Catching a glimpse of the colorful Northern Lights is at the top of the list of many travelers. Stargazing in peace in the polar night, waiting till it gets colored by dancing (green) lights is a surreal experience.
Now, what exactly are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are created when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth's atmosphere at high speed. This atmospheric phenomenon appears as 'dancing waves of light' in green, and flashes of red, blue, and even violet. The Northern Lights are predominantly seen near the Earth’s magnetic poles, in the north, and in the south.
Norway’s northern part finds itself on the magnetic north pole and has some incredible (off-the-beaten) areas where you have the chance to see these unbelievable colors in the starry sky.
So if you’re planning a trip to the celebrated Norwegian fjords and wish to see the Aurora Borealis, we’ve listed the 5 best places in Norway to catch the Northern Lights.
Tromsø is known as ‘the capital of the Arctic’ and is regarded as one of the best places in Norway and the world to view the Northern Lights. This charming small city is well set up for Aurora Borealis hunters, offering Northern Lights safaris that will bring you to the best viewing spots (a short drive outside the city) free of light pollution.
Those who stay in town also have chances to see the Aurora Borealis, e.g. from the Fjellheisen Mountain, on the roof of Tromso, or at the scenic Prestvannet lake!
Set near a small fjord in Northern Norway, Kirkenes is a tiny town right in the heart of the Northern Lights territory. It is also home to the famed Snow Hotel - which is made entirely out of snow and ice and rebuilt every winter - that offers tours to catch the lights, by snowmobile or husky. If you are looking for a unique holiday experience, you can spend a night in this cool hotel. Don't worry, specific expedition-type sleeping bags will keep you warm! Besides hunting the Aurora, Kirkenes is also the best destination to learn about the indigenous Sami people, the oldest culture of Northern Norway, and the first people to inhabit the Kirkenes region.
The Aurora Borealis is a fickle phenomenon. A week can pass without a flicker ... then bang! The Northern Lights come on like a celestial lava lamp. Nigel Tisdall
3. THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS
The Lofoten Islands are an island group that is positioned under the auroral oval which makes it an excellent spot to catch the Northern Lights. The most impressive features of this tranquil archipelago are its vertical mountains, quaint fishing villages, fjords, and gorgeous sandy beaches (you won’t expect them in Norway). If you opt to hunt on your own the Northern Lights, a good place to begin might be the breathtaking Uttakleiv beach or the beaches of Vik.
Norway's Lofoten Islands offer as well other ways to see the Northern Lights, such as on a sailing expedition, on the back of an Icelandic horse, or on a snowshoeing hike. All activities make the experience even more unique.
4. THE NORTH CAPE (NORDKAPP)
The North Cape - as the name suggests - is the Northern tip of mainland Norway and the northernmost point in Europe. Its position at the top of the world makes the Northern Light experience unrivaled. But it can come with some challenges. Sometimes snow is piling up and you might need to wait for the snow plow to make way. Besides, the weather is changeable, and drifting clouds and snowdrifts might disturb your possibility to see the lights. But on a lovely winter night, the viewings can’t be better.
Tip: Be sure to take some time to visit the picturesque town of Honningsvag. Here you can also book organized tours to Nordkapp.
Situated in the southern part of Arctic Norway, the city of Bodø is an excellent place to see the Northern Lights. The city offers tours to the prime viewing spots around the town, one of which is the area of Salten. The area is known for its spectacular unspoiled landscapes, with mountains, forests, islands, and fjords.
Bodø is a perfect hub to explore the area and has become a growing cultural centre over the last few years. By the way, Bodø will be the European Capital of Culture in 2024 so even more reasons to put this destination on your bucket list.
Bonus: Some more places to go!
Apart from these 5 hot spots, there are some more places in Norway where you will have the chance to catch the Northern Lights:
Narvik. The town is surrounded by many mountains and fjords from where you can see the Aurora, or head to the top of the Narvikfjellet mountain in a gondola and wait there for the magic light show.
Lyngenfjord. This 80-km-long fjord is surrounded by the impressive Lyngen Alps (1.833m above sea level) that fall almost vertically in the fjords. In the daytime, you can explore the Alps snowshoeing, skiing, or on a husky sled ride and be ready for the Northern Lights to appear at night.
Vesterålen Islands. The Vesterålen Islands are the untravelled neighbor islands of the Lofoten but offer equal possibilities to spot the Northern Lights. So if you are looking for an off-the-beaten destination, plan a trip to The Vesterålen.
Which are the best months to hunt for the Northern Lights in Norway?
The months between September and March are the best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway when dark clear skies let you see best the light show.
What other outdoor adventures you can undertake in Norway's winter?
As hunting the Aurora is a nighttime activity it is good to plan and research what you can do during the day. Even more, nobody can guarantee a sighting of the Northern Lights, so it's best to have as well some day trips organized.
You can indulge in many winter sports. Norway's grounds are covered with powder fresh snow allowing for snowshoeing, (cross-country) skiing, as well as dog sledding and going on a snowmobile safari where you can encounter moose, Arctic foxes, and reindeer. You can also learn about the native Sami people, or join a boat tour or whale safari and of course, taste incredible local food.
If you always dreamt of catching this spectacular light show created by Mother Nature, check out one of the above-mentioned destinations, and you might have a good chance to witness some magical moments.