Iceland, October 2–8, 2016
Join Sky & Telescope’s Observing Editor JR Johnson-Roehr on a one-week tour of Iceland! We’ll explore this fascinating island’s unique culture and geology during the day, and then each night we’ll venture into dark areas away from city lights for a chance to view Iceland's Northern Lights. If you’ve never seen the aurora borealis, it’s a subtly colored, ever-changing spectacle whose only rival in the sky for truly awe-inspiring viewing is a total solar eclipse.
For more tour information, contact Spears Travel.
If you’re ready to book the trip, click here.
We've chosen the time and location to maximize our chances of seeing one or more displays of the Northern Lights. Iceland always sits right under or near the aurora oval, the band around the Far North where auroras are most common. Better yet, the solar activity that triggers the Northern Lights reached its maximum in 2014, and the years around solar max offer the best prospects for aurora viewing and photography. October is also a good time for aurora-watching, and we selected a week when moonlight won’t interfere with nighttime viewing.
This wonderful island nation has friendly people whose culture is a fascinating mixture of both ultramodern elements and customs that date back to the original Viking settlers more than a thousand years ago. We’ll stay at premium hotels both in and outside the capital city of Reykjavík and sample delicious Icelandic cuisine. Iceland’s tourist infrastructure is modern, and the nation is one of the cleanest and safest in the world. Most Icelanders speak at least some English, so it’s very easy to interact with the local population.
During the trip, JR Johnson-Roehr will give a general lecture on auroras and another on early modern astronomy, the field in which she earned her Ph.D.
Iceland Northern Lights Astronomy Group Itinerary: October 2–8, 2016
Day 1, October 2: Arrival – Reykjanes Peninsula – Reykjavík City
Your Icelandic guide will be waiting in the arrival hall to take you to your private coach. The group will transfer to nearby restaurant Vitinn for breakfast. Drive along Reykjanes Peninsula where stops will be made at the Bridge Between Two Continents and by Reykjanes Lighthouse, where you get a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. The tour continues to the southwest coast, and we stop at the port town of Grindavík. On towards Lake Kleifarvatn, set in fascinating, stark, moon-like surroundings. Near the lake’s southern end lies Krísuvík with its powerful jets of steam escaping from deep below the Earth’s crust and sulfurous steam rising from numerous vents of a geothermal field. Small hot springs, mud pots, and boiling pools are found in the area. Continue to Reykjavík for check-in at Hotel Reykjavík Centrum.
In the evening: Northern Lights Tour
Watching the rippling gossamer sheets of the Northern Lights dance across the arctic sky is an unforgettable experience, and Iceland is one of the best places to see them. They are mostly observed on crisp, still evenings, and the tour heads away from the city lights to give you the best chance of witnessing this dazzling natural phenomenon. Duration: 2.5-3 hours - Meals: Breakfast
Day 2, October 3: Reykjavík City Sightseeing
Reykjavík is the world's most northerly capital, hosting more than one-third of Iceland's population of about 330,000. Today Reykjavík is a modern city with a variety of restaurants, museums, galleries, and theaters. On our tour we cover the city from one end to the other. We will see the old town center, the Parliament, the Cathedral, the harbor, the National Museum, the Pearl, and the Höfði house, the summit site of 1986. We drive past the city's Salmon River, which is outstanding proof that Reykjavík is a pollution-free capital, and the Árbæjarsafn outdoor folk museum, which offers an interesting contrast to the modern buildings of the most recent part of Reykjavík. The drive continues past Reykjavík's largest outdoor swimming pool in Laugardalur, which is heated with water from natural hot springs under the city, as well as the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture museum and finally the Hallgrímskirkja Church, whose soaring steeple is a Reykjavík landmark. The tour ends at the hotel or city center. Duration: 3 hours
Afternoon at leisure to explore the city, catch up on sleep, do some shopping, or people watch over a nice cup of coffee and a pastry. Evening presentation, 7:00pm at Reykjavík Art Museum
Meals: Breakfast, plus desserts & beverages at Reykjavík Art Museum
In the evening: Northern Lights Tour. Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Day 3, October 4: Snæfellsnes Day Tour – Northern Lights
