Taking a trip to see the Northern Lights in Norway was one of the best experiences of my life. After having such an unforgettable time, I wanted to share some handy information and insights into planning this type of trip. In this article, you will find everything you need to prepare for a Northern Lights trip in Norway.
I remember as if it were yesterday when I had to decide whether to try to see the Northern Lights in Finland or Norway. Both countries are perfect for this plan since they are at a reasonably high latitude and even their northern areas are within the Arctic Circle.
Although the probability of seeing the Aurora Borealis in Norway or Finland is the same, the landscapes of Norway ultimately won. The relatively mild temperatures on the Norwegian coast, thanks to the currents coming from the Gulf, helped tilt the balance since any (comparative) warmth is much appreciated when you travel to Norway in winter to see the Northern Lights.
The first things you need to know are the best times and places to see the Northern Lights in Norway. This article won’t cover how the Northern Lights are formed in Norway or how to photograph the Aurora Borealis in Norway. We wrote another post with that information, so I suggest you check it out if that is something you are also interested in. This article just explains how to see the Northern Lights in Norway. Let’s get started!
HOW TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY
The KP index is one of the key concepts we need to know to learn how to see Northern Lights in Norway. (+ info in our guide to learning how to photograph the Northern Lights)
HOW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ARE FORMED IN NORWAY
The Northern Lights are formed when solar particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Thanks to the low magnetism of the poles, these particles are attracted towards the ends of the globe.
The intensity of the solar particles is measured by the KP index on a scale of 0 to 9. The higher this KP index value, the further away from the poles the Northern Lights can be seen. Or, to put it another way, the further north we move in Norway, the more likely we will be to see the Aurora, even if the KP is not that high.
WHEN TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY
As for the best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway, in summer, it is more difficult in the North, as there are more hours of light and darkness is an essential requirement to see this phenomenon.
The amount of darkness directly determines the Northern Lights season in Norway. In winter, the months from October to March are the best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway, as there are more hours of darkness.
In Norway, seeing the Aurora Borealis in summer is more complicated, since the sun barely sets over the horizon, a phenomenon also known as the “midnight sun.” This event happens mainly in the North, so it is practically impossible to see the Northern Lights in June, July or the beginning of August.
BEST TIME TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY
In short, the best time to see the Aurora in Norway would be:
- The months of September and October: There are not many hours of darkness but during this period there is a statistic increase in solar activity.
- November, December, January, and February: These are the months with the most dark hours of the year, although some months like November usually have a higher percentage of covered skies.
- March and April: As with the arrival of fall, the spring equinox always brings peaks in solar activity.
Additionally, I recommend, regardless of the time when you travel, using a Northern Lights prediction system for Norway with notifications, so you can be aware of any sudden growth in the KP index. (+ info in our guide to learning how to photograph Northern Lights).
Below, you can find a graphic with information about the Northern Lights in Norway during 2017, with Tromso as a reference. Thanks to this data, we can compare the days with KP≥3 (although in Tromso we can see the Aurora from KP 1’8) with the days when the night lasts more than 4 hours.
|Historical Data of Northern Lights in Norway by Month in 2017|
|Nights with KP ≥ 3||Dark nights ≥ 4 hrs||Nights to see Aurora|
|Northern Lights Norway January||22||31||22|
|Northern Lights Norway February||19||28||19|
|Northern Lights Norway March||22||19||14|
|Northern Lights Norway April||21||0||0|
|Northern Lights Norway May||19||0||0|
|Northern Lights Norway June||10||0||0|
|Northern Lights Norway July||17||0||0|
|Northern Lights Norway August||17||0||0|
|Northern Lights Norway September||27||6||5|
|Northern Lights Norway October||18||31||18|
|Northern Lights Norway November||17||30||17|
|Northern Lights Norway December||16||31||16|
In addition to this chart, you will need to consider cloud coverage, since if the sky is covered, it will be impossible to see the Northern Lights. I ‘ll explain this in the next section.
