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.
So for most of our clients going on an Aurora Holiday it is all about seeing the Northern Lights. One of our favourite hotels in Iceland is Hotel Ranga which is located in a magnificent area for the Northern Lights. It is run by a super group of people who really care that you have the very best time, and of course experience the Northern Lights. Many an excellent meal has been interrupted at Hotel Ranga as the waiters calmly walk around and let people know that the Aurora Borealis is putting on a show! The restaurant empties and they try hard to keep all the meals warm and not dry out, whilst you are outside enjoying the moment.
I personally had the most amazing experience one October as I sat in one of their outdoor hot tubs and watched ribbons of bright green lights dance above me. It was mesmerising and magical to sink into the geothermal warmth watching the steam disappear into the frozen night with the Northern Lights putting on their own personal performance for me for a good couple of hours.
Hotel Ranga has built their own observatory a short stroll from the hotel in order to minimize light pollution, and they have an expert in there every night that the sky is cloud free who can teach you about the stars and the northern lights if they are out.
The Observatory has a roll on/off roof and they have two high quality 11-inch computerized telescopes, making it the most advanced observatory in Iceland. Scopes can be turned towards the stars to view amazing detail on Jupiter, see Cassini’s Division in the rings of Saturn, and resolve details on the surface of Mars. Even the distant Uranus and Neptune are within your reach.
Finally , determined to give you every chance of seeing them, they have this great wake up system that if you sign up for, they will wake you if the Northern Lights come out whilst you are asleep so you don’t miss it. There is nothing more disheartening than to wake up in the morning and hear everyone’s excited babble about the northern lights knowing that you slept through it all.
I have seen photos of people in their PJ’s in Hotel Ranga’s car park looking at the Aurora Borealis! However I wouldn’t particularly recommend going outside in your pj’s – The Northern Lights are seen when the skies are clear, and when the skies are clear it is cold in your pj’s!!
Hotel Ranga is a favourite base for many of our breaks, and we craft Northern Lights Trips that include exciting superjeep tours, snowmobiling on top of the Volcanic Glaciers, visiting a secret ice cave, and even glacial hiking for those that are keen to try on crampons. We have some fun superjeep northern lights hunts where you may stop to light a bonfire on the black volcanic beach or in an old shepherds hut whilst you wait to see if the Aurora is going to play.
Iceland is a stunning destination and even if the Northern Lights do not show themselves you will have a superb time during the day exploring Geysers, mini rift valleys, thundering waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and geothermal pools. Aurora Nights specialise in tailor-made breaks crafted to you; your dates, your activities and certainly not group travel. As we always say a unique occasion deserves a unique experience. Take a look at our Iceland Northern Lights Trips and see for yourself
Traditionally the Iceland Northern Lights season ran from October to end of March but over recent years we have noticed that September is increasingly becoming a good option for seeing the Northern Lights.
As you can see from the photos taken on the 15th September 2018 in Porsmork, and near Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in the South of Iceland, they are already just gorgeous!
September is a great time to go as Iceland’s autumn colours are just stunning and with the benefit of still having long daytime hours of 11-13 hours you can really take your time to enjoy the dramatic volcanic scenery, and pack as much as you want into the day.
It is obviously not as cold as in the heart of the winter, and for those looking to see some Whales as well as the Northern Lights then September works in your favour. In the summer the incidence of sighting of whales is very high at 90-95% but of course there are no Auroras to see, whilst in winter the incidence of whale sightings drops to an average of 70-75% with Dec being the lowest – so once again September scores!
Finally Iceland in the summer can get very busy indeed now with the crowds, and October can get very expensive as the airlines put up their flight costs for half term, which seems to go on for about 3 weeks if you look at all the different school half term dates. The joy of travelling in September is that you get to see Iceland without the crowds, but without the increased expense that mid October often brings.
Infact the more we think about it the more we realise September really is a superb time to go to Iceland on a Northern Lights Trip!
Take a look at all of our Iceland Northern Lights Holidays and be inspired!
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.
When we first started offering our clients Northern Lights Holidays 14 years ago almost all our clients would venture into the arctic for a standard 3 night break and the return home having done a husky ride a snowmobile trip and hopefully seen the Northern Lights.
In these early days logistics were a challenge on the ground but as the market has grown so has the investment in the infrastructure and thus the opportunities we have available to create amazing journeys for our clients. In fact I would say this is a speciality of ours along with the numerous special occasion holidays we organise for our clients.
So from the humble 3 night Northern Lights holiday of 14 years ago we now offer journeys that last up to close on 2 weeks and cross the borders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Greenland. Each of these countries offers something fresh. Iceland the geothermal wonders, Norway the Coast and Fjords, Greenland the remoteness, culture and Icebergs whilst Sweden, in our view, offers the perfect base for clients wishing to partake of some of the best snowmobile and husky adventures as well as the opportunity of staying in unusual places like the Original ICE HOTEL or Tree Hotel. Sweden is also home to Abisko arguably the world’s top destination for witnessing the Northern Lights.
