Thursday, February 28, 2013
This is a post by the people at Edinburgh Airport. Get ready for a journey through Iceland!
Iceland’s View of the Northern Lights
Aptly named “The Land of Ice and Snow”, Iceland is without a doubt one of the most unique islands on the face of the Earth. While the geography alone may captivate both the eye and the imagination, above that geography, in Iceland’s sky, is one of the few places on Earth where you might catch a view of a spectacularly stunning atmospheric phenomenon: The Northern Lights.
This kaleidoscope of colours appears in the high latitudes in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Now for the science part: The Aurora Borealis (as they are called in the north) is actually caused by solar storms. Occasionally the sun sends out massive amounts of magnetic energy from its surface in the form of Coronal Mass Ejections – or CMEs for short, if you are planning on saying it a lot!
These particles then make their way into the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere – the ionosphere. The resulting collisions between the solar particles and the ions floating high above cause a dazzling array of colours and serpentine movements which often fail description, though dazzling and serpentine are both a good start.
What is of interest is that 2013 may prove to be a more active year, as the sun is going through one of its more violent storm cycles and Iceland will be one of the best areas to view this light show. One simply has to see it to believe it.
And that’s the catch: as these lights tend to be ephemeral and viewing them depends on a number of atmospheric conditions including cloud cover and visibility, there is naturally no guarantee that you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of nature’s iridescent display. However, to alleviate any potential disappointment, the city of Reykjavik plays host to a number of other enjoyable events and attractions.
Now for the history part: Reykjavik was founded around 870 AD by wandering Norsemen and enjoyed relative autonomy until the 19th century; some traditions found here are not to be encountered anywhere else in Europe.
Additionally, unlike many other major cities in Europe, it escaped the devastation of World War II. If you visit The Culture House you can view some of the most ancient documents found to date, including the Poetic Edda, the famous Norse work called “The Sagas”, as well as other well-known historical manuscripts. You can also view archaeological excavations of Viking-era longhouses within the city limits or experience the many sights, sounds, smells, and tastes found along the Laugavegur, the city’s main market street.
Should you wish to take a break from the culture and local culinary traditions, why not take a short trip to Nautholsvik Beach? This may sound a bit odd considering Iceland’s high latitude, but not to worry, for this beach is geothermally heated from deep below. It is one of the few places a tourist can brag that he or she was enjoying a nice ocean view in the depths of winter. Of course, other typical snow-related activities are always an option.
Even if you are not lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Northern Lights, the city of Reykjavik will quickly dispel any feelings of disappointment. Culture and history aside, it’s worth mentioning that Reykjavik has also been dubbed “the nightlife capital of the north”. What is of even more importance is that arriving at such a stunning location is easy. You can simply travel to Scotland and book parking at Edinburgh Airport. From there, Iceland is only a short hop away.
So, should nature’s lights prove elusive, the city of Reykjavik itself easily makes up for this display with an entrancing atmosphere of its own. Indeed, Scotland itself has the potential to be exposed to the Aurora – so you may still have a final chance to see it at either end of your trip.