Unsure which part of Norway to visit for your aurora adventure? In this article, we explain where to see Northern Lights Norway, including a list of towns and visibility factors to consider.
Norway is one of the world’s most famous and popular destinations for viewing the northern lights. However, if you’ve ever looked at Norway on a map, you’ll see it is a long thin country, that extends from north to south. Covering such a broad area latitudinally-speaking, means that not every part of the country is perfect aurora-chasing land.
So, where should you go to see the northern lights in Norway, then? We answer that question in this article, and share other visibility considerations for your trip now. Let’s jump in.
Can you see Northern Lights in Norway?
Geographically, Norway is the perfect destination to see the Northern Lights due to its high latitude and close proximity to the planet’s magnetic pole. There is nothing like viewing the elusive lights from the Norwegian countryside, although you will want to head to the northern regions of the country for the best chance of seeing them. The long dark winter nights in Norway ensure that there are ample opportunities for viewing the northern lights, and the stunning landscape provides the perfect backdrop for creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Where to See Northern Lights Norway
Where to See Northern Lights – Norway
Because of its location close to and inside of the Arctic Circle, there are many excellent locations in Norway to view the northern lights. The best aurora viewing locations are in the Arctic Circle (66.5° N and higher).
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Latitude: 69° N
Tromsø is known by many as the Gateway to the Arctic. Is one of the most popular destinations for viewing the northern lights in the world. Not only is it highly accessible, but it is known for its clear skies and highly reliable aurora activity. Tromsø also offers a wide array of other activities to keep you busy during the daytime when the lights are not visible. If you’re into partying and clubbing, then Tromsø is also well famed for its pumping nightlife, featuring many bars, clubs and music venues.
One of the more popular places to visit while in Tromsø is the Arctic Cathedral. The Cathedral is a modernistic masterpiece that has an observation deck which provides awe-inspiring panoramic views of the town.
To learn more about the local Sami culture in Tromsø, spend an afternoon at the Tromsø Museum. The museum has a number of excellent exhibits that focus on the natural history, wildlife, local history, and archaeology of the surrounding Norwegian countryside.
For those looking for a little more information on the Arctic environment, wildlife, and the effects of climate change, Polaria is the perfect destination. Polaria is an interactive Arctic themed center which provides visitors with an immersive hands-on experience.
Fjellheisen Cable Car
Many visitors to Tromsø take the Fjellheisen Cable Car all the way to the top of local Mt. Storsteinen where they are greeted with some of the most amazing views of Tromsø and the surrounding countryside. Sit back and enjoy something warm to drink as you take in the scenery at the popular Fjellstua restaurant.
Latitude: 68° N
The Lofoten Islands have some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country. The awe-inspiring views make it a very popular destination for viewing the elusive lights. Because of its remoteness, there is very little light pollution to interfere with your viewing of the elusive lights. Some of the best spots within the region for hunting include Henningsvær, Svolvær, as well as Reine.
Visit Traditional Fishing Villages
There are a number of charming villages that are scattered throughout the Lofoten Islands. Make your way to local boutiques, galleries, and museums as you wander through the narrow streets of these quaint little villages.
Viking Museum Lofotr
Of course you cannot visit Norway without also taking in the rich Viking heritage of the Lofoten Islands. In the town of Borg, you will find the very popular Viking Museum Lofotr which has a completely reconstructed longhouse and countless interactive exhibits.
Art and Cultural Experiences
You will also find that there are many different art galleries spread out throughout the Lofoten Islands villages. These galleries showcase a wide variety of local works of art. You may also be able to attend a number of local cultural events and concerts when visiting these galleries.
Latitude: 69° N
You will find Senja in the northernmost part of Norway. It is a picturesque island destination that has some of the darkest skies in the country. Because of its remoteness, it is not the most crowded destination. As a result, those who are looking for a more tranquil place to view the northern lights will make their way to Senja.
Local Culture and History
One of the more popular destinations in Senja is the Mefjordvær Cultural Heritage Trail. Take the time to immerse yourself in the history and local culture as you make your way through the trail. You can interact with locals as you explore the small villages along the path. Immerse yourself in the local way of life.
Countless people make their way to Senja every year solely for the purpose of photographing the frozen waterfalls and snow-covered landscapes. Senja is known for offering some of the most picturesque coastal vistas in all of Norway.
