Where to go to see the Northern Lights in Norway?
Without a doubt, one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights is in northern Norway. Anywhere above the Arctic Circle – which is at a latitude of 66°33′ north of the equator – is good. Above this line, Norway offers several exciting options for Northern Lights holidays. Here are our Top 5 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Norway – heading from North to South.
Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage
Seeing the Northern Lights from the deck of a Hurtigruten coastal voyage ship is a magical experience. The dancing aurora borealis reflecting off the sea makes for some stunning memories and spectacular photographs. Another bonus is that you’re always close to shore but well away from urban light pollution and from mountains so the risk of cloud cover is reduced.
A ship leaves Bergen every day of the year, taking 6 nights to head north to the town of Kirkenes, before heading back down south for the next 5 nights. Ports visited by day on the way north are stopped at by night on the way south and along the route the ship stops for several hours at some major ports where a range of optional excursions are on offer. Passengers can opt for the Northbound, Southbound or full Round Trip voyage, but for seeing the Northern Lights the best option is to do a mini-cruise while the ship is above the Arctic Circle. The most popular is the Arctic Highlights Voyage. You join the ship in Tromso, sail 2 nights north to Kirkenes and back to Tromso.
This small Norwegian town is the closest one to the Russian border which is only about 8km away. It is also the turning point for all the Hurtigruten ships as they start their journey back south to Bergen. As far as the Northern Lights are concerned, the big attraction in Kirkenes is the Snow Hotel and Gamme Cabins. The former is rebuilt each year from snow and ice and you can opt to either visit or stay overnight. If sleeping in the cold isn’t your idea of fun, then opt for the Gamme Cabins. These are not glass igloos, In our opinion they are even better! They are warm, private, well appointed cabins wit a large panoramic window where you can sit, warm and snug, and hopefully watch nature’s best light show. Project Travel recommends combining a stay in Kirkenes with an Arctic Highlights short northern lights voyage from Tromso.
Tucked into the Altafjord along Norway’s northern coast is the town of Alta. Smaller and quieter than Tromso, it is a great base for winter activities such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and, of course, hunting the Northern Lights. It is also home to the Sorrisniva Snow Hotel which you can visit, or stay in overnight. Apart from the Snow Hotel, there are a handful of local 3* hotels. Getting to Alta from Dublin usually requires 3 flight segments and depending on the flight schedules may include an overnight in Tromso or Oslo en route.
Heading further south, along the western coastline, is the Arctic Capital city of Tromso. It is probably amongst the best locations in Norway to base yourself when going to see the Northern Lights. Not only is it surrounded by islands, mountains and the sea – making for some stunning photographs with or without the Aurora Borealis – the city has plenty to offer visitors in terms of day time attractions. This is why it is a popular choice for Northern Lights package tours. It’s a great walking town and also has a good bus service that is easy to navigate. Read our blog on the Top Reasons to Base Yourself in Tromso for more information.
Accommodation tends to be hotels in the city. While Norway does not have a formal hotel rating system, most are the equivalent of 3* or 4* hotels. We also offer Resort and Lodge options within a few hours of Tromso should you want to immerse yourself in the heart of the countryside. Getting to Tromso is easy via air (typically 2 flight segments from Dublin). It is also served by the Hurtigruten coastal service.
Lofoten is an archipelago in the county of Nordland, about one third of the way down the western coast of Norway. The Lofoten Islands are characterised by their mountains and peaks, sheltered inlets, stretches of seashore and large virgin areas. They are renowned for their natural beauty and their wild nature is just as beautiful in winter as the rest of the year, especially when the Northern Lights come out at night. Every outing in the region is framed by rugged mountain tops that rise straight from the sea.
A great option is for a group of friends to hire a rorbuer (traditionally a fisherman’s cabin but now luxury self-catering accommodations) and maybe a hire car or a local Northern Lights guide. You can get there via air (typically 3 flight segments from Dublin) or via Hurtigruten ferry from Bergen. Project Travel would be delighted to put together a Northern Lights package holiday for you in the Lofoten Islands.
Bonus Spot! Svalbard
Another fabulous location for a northern lights holiday is technically still Norway, but it is located 600 miles north (and a quick flight) from Tromso. Spitsbergen is part of the Svalbard archipelago of islands. If you keep flying north and the next stop is the North Pole! Svalbard is one of, if not the most northerly permanently inhabited places on earth. Originally a major mining and whaling locations, tourism is now one of the main activities. During the winter in Svalbard it is dark for up to 24 hours a day, meaning you can hunt the Northern Lights all day long! It’s a fascinating place to visit to see how people have adapted to live in such harsh conditions. Activities on offer – all under the Northern Lights of course – include snowmobiling, an ice cave tour and dog sledding.
Svalbard is also a great place to visit during the Summer months when the focus is on the amazing wildlife (walrus, whales, polar bears, birds, etc) and the environment. During this time one of the best ways to explore is on a short Hurtigruten cruise around Spitsbergen.
Check out some of Project Travel’s Northern Lights holiday packages on land or at sea, then give us a call on 01 -2108391. We are happy to put together a tailor made package based on your preferences.
Image credit: Terje Rakke. Nordic Life; Visit Norway