HFG Norse Bound – Gareth’s Photo Diaries – The Aurora


Throughout the inception of this crazy idea, through all of the initial planning stages, the booking of ferries, accommodation and the vehicle build – one goal stood tall at the top of the list at all times. The Aurora Borealis, the fabled Northern Lights – we just had to get a shot of our Isuzu D-Max AT35 beneath Earth’s greatest light show.

Plenty of research showed that towards the end of March, the peak Aurora viewing season would be coming to an end. And with the weather as unpredictable as ever, all the planets would have to align for us to stand any chance of seeing the lights.

After spending our first few nights in Iceland confined to the ferry amidst blizzard conditions, our first night on the road saw us head straight to sleep, exhausted having driven through the aftermath of the aforementioned spring snowstorms well into the night. The next day, we drove across the country’s width to collect Martin from the airport. After 11 hours of driving, we all looked forward to a good night’s sleep. But with the whole team finally assembled and some warm food inside of us, thoughts turned once again to the Aurora, we all had several different apps installed on our phones and after a fair bit of debate and comparisons we came to the conclusion that between 1-3 am would be our most likely chance of getting a glimpse. We had spoken to a family earlier in the evening at dinner and they had been there a week already and out every night in search of the Northern lights to no avail, their luck had to change sooner or later.

Eager to get some sleep after the day’s adventures, Darren and I tried to grab some shut-eye leaving Martin to the first watch. It wasn’t long before we could hear an excited ‘I think it’s out already’ and it was only 11.15 pm. At first, it was just a whisp of pale white in the sky, a low cloud hanging mid-air, a smoke trail against a star-strewn canvas. Martin fired off a few shots on his camera to be sure. And although the colour was faint, there was visible green and purple colouring to the sky showing on the back of his camera screen. We had made camp for the night in the small town of Vik on the southern coast, and on the way in we spotted a Church which sat high on the hill overlooking the town. We all called it straight away as a good vantage point, so having hastily packed away the roof tent, and quickly thrown on as many layers as possible we quickly reconvened and headed for the higher ground above the town, a clearer unobstructed view of the mountains available from the church.

On arrival, it was clear we were not the only ones with this vantage point in mind. As what seemed like every visitor to Vik that evening was present gazing up at the sky. As the whisps intensified the whole sky became an amphitheatre for this ethereal natural wonder. The longer we watched the brighter the show became, purples, reds and greens dancing in the skies above us, the heavens showcasing the most spectacular light show you could ever hope to witness. Unfortunately, the parking spot at the church became a bit of a circus as cars drove in and out without much consideration for anyone else – amazing who is about at 12:30 am on a mountainside. On several occasions, people were nearly run over, or a car would sit their engines running, stereo blaring, lights blazing up the mountainside. As much as this natural phenomenon was there for everyone to see, human nature always seems to find a way of ruining the moment.

We braved the biting winds and sub-zero temperatures, the mass of other star gazers and constant vehicle jenga for nearly 2 hours as the Northern lights performed all around us. The odd moment of darkness was soon transformed into vivid almost violent bursts of intense colour as the show just kept on giving. Exhausted but adrenaline pumping through our veins we tried to get some sleep and headed back to our camp for the night, the clock had ticked over to 2:37 am. We vowed that if we got another clear night, we would find our own location away from the disturbances of others where we could enjoy the Northern Lights uninterrupted.

Martin was up at first light, still buzzing from the night’s previous activity and went off to explore on his own on foot around the town. Darren and I enjoyed a bit of a lie-in (we had driven for over 11 hours the day before). Martin returned a couple of hours later having sourced a couple of locations that would prove perfect for that evening’s viewing should the Aurora choose to bless us again with its presence. After another full day of exploring, and very little sleep the night before we all craved an early night, and as if by some diving intervention someone up above was listening we were blessed with an early night show. As we finished our evening meal, the same telltale whisp appeared in the sky above us and it was only 10 pm. As we could see a trail of headlights heading up to the high vantage perch of the church, we turned tail and drove off in the other direction out of town. Following Martins’s directions to a rough gravel track that ran through the sand dunes of Vik’s famous black sand beach. The location proved near perfect, with only distant light pollution from the town and a 360-degree vista to view that night’s light show. Although nowhere near as vivid and dynamic as the night before, the isolated location on the shores of the Black Sand beach gave us the undisturbed darkness we had craved, without having to worry about getting run over.

With numb fingers from the unrelenting wind, we called it a night an hour or so later as the light show started to peter out. Another amazing show, and even better we manage to get to sleep before midnight. The Aurora Borealis had been well and truly witnessed!

Having never seen the Northern Lights, it was a bucket list tick for all 3 of us. But nothing can quite prepare you for seeing it in person. Iceland again had delivered in the most epic way!

Watch all of the episodes from our epic HFG Norse Bound expedition here: HFG NORSE BOUND