Chasing The Northern Lights

I always seem to be chasing the northern lights.  Every year I start to plan a trip to a dream destination but end up doing something different instead.  A few years ago I went to Fairbanks, Alaska in November with the purpose of seeing the northern lights and arctic circle.  I ended up with some spectacular views, but only a few seconds of northern lights on one evening.  Many years ago when I was flying to Anchorage I saw the northern lights from the airplane window and that may have been what sparked the desire within me.

A few seconds of Northern Lights near the Arctic Circle north of Fairbanks, AK

A few seconds of Northern Lights near the Arctic Circle north of Fairbanks, AK

The Winter Halo is a phenomenon with the moon that occurs rarely and looks like a halo around the moon

Waiting for the lights I caught some snow and wind

I had booked at trip to Madrid in October to see Bastille though the SPG Moments: Hear the Music, See the World: Bastille live at The Westin Palace, Madrid.  Sadly, I got notification last week that the event was cancelled (sigh) and so that left me with an airline ticket to be used.  After a lot of thought and debate, I decided to take the plunge (so to speak) and head to Iceland in December.   As part of the trip I plan to stay three nights in Iceland with nightly northern lights “safari” trips, New Year’s Eve in London at the brand new Starwood Tribute Portfolio hotel The Great Northern (more about that later) and perhaps a few days in either Amsterdam, Brussels, or Helsinki.  The choices are endless.

The primary goal of the trip, however, is to see the lights.  I started planning the trip by looking for hotels in the Starwood family in Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway.  The only option is in Finland and the odds of seeing the northern lights in Helsinki are low.  I then moved north towards the Finnish lapland (the area to the north and around the arctic circle) and was unable to find any availability for lodging.  There are more winter options than you’d expect but none with space between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  From there, I started looking for good flights and hotel availability in neighboring countries.  Early September, it turns out, is a bit too late to start planning a trip like this.

There are a variety of lodging options ranging from hostels to eco-lodges, snow igloos to glass igloos and motels to hotels. The cost, in winter, can fluctuate greatly.  During the holidays the prices seemed much higher than other times with prices ranging from 120 euros to 500 euros (for the fancy glass igloos and resorts near the springs.)

In the end, I settled on Iceland as my destination because it’s easy to get tours out of Reykjavík and there are plenty of flights from Europe’s major cities.  I’ll be staying at a Radisson Blu hotel for 3 nights and will start booking day-trips in the next week.   As for flights to and from Iceland, there are a lot of options including some low cost carriers like EasyJet (UK based), WOWAir (Iceland based) and Iceland Air.  It’s almost cheaper to fly from the US to Iceland than it is from within Europe.  In winter many airlines fly limited and seasonal schedules so flight times may not be optimal or frequent.

There aren’t many times that I bring a camera other than my iPhone with me, but this will be one of those trips.  I’ll have special lenses that will make capturing the northern lights possible, assuming I see them on this trip.  I’ll be sharing more about the trip as I plan it and of course, once I’m there.

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