10 MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE WHEN TRYING TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY


Living in Tromsø in Northern Norway, I have a lot of experience with the northern lights. So it’s no surprise that now that Norway has opened its borders again, my email is filling with requests from individuals wishing to book northern lights vacations to Norway this winter.

Okay, maybe not everyone planning a visit to Norway this winter is thinking about the northern lights, but I believe it’s safe to say that most people have aspirations to see them here.

And it’s for good cause too — I can’t think of many moments I’ve had that have been more spectacular than seeing the northern lights dance above me.

They’re absolutely worth the time, money, and cold to see them at least once in a lifetime. And if you want to view the aurora Norway is the place to go!

That said, I know there might be a little of misunderstanding about the northern lights and how to start off in quest of them.

As someone living in Tromsø I’ve spent a lot of time viewing the northern lights, so I’m here to assist you avoid some of the most common mistakes I see people make while attempting to see the northern lights in Norway.

I’ve also put many more advice for your northern lights journey into an in detail booklet here. This covers all the prerequisites for organising a northern lights excursion, going into far more detail than my blog entries.

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Living in Tromsø in Northern Norway, I have a lot of experience with the northern lights. So it’s no surprise that now that Norway has opened its borders again, my email is filling with requests from individuals wishing to book northern lights vacations to Norway this winter.

Okay, maybe not everyone planning a visit to Norway this winter is thinking about the northern lights, but I believe it’s safe to say that most people have aspirations to see them here.

And it’s for good cause too — I can’t think of many moments I’ve had that have been more spectacular than seeing the northern lights dance above me. They’re absolutely worth the time, money, and cold to see them at least once in a lifetime. And if you want to view the aurora Norway is the place to go!

That said, I know there might be a little of misunderstanding about the northern lights and how to start off in quest of them.

As someone living in Tromsø I’ve spent a lot of time viewing the northern lights, so I’m here to assist you avoid some of the most common mistakes I see people make while attempting to see the northern lights in Norway.

I’ve also put many more advice for your northern lights journey into an in detail booklet here. This covers all the prerequisites for organising a northern lights excursion, going into far more detail than my blog entries.

1.Staying too far south

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve had from individuals informing me they’ve scheduled a vacation to Oslo and/or Bergen this winter to see the fjords and northern lights.

I suppose because Norway has a tiny population people sometimes forget that the nation is very large! Or rather, really, really lengthy.

So all the magnificent northern lights photographs you see from Norway do not indicate that you can see those vistas from anyplace in the nation – you’re going to need to at least go north of the Arctic Circle for a fair chance of viewing them.

And no, Trondheim is not far enough north. I feel like that notion is mainly my responsibility, as I blogged about seeing a magnificent display of northern lights immediately after arriving to Trondheim, but it’s actually pretty unusual to get to view the northern lights in Trondheim.

And I’m not the only one who’s joyfully posted northern lights photographs from regions that seldom get views of them — you’ll see plenty of photos out there of the northern lights dancing over renowned spots in southern Norway, but know that that is not the usual.

Even the local tourism board in my previous town in the south loved to run an Instagram commercial with a shot of the northern lights over Rauland, but the reality is I never saw them once in the three years I lived there.

But now that I reside in Northern Norway I generally see the northern lights at least once a week in the winter.

So head north! Because sure, if you want to see the northern lights, Norway is a nice location to visit, but only if you’re far enough North. If you want a decent chance of viewing the northern lights, you’ll want to go at least as far north as Bodø, and heading all the way up to Tromsø or Alta would offer you even higher odds.

Also, be aware that the Arctic Circle is quite a lengthy travel from Oslo or Bergen : Bodø is a 16+ hour drive from Oslo or a 19-hour train ride. So if you’re on a tight schedule but have your heart set on witnessing the aurora borealis in Norway it might be better to fly!

2.Visiting for too brief a time

As I already said, the Arctic Circle is pretty distant from Oslo and Bergen, so be sure to incorporate time in your journey to actually travel up there.

There are plenty of cheap flights north, or you could take the rail to Bodø (or through Sweden to Narvik), but the train line doesn’t run all the way up to Tromsø.

And you’ll also want to spend as long as possible in the north so that you really have a chance to view the northern lights!

The lights themselves are unpredictable, but the biggest problem you’ll encounter while attempting to see them is undoubtedly the weather.

Ideally, you’ll want to have time to either wait out terrible weather or move away from it. I would attempt to at least have 4 days in the north (albeit I spent 7 days in Lofoten and never saw them) (though I spent 7 days in Lofoten and never saw them).

3.Not carrying the correct clothing

Hanging around outside on a gloomy winter’s night is not always the most pleasant experience, but you just know that as soon as you go inside to warm yourself the aurora will make a fleeting appearance!

So it’s better to be prepared to wait out in the cold. I’ve prepared a guide to what to pack for winter in Norway, but simply, I would say the most crucial item of all is to have warm footwear.

4.Not picking the perfect time to observe the Northern Lights in Norway

Okay, so most people know that they shouldn’t plan their northern lights trip during the middle of summer when the sun never sets, but believe it or not, the greatest time to view northern lights in Norway is not always the darkest period of the year.

The weather in November, December and January may be terrible, therefore a lot of people claim that the best months to see the northern lights in Norway are late September, October, February, and March.

Of course, that’s just a recommendation, since the weather here will always be unpredictable, but if you want to optimise your chances I’d say that’s the greatest time to visit Norway for northern lights.

Also, with the way the aurora oval is positioned, normally you’ll have the most chance of witnessing the northern lights at night.

