13th September 2016
I am currently travelling through Norway and Sweden in the Arctic Circle, hunting for the Northern Lights. Having seen so many pictures of this amazing phenomena, with green and pink clouds of light rippling through the sky, of course I wanted to see it for myself. This is my first time to Norway, and naively I thought I could just get off the plane, wait until it gets dark (if it wasn't already) and I would see the auroral displays.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for me in Alta: over the two nights searching for the Northern Lights I didn’t see them as it was too cloudy! However, if the conditions are right you could get lucky and literally see them driving from the airport to your hotel. All is not lost, as I still have plenty of time in the Arctic Circle and the weather is clearing, so the aurora forecast is looking up.
So where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?
Having spoken to local contacts, guides and through my own reading, the best place to see the Northern Lights is between 60°-73° latitude – the main aurora zone. Norway is perfectly located on the edge of the aurora zone and the northern city of Alta is 69 degrees north; officially the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights. Hum…well that is what the locals say! (Jonny was slightly luckier - read his experience here.)
There are three basic rules to see the best northern lights. You need: a) clear skies, b) no light pollution and c) it needs to be as dark as possible and between the hours of 9pm and 11pm.
Interestingly, the auroras are always there and on clear nights they can always be seen to some degree. The most spectacular auroras appear only during increased solar activity. The auroras are located well above the clouds at a height of approximately 80 to 250 km above the earth. They are formed when charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare penetrate the earth's magnetic shield and collide with atoms and molecules in our atmosphere. These collisions result in countless little bursts of light, called photons, which make up the aurora.
Seeing the Northern Lights is not guaranteed. But with the right conditions and a good guide to take you to the best locations, your chances of seeing them are pretty good.
Tonight at 9pm I’m going to the Aurora Sky Station by chair lift… The skies are clearing so fingers crossed!
Tromso, pictured above, is visited on our Norwegian Fjords cruise expedition.
You may also view our Norway itineraries here.