Top 5 Northern Lights Experiences in Norway
The Northern Lights has been a bucket list favorite for decades and for good reason. The aurora borealis is the Earth’s cosmic firework display and one of nature’s most spectacular performances. It wasn’t long ago that experiencing this phenomena was limited to only the most adventurous and wealthy, however, there are now many affordable options out there for the stargazers amongst us. To experience the majesty of the Northern Lights is to experience a profound sense of oneness with the celestial and the earthly. It has attracted humans to the Arctic Circle for hundreds of years and plays a vital part in many indigenous Arctic peoples’ culture (the indigenous Sami community have several names for the phenomenon, chief amongst them ‘Guovssahas’, which means, “The light which can be heard”.)
It is important to remember that the aurora borealis is not an all-year partier and enjoys its days off from performing, just like any leading Hollywood A-Lister. You are fortunate that the Earth is currently basking in one of the 11-year ‘highs’ for the phenomena as the Sun has produced a steady stream of solar flares over the last few years. The electrically charged particles from the Sun enter the earth’s atmosphere to produce a dizzying display of greens, pinks and purples, in constant dance, miles above the Earth.
How best to witness such awe-inspiring phenomena? Well, that’s where BUCKiTDREAM comes in. Download and browse the app at your leisure and don’t get bogged down trawling millions of travel blogs out there. We have done that hard work for you!
BUCKiTDREAM has compiled a list of all the best locations in the world to serve as a rich backdrop to the Northern Lights. First up is Norway. This Scandinavian gem has the most beautiful scenery in all of Northern Europe. Glistening mountains, lakes, glaciers and valleys that even a fevered Peter Jackson couldn’t conjure up.
Here’s our breakdown of the top experiences to be had whilst venturing to Norway in search of nature’s lightshow. Enjoy and don’t forget to record the one’s that you fancy in your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
It’s no joke to say that Norway really belongs in the realms of fantasy and child-like imagination. With its rich array of fjords, glaciers, mountains, steppes and rugged and diverse coastlines. These serve as Mother Nature’s banquet for quaint fishing villages, ski slopes, bird colonies, whale-watching and numerous cultural delicacies. It’s an obvious but important point to make, but you maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights by venturing to Norway between late fall and early spring (September – March is optimal!). The land of the midday sun is the opposite in winter – 24-hour darkness! Whilst you won’t be needing your sunglasses, this means you have many more hours to catch the light show. Also, the clue is in the name: the further north you travel, the better your chances. With that in mind, here are the best viewing spots in Northern Norway.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond, At The Northern Lights Festival in Tromsø
It is no accident that Tromsø is proclaimed ‘the Paris of the North’. Located 350 km inside the Arctic Circle, it’s famed centre nestles on an island in a vast fjord. The northernmost city in the world, it boasts centuries-old wooden houses, rich culture, picturesque museums and cathedrals and is a hip and vibrant student town. Tromsø is synonymous with the Northern Lights. Do a web-search for the aurora borealis and the top images are bound to be from Tromsø. It is the staging point to fulfil this bucket-list dream. And if you happen to visit between 27th January – 4th February, you’ll be welcomed by the world-famous Northern Lights Festival featuring glittering icons from Norway’s cultural mainline.
Situated on the picturesque harbour in the cultural heart of the city, at the Scandic Ishavshotel you can enjoy fresh locally-sourced fish in its esteemed restaurant, admire the scenic views and visit the renowned art and polar museums…not forgetting the iconic Arctic Cathedral with the largest stained-glass window in Europe. All within a 500m radius! You’d be a fool not to!
Also on the harbour is the famous Arctandria Seafood restaurant. Enjoy a selection of lobster, fresh oysters, generous portions of halibut, reindeer and even whale! There she blows!
There are numerous expert guided tours offering the complete Northern Lights experience. All of them are based in the city and the highest-rated, Green Fox Guides, offers professional photographers, local food and drink, bonfires and skilled guides to complement your journey.
Push The Boat Out With A Cruise On The Hurtigruten
Tromsø is the ideal launch pad to explore the far north of Norway. It is also a main port for the Hurtigruten, one of the most famous cruise liners in the world. In fact, an astonishing 5,500 travel agents voted Hurtigruten as the ‘Best Expedition Cruise Line’ in the 2016 WAVE Awards, just one of dozens of awards this pride of Norway has won.