Senja is also home to a number of fjord cruises. When you embark on a cruise through a deep fjord, you are greeted with the towering mountains and cascading waterfalls that make the Arctic region truly unique. With the help of knowledgeable guides, taken all of the history, geology, and wildlife of the Senja region.
Latitude: 69° N
Located in the northeastern-most part of Norway, and situated along the country’s border with Russia, you will find the town of Kirkenes. It is a prime destination for those wishing to view the northern lights. It is located well within the Arctic Circle and is a great choice for those looking for adventure.
Sami Culture Experiences
When visiting Kirkenes, take some time out of your day to learn more about the indigenous Sami culture. There is a local Sami reindeer farm where you can get up close and personal to one of these magnificent beasts. Listen to traditional stories around a campfire as you learn more about the interesting Sami culture.
Snowhotel and Ice Sculptures
Countless people visit Kirkenes every single year for the purpose of viewing the world famous Snowhotel. Each year, local artisans make their way to Kirkenes to rebuild the Snowhotel in ice. Each room is intricately carved, and I said sculptures can be found throughout the grounds. Experience something truly unique as you spend time in a hotel that is made entirely out of ice and snow.
There are a number of excellent snowmobile safaris that will take you out into the Arctic wilderness that surrounds Kirkenes. As adrenaline pumps through your body, explore frozen lakes, snow-covered trails, and some of the most remote landscapes in the world.
Of course, you cannot visit Norway without experiencing the magic of mushing through the countryside on a dogsled. Get up close and personal with some of the friendliest huskies in the world as you glide across the Norwegian countryside.
Latitude: 69° N
You will find Alta in the Finnmark region. Alta is probably one of the most popular destinations in Norway for viewing the elusive lights. It is known for having a very stable climate, and clear skies throughout the winter. Not only is it an excellent choice for viewing the elusive lights, but there are also a number of unique accommodations available within Alta.
The Alta Museum is a UNESCO world heritage site where you can experience prehistoric art that was carved into the walls by the Sami thousands of years ago. The ancient rock carvings of alto tell the story of the life and times of the Sami culture during the Stone Age.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Considered to be the northernmost hotel made entirely of ice in the world, the extremely unique Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is re-created every year by local artisans. Whether you plan on spending the night in an ice room, or simply an evening at the ice bar, you can marvel at the magnificent ice carvings and sculptures found throughout the hotel.
The Alta Canyon provides a truly enjoyable experience of the Norwegian countryside. The winter landscape is complete with frozen waterfalls and is considered to be one of the most beautiful canyons in the world. Dubbed the Northern Lights Canyon this popular destination can only be found in Alta.
Latitude: 71° N
Hammerfest is the northernmost town in the country. Thanks to its high latitude, Hammerfest provides a very unique experience for those wishing to view the elusive lights. When you are not busy looking up at the skies, fill your time by immersing yourself in the local Sami culture. Learn more about visiting and respectfully experiencing Sami culture on the Visit Norway website.
When you visit Hammerfest, you can get up close and personal with the Norwegian countryside on the back of a snowmobile. Take a snowmobile safari through the frozen landscape and admire the exhilarating ride as you make your way from one scenic vista to the next.
Learn more about the indigenous Sami culture when you visit Hammerfest. Spend the day on a reindeer herding farm, as you learn how to throw a lasso and listen to stories about the culture and lifestyle of the Sami. Immerse yourself in the Sami culture by visiting one of the many popular Sami reindeer camps in and around Hammerfest.
Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society
For a truly unique experience, look no further than the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society. Dubbed as the northernmost pub in the world, sit back and enjoy a pint as you learn all about the history of polar bears, hunting, and the artifacts that make this establishment a truly quirky destination.
Latitude: 78° N
Svalbard is a very popular destination in Norway for viewing the elusive lights, even though many people see it as a separate destination from Norway due to its remote location and distance from the mainland. The archipelago of islands is spread out over a vast area which provides a pristine and remote viewing experience. It is also used as the base camp for many popular northern lights excursions. Longyearbyen is suspended in perpetual darkness during the winter months, making it perfect for viewing the auroras. The website Visit Svalbard is an excellent resource on reaching this remote spot.
When you visit Svalbard you need to take the time to go on a wildlife safari in order to experience the true diversity of Arctic wildlife. Head out into the Norwegian countryside with a tour guide as you attempt to spot reindeer, polar bears, Arctic foxes, and a wide assortment of Arctic bird species.
