In one full day I completed the three so called essentials for any Iceland visitors- to relax at the Blue Lagoon, to stand between two continents at Þingvellir National Park and to witness the bright dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis.
Upon arriving at Keflavik Airport, the first thing that I did was to head to the travel agency’s booth in an attempt to book the Blue Lagoon immediately.
The Blue Lagoon is located between the airport and the capital city of Reykjavik, so it makes sense and perhaps to do the lagoon upon arrival at Keflavik Airport and head to the city afterwards, instead of going back and forth. But it seems that everyone has the same idea including those on international layover, so the lagoon was fully booked for that day and I have no choice but to delay it for a day, head to Reykjavik instead.
After doing all my trip arrangements directly with the Grayline office in Reykjavik in the same afternoon, I finally managed to secure a Blue Lagoon Tour early morning few days ahead. I simply choose the cheapest one, the so called Comfort Package, where you get a free use of towel, silica mud-mask, one free drink, and of course entrance to the lagoon.
It was another rainy and cold day, by then, I was very well adjusted to the normal Icelandic unpredictable weather. But like many tourists who comes from different places around the globe, no amount of rain can ruin anyone desire to experience what they came to the country for. In a way, it was also the perfect weather to bathe in the hot geothermal lagoon, filled with a unique composition of Silica, Algae, Minerals that make the water blue.
Overall, the lagoon facility is great, everything is arranged and provided for the comfort of the guests, from the security bracelets, to the adequate lockers , changing rooms, shower facilities and even the staff attentive.
The water is not deep and it is really not for swimming but more on just relaxing with a drink in one hand and algae mask on your face. I would say bathing in the Blue Lagoon is definitely an experience one should have when in Iceland.
Having an early start at the Blue Lagoon, by lunch time, I was ready to do the popular half day Golden Circle, a tour that brings visitors to southwest Iceland three stunning locations, Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
Þingvellir is the foundation of the country, its geography tells the story of how the island was formed and how civilization was built, which the tour guide will delve into the details. Though the most fascinating aspect is its location, situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in the rift valley that run all the way across the whole of Iceland.
Þingvellir National Park is one of the locations in Iceland where I wish I was not in a tour group, where I wish I had more time to properly explore both North American and Eurasian side than just seeing it from afar. Maybe someday I could come back when I have my driving license and see the continental divide at the Silfra ravines instead.
After the park, the next stop in the tour is the Gullfoss waterfall, It is a mesmerizing site and breathtaking is really a good term to describe when watching its powerful water plunge down to the ancient valley.
The final stop along the Golden Circle tour is to witness geysers bubbles, boils and erupts in the Geyser Geothermal Area . The most popular one is the Strokkur, a fountain geyser that never fails to put a show for visitors. Though you expect geyser to sprout out water in a matter of a few minutes, the actual fun is waiting and caught surprise once it did.
What is a visit to Iceland without seeing the Northern Lights? I am a victim of easily assuming that seeing the Northern Lights is as simple as stepping out of your car, looking up in the sky and seeing the sky with flashes of green, yellow, pink lights.
Believe those marketing and advertising terms used in tour packages with emphasis on the term “Chasing” Northern Lights because in reality you really have to do some chasing in order to witness one.
The adventure starts from the time that you book your tour, where the agents will normally tell you the truth, there is no guarantee as to when will the Aurora make an appearance, it is unpredictable and really depends on Mother Nature’s mood. However, when the tour is cancelled for the night, visitors have a chance to re-book.
For the Northern lights to appear it has to be completely dark, clear night sky and absolutely no clouds. There is also a need for solar flares on the sun or solar wind. There are phone apps that predicts Aurora levels from Level 4 (high chances) to Level 0 (no activity) and most importantly, there is the Icelandic Meteorological Office that tracks the Aurora activities daily. Tour operators are in touch with the Meteorological office and often receives the forecast daily, sometime around 5pm in order for them to decide as to whether to proceed with the tour or not.
I booked my Northern Lights tour the very first day I arrived in Iceland. I have two great days in Iceland, perfect weather, abundance of sunshine in a day and zero rainfall, but still surprisingly on both nights the Northern Lights tour was cancelled . Then I had this really bad rainy day, almost zero road visibility, the day where I did the Blue Lagoon in the morning and Golden Circle in the afternoon. To my surprise the Northern Lights tour was on that night.
Chasing the Northern Lights means having to drive an hour away from Reykjavik , into some location recommended by Aurora Borealis experts. Chasing the Northern Lights means having to stand outside in the dark, huddling in cold, wishing and hoping that the universe will bless you with one magnificent light show.
Chasing the Northern Lights means having to feel super frustrated that your old digital camera is futile in capturing anything in the dark.
It was already 12 midnight, we have been waiting for more than an hour, the tour guide already gives up and told us to go back to the bus, call it a night and head back to Reykjavik. Everybody simply follows her, all are tired and frustrated, maybe we are just unlucky.
But then something miraculous happens, just when we are about to depart, a small flash of green light appears. Everyone climb down the bus and stood in awe as one perfect green arch appears.
My Chasing Northern Lights experience was meeting a new friend, a fellow female solo traveler, who is celebrating her birthday that night, her only wish is to see the bright dancing lights and feeling so blessed and elated that the universe finally granted her wish.