WHERE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY
Lapland is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Norway. It covers about the entire northern area of the country, and here, less solar activity (and therefore less KP) is required to see the Aurora. However, if you intend to travel in the summer and would like to try to see the Northern Lights in Norway, the South is a better area as there will be more hours of darkness, although the chances of seeing them will be extremely low since you need a very high KP.
BEST PLACES TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY
In a nutshell, these are the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway:
Lofoten Islands: The ideal place to see the Northern Lights over the best Norwegian landscapes.
- Tromso: The most famous place to see the Northern Lights in Norway. Aurora tourism is well-developed and it’s easy to find great tour offers.
- North Cape: One of the most inaccessible but, at the same time, original places to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway.
- Svalbard: The northernmost point of Norway is located at an exceptional latitude to see the Northern Lights. This island is also famous for its polar bears.
- Senja: In recent years it has gained popularity as a destination to see the Aurora dancing over the Norwegian fjords.
- Alta: One of the northernmost and accessible places to see the Aurora in Norway. It has a wide variety of resorts dedicated to enjoying this phenomenon.
Hammerfest: This city located just above the top of Finmark is another increasingly popular destination to see the Aurora in Norway.
Here is a map of the Aurora Borealis in Norway so you can identify which KP you need depending on the area of Norway you are in.
As you can see, the easiest place to see the Northern Lights in Norway is the Norwegian Lapland, since that’s where you need the lowest KP.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY – LOFOTEN
Located in the North of Norway, Lofoten is the perfect place to see the Northern Lights over incredible landscapes. Here you will find a lot of beaches that not only have spectacular reflections but also face north, another key to seeing the Aurora. This archipelago of islands is located within Lapland, in the Arctic Circle at a latitude 67º.
We were lucky enough to visit the Lofoten Islands in search of the Aurora Borealis, and it was a complete success. In this guide to the best things to do in the Lofoten Islands, we cover the best locations to see the Northern Lights in the archipelago. Beyond the aforementioned otherworldly beaches, in the small fishing village of Reine, we saw the Northern Lights almost every night of our stay. If you visit Reine, I recommend you stay at the Eliassen Rorbuer, since there is nothing like seeing the Northern Lights from a traditional fishing wooden hut.
In my opinion, Lofoten is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Norway. The small fishing villages are a perfect element to include in photographs of the green-covered sky, and as mentioned before, the area not only has beaches but is also one of the best places to photograph the Northern Lights over the fjords.
If you travel to Lofoten from Bodo, you can also see Auroras Borealis there.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY – TROMSO
Considered the capital of Norway’s Arctic, Tromso is perfect for seeing the Northern Lights in winter. Relatively cheap flights over the last few years have made Tromso one of the most popular places to see the Northern Lights in Norway. Keep in mind that the Aurora season in Tromso is shorter than in other areas, as it is located in the most northern region, at a latitude of 69º, and it has fewer hours of darkness during the summer months. Try to travel from September to April to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
In addition, Tromso is a reasonably big city, so you can hire Northern Lights Tours in Tromso and do other activities like visit a reindeer farm, ancient Sami settlements, or take a dog sledding tour. However, if you are interested in photographing the Northern Lights in Norway, I do not recommend this type of tour.
NORTHERN LIGHTS PHOTO TOURS IN TROMSO
Our first days in Tromso, we stayed at the home of a Northern Lights tour guide, and he told us the truth behind these guided “Chasing Aurora” tours. Like him, the rest of his colleagues were young people with no clue about photography; they simply received a camera and a couple of lessons from the tour company and were put to work as guides. To sum it up, these tours are good for seeing the Aurora, but if you want to learn how to photograph it, you should book a Norway photo Tour that includes Aurora sessions or a specific Northern Lights Photo Tour.
Keep in mind that Tromso is a big city, so you may find there’s too much light pollution. If the KP is not too high to see the Aurora, I suggest you go to the nearby (2 hours away) Senja Island to see the Northern Lights of Norway.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY – NORTH CAPE
If you want to go further north to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway, North Cape is the northernmost point of the country in the Scandinavian peninsula, with a latitude of 71º.
