Northern Lights in Norway

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Six places to see the Northern Lights in Norway

Here’s where to go to boost your chances of witnessing the jaw-dropping natural light show – and what else to do there if nature doesn’t play ball

October 2020

By Tristan Parker

Seeing the Northern Lights should be on everyone’s bucket list. This well-documented phenomenon, caused by electrically charged particles from the sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, is a truly incredible sight, with brightly coloured trails and swirling patterns engulfing the night sky.

Norway is one of the best countries to admire the Northern Lights, so if you’re visiting during September to April (the prime time for sightings), don’t miss the opportunity to try to catch a glimpse. There are lots of areas with superb viewing potential, but those below are worth a standalone visit too, so you’re guaranteed an unforgettable trip regardless of whether the lights come out to shine or not.

Tromso Arctic Cathedral

Don't miss Tromsø's Arctic Cathedral © Konrad Konieczny/www.nordnorge.com

Tromsø

Due to its position in the middle of an area known as the auroral oval (where your chances of seeing the lights are much higher), Tromsø is widely regarded as one of Norway’s best Northern Lights locations. But, as its unofficial title of the ‘Arctic capital’ suggests, it’s also a vibrant and atmospheric hub of culture and cuisine, with tons of exemplary restaurants and cafés to sample. Whether you catch the lights or not, be sure to make the most of Tromsø’s other big draws, such as the architectural marvel that is the Arctic Cathedral, which is easy to visit on a Princess excursion.

Four people hiking in Lofoten Fjords

Take a hike in Lofoten © Frode Sandbeck/www.nordnorge.com

Lofoten

As well as being an excellent place for spotting the Northern Lights (Lofoten is situated just beneath the auroral oval), this archipelago off the north-west coast of Norway is known as one of the country’s most beautiful and captivating regions. The fjords here are awe-inspiring, and opportunities for outdoor activities are plentiful (hiking, skiing and even surfing are all popular here). Animal lovers will also be excited to spot local sea eagles and puffins on a cruise through nearby Trollfjord.

Northern lights in a tent in Svalbard

A sight for sore eyes: the Northern Lights in Svalbard © Marcela Cardenas/www.nordnorge.com

Svalbard

Found roughly halfway between the top of Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard islands are a spectacular place to visit. The geographical setting means that you might even see the Northern Lights in the daytime here during the ‘polar night’ period in winter months, when there’s little or no daylight. And make sure you experience Svalbard to the full through its other activities. There are boat trips to spot walruses and whales, ice caves to explore and even the world’s two most northern breweries to visit, where you can enjoy a well-deserved craft beer or two.

People outside Alta Northern Lights Cathedral

The stunning Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta © Konrad Konieczny/www.nordnorge.com

Alta

Amazingly clear skies and a location underneath the auroral oval mean that Alta has long been known as a Northern Lights hot spot. In fact, the world’s first Northern Lights observatory was built here in 1899 on Mount Haldde, 900 metres above sea level. Find out more about the observatory at the Alta Museum or gaze at the marvellous Northern Lights Cathedral, a striking architectural project that functions as Alta’s parish church. Visit the cathedral on a short excursion that also covers some of Alta’s other key sights along the way.

People on North Cape plateau in winter

Head high to North Cape plateau, Europe’s northernmost point © Beate Juliussen/www.nordnorge.com

North Cape

For a unique experience, why not try catching the Northern Lights from Europe’s northernmost point, on a mountain plateau 307 metres above sea level? Well, this stunning location allows visitors the chance to do just that, but there’s also a lot more on offer at the North Cape. It’s prime bird-watching territory, with puffins, sea eagles, guillemots and much more all viewable on bird-watching day trips, or you could get active and join a snowmobile safari – one of the most thrilling ways to see the jaw-dropping surrounding landscape.

An outdoor sculpture holding a light, with northern lights in background

There's lots to admire outdoors in Vesterålen © Lunde Ingvaldsen/www.nordnorge.com

Vesterålen

This archipelago is a peaceful, beautiful region to discover, and it also offers great viewing conditions for those colourful skies. Join a Northern Lights safari for the best chance of seeing the magic, but even if you don’t, you won’t mind too much. Why? Because Vesterålen is also a fantastic place to go whale watching at any time of year, which should help ease any disappointment. It’s something of an artistic hub too, thanks to outdoor sculptures that form part of the Artscape Nordland project and a variety of modern art galleries. If you’ve got any time left, use it to admire Vesterålen’s blissful beaches, which look inviting in any season.

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About the Author

Tristan Parker

Tristan Parker

Tristan is a journalist writing about travel, lifestyle and music. Writing has taken him all over the world, though he seems to spend a lot of time in Spain and Scandinavia, which is fine by him. His belief that you can learn a lot about a place by sitting in the local bar for a few hours has worked out well so far.