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Bucket List

See the Northern Lights in Norway

Chase the aurora borealis on an Artic adventure that includes the coolest activities.

By Karen Pasquali Jones

Nothing can rival nature’s greatest aerial display – the Northern Lights. As elusive as they are beautiful, they have to be seen to be believed. 

Lucky stargazers who venture to the Arctic Circle between September and March and gaze upwards may be rewarded with an ethereal ballet dancing across the inky skies.

From a glow of green, and pink to a pulsating streak of red, violet or even blue, it’s no wonder Vikings believed the aurora borealis were reflections from the armour of supernatural Valkyrie female warriors who chose who died in battle then led them to the everlasting splendour of Odin’s hall of Valhalla.

More than a Millennium later, the seasonal spectacle that has been here since the dawn of our planet – Dinosaurs roamed beneath them – is still setting the heavens above Canada, Alaska, Russia, Iceland, Norway, Finnish Lapland, Sweden and Greenland amongst others ablaze.

These remote, unspoilt Arctic destinations offer an almost unmissable opportunity to catch a glimpse of what Norse mythology called the spirits in the sky. But the celestial disco is a fickle performer. Plenty of patience, warm clothing and the right conditions are needed before they might make an appearance. 

To up your chances of spotting them, go aurora hunting between late September to early April, though October, November, February and March are the prime viewing months. Avoid dates that include a full moon, and travel away from built-up areas to escape light pollution. Good weather is crucial, and while you can see the Northern Lights at any time, 9pm until 2am is usually when they appear. 

So just what are these incredible phenomena? The lights are created when electrically-charged particles from space enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere at speed. These particles come from the sun and are driven the Poles by Earth’s magnetic field. They become a rainbow of colors as a result of the different gases in the upper atmosphere, creating auroral ovals which include a variety of shapes – ripples, bands, and even coronas.

Cold Play 

There’s a lot of Artic to choose from to go aurora hunting but the clear skies over Northern Norway are often awash with the dancing ribbons of color. Look back down to earth and you’ll discover the sparkling beauty of snow-covered mountains, fjords and waterfalls. 

Above the Artic Circle during winter is where serious aurora hunters go. Learn about polar exploration history in Tromsø, the Arctic capital, or visit the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta, renowned for being the best place to see the phenomena. 

The fishing villages of Svolvær and Reine in the Lofoten Islands look picture-perfect surrounded by mountains dusted in snow. Head to the beautiful city of Bergen, once the country’s capital, to explore the famous fish market, and visit the Hanseatic quarter (Bryggen) and Mount Fløyen or go off-the-beaten-track to the remote but charming Kalvåg and Mosterøy.

Sail the King of the Fjords, Sognefjorden, the longest and deepest in Norway to arrive in the hamlet of Fjærland. Just 300 people live in this idyllic village which is a designated Norwegian Book Town. Scour the second-hand stores for a first edition about Nordic history or just gaze at the view – this is where Sognefjorden meets one of Europe’s largest glaciers, Jostedalsbreen.  At night, wrap up warm to await the arrival of the Northern Lights.

From here you can cross the Artic Circle to reach the archipelago of Lofoten Islands.

Svolvær is the largest town with 4,800 residents, many of who are fisherman. Along with the shops, and art galleries, you can admire the rows of rorbuer fishing huts. 

The former fish-freezing warehouse is now a Magic Ice Bar, with ice sculptures depicted Lofoten life and Viking culture. There’s a signature spirit to warm you up, served in an ice glass, of course.

Don’t have more than one if you want to follow a hiking trail or go snowshoeing before wrapping up in more layers for another chance to glimpse the most spectacular light show on earth. 

Set Sail

Norwegian Fjord & Arctic Circle with Celebrity Cruises

Duration: 12 nights

Where: Southampton, UK | Stavanger, Norway | Olden, Norway | Flam, Norway | Tromso, Norway | Honningsvag, Norway | Kristiansand, Norway | Southampton, UK

Ship: Celebrity Apex

Price: $2,899 pp

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Published 03.03.22