Northern Lights Magic in Norway
Imagine a night sky on fire with colour. Dancing bands of emerald green, sapphire blue, and fiery red slither across the sky. These are the Northern Lights, a natural phenomenon that has captured the interest and imagination of people for centuries.
Seeing the Northern Lights is something that many people have on their bucket list. It’s one of the most beautiful things nature can offer, with fireworks of dancing lights and colours across the sky. Although the Northern Lights can be seen in many parts of the world, Norway is one of the best places to experience this spectacular sight. The country's northern location and clear skies provide first-class viewing conditions for the Northern Lights.
What are the Northern Lights?
This light phenomenon, also known as the Aurora Borealis, occurs when electrically-charged particles from the sun collide with the Earth's atmosphere. The lights that then appear can be seen when the sky is dark and occur in all areas that lie near the magnetic North Pole.
The Northern Lights are never quite the same as one another, and can give us anything from hour-long shows to short appearances, in shades of emerald green, sapphire blue, fiery red, and purple.
When can you see the Northern Lights in Norway?
The Northern Lights can be seen all over Norway, but they are best seen in Northern Norway. Some of the best places include:
Tromsø - the Northern Lights capital of Norway
Known as the “Northern Lights capital of Norway”, Tromsø is one of the most popular destinations for seeing the Northern Lights. The city lies above the Arctic Circle, offering dark skies and a high chance of seeing Aurora Borealis as it lies within the auroral oval.
Geir Hammer is an experienced nature photographer who has previously worked as a Northern Lights guide in Tromsø for over ten years. He says that the most important thing for hunting for the Northern Lights is that the weather is clear with little cloud cover, and to get away from the light pollution in the city and other light sources. And you must dress in warm clothes and prepare for a little patience, as the Northern Lights often appear unpredictably and can take you by surprise.
Kvaløya and at Kattfjordvatnet, Sommarøy and Grøtfjord are great Northern Lights spots outside of Tromsø. If it’s cloudy in Tromsø, there’s often clear weather, for example in Skibotn or closer to the Finnish border.Geir Hammer
Psst. If you’e in Tromsø the last week of January and the first week of February, you can visit the annual Northern Lights Festival - a celebration of international music and dance.
Experience the Northern Lights in Lofoten
This archipelago, with its stunning natural beauty, lies off the coast of Northern Norway and is known for its dramatic landscape and charming fishing villages. Lofoten is also a great place to see the Northern Lights, as the sky is often clear and there is little light pollution.
Northern Lights winter on Svalbard
This remote archipelago lies in the Arctic, between Norway and the North Pole. Svalbard is known for its unspoiled nature and rich wildlife, and it is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights with its northern location. You’ll also find very little light pollution on this Arctic island.
The Northern Lights winter on Svalbard lasts from October to March, and part of this period is called the polar night (from 12 November to 30 January). During this time, there’s no difference between day and night on the island, the sun is around 6 degrees below the horizon, and the street lights stay on 24 hours a day. This gives us amazing opportunities to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights around the clock.
Svalbard also organises many popular activities for seeing the Northern Lights and experiencing the polar winter, such as snowmobile tours, dog sledding safaris, and Northern Lights tours with tracked vehicle or ATV.
When can you see the Northern Lights in Norway?
The Northern Lights can be seen in Norway from September to April, but the best time to see them is in the winter months, when the nights are long and dark. The peak season for seeing the Northern Lights is typically from December to February. The best time to see them are between 23:00 and 02:00 at night.
Experience the Northern Lights in Norway
Guided tours: Guided tours offer a practical and informative way to experience the Northern Lights. Tour operators typically offer transportation to and from viewing spots, as well as warm clothes and equipment. In addition, a light meal with something warm to drink and a little snack to eat is often offered.
Cabins in the wilderness: Staying in a cabin in the wilderness is a great way to get away from light pollution and increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Many cabins in Northern Norway are located in remote areas with clear skies, making them ideal for viewing Aurora Borealis.
Exploring on your own: If you're feeling adventurous, you can try to find the Northern Lights on your own. There are a few things to keep in mind: check the weather forecast for clear skies, avoid areas with light pollution, and dress warmly. Be prepared to drive on winter roads with snow, ice, and slippery surfaces to find the best Northern Lights spots.
Myths and legends about the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights have been a source of fascination and wonder for centuries, and many cultures have their own myths and legends about them.
Norse mythology: In Norse mythology, the Northern Lights were thought to be the bridge between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The Vikings believed the lights were the Gods showing themselves on Earth, so they celebrated them.
Sámi mythology: The Sámi, the indigenous people of the Nordics, believe that the Northern Lights are the spirits of their ancestors dancing in the sky. This was not a good omen, and the Sámi therefore feared the Northern Lights.
Other cultures: In other cultures, the Northern Lights are believed to be a sign of good luck and fortune, a sign of fertility, or a warning of danger.
Tips for taking good photos of the Northern Lights
Geir Hammer has taken countless photos of the Northern Lights over the years, both with his DSLR camera and his smartphone, which he shares on his Instagram profile. His five best tips for taking good photos of the Northern Lights are:
- Use a camera with a wide-angle lens.
- Use a tripod or set the camera on something stable - hand-held photos will quickly become blurry.
- Use a remote control or set the self-timer to 2-3 seconds - for the same reason as above. To avoid movement in the tripod when the photo is taken.
- Use night mode if you are using a smartphone.
- Think about the composition of the photo - Northern Lights photos are often a little more exciting if there are some beautiful surroundings around, such as mountains, fjords, forests, or the sea.
Written by: Susanne Lindeberg