wide angle lens with a fast maximum aperture. F3.5 or faster is preferred.
  • Use a headlamp with a red bulb to preserve your night vision.
  • Bring extra batteries! The cold Arctic temperatures present in Abisko will cause your batteries to drain much quicker than normal.
  • Before bringing your camera into a warm room after your night in the park be sure to put it in a plastic bag. Let the camera slowly warm itself to room temperature to avoid condensation on your lens.

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new refreshed website for Weekend a la Carte Aurora Nights.

We think it will really help you imagine yourself there watching the Northern Lights, and experiencing the activities with many more photos, bigger photos, and lots of videos to inspire and tempt you.

Over the years we have developed many new breaks and as a result it has become quite hard for you to find your way around the website with so many breaks to choose from. The new website has been restructured so the different types of breaks and destinations are much clearer.

We have also for the first time added Norway to our portfolio. With the call for more autumn Aurora Holidays Norway was an obvious destination as an alternative to Iceland which also has strong Northern Lights in the autumn.

Whilst Iceland offers dramatic volcanic landscape and truly exciting adventure superjeep tours, Norway offers spectacular fjords and mountains that drop right into the sea.

Greenland is developing as a winter northern lights destination with more and more people combining Iceland and Greenland in one break so as to experience the full range of Volcanic wonders of Geysers, Rift valleys, Glaciers, Volcanoes, Icebergs, Snowmobiling and Husky Dog Sledding with the Inuits to remote settlements.

Swedish Lapland continues to be a Northern Lights Trip favourite with superb activities during the day to entertain you, and a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights at Abisko, called the Northern Lights Capital of Europe. The Husky Sledding and Snowmobiling really is the very best.

So with four aurora destinations we want to make sure we have made it as easy as possible for you to chose where you want to go to so as to help focus your search.

We have written a destination guide which covers everything from activities that you would undertake, expected weather, departure airports, food you should expect to eat, and accommodation by destination. It’s totally free for you to download, with no obligation, so you can peruse at your leisure to help you plan your Northern Lights Adventure.

We are here to help guide you and craft that perfect Northern Lights experience for you. Do give us a call on 01722 744695.


Some people like the idea of a cruise, visiting different places on the way and being able to see the lights from the deck of the ship. There are then those who would prefer to stay on land in a hotel and take a trip out to appreciate the lights instead.

However, the question for the uninitiated is: where are the best places to visit to really appreciate the aurora borealis and get some truly breathtaking views?


The very name of this country is in fact misleading, and indeed there is the well-known joke that Greenland and Iceland should swap names as Iceland can be very green, with the snow and ice focusing on the Glaciers. Having said that Iceland is full of volcanoes and lava fields. This gives it a rugged, harsh look and makes it a very dramatic back drop for seeing the Northern Lights.

Out in the countryside in the South of Iceland, you’ll have an unreserved view of the sky, giving you some fantastic chances to take pictures of the very reason you came to visit; the Northern Lights. The area around Hella is particularly good as it has little artificial light to interfere with the Northern Lights, and has a great incidence of sightings of the Aurora Borealis. There is a great 4 star Hotel option in this area with a superb restaurant, as well as a wilderness cabin for those looking to enjoy the peace and serenity on their own. In the North of Iceland you get away from the crowds and have the opportunity to enjoy the Aurora in isolation over waterfalls and a quiet estuary.

It’s not all about looking up at the sky in Iceland though. The snowy, mountainous areas are perfect for enjoying various adventurous activities like ice climbing with crampons, snowmobiling on the Glaciers and amazing off road Super Jeep tours with an experienced local guide right in the heart of the wilderness, and away from others.

Iceland is also famous for its Gullfoss Waterfall and the Strokkur Geyser, which erupts about every 5 minutes, as well as its black volcanic beaches and extraordinary volcanic landscape in the north. Whilst the best time to see whales is in the summer with an incidence of sightings at 90%, winter sightings are also high with an average of 70-75% and non summer Whale Watching is now increasing in popularity with the best sightings in the Aurora Season at either end near the equinoxes in March and October. You’ll get spectacular views of the Icelandic nature whatever time of the year you visit, so be sure to pack a good camera.

One of the most popular places to visit in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. This thermal spa is situated near the capital city of Reykjavik and simply cannot be missed. The water temperature is around 37 to 39 degrees Celsius, making it a stark contrast to the fresh, crisp air temperature. A most pleasurable way to spend the afternoon is having an in water massage followed by a steam bath or sauna.

To see all our Iceland Northern Lights Breaks


Sweden and Lapland

This is one of the most popular places to visit; with various cities and villages giving great views of the Northern Lights.

