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Focus: Diaries at the ready - short-haul events not to miss

3 - February: Northern Lights, Iceland

Diaries at the ready - short-haul events not to miss © Copyright

Iceland remains one of the most popular destinations for Brits despite the winter chill. The main draw from January to March is the spectacular show of the skies known as the Northern Lights. Although other schools of thought will tell you that the best period to see the lights is usually from September to April. This stunning Nordic country is one of the best places to watch the mystical natural lights dance in big night skies. As you sit tight dressed in mounds of layers surrounded by snow, the skies suddenly start growing streaks of powdery greens, blues, reds as though the sun were rising from somewhere unknown for the very first time in history. Impressive and completely natural, watching the lights will be sure to guarantee you an experience of a lifetime.

The lights are seen as streaks of colours to the naked eye, but in fact are caused by the collision of energetic particles with atoms. In the north, the lights are also called Aurora Borealis, after the Roman goddess of dawn, 'Aurora' and the Greek God of the north wind 'Boreas'. And although the first three months of this year are supposed to be ideal for seeing the light, there are no guarantees, as with all natural phenomena. Some weeks, you are treated to fantastic displays, repeated several times during the evening. Other times, the snow falls densely, clouding the sky. In order to get full value from the show you should avoid the full moon and places with a lot of light as they make the experience considerably paler. You can fly straight to Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, and book yourself a jeep tour, which tends to be a lot more intimate than getting a bus or coach. You also see the lights from Norway and Greenland, in case you wanted to venture out a little further afield. Lastly, remember to wrap up warm as temperatures can plummet quite quickly!

Image: © Jon A Helgason / Age Fotostock.

February: Carnival, Cologne, Germany June: Basel Art Fair, Switzerland