A few years ago for my birthday, Mr Kiwi and I boarded a plane up into the Arctic Circle. Thanks to the joys of social media and bloggers, we had been tipped off that one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights was Tromso in Northern Norway.
We were lucky enough to not only see their elusive shimmers but also spend time under a sky where we could just about touch the milky way it was so clear. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos – I didn’t have a good enough camera then and we were far too caught in the moment – but it’s a memory that will live on regardless.
Gathered afterwards around a Norwegian campfire, 350km into the Arctic Circle, huddled from head to toe in exploration overalls and snow boots we had experienced one of those life-affirming moments. Occasions when you really feel alive.
We only had to stare into the clear pinpricks of the Milky Way, spread across the night sky in a haze of primordial luminescence, whilst our tour mates clanked about with torches and cameras attempting to capture the faint Aurora Borealis in rolling hazy streams over our heads. You know, those moments.
The best advice for chasing the Northern Lights?
– Go without expectations
– Check the weather on the day – it needs to be clear, ideally around the New Moon
– Go with a guide who cares, or camp somewhere beautiful
– Take your 4-leaf clover, rabbits foot & make sure your karma is squeaky clean.
– Do not wave your hanky or whistle at the Aurora; legend has it the lights could kidnap you.
– Wear light, loose thermal layers and a windproof outer layer. Put another layer on before you leave the hotel.
– Hand & foot heat pads are WONDERFUL
– Be prepared to try, try & try again.
– A DSLR is an absolute must to reveal the true colours both viewing and later in photographs.
– Some say land-based lights searching is best, some say boat based. You’ll need to get away from town lights no matter what you do.
– Some coach tours operate, but we much preferred the flexibility of our small group
– Many operators will take you out on a second night if the first is unsuccessful – and there is always the option of staying in hotels that offer Aurora calls; the reception will literally wake you up with a phone call when the heavens begin to flash.
– Aurora Jaffa Cakes are essential (or so our Scottish guide assured us) but hot dogs and cheese sandwiches over an open campfire can also help your chances (no serviette waving just in case – see note above) and a wee nip of home mixed Whiskey to celebrate or drown the results helps
– The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is between September and February – and we were tipped off that Tromso has some of the clearest, most accessible skies in the world. Also, during the day Tromso is a beautiful city to explore. We loved our long weekend there – and especially adored our Tromso harbour view hotel the Clarion With (not to mention their delicious afternoon waffles.)
Have you seen the shimmer of the Northern Lights in person?
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