Abisko is found in the north of Sweden, 300 kms above the Arctic Circle, and is a tourist attraction ideal for Northern Lights hunters. Due to its unique climate it has the highest incidence of seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden, if not in the whole of the region.You can take a snowmobile or a pack of huskies on a sled out over the frozen rivers and lakes, away from the light-pollution caused in the cities and towns. This wilderness will give you the perfect open space to chase the Aurora and get the best possible views.

Professional photographers often frequent the region so you may be able to pick up some tips on how best to capture the Northern Lights. Alternatively an evening in the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko is a wonderful way to see the northern lights. The IceHotel near Kiruna is worth including on your trip to Sweden. Made entirely of ice and snow, this hotel was the first of its kind to exist.
Visit the IceBar for a relaxing drink as a completely alternative setting to what you’re used to, and if you go at the right time of year, you may glimpse the Northern Lights here as well.

For the ultimate Northern Lights hunter -do the coast to coast adventure. Start off in Lulea in Swedish Lapland and take a snowmobile over the frozen Archipelago. There are some great opportunities to go ice fishing here, while the vast open plains are fantastic for spotting the northern lights. You can then move on to Sorbyn further inland and spot wild reindeer.

There’s also a chance to stay in the special aurora camp located in the Rane River valley; a truly unique experience for the more adventurous holidaymaker.  Then make your way across the Arctic Circle to Abisko where you not only have the Northern Lights but you can try your hand at ice climbing in this vast National Park or ice fishing on Lake Tornetrask. When you finally reach the Norwegian Fjords, another train ride away, you’ll get some breathtaking views of the mountains and have the chance to ask the locals about the Northern Lights.

To see our Northern Lights Trips to Sweden


This emerging destination is a very special place. Can you imagine anything more spectacular than watching the Northern Lights over gigantic Icebergs in the north west of Greenland in Ilulissat?

With numbers limited by very small flight capacity this destination remains a spectacular foray into true wilderness, though equally boasts the most northerly 4 star hotel in the world!

Take a Husky Safari with a Innuit to a remote hunting settlement during the day or go on a snowmobile safari or ice shoe walk in the wilderness as you wait for the evening and the display of Auroras!

To see our Aurora Adventures in Greenland


Norwegian Lapland was put on the map by Joanna Lumley. The scenery is truly some of the most spectacular with dramatic mountains, fjords and the Northern Lights reflected in the sea. Whale watching has also become a popular pastime in the Fjords with autumn being the prime time for viewings of both whales and northern lights.

To see our Norwegian Lapland Aurora Breaks

The Northern Lights can be viewed in a number of different places around the northern hemisphere and the location you choose will largely depend on the type of holiday you want. If you’re after an action-packed, white-knuckle adventure, you’ll have a different idea of what you expect than if you want a relaxing, chilled-out hotel stay with some spectacular views.

Whatever you’re seeking, you’re sure to find it in one of these places. Just be sure to wrap up warm and take your camera; these are some sights you’ll never want to forget.

There are three main types of travel. The first are the beach holidays. Flights, car hire and a hotel/villa and you’re all set. These are great for when you just want to get away and have a relaxing break. They are perfect for those that don’t want to plan and just decide as they go what they do with tomorrow. This is the sort of trip for someone who wants to keep full control of their schedule. They are simple, easy trips. Pick a beautiful location and half an hour on Expedia, and it’s all done.

The second category is the full set tour package. Whether it is a case of you travelling alone, wanting to meet new people, or whether you are just unsure how to put together everything you want to do, these are the breaks for those wanting someone else to plan out the A’s to B’s. It could be a case of too much to organise or just not knowing how. City breaks are easy to organise, but how about a trip to the arctic on a northern lights holiday? How do you organise a husky sled tour? Or maybe you are travelling around. Organising a trip to the arctic Circle would be quite daunting for most people. This is where the tour package excels; it gives you effortless travel without the worry. Trying to arrange this sort of trip would feel like a comparison search for new car insurance at the end of the day, and that rather defeats the point of a wonderful holiday!But there is a downside to the second category. What if you don’t get on with everyone in the group and you spend part of your coach or cruise trying to avoid set people? Also, it means many early starts, which feels contradictory taking into account that for a few days/week etc you want to escape the alarm clock! Lastly, whilst you’re happy to get up early for a tour you are looking forward to, there are always parts of the ground programme you have no interest in, and that’s when getting out of bed early, packing the case and checking out of your hotel to be driven to the next place, just feels like too much hard work.

