One of the world’s most dazzling natural phenomenons, few travel experiences can top witnessing the Northern Lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, this is mother nature’s most impressive light show, and something which tops almost every traveler’s bucketlist.
Located in the far-northern latitudes, Norway is a popular destination for witnessing the spectacle. “Created by solar winds interacting with charged particles in the earth’s magnetic field, the lights appear as otherworldly streaks dancing across the arctic skies.”
It’s important to note that there is no exact science to catching the Aurora, but, occurring predominantly between late September and late March, often close to midnight, the following locations are some of your best chances.
Installing the Norway Lights app (android / iphone) is a great idea for use while visiting; a forecast app dedicated to northern light cities, with guidelines in regards to when to go, where to go and how to get there.
This app gives you a 3-day extended forecast, hourly forecast for today, and recommendations on whether to anticipate northern light activities in a specific city in Norway or not. You’ll need to be connected, but portable wifi in Norway is cheap and easy with a TEP wireless device.
Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Norway
As far as making your way north goes, you can’t get much further north than Svalbard. In fact, this is the world’s northernmost town; a spit of land and ice tucked away far to the north of Norway next to Greenland in the Arctic Ocean.
The Northern Lights make appearances here from November through February, though between mid-November to the end of January travelers can experience an additional natural phenomenon: the Polar Night.
The Polar Night refers to the three months Svalbard goes without daylight. This perpetual eerie blue twilight means you have the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights, though do keep in mind that you have better chances of spotting wildlife like reindeer, walrus and polar bears after this lifts (ie when you can see).
The Lofoten Islands
“The Lofoten islands are draped across the turbulent waters of the Norwegian Sea, far above the Arctic Circle.” The northern lights are powerful and dynamic here, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch one of their famous raging storms!
But don’t be put off by the possibility of bad weather. It’s well worth the risk. This is a rare wilderness outpost with a landscape made up of majestic mountains, deep fjords, and long, surf-swept beaches. “Not much beats snow covered mountain peaks rising straight out of the sea with auroras filling the night sky overhead. Something more than just a boring snow field or barren forest in the foreground.”
The coastal areas of Lofoten are often the best locations for shooting the northern lights. The beaches of Flakstadøy and Vestvågøy are some of the most popular and photogenic locations.
Trondheim is a city of students, technology, culture, cycling and food. Though of all the things to do in Trondheim, watching the skies explode with colour tops the list.
While it’s definitely possible to enjoy a display without leaving the city, your chances increase drastically the further away you go. Even when the Aurora is bright, it’s best to make your way out of the city limits for the least amount of light pollution. Light pollution from buildings and roads may degrade the viewing experience, so try to find viewing areas away from sources of light.
Tromso is “the capital of the Arctic”, and it’s location 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle makes it one of the best places on earth to observe the northern lights. This is the largest city in Northern Norway, and operates as a hub for Safaris and nightly visits to northern light camps.
But there are plenty of things to do in Tromso in winter, and other popular activities here include dog sledding, snowmobile rides and reindeer sledding, all of which are good ways of enjoying time beneath the northern lights.
Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Alta is more protected from the weather than most of Norway’s coastal towns. This matched with it’s very northern latitude makes it an excellent base for chasing the northern lights.
Alta is the largest town in Finnmark. The world’s first Northern Light observatory was built here at the end of the nineteenth century, and since then Alta has earned the well-deserved nickname “The Town of the Northern Lights”.
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