Earlier this week the Northern Lights forecast was looking extra promising and although I don’t necessarily run out of the house every time the forecast is good – I kind of wanted to go out there and see them that day. I have been so busy the last couple of weeks that I was basically just desperate to get out of the house and I probably would have said yes to just about anything at that point. I had also been wanting to try out a super jeep northern lights tour that had been recommended to me by a number of guests on my tours so the magical cogwheels in my head started turning and I got this great idea (imagine light bulb over my head): What if I call them up and ask if I can join them tonight?
And then I did. And they said yes, And I was like woohoo. And they were like cool.
I was also going to use the opportunity to take some amazing photos to accompany the tour description if ended up wanting to offer this tour to you guys through my tour page but lets just say that I was unsuccessful. To make a long story short(er) at first I couldn’t find my camera and the whole family turned the home upside down to find it. When I finally found it it was out of battery and then I had obviously been messing around with some settings the last time I used which I of course didn’t remember at that point so all the photos were, uhhh how to say it nicely, somewhat lacking.
My advice, after looking through the mess that are the photos from the tour, is to always take the time to go over your settings before you head out. Also, if you hide your camera in case of a break-in while you are away from home: write down where you hid it!
I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about this tour. I was once skeptical about all northern lights tours but then I gave it a better thought and realized how many of our guests here in Iceland have zero experience in driving on our roads. In the snow. And the dark. So now I’m a converted believer in northern lights tours. This time I was skeptical because I wasn’t sure whether it was worth it to pay that much more to do a super jeep tour than the normal bus tour.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this tour!
I should put it out there as a disclaimer tough that I’m a closeted thrill seeker when it comes to motor vehicles. I’m also kind of scared of them but I think that’s part of the fun. And because of that I kind of love super jeep tours. I like that they can go to places you can’t go in other vehicles and I like that they are smaller and more personal than the bus tours. And then I just love zooming through a pile of snow in the dark not quite knowing whether I’m going to get out of there alive or not. But deep down I do know it, you know?
My driver, Heimir, picked me up from a guesthouse close to my home and drove us out towards the darkness. In the car with me were four lovely but a bit older Brits that had obviously traveled quite a bit and shared Land Rover war stories with the guide from safaris in Kenya and such. Although there were only 5 of us in this jeep we were in a convoy of 8 jeeps all together and we stuck together for the entire tour.
I read on Tripadvisor prior to the tour that people had been disappointed when they realized this wasn’t a private tour and that they’d been part of a convoy but I actually thought that added to the experience. I felt like I was in some sort of action movie and we were all on a secret mission together. The fact that I was sitting in the front with the driver and I could understand all the bad jokes the guides were making on the radio (mostly poking fun at each other) helped with that. Apart from that it’s good to know that your not on your own out there if something goes wrong.
We went to the first location, which wasn’t that far out of the city actually, and saw the most amazing northern lights there with a pretty background for the photos. Which I could now show you if I hadn’t been an idiot and all. There the guides took photos of everyone with the northern lights which they made available on their Facebook page later in the evening for everyone to enjoy.
Although this is a nice service, the way they went about it was a little bit Disneyesque in my opinion and it felt a tad bit like those photo booths you are made to walk through when you’re going to places like Alcatraz or Madame Tussauds where they then make you buy the photos. When we were in the US last year I always made a scene and refused to pose for those because they annoy me so much. But these guys obviously don’t make you pay for them, which is great, and it seemed to me that people in general liked this.
But this was also the only thing I kinda didn’t like and it’s a pretty minor thing considering how much I enjoyed this tour. And you could totally ignore it, like I did, without making a scene.
Then we went further and stopped at a second location where the lights were not quite as bright but still very visible. There they gave a little talk about the science behind the aurora, gave us some warm refreshments and just enough time to enjoy the lights without freezing our little behinds off. OK, OK, not so little behind in my case.
On the way back into town the drivers tried to give their guests their money worth for the super jeep part of the tour and got stuck in the snow, which was fun, and tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to drive over big piles of snow. My British friends were not fond of this though but I think our guide did a great job handling it and making sure everyone was comfortable.
The tour took about 3.5 hours from when they picked me up until they brought me home again. Although I could have stayed out much longer (I was wearing my polar gear – all 17 layers) I heard people around me commenting on being cold so this was probably the perfect amount of time for this tour. It was somewhere around -10°C that night. I also really enjoyed how much fun the guides were having, there’s nothing worse than guides that hate their jobs, and the fact that even though there were quite a lot of people on the tour you still got that personal touch with your guide once you returned to the vehicle.
I would not have any problems recommending this tour to anyone. It’s not super action packed but just enough to make it interesting. And if you don’t see the lights on the first try – they allow you to come back and try again.
You can find more information about the particulars of this super jeep northern lights tour here.