Snowshoeing and Skiing
For a truly unique, up close, and personal experience of the Svalbard countryside, strap on some snowshoes and make your way through the snow-covered valleys of the region. In Svalbard you will simply enjoy the tranquility of the remote Arctic wilderness.
Visit Historical Sites
Of course, you can’t visit Svalbard without also taking the time to visit the numerous local historical sites. In the surrounding countryside, you will find the abandon settlement of Pyramiden, along with the ancient mining town of Barentsburg. There is also the very popular Svalbard Museum which is located in Longyearbyen.
Factors Affecting Northern Lights Visibility in Norway
There are many different factors that affect the visibility of the northern lights throughout Norway. These factors include solar activity, geomagnetic storms, the darkness of the night sky, the latitude, as well as the weather conditions.
Geomagnetic and Solar Activity
The northern lights would not exist if it weren’t for the interaction between the Earth’s geomagnetic field and solar radiation ejected from the sun. As that ejected solar radiation passes around the Earth’s magnetosphere, it creates a charge similar to that of a fluorescent light bulb. As a result, the various gases found at different levels of the atmosphere begin to glow and give off a beautiful yet vibrant display.
Solar activity moves in 11 year cycles, known as solar cycles, and it is actually possible to schedule your vacation on a year predicted to have greater solar activity. Doing so will increase your chance of seeing the aurora borealis significantly, because the more intense the solar and geomagnetic activity, the greater the visibility of the auroras.
Darkness and Length of Night
The northern lights can appear at any time of day or any time of year. However, it is hard to view the lights from the surface of the planet during the daytime, or summer months. The reason for this is that the length of the day is too long and the sunlight is too bright. During the winter months, the nights are much longer and tend to be darker as well. The longer, darker nights increase the odds of capturing a glimpse of the elusive lights.
The further north you go, the greater chances you have of viewing the northern lights. Luckily, much of Norway is actually located in the Arctic region, which is why it is the perfect destination for viewing the elusive lights. After all, the closer you get to the planet’s magnetic poles, the greater the chance of viewing the auroras. Norway has many famous cities that are located within the Arctic Circle including Alta, Kirkenes, and Tromsø. Try to avoid the southern Norway cities such as Oslo (60°N) and Kristiansands (58°N) as the latitude is too low for reliable aurora sightings.
Nothing impacts the ability to view the aurora borealis more than cloud cover. During the summer months, the higher levels of humidity result in increased cloud coverage which minimizes the ability to view the northern lights (not to mention the fact that there is way too much daylight in summer to see them). During the winter months, however, due to the frigid temperatures, the humidity levels drop and so too does the cloud coverage. Beware that mid-winter does bring snow clouds, so you’ll want to try and avoid those snow-storms where possible.
The season also plays an important role in viewing the northern lights throughout the country. The best time to view the lights is between September and March. Although it is possible to see the auroras at any time of year, the cold temperatures, clear skies, and long dark nights of winter provide the perfect conditions for capturing a glimpse of them.
You will also need to be wary about the phases of the moon. When the moon is full, it is extremely bright. So bright in fact, that can easily interfere with the visibility of the auroras. You should not plan a trip to view the northern lights while the moon is full.
Lastly, one important consideration when choosing a town to base yourself from for your northern lights trip is light pollution. Light pollution is likely to occur near large, developed cities. The impact on your aurora viewing is much like the moon. A large city will cast a large amount of light into the sky, making it difficult to discern the subtle auroras, much like a full moon might. For the best visibility, choose a remote village away from large cities, or be prepared to take a tour outside the city limits.
Final Thoughts on Where to See Northern Lights Norway
That brings us to the end of this article on where to see Northern Lights in Norway. You should by now have a pretty good idea of the best locations to focus your trip planning on. Basically, what you want to look for is destinations within the Arctic Circle, which includes all the major Norway aurora-chasing spots such as Kirkenes, Tromsø and Hammerfest. Try to avoid Oslo and other southern cities for aurora-spotting, as they are too far south to be reliable.
Now that you have a good idea of the destinations to include into your Norwegian vacation, make sure you plan your trip for the right time of year. The aurora borealis is only visible for about half of the year in Norway as their visibility is heavily dependent on the daylight hours.
Happy aurora chasing!
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