Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik

With the little aurora watching experience that we have had till date, we can safely say that Reykjavik is amongst the most ‘comfortable’ locations to watch the Northern Lights i.e Aurora Borealis. All you need to do is drive for about 30 minutes, away from the city to lose the city lights…and watch the lights dance…provided the night is clear and the forecast is positive. If you fancy something exotic, drive further, close to a little lake or a small waterfall and watch the lights and their reflection. Its a sight that will cast a spell on you! And if exotic is not your thing, and Lady Luck favours you, lie on you bed and watch the Northern Lights shimmer and glimmer, regardless of the city lights!

Northern Lights and the city lights

Northern Lights and the city lights

Why we took the ‘Northern Lights Tour’ instead of a self drive?
Ankur and I have lived in a tropical climate all through our life. If I may speak for most of us who inhabit the Tropics, we tend to take mild weather and sunshine for granted. It’s only after visiting the Arctic, did we realise how different and blessed our little nook is! Obviously, we have never driven on ice covered roads and shovelled mounds of snow after a blizzard. We were in no mood to do this for the first time in Iceland. Considering that one has to be out during cold and frosty nights to sight the Northern Lights, we were sure that self-drive was not the thing for us.
Snow being cleared after a blizzard

Snow being cleared after a blizzard


We thought that a bus tour for aurora hunting would be the best as the tour professionals would have been tracking the auroral activity and would also know which sites have the least ambient, thus helping us maximise our chances of seeing the lights.

Also, Iceland is sparsely populate. The country has a population of ~320,000 people only, of which, ~60% stay in the Reykjavik area. Traffic on roads, outside the city, is slim. We didn’t want to run the chance of having a breakdown in the middle of the road and being stranded there with no human in sight for hours.

And lastly, the weather in Iceland changes in a jiffy. Wind speed can be high enough to unhinge car doors as you try to step out. We thought that we would be a nervous wreck while driving the car and did not toy with the idea any further.

Sunny, cloudy, snowy....all at the same time!

Sunny, cloudy, snowy….all at the same time!

Why we did the ‘Northern Lights Tour’ with Time Tours?
The Northern Lights Tour is something that almost every tour company offers in Reykjavik during winters. Typically, the tour starts at ~8:30 pm and lasts for approximately 5 hours, depending on the activity of the lights. We decided to hunt for the lights along with Time Tours, which is a small company that has a small group size and also specialises in personalising tours. The advantage of a small group was that we went around a few locations to find the place where the lights were the best. Other popular tours run by the company include the Golden Circle and the South Shore.

Northern Lights on a moonlit night

Northern Lights on a moonlit night


Here is a little secret about Time Tours… Runar, the owner of the company, who took us for the trip really knows how to handle a camera to photograph the lights. If you are carrying a DSLR with a tripod, he will tell you the settings that need to be used to ensure that you take back some professional looking pictures. And oh… he will take a picture of you and the lights with his camera as well… we all need a picture to crystallise our memory, don’t we?Runar also understands the scientific concepts behind the lights really well and spent a while explaining them to us. I am sure if you have taken the effort to get to Iceland to see the lights, you know what they are and why they occur. But I am also sure that you have plenty of unanswered questions. Shoot them at Runar… he will do a great job at answering them!

Northern Lights at Thingvellir National Park:
Runar picked us up from our hostel as per the communicated time. As we drove outside the city, we stopped at a couple of spots to observe the lights. It was a cold and windy day and we could barely keep the tripod steady. So, we packed up everything and just soaked in the moment. Runar made sure that everyone had seen the lights. It was time to head to a more comfortable and scenic place to click some pictures.

Aurora Borealis at the Thingvellir National Park

Aurora Borealis at the Thingvellir National Park


We piled in to the bus and Runar drove us to the Thingvellir National Park. It was a full moon night. We could see the hills and the frozen streams. Regardless of the moonlight, we could see the lights dance. It was a great night! We even saw the corona… it appeared like needles of green and pink light falling overhead. I wanted to reach out and touch their tips…they looked so close! Aurora-ed… once again!

Bus Hostel – Our Base for Aurora Hunting:
We stayed in the Bus Hostel, Reykjavik for two nights when we were hunting for the lights. The hostel is about 10 -12 minutes walking distance from the main street in Reykjavik. The advantage of being a little away from the city…you can see the lights from your window! Yeah..no jokes! As I lay on my dorm bed, I could see green ribbons float in the sky. What luck! What better sight could I ask for before falling asleep! We loved the dorm at Bus Hostel… spic and span. The kitchen was well equipped and we were glad that we could heat up some spicy India curry on a cold winter night! However, what we loved the most was the common room, dining area and the bar… decorated with artifacts from decades ago and miles afar. Every artifact seemed to be painstakingly collected. The leather sofas, classy rugs and candle light made us feel that we were having wine in the restaurant of a five star hotel!

Candle lit dining area at the Bus Hostel

Candle lit dining area at the Bus Hostel


The hostel staff was warm and friendly. In case you do intend to drive around, they will help you get a car with SAD Cars. They will also help you organise tours and trips from Reykjavik.

Perfect place to unwind with a glass of wine...after a long, cold day

Perfect place to unwind with a glass of wine…after a long, cold day


Many thanks to Time Tours and Bus Hostel for hosting us. All our views, as always, continue to be ours… and we continue to be true to our readers!

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6 Responses

  1. swati

    My family was thinking of traveling to Iceland. As usual, my first response was let me check with Ankur (any expensive/exotic location – he is my go to person)! But his phone was busy, so i remembered your blog! I must say, this blog is well written with lots of useful info. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sreemoyee

    Hey Sonia,
    I have been a big fan of your blogs since maybe you started writing. I just wanted to ask you about your opinion on which tour company would be best to travel in Iceland? We are planning for the northern lights , Golden Circle & Jokulsarlon and Northern Shore. Is Time tours your only recommendation? Any further info on tour companies would be so great since we are not renting a car and have to completely depend on the tour companies.

    Thank you so much for your immensely helpful blogs- they are my wikipedia for travelling.

    Lots of thanks!!

    1. Honestly, all the ones that we used were great. If I were to recommend a well known name, it would be Grayline.
      Enjoy Iceland… it’s an awesome country!

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