Where is the Best Place to See the Northern Lights?

As experts in Northern Lights tours and northern lights holidays the question Project Travel gets asked most probably is: Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?  In our opinion the answer is, without a doubt, Tromso in northern Norway and these are our top 5 reasons why.

1     It’s Above the Arctic Circle

The best place to see the Northern Lights is above the Arctic Circle. Many other popular locations, such as Iceland, are actually situated below the Arctic Circle (check it out on a map) so the solar activity has to be very strong for the aurora to display that much further south. The Tromso tourist office claims a success rate of seeing the Lights at about about 85-90%. That means, on average, if you stay in Tromso for 3 nights you should see the Northern Lights on at least one of these nights.  Because of its great location and frequency of the Lights, Northern Norway was chosen as the spot for the world’s first Northern Lights Observatory built in 1899. Today the city is a centre for  several research and educational institutes. It is also the seat for the Arktisk Råd (Arctic Council).

2     It’s Right Under the Aural Oval

Northern Norway is one of the few civilised and populated places on earth that sits right underneath the Aural Oval – the ring of Northern Lights that surrounds the North Pole – but is not a remote wilderness.  Tromsø is the capital of Norway’s high north, the home city of 73,000 inhabitants living on the edge of the Arctic. The city is situated between islands, fantastic fiords and dramatic mountain peaks.  Situated at 69 degrees north, only 2000 km from the North Pole the city has international standard hotels, busy cafés, restaurants with world class seafood, an active cultural life, a very active night life and captivating museums and art galleries.

3     It’s Closer Than You Think

It’s relatively easy to get to Tromso with flights from Dublin via Oslo most days of the week.  There are two airlines serving the route giving plenty of choice.  Each flight segment takes about 1.5-2 hours.  Project Travel creates your Northern Lights holiday on these scheduled flights which means you can go on your Northern Lights holiday on a the dates you want, not on a specific northern lights tour date as with many other tour operators.

4     There’s Loads to See

While you’re waiting for it to get dark enough to go Lights hunting you won’t be bored in Tromso.  Tromsø has been a centre for Arctic hunting and starting point for Arctic expeditions since early in the 1800s. That’s why the city has been called Gateway to the Arctic. You shouldn’t miss a visit to the Polar Museum to wonder at just how the explorers  did it. There’s also a Planetarium, Aquarium (try to visit during the seals’ feeding time!), Polaris – a wonderful exhibit about life in the Arctic, and the fascinating Tromso Museum which gives a glimpse into the past and present life and culture of Tromso.  Or take the Cable Car up to the top of Mount Storsteinen. At 421 metres above sea level you will be overlooking the city of Tromsø and the breathtaking view of the fjords and mountains surrounding the town.  You shouldn’t miss a Enjoy a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral. It’s design  was inspired by icebergs, fish racks and Sami tents, and sports the biggest stained glass window in Europe. Its organ is incredibly powerful and is shaped like the sails of a ship.

5     There’s Loads to Do

It’s not all about the Northern Lights – all that snow should be enjoyed too and there are about 80 different tours on offer in the region!  January to late March is probably the best time to visit to guarantee good snow.  You really should give dog sledding a try. You can drive a team of dogs yourself or ride on a sledge covered with warm reindeer skins and driven by an expert guide.  You can also Experience a  snowmobile safari in a breathtaking winter landscape. You need fairly good upper arm strength and a full driving licence but the machines are easy to operate.  Or enjoy a reindeer sleigh ride through beautiful landscape passing majestic mountain peaks, valleys and deep blue fjords. You will be given an introduction to the Sami culture and lunch is served inside a traditional Sami tent called a lavvu.

Between November and January, when there may not be snow, you should go on a whale watching tour in the waters around Tromso.  It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see Humpbacks, Finns and Orcas all feeding together. There’s so much herring in the fjords they forget to hunt each other! When it comes to hunting the Lights there are plenty of options too: a private guide, a small group, a coach tour, a specialist Photography tour and even a Dinner Cruise.

 

Project Travel offers the widest choice of Northern Lights Holidays and northern lights tours in and around Tromso. Choose from hotels in Tromso or remote Lodges in the heart of the countryside, or you can even add a few nights on a Hurtigruten ship. Check out some of the options here and give us a call on 01-2108391 to book.

Image credit: Bard Loken, Innovation Norway

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