Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on top of my bucket list, and now was finally my chance to hopefully see them. Captivated by incredible photos online, I couldn’t wait to see the aurora for myself, but Mother Nature was not cooperating.
A thick cloud covered the Tromsø skies, and the KP index, which forecasts how intense the aurora activity would be, was the weakest it had been for weeks. Even the guides were sceptical. Things were not looking good.
So Is Tromsø A Good Place To See The Northern Lights?
Tromsø in Northern Norway (Arctic Norway) is considered to be one of the best places in the world to witness the incredible magical beauty of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis.
This is because Tromsø is located right in the centre of the northern lights oval, which means, in theory, it’s possible to see the northern lights even when there is low activity.
When Is The Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Tromsø?
In Tromsø, there is a good chance of seeing the northern lights from September until April. During these months, it is dark enough outside to see the Aurora Borealis dance across the sky. Although the peak time is from November to February.
Can You Actually See The Northern Lights From Tromsø City?
If the weather and aurora forecast is good, it’s possible to see the northern lights from the city. But move somewhere away from the city lights.
Where Is The Best Place To See The Northern Lights In Tromso?
Prestvannet lake, a small lake located at the highest point on Tromsø island, is where many locals and visiting aurora chasers head if they don’t want to leave the island. It’s considered to be one of the best aurora hunting spots in Tromsø, and it’s easy to reach by bus or a steep walk.
But Your Chances Of Seeing The Northern Lights In Tromsø Depends A Lot On The Following:
It needs to be a clear sky, or at least a break in the clouds to see the light. If there is thick cloud cover, your chances of seeing the lights are zero.
But around Tromsø, there are many microclimates, so even though it might be overcast and cloudy in the city centre, better weather may be just a short drive away.
That’s why a guided Northern Lights tour offers a better chance of seeing the lights. If clouds cover Tromsø, which they did on the night I was there, a tour will take you somewhere with clearer skies.
Often this is far inland, as in my case, or sometimes as far away as the Finnish border. My tour took us inland to a camp that was over an hour’s drive away from Tromsø.
Minimal Light Pollution
It needs to be as dark as possible to see the northern lights since light pollution will make it harder to see the aurora.
Northern lights activity (aka solar activity) is usually measured in the KP-index.
The activity is measured from 0 ( meaning low activity) to 9 (high activity). But in Tromsø, it’s still possible to see the northern lights even at KP 1.
So, the night I took my Northern Lights Tour, even with an awful weather forecast and only a KP1, I still managed to get a tiny glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Patience is needed, and patience can wear thin when standing out in the freezing cold, so dig out those thermals. Seeing the northern lights is all about being at the right place at the right time.
And Know That What The Naked Eye Sees And What The Camera Sees Are Very Different
Auroras appear to the naked eye as a very faint, white glow in the night sky. Apparently, it is extremely rare to see them in colour with the naked eye.
Cameras, using long exposures, are much more sensitive than the human eye. They can capture the colours and details of the Northern Lights that are impossible for the human eye to detect.
Chasing The Northern Lights On A Northern Lights Tour
Not surprisingly, many tour companies in Tromsø offer tours to see the Northern Lights. I did this unique Aurora Safari Camp tour with Best Arctic Tours.
And even though Mother Nature was not working in our favour that night, it was an excellent tour, and yes, we did see the northern lights, although not quite the impressive display I was hoping for.
The Aurora Safari Camp tour was a very comfortable way to see the Northern Lights. While waiting for the aurora to appear, you can keep warm in a hut with a roaring fire, drink lots of tea, snack on biscuits and tuck into a bowl of stew. Vegetarian options are available. And toilets facilities are available too.
The guide will come and get you if the lights start to make an appearance.
If it’s really cold, thermal winter suits are available. It was -11 when I was there, which they considered pretty mild!
Our camp for that night was at a site where dog sledging tours take place, so while we were waiting, we could pet the friendly huskies.
There are various camps they use, so before each tour, the tour company checks the weather forecast and contacts the camp hosts, looking for the spot with the best chances of a clear sky and hopefully seeing the fantastic Northern Lights.
If you’re interested in booking this Northern Lights Tour, you can do so here.
Can You See Northern Lights In Tromsø Without Joining A Tour?
Of course, there is no need to take a tour, but if, like me, you are in Tromsø when it’s cloudy, the KP Index is low, then taking one of the Northern Lights tours will significantly increase your chances of seeing the lights.
Make Sure You Plan Other Activities For Your Time In Tromso
Remember seeing the Northern Lights is not guaranteed, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment; please don’t make your trip to Tromsø solely about seeing the northern lights!
There are many other fun activities in Tromsø, such as this excellent Sami and reindeer experience, so even if you aren’t lucky enough to see the northern lights, you will still have had a great time because Arctic Norway has so much more to offer than just chasing the Northern Lights.
How To Get To Tromsø?
With daily direct flights to Bergen from London Heathrow Terminal 2, it’s now easy to reach Tromsø on the same day, but it’s more fun and highly recommended to enjoy a two centre holiday combining beautiful Bergen with Tromsø .
How To Get From Tromsø Airport To Tromsø
Tromsø Airport Langenes is located approximately 6.4 kilometres from Tromsø city. There are regular buses from the airport to the town and vice versa, and the journey time from the airport to the city is around ten to 15 minutes.
Where To Stay In Tromsø
There are many places to stay in Tromsø, as it’s a popular base to explore arctic Norway from and join excursions.
I stayed at the midrange Thon Hotel Polar right in the heart of town and a short walk from everything. Well, actually, everything is a short walk to everything in Tromsø.
If you plan to do many excursions from Tromsø, consider staying at the Radisson Blu, as this is where most tours start from.
For More Posts On Norway And Other Great Winter Destinations, Check These Out
Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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