Venturing off-road, we parked up on rocky ground deep into the countryside next to hot water storage tanks overlooking a lake in the Hengill geothermal area. Disembarking the Land Rover with very little light, the ground was frozen and there was a strong smell of sulphur, with the temperature hovering around minus two degrees. It was therefore cold and dark, but Happyworld loses no time in getting the show started.
Out came a weapon-grade and extremely powerful laser for our guide to point towards the stars and deliver a quick lesson as to how to identify the Northern Star, also called the Polar Star or Polaris, using the Ursa Major constellation (which resembles the saucepan) as the starting point.
Our hosts were also on the hunt for the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light-years away from the Milky Way. One thing’s for sure though, was that the moon was out that evening, and being 90% visible, this did not provide a helping hand to see one of Earth’s most unpredictable phenomena, as it reduces the intensity of the Lights. The upside of that was via Happyworld’s powerful telescope, we were able to see the rugged craters of the moon, meaning that the perfectly round shape readily visible to the naked eye, was no more.
Our forecast for the evening was a Kp 2, meaning “Quiet – Auroras readily visible and become brighter and more dynamic”. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the Northern Lights to appear just above the horizon as a cloudy wisp, visible as green through the camera lens – they were certainly there.
Varying in shape and intensity, the Northern Lights appear and fade in a matter of minutes, so you need patience in spades and to know what you’re looking for, but it was a special moment to witness them, even though it was not the dancing spectacle that everyone expects to see. When the Lights are on, guests can also have as many photos taken of them as they like, so that you go home with an all-important digital souvenir of your experience.
With three hours standing in the cold, and wrapped up so that just our eyes were exposed, Happyworld has mastered the art of entertaining guests when the “show” is not on. We were treated to some delicious, steaming hot and thick homemade hot chocolate, accompanied by Kleinur, resembling oval-shaped doughnuts, before moving on to something stronger to stay warm, Prosecco, and then Brennivín, the signature spirit of Iceland.
With the hours passing by, we hurtled quickly towards “Magnetic midnight”, the time of day when the North or South Magnetic Pole is exactly in between the sun. This is generally at 11 pm, rather than being at 12am, and tends to be one of the best time for observing the Northern Lights. Sure enough at about 11:45 pm, they turned into a double layer, and was by far the best show of the night, and was the most we were going to see for the conditions that we encountered.
This meant that we had not stood in the cold with no reward, and nature had delivered. We could safely say that we had seen the Northern Lights, something that many still don’t have the privilege of witnessing because, at the end of the day, it’s all down to pure luck.
Happyworld were great hosts, as they inject the element of fun and positivity into an event which is completely outside of their control, similar to seeing “the Big Five” on safari. Also, being in such a small party gives you the chance to mingle with like-minded travellers. If you keep an open mind and are grateful for any level of display that nature grants you, then you won’t go home disappointed.
What’s next on the bucket list you may ask? Well, short of going into space, the ultimate journey, it’s maybe going to Lake Como and the Amalfi Coast, going around the Nürburgring or visiting the home of Ferrari at Maranello in Italy. Any offers?
Happyworld Iceland – Where and How?
For more information on Happyworld’s Northern Lights and Stargazing tour, or to make a booking, visit www.happyworld.is.
To see further photos from our evening with Happyworld, visit the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
Photos by Happyworld and Simon Wittenberg.