It's 01:35 and Odinn from Go Travel Iceland has just dropped me off back at my hotel from a trip to see the Northern Lights. I was disappointed because I thought that my first trip to Iceland would have to pass without seeing the lights due to the full moon phase right now. However, a guide from another company who I did the Golden Circle tour with today said that tonight would be a good night. I chose to call Go Travel Iceland because of the great reviews on TripAdvisor and because I wanted a small group experience, not a big bus tour, which is what the other company offered.
Sure enough, at 20:30 tonight a coach pulled up outside my hotel and about 30 people boarded and off it went to pick up more. 5 minutes later GTI turned up in a small van and there were just the14 of us that the van held.
We drove off for about 45 minutes to Thingvellir National Park where there's no light pollution from electric lighting. Odinn explained the science behind the lights en route, then we stopped near the lake and all piled out. It was FREEZING (so wrap up really warm). He explained what we might be able to see and was very honest that we might have about a 50% chance of seeing the lights. The lights kind of come in 15 minute bursts and after a while we moved on to another location as it was clear nothing was happening at that time. The next stop, about 10 minutes down the road was right in the heart of the park. As there wasn't much light activity he gave us a 30 mimnute guided tour of the important parts of the park, superbly illuminated by the full moon in the clear sky. This part of the trip alone was worth the money, it was FAR better than the trip I had earlier in the day with the bigger tour company. On that we got virtually no history or description of the important features of the park and that was the key focus of that trip: Odinn was just keeping us entertained while we waited to see if the lights would come!
They did come, a sort of multi coloured band of light, strecthing across the sky. It was pretty spectacular and I would have gone home happy. Odinn suggested how best to take pics and was constantly scanning the sky and pointing out the best paces to look for secondary displays. Odinn said that what we had just seen was pretty good and may have been the 'main show' for the evening; however he suggested we drove up to the top of the plateau as we had been out for about 2-2/12 hours. Given what we had just seen he thought there was a chance for more and said if we didn't mind being back at around 1am instead of midnight, he was happy to stay out. He explained that viewing would be good there and there were toilets we could use! It sounds corny, but it's the things like that which are important and made the trip more comfortable, especially for the women!
As we sped along the deserted track a shout went up, we were only 40 seconds away from our destination, but Odinn knew better and pulled over immediately. We all jumped out of the van and the best word to describe what I saw is WOW!!!! A massive display of swirling, dancing white light filled the sky in front of us. It is almost impossible to describe (and harder to capture on film!). This magical sight lasted about 2-3 minutes and there were other side displays all around. The whole group were stunned into silence for a while, before everyone erupted at once with excitement. Even Odinn acknowledged that what we had seen previously was about 3-4 out of ten, the spectacle we had justy witnessed was about 9/10.
Once over we hopped in the van for a few seconds for that all important toilet break and stayed around for about 30 more minutes, catching another less impressive display.
We kept watch out of the van as we made our way back to Reykjavik, but alas no more lights.
On the whole I rate the Go travel iceland experience 5/5 because:
Friendly - Odinn was the perfect host and chatted with everyone
Small group size - more flexibility about where you can go and how quickly you can pile in the van and chase the lights, which is very important
Incredibly knowledable - not just about the lights, but about the other things you see and pass by en route
Honesty - others in the group had been out the night before with a bigger tour company and had a disappointing experience. The guides had misled them about what they could expect to see. GTI didn't do that - they were honest about our chances and were as pleased as we were to have seen the amazing show.
PRICE - Very competitvely priced trip and they collect the money at the end when they drop you at the door to your hotel. It just seemed classier than handing a wedge of notes to a driver as you board the coach!
If I had more time in iceland I'd book again with GTI to do other trips. Next time I come - and because this country is stunning, there will be a next time, I wouldn't hesitate to use GTI for all my trips.