Iceland – The Northern Lights
Travelling to Iceland to see the Northern lights is on the top of many people’s bucket lists. The high latitude and long dark nights make Iceland one of the premier destinations in the world for viewing the aurora borealis.
There are plenty of options for travellers as in recent years Iceland has become a well developed tourist destination. At Our Local Tour we can tailor-make a trip to Iceland using our specialist local partner.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights also known as aurora borealis is nature’s most incredible light show. This incredible phenomenon, dancing in ribbon-like waves of purple, green, and gold, must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
The show begins when electrically charged particles travelling from the sun reach Earth and then collide with oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere. The varieties of colours that can be seen depend on the type of gas particles that are colliding.
The most common colour to be seen in the Northern Lights is green. This colour effect occurs when the suns particles collide with oxygen molecules at an altitude of about 60 miles.
Much rarer is when the suns particles collide with oxygen at high altitude, usually 200 miles above the earth, and produce a red aurora. A blue or purple colour is made when nitrogen collides with the suns particles.
You may not believe it, but Iceland is a year round destination. With so many attractions and each at it best at varies times of year, it is not surprising that the country has become one of the world’s tourist hotspots.
A safe and welcoming country, many travellers are able to hire a car and explore for themselves. If you do not want to drive, you will find regular bus services as well as options for cycling and walking.
There are also plenty of good local tour operators that can arrange trips and expeditions from the capital, Reykjavik.
Good, clean and comfortable accommodation is available in most areas of Iceland and travellers will find that most of the population will speak good English.
Of course, what we are really asking is why travel to Iceland to see the Northern lights? There are many other countries that offer great views, including Norway and Finland, but Iceland can offer so much more.
The dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields instantly makes it feel like you are on the set of a Hollywood film. You can explore Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks (even if you cannot pronounce them!) which are home to massive glaciers.
As well as the incredible scenery and geographic features, Iceland is a wonderful wildlife destination.
Whale watching is a must for any keen wildlife enthusiast visiting Iceland. Over twenty species call the Icelandic coastal waters home, ranging from the small harbor porpoises to the earth’s largest animals, blue whales. Wild mammals that can be found in Iceland include the Arctic Fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer.
Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland.
When is best to visit Iceland for the Northern lights?
Winter in Iceland is the best time, when the nights are long and dark. The best time to view the Northern Lights would require travelling to Iceland between September through to March. You could get between 10 to 20 hours of darkness depending on the exact month that you visit, considerably increasing your chances of a great light show.
In addition to the time of year, there are actually better years than others for viewing the northern lights. The sun runs through approximately 11-year cycles and at the height of these cycles, known as the solar maximum, the aurora borealis becomes bolder and brighter. Then, a few years later, the sun relaxes into what is known as the solar minimum.
The Northern Lights still sparkle during this period, but not quite as much. Solar minimums can actually make the Northern Lights much easier to predict, so you’ll be able to find them with greater success.
There are some great websites available to help you predict when the aurora borealis will be on show. One of the best of these focussing on Iceland is https://auroraforecast.is/
Whenever you decide to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, contact Our Local Tour. Our partners knowledge and understanding of the local conditions will ensure that you get the best possible chance to see the aurora borealis on your trip.
How to book the perfect Yoga retreat
Taking a break on a Yoga retreat is growing in popularity and becoming part of the mainstream holiday sector. They are no longer the domain of hippy travellers or similarly, stressed out city workers. The range of destinations and types of retreat that you can now attend is very varied and moreover there is always something to suit anyone and all abilities. Our Local Tour work closely with a range of quality professional and locally based retreat providers.
Domestic and international yoga retreats
You don’t have to travel abroad to attend a yoga retreat. There are many hotels and spas offering weekend breaks and local yoga instructors organising their own local retreats. If you attend a regular yoga class ask your instructor or other members for suggestions of locally organised events.
Travelling abroad to attend a yoga retreat requires a bit of research and planning. Firstly, you need to decide whether you want the whole trip to centre on yoga. For example, it is possible to attend an ashram for just a few days while travelling in India.
On the other hand, the opposite is to have your holiday focus entirely on the yoga with multiple lessons throughout the day. Holidays with a dedicated focus on yoga will often have other elements of well-being included, for instance ayurveda treatments.
Popular countries for a yoga holiday include India, Indonesia especially Bali and Sri Lanka. Other destinations that are up and coming and should be considered include Costa Rica and Morocco.
Each country has its own culture that will influence the type of retreat that you stay at. Indian and Sri Lankan holidays often have a core structure revolving around ayurveda and veganism. In Bali the Balinese Hindu-Buddhist religion dominates. This creates a different style to the yoga and the retreats on the island. There is much more focus on the traditional Balinese music and dance.
In Costa Rica you will find that many of the yoga retreats are based on eco-resorts and lodges. The ‘feel’ of the retreats is a lot more western. You will find that many of the instructors and lodge owners come from the USA and California in particular.
The types of Yoga
Whatever type of yoga you already practice, or would like to try; there will be a yoga retreat for that style. The most popular styles that you will find are;
A style of yoga as exercise often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. In Mysore, India, people gather to practice this form of yoga together at their own pace.
Teachers lead classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping. Students will come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. However, many types of yoga can also be considered vinyasa flows such as ashtanga, power yoga, and prana.
Hatha yoga is usually a slower-paced practice where poses (asana) are held for a few breaths. A Hatha class will usually include breathing techniques and meditation as well as asana.
The Iyengar style of yoga has a particular emphasis on body alignment and is characterised by its precision and attention to detail. Iyengar yoga requires you to keep the pose for a slightly longer period of time, which increases the way a particular pose is performed thereby improving confidence, weight-loss and strength.
Hot Yoga (formally known as Bikram yoga)
Originally named after Bikram Choudhury and features a sequence of set poses in a sauna-like room. This is typically set to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. As a result of this, it is said to improve balance, lower body strength and range of motion for both the upper and lower body.In addition, it might even help improve arterial stiffness and metabolic measures like glucose tolerance and cholesterol levels.
There are many other types and styles of yoga. Certainly, you will find that many cross over into the styles of each other. If you are unsure of the style you want to practice on your retreat, try a few before booking anything. Many classes near you will offer taster sessions. These are perfect for deciding what’s the right style for you.
How to book your yoga retreat?
You have decided that you want to go on a yoga holiday and therefore know the style of yoga that you want. Likewise, it is going to be an overseas holiday and you want it to focus on the yoga. How do you go about booking this?
The first thing that you should do is contact us at Our Local Tour. For instance, we can help you decide on the best destination for you. Our local specialists will be able to give you exact details on what is available and where. Most importantly, they will have local knowledge and be able to speak to retreats and lodges in their area.
In conclusion, a yoga retreat is a specialist holiday. Let our team of travel experts arrange everything for you allowing you to focus on the important aspects of the holiday – you.