Of Sunsets And Auroras

Of Sunsets And Auroras

For years I have been obsessed with watching the sun go down. One of my main rules for going on long road trips, is that no matter where you are, when the sun is going down, pull over and watch it happen. Even if it’s not the most scenic place, or if there are clouds, or whatever.

Snæfellsjökull at sunset. Incredibly we drove all around this mountain a few days prior and never saw it!

But if you can watch the sun sink slowly behind the horizon, it’s magic. It had been a while since I got to see that happen. When we were in Hawaii we got some nice sunsets in Oahu but were never on the west side of the island at the right time. In Maui, we were facing the right direction, but there were clouds and Moloka’i in the way. We did get a truly spectacular sunset on Haleakala… but not the orb going into the water. The last time I got to see the sun go down into the ocean was all the way back during our trip to Israel nearly four years ago. And at this point if Ariel has to hear me whine about “the orb” one more time, she may (justifiably) snap.

And each night in Iceland was too cloudy. Until our last night…

There are few sights that make me happier than the sun going down below the horizon.


I ended up standing on a small, weed-covered mound, buffeted by the wind to get this view, but after literally years of missed opportunities it was worth it.

Now it was time for the main event. Our number 1 thing that we wanted to see in Iceland was the Aurora Borealis. Unlike sunsets or getting a glimpse of the Milky Way, you can’t just go somewhere clear and get what you want. You need the solar winds to cooperate. Ariel and I got so lucky that we got to see it on the only night in Alaska we had a chance to, but it was pretty dim.

The previous night in Vik, the sky was clear enough to see the Milky Way, and I thought there was a greenish glow off in the distance, but I didn’t bother waking Ariel up because it looked like a cloud. This was really our last opportunity, and after the sunset, I knew the skies were cooperating at least.

About an hour after the sun went down I thought I saw something again, but unlike the night before it looked like it was moving. This was it, game on.

The Aurora Borealis is truly an awe-inspiring sight.

There’s not really a whole more to say about it. I woke up Ariel, and despite needing to be up for our flight the next morning we spent an hour together just in awe of this unbelievable spectacle. I stayed up for almost an extra hour, as the light show just didn’t let up.

As always with my pictures – this is really what it looked like. I do occasionally do some color editing if the iPhone doesn’t get some details that I saw in person, but there’s no need here. Some of the pictures came out a little crazy, so I’m not sharing them… Just be warned that many pictures you’ve seen elsewhere of auroras are enhanced, either intentionally or not, by the camera taking the picture.

This literally went on for hours. I never wanted it to end.

Not here…

What more can I possibly say about the perfect end to an incredible trip? This spectacle happens in Iceland nearly every night, and it’s just a 5 or 6 hour flight from the east coast. What are you waiting for?

Sometimes it was a shimmering ribbon like this, other times it seemed like it was filling up the whole sky. Nothing can do the real thing justice. Go see it for yourself!

Eventually it was time to call it a night. The next morning we were up early and went straight to the airport, as our Iceland adventure had finally come to an end.

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