If you were to ask me which 3 breaks I am most proud of that offer clients the very best of arctic adventure and should be put on the bucket list, then I would point you in the direction of:
As flight, train, bus and transfer services improved the possibilities for moving around in the arctic will increase and offer even more choice. We will remain at the forefront of developing this with our aim of offering our clients the best Northern Lights holidays imaginable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I visited the brand new Lava Centre in the south of Iceland just a few weeks after it opened this summer. Having studied Geography at University I have a fascination for Volcanoes and so Iceland is always a favourite of mine and I was looking forward to a new injection of knowledge and understanding. However I was also dragging behind me my rather reluctant teenager who is not “into” museums” at the moment (to quote her!).
She need not have worried as the Lava Centre is an interactive exhibition with plenty of technical magic to enthral the youth, and snippets of facts to educate those who want to learn more. It describes and explains in a really engaging and informative way volcanic activity and the creation of Iceland over millions of years. It really is excellent and the whole family spent a fruitful hour and a half there.
Located only 10 mins drive from Hotel Ranga we recommend to all our clients staying there they fit in a visit to the Lava centre to bring to life the stunning landscape that they are seeing all around them. More of the mountains around you are volcanoes than you think!
Hotel Ranga is a super 4 star hotel, but what makes it special is the teams desire to make sure that you have an exceptional time. They know you are here to see the Northern Lights and offer a wake up call for those that don’t want to miss the lights sleeping! There are some great photos of people in their pj’s watching the Aurora! Their restaurant is of a superb standard, and many a person has enjoyed the Northern Lights whilst in one of their hot tubs. To see one of the many Northern Lights breaks we offer staying at Hotel Ranga
We love this area for its incredible super-jeep adventures where you can fjord rivers, drive up volcanoes onto glaciers, go ice hiking or snowmobiling, and know that Hotel Ranga hasn’t gained the reputation of being THE place to see Northern Lights in Iceland for nothing!
We also work with another smaller hotel in the same area which is perfect for those on a tighter budget. Situated on a family working farm Hotel Fljótshlíð, Smáratún farm comprises around 300 hectares, and is in an isolated area great for Northern Lights with no artificial lights around to spoil the show. Around 30 cattle, 30 horses, chicken, ducks, rabbits, goats and 80 sheep, all of which are free-range are kept at the farm. Berries, turnips and potatoes are also grown at the farm, and all of the farm products are used in the hotel´s restaurant.
This is a great value offering and is perfect for those on a tight budget but still looking for a tailor-made solution with a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights, and also undertaking some of the amazing activities on offer in this area. To see one of the Northern Lights Trips we offer staying at Hotel Fljótshlíð, Smáratún farm.
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!
You may have seen that National Geographic has recently published their top 7 places to go and see the Northern Lights with Iceland at the top of the list! At Weekend a la Carte we send many people on Northern Lights trips to Iceland, but Iceland has so much more to offer and often it is the other experiences that people talk about on their return.
Called the Island of Fire and Ice it certainly has a dramatic landscape created by volcanic activity. Being a volcanic island the geological history is much shorter than in other parts of the world, but packed with change as it is constantly evolving. We all remember the famous eruption of Eyjafjallajökull’s volcano in 2010 which shut down most of Europe due to the volcanic ash in the air stopping the planes flying. That eruption changed the landscape of Iceland by filling a huge glacial lake with ash and sediment. If you go on the Thorsmork SuperJeep Tour with Weekend a La Carte the guide will stop the vehicle right in the centre of where the lake was and show you on the satnav how the lake used to be – it is an impressive landscape change.
The Icelanders are very pragmatic about living with this constant change and threat. They have an army of well trained rescue teams, slick evacuation plans in place that are regularly reviewed and updated, and of course all volcanoes are heavily monitored. In the meantime they love to share the benefits and beauty of this volcanic landscape.
Only in Iceland do you have such a wonderful choice of day time activities to explore this incredible landscape. SuperJeep Tours abound and we work with specialised guides who have lived all their lives in Iceland and will take you up steep volcanoes, through glacial rivers, and on snow-filled mountain tracks to remote and spell binding beautiful places. If you are looking for some serious off-roading adventure then Iceland is impossible to beat! Geysers, Mini- rift valleys, powerful waterfalls as well as the Volcanoes and Lava Fields are all there to inspire and amaze you. For those who are a bit more adventurous the Glaciers beckon. Snowmobiling or Ice Hiking are firm favourites and when the conditions are right the ice caves are a wondrous beauty to behold.
In case you were thinking Iceland is all about landscape then perhaps you would like to see some whales which are now frequently seen in the winter, as well as in the peak during the summer or spend some time in the charming and quirky towns and villages such as Husavik in the north of Iceland, whilst Reykjavik is a buzzing capital full of nightlife.
For those who I have not persuaded and still want to focus on Northern Lights then there is a vast choice of ways to try to see them. Stay in the perfect place to see the northern lights in wilderness private cabins or luxury hotels, take a superjeep hunt that follow the aurora forecast to give you the best chance to see them, or take an Aurora Hunt by boat out of Reykjavik that gets you away from the artificial lights.
So for those who want to go to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, (and a few of the other things as well!), then do take a look at our breaks which can be tailor made to your interests.
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.
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.
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