A travel guide to Norway’s Northern Lights
Up in the northernmost region of the world is the Arctic Circle, the part of the world that goes through the winter solstice—where the world tilts the furthest away from the sun. This stunning natural display happens only twice a year, once in each hemisphere.
The solstice isn’t the only thing that makes the Arctic Circle well worth a trip. The visibility of the Northern Lights is high, and in Norway, there’s plenty of ways to catch a glimpse of the electrical phenomena in the sky.
What are the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are also known as Aurora borealis or the polar lights. They’re a stunning natural light show that occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gaseous particles in the air after entering the atmosphere. The different colors in the sky are highly dependant on what type of particle they collide with when they hit the atmosphere.
In the most common green-yellow color, they hit up against oxygen molecules. When the lights are a rare red color, it’s due to higher-altitude level oxygen. When they shine bright blue, its because the particles collided with nitrogen instead of oxygen.
The process that creates the lights is no doubt an impressive universal anomaly, but the beauty it creates has been well-received by nature lovers across the world.
The best time to go
Whether or not you experience the best of the Northern Lights in Norway greatly depends on when you go. The ability to see the Aurora borealis is a lot higher when there is more darkness, and that’s in the winter months from October to March.
In September and October, the amount of darkness is a bit less than in the colder winter months but the solar activity is off the charts. In November though, the sky can become too covered for the lights to be visible. In March and April, the spring equinox hits and peaks in solar activity plus the dark skies give the best chance to see the lights.
Although they can still be seen in the more mild summer months, the amount of darkness reduces significantly and with that, your chance of seeing the beauty in the night sky also reduces. In the summer in Norway, the country experiences what is known as a ‘midnight sun’, the phenomena in which the sun doesn’t fully set over the horizon.
Northern lights over Norway 🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/yyz0saiGUa
— World Tourism 🌎 (@WorldTourisms) November 19, 2019
Best places to see them
Not all places in Norway are equal when it comes to getting a glimpse at the polar lights. The most popular and well-known destination for the Northern Lights in Norway is Tromso because of its well-developed tourism and availability of tours. There are better places to see them, though.
Lapland rivals the popular spots because it covers a lot of area in the northern part of the country and the amount of solar activity needed to see them is lower. If a great backdrop is what you’re looking for, the Lofoten Islands are the place you want to be. The islands offer some of the best landscapes you can find in Norway.
Other good places to set up for the view of a lifetime are Senja, where the lights shine over the fjords, Alta and Svalbard for their northernmost accessibility, and Hammerfest for its popularity and sizeable tour choices.
What to pack
Norway is cold. There’s no getting around that. To see the Northern Lights you’ll have to be prepared to dress for the weather so the experience doesn’t turn into a survival mission. You’ll want to start off with thermal-based layers to keep your body heat in and the cold air out.
A set of wool sweaters, socks, gloves, and hats will do wonders in keeping you warm throughout your trip.
You’ll also want to make sure you have some heavy-duty winter footwear. The boots you walk around snowy winter sidewalks in will not be good enough on a trip to Norway. A pair of waterproof, insulated, loose boots will be your best friend. You don’t want them too tight because that will actually make your feet colder. Plus, you’ll need room for your wool socks.
What tour to choose
Depending on where you go, you’ll have to choose from a long list of tours that have their own unique qualities. Looking to take great photos? An Aurora borealis photography tour is your best option. There are also cruise options if you want to spend your time sailing through the waters around Norway.
For the adventurer in you, the Dog Sledding and Northern Lights tour by Fjord Travel Norway is an impressive tour where you’ll get to take a ride on a dog sled all the way to the beautiful Tamok Valley to see the polar lights dance around in the sky above you. With tour options abound, there’s no wrong way to see Norway’s Northern Lights.
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