Chances are, one of the reasons you visit Iceland is to sneak a peak at the Northern Lights.
I booked a Northern Lights by Boat tour using Special Tours. There were two main reasons I chose them: it was only about $85 for two and a half hours, and they have a guarantee that if you don’t see lights during your tour, you can come back anytime for free.
The first two days we were in Iceland, the tour was cancelled due to bad weather and choppy seas. I recommend scheduling this tour your first night in Iceland for this very reason. I had scheduled it for Friday, but we ended up going on Sunday night, our last night in Iceland. Squeaked it in!
We boarded the ship at 10pm. Dress warm! I wore my hat, shirt, sweater, winter coat, tights, snow pants, wool socks and snow boots on board and I was plenty warm. Other people opted to use the yellow winter suits provided by Special Tours to bundle up.
The views from the boat were amazing.
I got the chance to interview our guide, Jonathan Rempel, for a few minutes during the ride. When I first saw him, he was helping several passengers fix the settings on their cameras so they would be ready in case we saw any lights.
He’s an American who’s lived in Iceland for about three years, but has been working at Special Tours for 6 months.
“I originally came to Iceland for the whale research, I’m also a marine biologist and I also do the whale watching tours here. So I do double duty,” Jonathan laughed.
I asked him what to look for as we set out to hunt for lights.
“[The Northern Lights] may not come up right away of course so it’s hard to say what a typical tour might be,” Rempel said. “We’ve had tours where we sailed out from the harbor and immediately seen lights; we’ve also had tours where we’ve been sitting and waiting for them to start for two hours or more, but then we’ve also seen amazing lights on tours like that.”
Throughout our two and a half hour boat ride, we scanned the sky for any sign of color while Jonathan narrated in the background. About halfway through, another man recited Icelandic poetry, which was hauntingly beautiful and absolutely perfect.
Kim and I took a break to warm up on the inside of the ship and grab some hot chocolate (which is probably the best I’ve ever had, or maybe I was just freezing haha!).
Unfortunately, the Northern Lights did not put on a show that night, but it was still one of my most favorite experiences in Iceland.
Jonathan says his favorite part, besides seeing the lights, is getting a chance to talk with all the passengers on board and show them how special Iceland is.
“We’re actually the original Northern Lights by Boat tour company in Iceland, no one else was doing it before us,” he said. “We try to make it as unique an experience as possible. We have performances on board from different people when we can. We try to make it a whole experience more than just being out in the darkness and looking at the sky.”
And of course, before we left, Jonathan announced that since the we did not see the lights, everyone could come back anytime for a free ride to try to see them again, whether it’s five, ten, or even twenty years down the road.
I hope my next visit to Iceland is much sooner!