​Day 1: Arriving in Iceland

Jennifer Docherty

2016-09-27 13:42:00

Patience is key when waiting for the Northern Lights!


As many of you will know, we work closely with Gray Line and so, it is with great excitement that we find ourselves in Iceland of all places at their annual convention!

Chris, Alan, Iona and myself set off on Monday morning, with suitcases in tow, ready to take on our Iceland adventure. There were a few key things that we were most looking forward to - and one of them was happening that very night… The Northern Lights! But more on that later.

So, we checked in our bags and settled down to enjoy a quiet drink in one of the airport bars. It wasn’t long before the flight was announced and we were boarding the plane. Iceland here we come!


The flight itself was fairly uneventful. We got to marvel at the personal screen entertainment system where we could keep track on our journey’s progress and learn about the outside temperature being -50 degrees Celsius.

As a marketer, and a slightly geeky one at that, I always enjoy looking through the in-flight magazine and inspecting the various marketing campaigns that feature in it.

Iceland has an amazing marketing strategy. Everything about the country promotes it’s natural beauty and wild landscape. So this is where their marketing is focused.

Throughout the magazine, it was obvious that almost every Icelandic company works in line with the overall strategy of the country. This is a pretty unique situation, as every brand promotes the ‘natural’ and ‘wild’ side of Iceland.

I’m genuinely fascinated by this. These brands are so consistent and they really know what they are doing. They are all working together to promote the overall brand of Iceland. It’s almost like each company is actually a sub-brand of Iceland - the parent brand.

These are the thoughts that kept me occupied on our 2 hour flight. So, let’s move away from my obsession with branding, and go back to our story.

We soon arrived in Reykjavik and found our way to the Gray Line desk to book our transfer to the Hilton.

My Norwegian friend used to live in Iceland as a tour guide and she taught me three very important words, if not a little random.

‘Snyrtingar’ - means toilet

‘Nammi’ - means sweeties

‘takk’ - means thanks.

So I’m finding we can all get by with these three words. I noticed ‘Snyrtingar’ all over the airport so I was feeling like I knew at least a little bit of the language.

The bus to the hotel didn’t take too long and we arrived in time to grab a quick bite to eat (think £65 for a bottle of wine, and £30 for fish and chips - they say Iceland is an expensive country!)

Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for. Years actually. Something to tick off the bucket list. We were going on a Northern Lights Tour. Yay!

Armed with layers and layers of clothes, hats, scarves and extra warm jackets (ahem, Chris!) we were ready to brace the cold. Or so we thought.

It was freezing!! Thankfully, we stopped at a shop-come-coffee-stop which meant we could dash back inside when we thought we were on the brink of hypothermia. But coffee was all we could manage. A chocolate muffin cost £5.

At the first stop, we spotted the beginnings of the lights. It was a sort of flicker of greeny-white cloud. It came and went a few times and we were keen to see more.

Now let’s bear in mind what our guide said at the start of the tour. We need four things to see the lights.

  1. Darkness. Check.
  2. Clear skies. Check.
  3. Solar activity. Check
  4. Patience….

After a couple of hours of standing outside freezing, then dashing back inside to warm up, then going back outside. We had seen a fair bit of light and green-tinges in the sky. But it wasn’t like what you see in pictures. Perhaps there are just a lot of people who are skilled on Photoshop!

We trundled back into the bus a little cold and you could maybe say a little disgruntled? Not really. We had seen the Northern Lights after all, they just weren’t as spectacular as we thought.

The bus made a couple of stops again on the way home as the guides were sure we should be seeing more.

We couldn’t decide whether to stay on the bus or whether to brave the cold and try see more. So we did a bit of both. Having just decided we were going to stay on the bus this time, only for the tour guide to come running back on and announce that the lights have begun!

What a display! It was just like in the pictures - no photoshop required.

We saw green, pink, red, and purple. The lights danced and changed colours and twirled across the sky. It was the ever changing patterns and shapes that amazed me most. Like swirls and spirals in the sky.

The guide was right. Patience was the key in this.

If you’ve never seen the lights, it is something you absolutely have to do.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us! There’s a rumour that breakfast starts at 6am… wonder who’ll make that?

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