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July 2016

Breathtaking Honeymoon Travelogue of the Iceland Northern Lights

Photographer Skyy Woo and her husband Lennon travelled all the way to Iceland to catch the Northern Lights for their honeymoon. Their stunning travelogue is full of breathtaking images of snowcapped peaks, dancing aurora borealis, and glorious rainbow-kissed waterfalls. They share some very helpful tips on travelling in Iceland should you want to plan your own.

Many couples think of an over-water beach villa and lazy days in the sun when they picture their honeymoon, but photographer Skyy Woo wanted to go somewhere she could take amazing shots. For her and her husband Lennon, who is a Multimedia Designer, an Icelandic Northern Lights trip sounded like the perfect idea for their belated honeymoon.

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The couple wanted to experience the Northern Lights for themselves, especially after reading news that the aurora borealis might be dimming for the next decade. After some research into the best places to view the Northern Lights, Iceland stood out for its higher chances and scenic beauty.

“We originally wanted to go to Finland, and look out for the Northern Lights in an igloo,” says Skyy. “But we found out that the chances of catching them were low. You might not see them even if you stayed for three nights, because weather is very bad in winter.” Skyy and Lennon considered Sweden as well, but saw that a lot of people reported seeing the lights almost anywhere in Iceland. The smaller size of the island also made travel easier. “If we were to go to Sweden, there would be more than 10 hours of travelling by train, which looks really complicated!” Lennon shudders.

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Skyy and Lennon booked flights just a month prior to their trip, but recommend buying tickets earlier, as prices rise closer to your travel dates. After a 15-hour journey with a transit in Helsinki, they landed in Iceland’s international airport, Keflavík. After reading the advice of Alex Cornell’s Iceland travel guide, Skyy and Lennon sketched out a leisurely 14-day itinerary on the Ring Road that took them in an anti-clockwise route around the island. They went during winter in April to catch the Northern Lights; Iceland’s long sunsets in the summer months mean that the lights aren’t visible in June to August.

“It’s actually not the best time to go, as a lot of places would be closed, like the eateries,” comments Lennon. Temperatures were freezing too, with snow covering the ground and icy rains, wind, and hail. But the cold and less convenient dining options were all worth it when they saw the Northern Lights.

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It was four days before they finally saw the aurora borealis blazing across a clear night sky in Myvatin.

“It felt like we had left the planet,” an awed Skyy describes that night. “It was really an out of this world experience, like we were in a different universe.” The clear sky afforded incredible photography opportunities. For the best photos, Skyy and Lennon recommend using a tripod, and bringing a selfie stick if you want to capture 360-degree shots. On bad-weather nights when the Northern Lights are faint and invisible to the naked eye, they used low exposure settings to see them on camera.

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After that first night, three more clear nights offered them incredible views.

“We were lucky,” says Lennon. “My friend, who went a week after us, didn’t get to see the lights at all, because it snowed the whole time he was there.” The Northern Lights are only visible when it isn’t cloudy, and although there’s a website you can use to check the forecast every day, Lennon and Skyy say that it’s not possible to plan to see the lights with certainty. The site tells you your chances of seeing the Northern Lights that day, with 1 being the lowest and 7 being the highest. “Basically, you get to see the lights as long as it’s clear. Once you see clouds coming at night, that’s it. You can go to bed,” Skyy laughs.

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Besides the Northern Lights, Iceland had plenty of other amazing sights to offer Skyy and Lennon on their circular road trip.

“We’d drive for five minutes, and the scenery would completely change,” says Skyy. “Every kilometre would reveal a completely different landscape,” Lennon agrees. With her photographer’s eye, Skyy describes the landscape in scenes and shots: “There was one whole scene filled with moss-covered rocks. And the rocks were all strange, interesting shapes.” Lennon adds, “And then suddenly, we’d turn a corner, and it was as if we’d landed on Mars.” “Everything was red!” exclaims Skyy. “The mountains were red too. And then we’d go around another bend, and in that scene, all the mountains would be triangles. We would be driving and just keep saying, “Wow!” The Ring Road affords many scenic views of Iceland, and abundant photography opportunities. “Every shot looks like a postcard!” jokes Lennon, but we couldn’t agree more.

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Eight days is actually enough to circle the island, but the couple spent 14 because they ventured off the beaten track to see the Garðar BA 64 shipwreck. Thought to be the oldest steel ship in Iceland, Garðar BA 64 was launched in Norway in the same year that Titanic sank. When it was deemed unfit for duty in 1981, the old ship was run aground in the Skápadalur Valley, in the Icelandic WestFjords. Skyy warns that the roads leading to the shipwreck might be rather dangerous, especially for people who aren’t used to driving on gravel roads.

“We almost died!” she shudders. Roads get very slippery when icy too, so the couple highly recommend four-wheel drive vehicles. “With traction control!” adds Lennon.

Another of the island’s most haunting photography locations, the airplane crash in the south of Iceland on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach, was no longer accessible by car when Skyy and Lennon were travelling. The roads had been closed to conserve the beach from the heavy tourist traffic, and they only reached the site of the famous airplane crash after four kilometres on foot.

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Other than that treacherous road to the shipwreck, the rest of their journey was easy to plan and drive. Skyy saved places of interest on Google Maps, and Lennon calculated driving distances and planned their stops for the night. All of their hotels were booked online before the trip too. In the morning, they would decide on that day’s activities based on the weather, and what they felt like eating.

“I’d look for good places to photograph, and Lennon would look for places to eat!” says Skyy.

As Lennon bought a sim card from the largest telco, Siminn, and a backup from another company, they were sure of mobile coverage and data. Driving was easy too, with plenty of petrol and rest stops along the Ring Road. The couple recommend buying stored value cards for petrol though, as many kiosks are self-serve and require a pin number with credit card use, which foreign cards do not have.

“Before discovering the stored value cards, we were rushing to fuel up at manned petrol stations which close around 6 to 7pm,” Lennon says wryly. Besides the self-serve petrol kiosks, credit cards are readily accepted everywhere in Iceland. “We didn’t use cash at all! There’s no need to exchange foreign currency; we used credit cards for everything, even for a 20-cent plastic bag!” exclaims Skyy. Supermarkets, restaurants, and fast food at the rest stops were all paid for by card.

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The couple recommends travel insurance, as well as booking hotels with a refund policy, because of the unpredictable weather. “When it rains, it’s just so windy and so cold that it’s impossible to go outdoors; you’d be blown off your feet,” Skyy says, only half-joking. Bad weather prevented them from getting to a hotel too. “One day, the weather was so bad that we couldn’t get to one of the islands, because the ferry terminal was closed. So we had to skip that part of the trip,” Lennon tells us. In the 1 or 2 degree winds and hail, sufficient clothing is essential. Skyy recommends heat pads for the feet and very good shoes. “It’s important to be windproof, and waterproof,” Lennon advises. “You never know when it will rain, when it will snow, or when it will hail. You could get all three in one day.”

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There are plenty of other popular tourist attractions in Iceland besides the Northern Lights, but Skyy and Lennon skipped the whale watching, dog-sledding, and teepee camping trips that many day tours offer. Their 14-day trip cost them less than $4,000 each, including flight tickets and a comfortable hotel each night. Looking back on their trip, they agree that it was the perfect honeymoon for them. “Lots of scenery for Skyy to photograph, not too much adventure, easy to navigate,” says Lennon with a laugh. While admitting that they aren’t a lovey-dovey couple, both Skyy and Lennon concur that Iceland’s striking beauty and the Northern Light’s otherworldly experience make for a unique, romantic honeymoon.


Credits: Photography by Skyy Woo Photography.