Through the ages, the aurora have created awestruck wonder in a variety of cultures. Among other things, they have been predictors of war, hope of an afterlife, and proof of dragons.
In Norse mythology: “The Valkyrior are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears. /…/ When they ride forth on their errand, their amour sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies…”
Best Places to See the Northern Lights
Anywhere within the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle you can see aurora light shows in a clear, dark sky. Sometimes they can be seen closer to the tropics, but it is much less common.
The closer you are to the magnetic pole, the better results you will find. In the Northern hemisphere they can be seen primarily in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Europe, and Northern Asia.
Not to disrespect any other place, but Northern Norway is a remarkable place to see them because of the framework of resources and natural beauty surrounding them!
In Norway, the counties of Finnmark, Troms, and Nordland are most reliable even though sightings do occur throughout the country like Bergen and Oslo. The territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen, get their fair share of aurora activity, but the former is harder to get to and the latter is largely off limits.
While the aurora can be seen from populated areas, you will get the most vibrant sightings away from areas of light pollution so consider an excursion out of town.
The Best Time to See Northern Lights in Norway
Auroras occur at any time, but can only be seen when the sky is dark and clear.
The best time of day is between 9 pm and 2 am, with the best results at 11 pm when the viewer, North Pole, and the sun are most in alignment.
The best months to see the northern lights in Norway are August through November then February through March (December and January are also dark with plenty of aurora activity, but, more likely to be cloudy).
Ideally, you would also choose the best moon cycle. While a full moon is lovely for many other things, it should be avoided in this instance. A new moon or crescent moon is preferred for the appearance of brighter colors. All things considered, this is not a deal breaker, just another way to optimize the intensity of your experience. Refer to a Northern hemisphere moon phase calendar when planning a northern lights vacation far in the future.
Aurora Forecasts for the northern lights in Norway are available online. They track predictions for localized solar activity by days and hours so you can be in the right place at the right time.
The Best Northern Lights Adventure
Dress for chilly weather when heading out on your quest for northern lights. Plan ahead for hours in the outdoors with the potential for changing weather and the additional wind chill factor from even the slightest breeze.
As they say in Norway: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær;
which is a rhyme to say: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
Bring extra food, in the unlikely event you get stranded. If you get wet you increase the risk hypothermia; change into extra clothes to stay dry. A first aid kit, map, and compass are also wise. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
If you are counting on battery operated devices, bring spare batteries and keep them warm because the cold weather drains their power very quickly. If you just have a couple things on a short trip you might be able to tuck them into the inside pockets of your jacket. A small cooler (with a warming pad instead of an ice block) can hold bulky electronics and protect them from the elements for a more complicated journey.
Bring extra memory cards for taking photos and videos. You will want to remember this trip and share the wonder with your friends!
Road conditions in the winter can be challenging, especially if you are distracted searching the skies and not familiar with the area. Local guides can take you on the hunt for northern lights, with specialties available like camping or photography lessons. A northern lights cruise in Norway is also a marvelous way to see the night sky because you don’t have to deal with winter roadways and you can just pop back inside if you need anything.