Europe, Photography, Story

Light ‘Em Up! Our Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) Miracle

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

“The only way that you can see the aurora borealis (northern lights) this early in the season is to have a freak temperature drop and the skies open up for you. And well, you have seen Reykjavik, so I’m not sure that is going to happen for you. But you can always hope!” Signy from SAD cars stated over some delicious beers the night before our Ring Road road trip.

“Well then. Here is to hoping!” I grinned.

The next day we were packed up and ready to head out. Kex Hostel had made us promise to take some of their lost and found blankets and sleeping bags after we told them our plans of sleeping in the car without any goods. We had fleece blankets! Apparently they were concerned we were going to be popsicles by the end of it. I wasn’t convinced it was going to get that cold but whatever.

We drove our car into the oblivion of southern Iceland with no big plan, no place to stay, a car full of groceries, and a day full of opportunities ahead.


At Skaftafell you can find the waterfall Svartifoss along with the Skaftafellsjökull glacier. To be honest I didn’t know that it was possible to be glaciered out until that point. We had officially seen 3 glaciers in 2 1/2 weeks and well… they get kinda meh after a while. We grabbed a couple of beers, sat down and just took in how grand this glacier was. This was part of the big Vatnajökull ice cap that covered a massive portion of Iceland. Even with how huge this thing already was, it still went way WAY back (covering 8% of the country!).


We meandered our way to Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and decided that this is where we were going to call it a night. This was considered public lands so you can sleep pretty much anywhere you would like. The sun was setting and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to spend the night. Looking out the window of our car we could see the glaciers moving, ever so slowly in the twilight.

…and then I noticed I was shivering uncontrollably. I had forgotten how much colder places are out in the country. With multiple layers on and two blankets I settled in to the front seat of the car for the long, cold night ahead. As I started dozing I opened my eyes one last time and-

“HOLY [expletive]!”

I screamed – which in hindsight, probably freaked out Shaun and M as they were also falling asleep. I just kept shouting, “HOLY [expletive]! HOLY [expletive]! HOLY [expletive]!” as I tried to jump out of the blankets and fumble the door open.


The Northern Lights had blessed us with her appearance and I was shaking with joy.

I jumped out of the car.

“HOLY [expletive]! HOLY [expletive]! HOLY [expletive]! Shaun! Get the tripod!”


And the shakes continued… It was only then that I realized I was standing out in near freezing weather with only long johns on and knee high wool socks. I’m sure I looked glam.

I set up my camera and as I tried to get the settings correct, my hands just couldn’t keep still. This was on the top of my bucket list and this rare occurrence was now displaying for US.


…and so there we were, at twilight in the glacial lagoon, with the Northern Lights performing just for us.

I couldn’t have asked for something more perfect.


….and here is a picture of the glacial lagoon during the day and the cute little seal that decided to poke its head out and say hello the next morning.



32 thoughts on “Light ‘Em Up! Our Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) Miracle”

  1. I saw them in Reykjavik last year at this time-RIGHT in the city centre! It was unusual, and it really does provoke the holy sh*t in ya, doesn’t it? It was one of the things I’ve always wanted to see, and it was a short show, but so very exciting! I’m glad you guys got to see it for yourselves!

    1. That is so AWESOME! That must have been so cool seeing them in the middle of a city. It was cloudy the entire time we were in Reykjavik.

  2. Ahhhh that’s so awesome that they showed up for you!! And in such an epic spot! I am envious, but also very happy for you!

  3. That’s so awesome — like Amanda, I’m jealous, but it’s great that you got to see them! I sort of got a taste of that feeling when I saw a green flash in the sky in Sweden last year — I ran out of the cottage thinking “they’re here, they’re finally here!” only to realise the clouds had closed back in and that I was standing in -15C with thermals and a pair of boots on.

    1. HAHA! I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one running out in underwear. They are totally worth it though! Can you see the green through the clouds?

      1. Haha yes, I think it would have been worth suffering through a bit of cold to see the lights! I only saw a green flash when there was a small break in the clouds. The clouds were pretty thick — heavy snow clouds — so we couldn’t see anything through them. We had a few windows pointing towards the north & east as well as webcams placed all around the place and all I saw in three days was that one hint of them. I even had my mom watching the webcams from Texas with instructions to call me if she saw anything while I was sleeping!

  4. What timing! Never say never. I have a friend going on three trips to different countries in Scandinavia this year, just to chase the Northern Lights. Think I might wait to see if she’s successful before I tell her about your luck.

  5. I’m complete dweeb, but this made me cry. I could just FEEL your excitement, and I might have sat here with a big stupid grin on my face reading the narrative. And I’d totally be hopping around in my long johns, too. So happy for you guys! (And anxiously awaiting my turn with Miss Aurora.)

  6. Wow- I’ve never seen the lights. We had them here in Detroit earlier this year, but it was cloudy and there was too much ambient light as well.

    I’ve really enjoyed all of your Iceland posts!

  7. I am looking so forward to hopefully seeing them. We are going to Iceland over New Years Eve. Would totally welcome any travel advice for Iceland. 🙂

    1. How long are you going to be there? I would HIGHLY suggest renting a car for sure! Good luck on the Northern lights. I would love to see pictures!

      1. We will be there Decebmer 28 – January 2nd. I’m so pumped, my husband has always wanted to go and he sold me with the Auroa Borealis and the Blue Lagoon. I’ve been doing a lot of research. Do you guys know much about the Glacier Hikes? Car rental, sounds like a GREAT idea. Thanks!

  8. Your photos are amazing! My dad and his wife saw the lights earlier this year in Norway, but unfortunately it was so cold the fancy new camera he’d bought refused to cooperate. So you guys got doubly lucky to both see and capture them!

    1. Thanks lady! I am glad that it was cold enough to bring out the lights but not cold enough to make my camera go wonky. I was shaking thinking about it as I set up my tripod. Living in Austin – it just isn’t something you have to think about!

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