I generally always see them after at least 7 pm. So visiting Norway in December when it’s dark all day won’t necessarily boost you’re chances, as it’s not very probable you’ll see the northern lights at 3 in the afternoon anyhow.

First of all, if the aurora is dancing brilliantly you’ll be able to view it even from a city centre (besides you’ll always be able to go away from bright lights in Norwegian cities by heading to the parks). So if the weather and aurora prediction are excellent, you won’t need to take a trip to view the northern lights.

5.But it might still be worth joining up for a tour.

Look for a trip with a particularly strong success rate, where the guides will do all in their abilities to assist you obtain a glimpse of the aurora. You’ll want a trip where if the weather isn’t cooperating, they’ll transport you somewhere where it is.

Some excursions will also teach you how to shoot the lights (some will even lend you expensive photography equipment!), and normally, guides will do their best to amuse you, so the trip will be a good experience even if you’re extremely unfortunate and don’t see the northern lights. I’ve also prepared a guide about how to photograph northern lights here.

And it’s an extra advantage if you can discover a trip that allows you cancel up to 24 hours in advance, in case you simply know the weather is going to be horrible.

If you want some advice with picking a northern lights tour or finding out how to pursue the northern lights on your own, I explain all of this in great depth in my northern lights ebook.

I’ve included my best northern lights tour ideas for Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, depending on what type of experience you’re looking for.

And I’ve also put out a tutorial for how to pursue the northern lights independently, including my favourite weather app and my two favourite northern lights forecast tools, as well as exactly how I use them.

You can buy the book here, and since you’re coming from my blog you can also get a 20 percent discount with the code 20below, which gets the total down to $5.

6.Booking (or not booking) a Northern Lights trip

Oh my goodness, I’ve heard so much uncertainty regarding whether or not to arrange a northern lights trip!

First of all, if the aurora is dancing brilliantly you’ll be able to view it even from a city centre (besides you’ll always be able to go away from bright lights in Norwegian cities by heading to the parks).

So if the weather and aurora prediction are excellent, you won’t need to take a trip to view the northern lights.

7.But it might still be worth joining up for a tour.

Look for a trip with a particularly strong success rate, where the guides will do all in their abilities to assist you obtain a glimpse of the aurora. You’ll want a trip where if the weather isn’t cooperating, they’ll transport you somewhere where it is.

Some excursions will also teach you how to shoot the lights (some will even lend you expensive photography equipment!), and normally, guides will do their best to amuse you, so the trip will be a good experience even if you’re extremely unfortunate and don’t see the northern lights. I’ve also prepared a guide about how to photograph northern lights here.

And it’s an extra advantage if you can discover a trip that allows you cancel up to 24 hours in advance, in case you simply know the weather is going to be horrible.

If you want some advice with picking a northern lights tour or finding out how to pursue the northern lights on your own, I explain all of this in great depth in my northern lights ebook.

I’ve included my best northern lights tour ideas for Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, depending on what type of experience you’re looking for.

And I’ve also put out a tutorial for how to pursue the northern lights independently, including my favourite weather app and my two favourite northern lights forecast tools, as well as exactly how I use them.

You can buy the book here, and since you’re coming from my blog you can also get a 20 percent discount with the code 20below, which gets the total down to $5.

8.Staying in Norway

Please don’t tell any Norwegians that I’m betraying my nation like this, but when people ask me for the finest site to see the northern lights in Norway I invariably end up sending them to Sweden instead!

Like I indicated earlier, the largest challenge in viewing the northern lights will be the weather, so if you truly want the best chance of seeing them you’ll want to go somewhere where the weather pretty much always cooperates. And that place is Abisko, Sweden.

I’ve written a full blog article explaining why Abisko is the finest site in Europe to see the northern lights, but basically, due to its location between a lake and mountains, the clouds have a propensity of tearing apart, though even just temporarily, even during the worst of weather.

I observed this lighting show in the middle of a snowfall in Abisko (which is why I wasn’t waiting someplace more picturesque than the bus station where my friend’s camper was parked)

9.So if your main purpose is to observe the northern lights, travel to Abisko.

Abisko is also a pretty fantastic affordable choice for seeing the lights. You can obtain either a sleeping berth on a train or a flight from Stockholm for approximately $100 one-way, there are hostel alternatives in Abisko, and there are so few lights in Abisko that you won’t need to take a tour to view the aurora. Plus Sweden is just typically cheaper than Norway.

I’ve prepared a detailed piece on how to arrange a northern lights trip to Abisko on a budget here.

Or if you can’t locate excellent accomodation in Abisko, I really LOVED my stay at this Airbnb in Kiruna, where you can stay with huskies! I’ve written more about my time at the husky Airbnb here.

Of course, the problem of arranging a northern lights holiday to Sweden instead of Norway is that Sweden is simply not as nice as Norway. Places like Tromsø and Lofoten are going to blow your mind regardless of whether you see the northern lights.

I just spent four days on Senja and Dyrøy, which are close Tromsø, and it was really one of the finest experiences of my life, independent of the northern lights. But I got lucky and actually ended up witnessing the northern lights every night!

I can definitely suggest these areas for a northern lights tour, especially as they’re distant from city lights like Tromsø, and normally have better weather than Lofoten. Read about Senja here, and read about Dyrøy here.

10.Not planning other activities and excursions

If you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment, please, please don’t make your vacation exclusively about seeing the northern lights!

Instead try to fill your days with with interesting things so that even if you have bad luck with the northern lights you’ll still have had a fantastic experience.

The Arctic has so much more to offer than the Aurora, so take advantage of being up there!

Again, Viator and Get Your Guide both provide loads of exciting ideas for things to do in the Arctic.


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