Hurtigruten began life in 1893 as the sole means for many isolated Norwegian communities to communicate and trade. Today it boasts two shipping lines operating 12 ships, with daily south and northbound departures. It also harbors a well-known secret amongst Northern Light aficionados, that it is the best place to witness the phenomena. With light pollution totally absent, stargazers cruising in the Arctic Circle can view the Northern Lights in its purest form. Faint stars, galaxies and nebulae, previously impossible to detect with the naked eye, appear in all their majesty and solemnity.
What makes the Hurtigruten such an authentic Norwegian experience is the pride and expertise of its crew and how it differs from traditional cruises with its focus on bland entertainments and on-board shopping. Hurtigruten prides itself on making each trip a unique and cherished memory as it winds its way along the idyllic Norwegian coastline, visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, exquisite fjords and charming rural communities.
Its website offers a rich resource of information on its many cruises so that you can begin a trip that will be remembered forever.
Gawp In Wonder At The Lofoten Islands
The Lofoten Islands are a snapshot of Norway in its most transcendent beauty. Six different islands offer their own unique charms but similarities link them. Sharp peaks rise impossibly to the heavens out of the ice-blue fjords on either side, sea eagles and bird colonies cling to the rockfaces and white-gold beaches frame the water. It’s an intoxicating assault on the senses and makes it Norway’s prime holidaying destination for natives.
Hurtigruten stops at this strewn-out wilderness gliding past frozen-in-time fishing villages. However, the stunning region offers far more than postcard-worthy photo opportunities, as it’s perfect place to view the night’s sky. Photos of the Northern Lights in this region contrast the cascading green light with the sharp jagged peaks, the lights reflect off the still fjords to create a truly other-worldly experience.
The island of Flakstadøy and Vestvågøy offer fantastically photogenic locations. The highly-recommended people behind Lofoten Lights offer the full package if you’re overwhelmed by the options available to you.
As well as offering a plethora of recreational facilities, Lofoten has delighted tourists for years with its high-quality museums. The Lofotr Viking Museum and the Northern Fishing Village Museum provide exceptional snapshots of Norway’s rich history
Our top tip for your visit is to stay at the stunning Lofoten Guesthouse B&B run by Anne Gerd. Anne is famous in Lofoten for being a queen amongst hostesses, as she puts every effort to attend to all your needs and desires. Don’t believe us? Read the reviews yourself!
It’s Snow Joke! Stay At The Alta Ice Hotel
Do you want to stay in a living, breathing (but not melting) fairytale? Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, north-east of Tromsø, is the world’s most northern ice hotel as well as its most famous. First constructed in 2000, it is designed and built entirely from snow and ice. Rooms? Ice. Chandeliers? Ice. Even the beds!
Don’t fret, however, as you will enjoy a surprisingly toasty sleep due to thick reindeer hides and sleeping bags. If that is not enough there is even a sauna! Every year offers a different experience as it has a new design for each winter. What stays the same are the diverse ice sculptures designed by local artists and the delightful services it offers. The hotel is proud of its Northern Lights tours, reindeer-sleighing and dog-sledding excursions. You’ll even get the chance to listen to local Sami folktales in the beating heart of this indigenous land.
Polar Jazz At The Top Of The World
Last but no means least, Svalbard is the definitive place to catch the aurora borealis. The island’s official website brags that, “The aurora borealis is seen here more often than in any other inhabited place. It’s also the only place on the planet where you can experience the northern lights during daytime!”
Svalbard refers to two islands situated 400 miles off Tromsø. Spitsbergen, peppered by rugged peaks, is the main inhabited island, 60% of which is entirely covered by glaciers! Home to arctic foxes and polar bears, it is also home to the utterly incomparable Polar Jazz Festival.
The Polar Jazz Festival takes place in the capital Longyearbyen (literally ‘Long Year Town’ due to its 24-hours of daylight in summer). It has become legendary amongst jazz enthusiasts due to its offbeat (ahem) location, quality of performers and the intoxicating atmosphere that keep tourists coming back each year. Full details of the performers and venues can be found at their website.
If jazz doesn’t ice-float your boat, you can see the full swathe of uniquely tailored Northern Lights treks and nature excursions at Svalbard’s official tourism website. In terms of accommodation you can enjoy the world’s most northerly hotel and room-service at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel. A more affordable and bespoke option is to stay at one of the traditional coal miner’s cabins situated high up at the base of a glacier!
OK guys, so now that you know how to have the ultimate Norwegian Northern Lights Experience, all you have to do is turn that dream into a reality. Remember to update your BUCKiTDREAM planner with tips and tricks to navigating this expanse of awesomeness and share, share, share with your fellow wanderlusters!