However, keep in mind that getting here is expensive and complicated.
BEST places TO SEE THE Aurora IN NORWAY – ALTA
Seeing the Northern Lights in Alta is possible and accessible, which is why it’s known as the “city of Northern Lights” at 70º latitude.
Here you can even find hotels that specialize in seeing the Northern Lights of Norway. One of the most popular is Sorrisniva, where you can see the Northern Lights from your igloo room. The prices aren’t low, but it looks like a unique experience. You can book your room here.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN NORWAY – SVALBARD
Svalbard is the most famous place in Europe for polar bear watching. This archipelago is the northernmost region of Norway and located close to the North Pole, at 81º latitude.
Most of the islands are uninhabited, but people live in some areas like Longyearbyen.
As I said before, most of the tourism in Svalbard is focused on polar bears, but there are also snowmobile and Northern Lights tours. Keep in mind that traveling here is more expensive than other areas like Tromso or Lofoten.
BEST SITES TO SEE THE BOREAL AURORA IN NORWAY – SENJA
Although Senja has been in the shadow of Lofoten for many years and somehow gone unnoticed, in recent years, it has gained popularity as a Northern Lights photographic destination in Norway.
The landscapes are similar to those of Lofoten, with rugged fjords and picturesque fishing villages, with the advantage that it is not as crowded as the Lofoten Islands.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE BOREAL AURORA IN NORWAY – OSLO
Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Oslo, the capital of Norway, is difficult since it is located at a latitude of 59º, significantly lower than the previous locations, and it is also a big city, so there is a considerable amount of light pollution.
However, it is not impossible to see the Aurora Borealis in Oslo. In fact, between August and September 2015 there were very intense solar storms that made it possible to see the Northern Lights in Stavanger and Bergen.
In any case, you need to be very lucky to see the Northern Lights at this latitude, so I wouldn’t recommend visiting Oslo just with the intention of seeing the Aurora. But, if you do visit Oslo, don’t forget to turn on the Aurora notifications from your app, just in case.
In terms of the best places to see Northern Lights, remember: you want darkness. Stay away from urban centers or the light pollution will not allow you to see the Aurora.
And last but not least, check the cloud forecast. If the sky is covered you will not see the Aurora Borealis. Use a weather forecast system to search for clear skies. For Norway, the best website is YR.no, where the cloud prediction is shown on an interactive map (I recommend taking an iPad or laptop to check it during your trip).
BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS TOURS IN NORWAY
Although Norway has endless tourist attractions, there is no doubt that the Aurora Borealis is one of the main ones.
Some cities and areas have many services to see the Aurora, offering a wide variety of tours. Briefly, these are the best places in Norway to take a Northern Lights tour:
- Tromso: The largest offer of Aurora Borealis tours in Norway is in this city.
- Alta: Competing with Tromso to be the main “Northern Lights City” in Norway, Alta also has many companies offering Northern Lights tours.
- Lofoten: Aurora tours are usually accompanied by photo tours to capture the beauty of the landscapes of the Lofoten Islands.
- Senja: More and more tours are offered to see the Aurora from this region in northern Norway.
In addition to the one-night tours to see the Aurora offered in Tromso, there are specific guided tours to see the Northern Lights in Norway that last for several days. These packages also include other cultural activities such as visiting ancient Sami sites, experiencing the local gastronomy, or visiting Viking museums.
If you prefer to focus on Northern Lights photography, we would be happy to have you on our next Lofoten photography tour, where we will spend a week photographing the best landscapes of the Lofoten Islands and “hunting” the Northern Lights at night.
OUR BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS IMAGES IN NORWAY
Here you’ll find the best Aurora Borealis photos we took in Norway. All these images of the Northern Lights were taken in the Lofoten Islands and Tromso from the 17th to the 28th of November 2017 with a KP between 1’8 and 5.
As a final tip, if you want to go home with incredible Northern Lights photos from Norway, read our guide to learn how to photograph Northern Lights. In it, we not only talk about photography but also about how to see the Northern Lights, with useful tips on prediction.