Anyone who’s experienced the Northern Lights first hand will tell you that it’s an unforgettable sight. The beautiful colours and patterns dancing across the sky is a moment you are not likely to forget anytime soon. During winter time people all over the world visit Norway in hopes of catching a glimpse of this spectacular light show. But where is the best place to see them and when? And what exactly are the Northern Lights? In this article we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this phenomenon and give you some tips on when and how to track them down yourself. The light phenomenon has bin the source of amazement and wonder for centuries and there's a lot of myths connected to the Northern Lights throughout the years. To some it was a bad omen warning them about upcoming wars, while others thought it was the souls of past family members. Today we know what the lights are a natural occurrence.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis if you will, is a natural phenomenon that occurs when charged particles from the sun come into contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. It all starts with the sun throwing off massive amounts of plasma – known as a solar storm – streaming with speeds up to 8 million km/h. When the solar storm reaches Earth, it strikes the magnetosphere – a magnetic field formed around the Earth, dragging the gases and particles from the solar storm towards our poles.
The further north you are and the more solar activity there is, the greater chances you have of witnessing this stunning natural phenomenon. If want to see the lights in Norway, the northern part is the place to go.
Tromsø is regarded as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. If you are in Tromsø for a period of five or more days during the winter season you have a pretty decent chance of seeing them.
Kirkenes. With 200 Aurora Borealis nights per year and ideal conditions, visitors have plenty of opportunities to catch the lights.
Lofoten Due to Lofoten's location and sight lines, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights in all directions. Lofoten has a lot of mountains, which can help create gaps in the cloud cover, sometimes making it possible to see them even on a cloudy day.
Svalbard Located between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this archipelago with exceptional Aurora conditions.
Bodø is a short distance from Rønvikfjellit Mountain, which is a sublime place to find a open view of the sky, and superb viewing spots.
It’s hard to say exactly what the best month to see the lights are, as it depends on several factors. A dark clear sky and high solar activity is a must to be able to see them. In Northern Norway the winter season is the high season for the occurrence of this phenomenon. (Approximately from 21st of September to 21st of March).
September-October: The summer has passed, but there won’t be long periods of darkness like later in the year. There is, however, a lot of solar activity during this time, which means that it’s possible to see the lights.
November-February: During these months the sun is a rare occurrence, with very dim daylight a couple of hours a day. So you’ll get darkness for sure, but at the same time the chance of snow and cloud cover is a lot higher which could interfere with the chances of seeing the lights. December is a popular month as a lot of people like to combine the chase with their Christmas vacation.
March: This month is the beginning of spring and will, like the autumn months, have more daylight. March is still a good time to spot the lights in Norway due to a high level of solar activity.
Whether you are planning a trip in 2022 or 2023, there are loads of different ways to experience them. When finding the best place to see the Northern Lights it’s important to get far away from the bright city lights. You can venture out on your own or you can maximise your chances of getting a real experience by going on an organized tour.
On a Northern Lights tour, experienced guides with comprehensive local knowledge will lead the way. They take you far away from the city and the light pollution to increase your chances of a successful chase. As this is a natural phenomenon there is no guarantee that you will get to experience the light show on your vacation. The guides will however pay close attention to the weather and Aurora forecast when deciding where to go and bring you to the best conditions far away from the light pollution.
On a Northern Lights tour experienced guides with comprehensive local knowledge will lead the way. They take you far away from the city and the light pollution to increase your chances of a successful chase. As this is a natural phenomenon there is no guarantee that you will get to experience the light show on your vacation. The guides will however pay close attention to the weather and Aurora forecast when deciding where to go and bring you to the best conditions far away from the light pollution.
When it comes to the cost of an organized tour, there are different options and different prices. There may not be any all inclusive offers for this kind of trip, but there are holiday packages allowing you to tailor your own package with a choice of activities. If you want a more flexible alternative you can skip the packages and pick each activity as you please. Go dog sledding one day and a Northern Lights cruise the next day. Or go on a morning snowmobiling tour and an evening reindeer sledding tour – it’s all up to you. One important thing for most guests is to be able to return from the trip with a killer shot of Aurora, but taking pictures of the Northern Lights is not the easiest. The guides are more than willing to help you with camera settings or take a picture for you to help you get a snapshot of the beautiful light show.
Even though you can’t always see them, the Northern Lights can actually occur at all hours of the day, all year round. They are only visible on clear dark nights, and you can't seem them in the summer. During day time or on cloudy nights the light is so far away, and so weak, that it is very susceptible to light pollution. Light pollution is caused by anything from cars and signs to bright city lights. Not to mention the largest light polluter of all; the sun.
As mentioned, the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon but it’s possible to predict the chances of them occurring. If you are visiting Northern Norway and want to know when and where the lights may appear next, there are a few different websites offering Aurora Forecasts you can check out. These can help you predict the chances of the lights occuring in your area. There are also several apps you can download to your phone that can help you seek out the next light show.
Snowhotel Kirkenes is located 8 kilometers outside the city centre and offers a unique opportunity to spend the night in a hotel made of snow and ice. But there is a lot more to this location than just the snow hotel. This area consists of a gamme cabin complex, with the starting and ending point for a range of Arctic activities just few meters from your doorstep. Traditionally a “gamme” was a primitive mud hut used by the Sami people, but these cabins are reconstructed wooden cottages. During the winter season, the large panoramic window will give you an exceptional view of the lights should they appear during your stay.
Overnight stays at the cabins include breakfast and a 3 course dinner in their farmhouse restaurant. Here you have everything you need for your winter adventure at the same place. There are daily departures for all kinds of tours here, and you can chase the lights by bus, husky or snowmobile. If you are feeling extra adventurous you can even stay in a bed made of ice at the actual snow hotel.
If you are in Tromsø you can choose to stay overnight at Camp Tamok, Norwegian Travel Company’s wilderness centre. Camp Tamok is the starting and ending point for a range of winter activities. Camp Tamok is only a 75 minute drive from the centre of Tromsø, but it has a drier climate which generates a lot of cloud free nights making it easier to catch the light show. Due to its location it’s one of the best places for seeing the Northern Lights in the Tromsø area. Spending the night “outdoors” like this in the wintertime is an Arctic experience in itself.