Onto category three. At Weekend a la Carte most of our clients have done many of the previous types of trips, and they know what they want. This includes hassle-free travel and to be looked after, but not to be part of a group and have no say on their itinerary. Everything we do is bespoke travel, reaching from an African Big 5 Safari, Venice Carnival package, Northern Lights trips, to city breaks. We know you want control of your holiday, but we also know you want someone else to work on the finer details. Most of our travellers are celebrating special birthdays and wedding anniversaries. These are our forte. We know how to make your trip special. You won’t be waiting for others to get on the bus, we won’t take you places you have no interest in, your hotel won’t be away from all the local sights

The travel dates, hotels and duration are for you to decide. We are very flexible! We have many clients who want us to arrange ground only and then leave them to their devices, and if you want a second snowmobile trip or a extra night at the wilderness cabin, we can do this. We have been doing it for thirteen years, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our breaks, extensions being one of the main ways. We really do have something for everyone. Why not take a look?

Weekend a la Carte – a chocolate box of trips including Slovenia, Russia, Prague, Jordan, India and Vienna.
Aurora Nights – northern lights inspired trips to Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
Italian Short Breaks – Verona Opera, Venice Orient Express Train, Venice Carnival and the Siena Palio.
The Big 5 Safari Company – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.

Now the only hard part is for you to decide where your next adventure takes you!




This was written by Chad Blakley, a professional photographer whom we work with offering Northern Lights photographic evenings in Abisko  in Sweden.

Here are a few tips to help hopeful photographers prepare their camera for the lights before they have an opportunity to join one of our tours:

Your camera will need to be set to full manual program mode including manual focus.

Start with an ISO and exposure time of 1600 and 15 seconds. Exposure time will vary but this is a good place to start.

Use a wide angle lens with a fast maximum aperture. F 3.5 or faster is preferred.

Use a headlamp with a red bulb to preserve your night vision.

Bring extra batteries! The cold Arctic temperatures present in Abisko will cause your batteries to drain much quicker than normal.

Before bringing your camera into a warm room after your night in the park be sure to put it in a plastic bag. Let the camera slowly warm itself to room temperature to avoid condensation on your lens.

For our Abisko Aurora Photographic Breaks in Sweden

The Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights (and the southern hemisphere’s Aurora Australis) are caused by the interaction of the Earth’s magnetic field with the flow of highly-charged particles from the Sun, known as the “solar wind”. Auroras are normally confined to polar regions, which are nearer the magnetic poles.

When the ions from the sun first collide with air particles, each causes a different reaction, and each reaction causes a different color to explode. Neutral nitrogen particles will create a purplish pink color, while ionic nitrogen transforms into a brilliant blue. If an ion crashes into oxygen in a lower altitude, it becomes the most common aurora, a yellowish-green color. If however, it collides with oxygen at a high level it will create the rarest blood red aurora.

The temperature above the surface of the sun is millions of degrees Celsius. At this temperature, collisions between gas molecules are frequent and explosive. Free electrons and protons are thrown from the sun’s atmosphere by the rotation of the sun and escape through holes in the magnetic field. Blown towards the earth by the solar wind, the charged particles are largely deflected by the earth’s magnetic field. However, the earth’s magnetic field is weaker at either pole and therefore some particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gas particles. These collisions emit light that we perceive as the Aurora.

The lights of the Aurora generally extend from 80 kilometres (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth’s surface.

Winter in the north is generally a good season to view lights. The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights provide many good opportunities to watch the auroral displays. Usually the best time of night (on clear nights) to watch for auroral displays is local midnight.

For our full range of Northern Lights Holidays in Greenland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland

Famous as *THE* hotel for Northern Lights sightings

Many people choose to stay at Hotel Ranga based on its reputation as one of the best places for Northern Lights Trips. Situated in a secluded part of the countryside with no interference from artificial light pollution, the hotel enjoys an above-average number of clear nights, which makes it ideal for seeing the Aurora Borealis. What’s more, the lights have been known to appear on consecutive nights, enabling guests to see them more than once during their stay.

Of course, there’s no predicting exactly when the lights will make an appearance, but the Hotel Ranga staff will do all they can to give guests the chance to see them, even if it’s 3am in the morning. It’s possible to book a ‘Northern Lights wake-up call’ and guests have been knownto marvel at the lights from the car park in their pyjamas! If the light showbegins during dinner, the staff will remove dishes and keep them warm until guests are seated again.

Arguably the best way to see the Aurora is from one of the three outdoor hot tubs with a glass of something bubbly to hand – relaxing in this breathtaking environment while the lights shimmer across the open sky is simple incredible.

There are 51 luxurious rooms available, ranging from standard up to the Royal Deluxe suite. All offer views of either the East Ranga River, Mount Hekla or the outdoor hot tubs. Each room is decorated and equipped to a high standard, with some of the suites boasting an indulgent jacuzzi bathtub while all include free WiFi, bathrobes and slippers. Several rooms have their own  back door which is perfect for quick Northern Lights sightings.

Offering what the hotel claims is ‘that little something extra for the discerning traveller’, guests can upgrade their room to one of the seven ‘one of a kind’ suites. Each has been modelled on the earth’s continents, decorated perfectly to represent Africa, America, Asia etc and delivering a truly unique stay.


