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In Search of the Aurora – Our BusTravel Iceland Northern Lights Tour

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There are a few places in the world that are excellent bases if you are on the hunt for the Northern Lights. Iceland is one such spot. Many people travel to Iceland in winter, exclusively to try and see the aurora. It was definitely on of the reasons we made our third trip to this stunning island. But did we have any luck?Read on for our full BusTravel Iceland Northern Lights Tour review

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Our BusTravel Iceland Northern Lights Tour

The first of our four tours had to be planned meticulously. I stalked the Aurora app, checking KPI forecasts, cloud cover forecasts and cross-checking with BBC Weather on the daily. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, is to me the most beautiful and elusive of nature’s delights. Our first trip to Iceland in 2012 was for a week in October and we thought we were onto a winner…but no luck.

With rumours that 2024 was another bumper year for the lights, we made a last minute decision to try again. The BusTravel 4-Day Wonders of Iceland Winter Tour includes four trips and according to the forecast, our first night in Iceland was going to be our best chance. Plus, they have a guarantee, if you don’t see the lights, you can try again for free.

Pick Up

We made our way to our nearest tourist bus stop. There are a series of these around Reykjavík and tour companies go around and within half an hour, they have all their tourists. We stamped our feet in the chill and sighed with relief to see the big BusTravel coach steam to a stop. We thought we would have to show our tickets but our names were on a list which was called out. Much easier when its cold. We dived on board, leaving the other guests behind and secured two seats.

On the Hunt

The coach convoy (two BusTravel coaches) head due north. We were making for a car park with a good view and bathrooms too. It took about 45 minutes but sadly, when we got there, it was shut.

There was a smaller bus (I guess they were on the small group tour) and they all got out. The group started walking up the drive so I don’t know if they were just using the bathroom or the smaller bus was just going to park in front of the gate. Our coaches had to head back out on the road, in search of a new spot.

All the time we drove, the guide was on his phone, communicating with other people who were also on the hunt. Well, apart from when the weather went bonkers.

We were driving along quite happily when the snow got heavier, and came in sideways, it was so heavy that the entire windscreen went white! We have never seen anything like it. I thought we would have to stop for the night and be dug out in the morning but we slowed down to a crawl and it eased off in a few minutes. Crazy!

Thingvellir National Park

It was another 45 minutes or so until we pulled up at Thingvellir National Park. Everyone was slowly pulling on their hats and gloves when the insistent voice of the guide came over the microphone. “We have Northern Lights out here so hurry up!”. We practically dived out of the door, still yanking on a scarf.

The Northern Lights

We squinted up at the sky and once our eyes adjusted from the coach, there was a really low green glow. It seemed to be just behind the clouds.

The whole group walked up a bridge and we all started taking photos. Phones have a much better chance of seeing them than the human eye as the eye cannot change aperture, you get 24 frames per second whether you like it or not. iPhones naturally keep their sensor on for 10 seconds in low light, which gives a decent shot. Saying that, they were so faint that Mr Fluskey’s phone could barely capture anything. We both had to rely on the iPhone’s sensor to get everything it could.

A Little Hot Chocolate

We were some of the last people left, desperate to see the lights come back stronger and more impressive but no such luck. It faded to nothing and we had to give up. Happily, when we got back to the coach, a canister of hot chocolate was ready and waiting. It was hot and delicious, full of spices that reminded me of mulled wine. It felt very appropriate in the snow.

Final Thoughts on our BusTravel Iceland Northern Lights Tour

Sadly this doesn’t end with a spectacular reveal, videos of dancing lights and photos of us grinning at the show. The forecast was terrible for the rest of our trip, with almost total cloud coverage and low activity (yes, I did check everytime I was going to bed or woke up throughout the night….the FOMO was strong enough to wake me up). However, as I had to tell myself through embarrassing tears in the Keflavik departure lounge, we will try, try and try again!

Rosie xx

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