Epilogue: Final Thoughts
One thing that I read said that the best time to see the Northern Lights was between September and April. During the peak of the summer, the nights are too short, the sun not too far below the horizon during the night, and the middle of the dark occurs really in the middle of the night.
I’m thinking that the best time might be early Spring or late Fall. The real key is knowing what the climate is like that time of year, in particular how much of the time is expected to be cloud covered. I don’t know if January is usually this overcast (like Seattle is) or whether we were just mostly unlucky, but I think that the best time would be Fall or Spring and at a time when clear nights are the norm.
The people there are very friendly, and we found virtually no one there who did not speak English. Except for the zoo, most signs were in English or in both Icelandic and English.
At various points, particularly at breakfast (:-), Michael would say that he hated Iceland, but overall I think he enjoyed the experience. His most oft repeated comment was that he would like to go back sometime, but in the summer.
It would have been neat to have taken a glacier tour. I’ve been on a number of glaciers, and so just standing on one would not be a big thrill, but I guess many or most of the glacier tours end up exploring a tunnel carved through the glacier by a stream. Going into something like that would be neat.
The climate, at least while we were there, was just above freezing for the most part, with lots of scattered showers. The skies were mostly overcast, with one notable exception.
On the other hand, the thick layer of ice at the zoo suggests that this may have been a warmer period than the recent past, as it would have had to have been colder for the ice to form like that. One person did say that this has been the coldest and snowiest winter in a while, so it's possible that they had unusually cold weather for a month or so before we got there, and then it became more seasonal.
In any event, historical climate data suggests that the highs should be around 35 and the lows around 27, so the average would be just a tad below freezing.
The 4 1/2 to 5 hours of daylight weren’t as problematic as I had expected. For one thing, the sun rises and sets much more slowly than in the US. So it started getting light long before sunrise, and it was still fairly light long after sunset.
With the overcast skies, we really didn’t see the sun moving horizontally along the horizon. When it was clear, having the sun low in the sky wasn’t too weird--it was sort of like at home just before sunset. On the plus side, when the sun was out, it tended to make great lighting which back home would only last for a very short time.
In general, the sunset wasn’t too weird as that is close to the time the sun sets at the end of December in the US, and we’re very used to doing things after sunset due to modern lighting. It was stranger in the morning, because we are *not* used to getting up before dawn, or at least to getting up before dawn *and* doing a lot of stuff before the sun comes up.
The late sunrise really tended to make one want to sleep in and start the day later.