When commenting on Hotel Ranga’s restaurant, one guest said the food was so good that “France could learn a thing or two and … that’s saying something as I’m half French”. So well-renowned is the gourmet restaurant that patrons will drive 1 1/2-2 hours from Reykjavik to dine there.

Under the chef’s ethos of ‘Farmer’s Market’, the primarily Nordic-inspired menu ‘with a Mediterranean twist’ uses as much local produce as possible. As such, guests are given the opportunity to sample foods they won’t see anywhere else: smoked puffin with beerbread crumble and reindeer carpaccio, for example.

The bar list has also been heavily praised by restaurant critics and guests alike, hailed for its extensive collection of drinks.

Beyond the hotel

Another great benefit of staying at Hotel Ranga is that it’s situated close to the starting point of lots of outdoor activities. Those joining  tours in Reykjavik will effectively waste several hours of the trip on the road, heading towards the start point, but Ranga guests can get straight to the action – and what action there is!

A popular option is to take a SuperJeep tour of the stunning, ragged landscape, driving up over glaciers (for which the tyres must be deflated) in a specially adapted vehicle for a taste of ‘raw Iceland’. Another stop in the area is the mesmerising Seljalandsfoss waterfall, behind which guests can walk, gazing out through the falling curtain of water.

Alternatively, the jeeps can drive close to the crater atop Eyjafjallajokull Volcano (that which emitted the ash cloud in 2010). After seeing the crater and lava formations on foot, the tour offers incredible views of the Porsmork Valley and the Atlantic Ocean. A gentler trip involves actually driving deep into the Porsmork Valley, where the jeeps steer through glacial rivers and flood plains, showcasing the Thorsmork mountain ridge.

Those wishing for something a little more ‘high-octane’ might prefer a one-hour snowmobiling experience which takes place on the Myrdalsjokull glacier or hiking on the Seimajokull glacial tongue. The latter also offers the opportunity for some ice climbing, with crampons and ice axes provided.

Or what about a trip on horseback to the beaches of Vik, where the black volcanic sand provides a stunning contrast against the white snow? The photographic opportunities are great, not least in capturing the Icelandic horses upon which you will be riding.

No trip to Iceland would be complete without a visit to Reykjavik’s biggest attraction, the Blue Lagoon. The warm, geothermal waters are renowned for their revitalising health properties and it’s definitely an experience you won’t forget. With the capital 1 1/2- 2 hours from Ranga, it’s advisable that you make your Blue Lagoon visit either on the way to or from the airport (it’s only about 20 minutes away from International Keflavik airport), so as to maximise your time.


Ranga has won three awards at the International Hotel Awards inassociation with Bloomberg Television. It was awarded the prestigious title of ‘Best Resort Hotel in Europe 2011’ and subsequently named the ‘Best Resort Hotel in Iceland’. As if that wasn’t enough, it also won the outright ‘Best Hotel in Iceland 2011’ award – quite an achievement. It was also the first Icelandic hotel to become a member of the ‘Great Hotels of the World’ chain.

“We have stayed in some of the best hotels in the world and Hotel Ranga is up there with them,” said previous guest, Jane.

While the hotel offers an exhaustive array of excellent facilities, it might perhaps be for its customer service that Ranga was  recognised. Feedback provided by guests hail the staff for being “beyond welcoming: helpful, knowledgeable and keen to make certain that guests have the best stay possible.”

Perfect choice

Ultimately, if you are looking for a different type of getaway but don’t want to compromise on quality , and want to see the Northern Lights, then Hotel Ranga is a great option.

For our most popular  Iceland Northern Lights Holiday we offer staying at Hotel Ranga.

Many people believe that they should base their break around a new moon in order to increase their chances of seeing the Northern Lights. We wanted to address this issue directly and advise that it really is not the important influencing factor.

Infact the professional photographer Chad Blakley from Abisko Sky Station actually says he had taken some of his best shots during a new moon. Please see the photos and video below taken during a full moon.

Obviously the sky will not be as dark during a Full Moon and so the contrast is not as great. However much more important is the state of the Solar Pulse generating the Northern Lights and how overcast the skies are. Even if the Northern Lights are out if it is overcast and cloudy you will not get to see them.

It is also important to get away from artificial light as this distracts heavily from your Northern Lights viewing experience. It is for that reason that we base our Northern Lights viewing experiences in rural areas such as Abisko and Hotel Ranga.

Please see the photos and video below – all taken during a full moon

For the full range of Northern Lights Trips we offer in Iceland, Sweden, Greenland and Norway

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Call 01722 671073 for Norwegian and Swedish Lapland
or 01722 671079 for Iceland and Greenland

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