The main attraction of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is with no doubt Snæfellsjökull glacier, which covers a beautifully shaped stratovolcano at the very end of the peninsula. The glacier and the unspoiled natural wonders surrounding it served as the setting for Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (and one of the seven most energetic sites on Earth according to New Age beliefs). Búðir is a very impressive area, where you can have a memorable walk in a unique landscape bearing a mix of sandy hills, black lava, and yellow beaches. Arnarstapi offers a striking opportunity for a walk along the sea cliffs and strange holes in the ground reaching to the sea, with spectacular columnar rock formations where seabirds nest. On to Djúpalónssandur, before the tour continues around the peninsula and from there on towards Reykjavík. Group dinner somewhere on the drive back towards Reykjavík. Search for the Northern Lights during the trip back to Reykjavík. Please note: Itinerary can change without advance notice due to weather and road conditions. Meals: Breakfast, dinner
Day 4, October 5: Golden Circle – Evening Northern Lights tour
If you only take one guided tour while you are in Iceland, then it has to be the Golden Circle. Combining natural and historical wonders, you will experience Iceland‘s landmark attractions in one incredible day: the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall, the exploding hot springs of Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park, site of the Viking parliament in A.D. 930 (the world’s first) and over 1,000 years of history. The classic tour, not to be missed. Group lunch will be served at a local restaurant. Duration: 8 hours. Meals: Breakfast, lunch
In the evening: Northern Lights Tour - Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Day 5, October 6: South Shore Adventure
Take a journey through the stunning landscape of Iceland‘s south coast. This is the land of Njál‘s Saga – a region of breathtaking scenery and legendary stories. During your guided tour you will encounter the wonderful variety of the south: from the iconic wide plains formed by glacial rivers, to the sheer sea cliffs of Dyrhólaey and the spectacular waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss. Along the way, you‘ll experience stunning views of the Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes and have lunch in the beautiful village of Vík. Group dinner at Eyrarbakki or Stokkseyri before driving to Northern Light Inn. Meals: Breakfast, dinner
With any luck, nature will put on a light show for you that you can enjoy from the restaurant or steps away from the front door of the hotel. The Northern Lights are best scene in dark areas away from city lights, which is where we will be on this night — deep in the southwest of the country. Northern Lights can be seen when certain weather conditions are fulfilled, usually during crispy cold and very still evenings, and we will watch the aurora weather report carefully.
Day 6, October 7: Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a wonder of nature, an inland lagoon with pleasantly warm mineral-rich geothermal water in the middle of a black lava field. The high natural levels of silica and minerals give the Lagoon its rich blue color. The facilities include modern changing rooms and showers, an indoor geothermal pool, a winter garden, restaurants and other services.
Dinner and overnight at Northern Light Inn - Meals: Breakfast, dinner
Evening farewell gathering and presentation
Day 7, October 8: Departure
Departure: Your private coach will collect you approximately 2 hours before your flight departure and deliver you to Keflavík International Airport. The hotel will shuttle smaller numbers of guests departing at different times than the main group. Meals: Breakfast
- Private coach and local guide for above itinerary
- 1 night at Northern Light Inn
- 5 nights Reykjavik Centrum Hotel, standard room
- Breakfast daily
- 3 group dinners at hotels or local restaurants (3-course meal or buffet with coffee/tea/tap water)
- 2 group lunches
- Entrance fee and towel rental at Blue Lagoon
- Porterage at hotels
- International airfare
- Transfers for individual arrivals
- Beverages, snacks and meals not specified
- Additional room nights
- Porterage at hotels
- Travel insurance (highly recommended) (We can send you a quote)
- Anything else not mentioned under "included"
- Room outside of normal check-in/check-out times
- Optional excursions or pre- and post-tour trips
- Tips and gratuities