The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, leave one awestruck. They appear as a glowing light, constantly moving and changing form, strength and colour. Being in the Arctic and standing beneath the lights is a surreal experience. It is like magic, though we know that the lights are actually the result of collision between electrically charged particles from the sun and gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere.
The Northern Lights can be viewed in Alaska, northern parts of Canada, the southern half of Greenland, Iceland, Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as the western half of the Russian north. But, few places on earth offer more ways to witness them than Norway. Hundreds of thousands of people live in this huge geographical area and the region offers a vast selection of activities, tours, cruises, restaurants and hotels, which all play an important part in the Arctic experience.
- Escape the city lights and head for somewhere dark.
- Avoid the coastline as dry weather conditions are more conducive to a viewing (some good spots are Camp Tamok, a 75-minute inland drive from Tromsø, and Storsteinen, a mountain ledge about 420 metres above sea level).
- Make sure you are well-wrapped-up against the cold that can go down to -10 ºC.
While there is no guarantee that one will get to see the Northern Lights, a bit of planning may help. One of the smart choices would be to pack your bags and leave for Tromsø, also known as Paris of the North.
Tromsø is well-connected with various parts of Norway and has daily direct flights from the capital, Oslo. The mystical Northern Lights are visible from September, and on many clear evenings right up to the middle of April. The lights are the most frequent in February to mid-March, making it the best time for spotting them. The Arctic nights can be chilly and one must be prepared. You can join one of the many Northern Lights tours. It is often a six-hour expedition starting at 7 pm, until late night. They take you to the best photo-op places with excellent conditions and scenic landscapes. One can also take up other adventure activities offered by these companies, such as reindeer sledding under the lights. It is a majestic experience.