The Northern Lights – freezing & in awe at the edge of a field in Iceland

Iceland – September 26, 2022


It was 80 degrees at home when we packed our suitcases. And, in all honesty, our focus was on the first part of our trip–the 4 days we were spending in Germany to run the Berlin Marathon. We triple checked to make sure we had our race gear, Garmin watches, running shoes and everything else needed to ensure the race would be a success. The second part of the trip–the two days we would spend in Iceland on the way home–was almost an afterthought.

So that is how we came to be standing on the edge of a field just outside of Reykjavik with a van-load of other tourists, staring up at the night sky, freezing our asses off.

We were seriously under-dressed despite wearing every layer we had packed. Our sweatshirts and light jackets, which seemed more than sufficient when we threw them in our suitcases, did nothing to keep out the cold. Teeth chattering, we watched tiny, barely discernible wisps of white float up from the horizon. After an hour we (and everyone else) caved and put on the full body snow suits the tour guide provided, wondering if the whole thing was a bust.

Bring up the lights

Despite our doubt, the guide’s excitement was growing. He insisted we were experiencing exactly what we came to see–an amazing display of the Northern Lights and that it would only get better. He made us line up one by one and pose for photos with his long-exposure camera. My husband and I looked at each other doubtfully. If we squinted, we could barely make out the faint lights he was referring to. We thought longingly of our warm bed back at the hotel.

Another half an hour passed when suddenly, lights began to move across the sky. Green, blue, red and white swirls of color danced from one horizon to the other. They flashed and twisted, disappearing and reappearing. It was impossible to see it all at once–the sky filled completely with movement and color. We all repeated over and over, oh my god, look at that, unable to further articulate the incredible moment.

Freezing but gorgeous!

The tour guide practically danced. He lined everyone up for more pictures and then took off across the field with his camera. He came back breathless and ecstatic, insisting it was one of the most amazing displays he had ever witnessed.

Another beautiful, albeit freezing, hour passed before we had to head back to town. We reluctantly handed back our snow suits and sat shivering, even in the heat of the van. It was 1AM and we were tired and still marathon-sore. But we were in absolute awe of what we had seen.

Long exposure

It took a few weeks, but we finally received the long exposure pictures from the tour guide. The great swirls of light the guide photographed when he ran across the field are amazing. And while we look like silly tourists in our matching snowsuits, it’s a memory I’m very glad to have frozen in time.