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Solar Maximum: The best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Solar Maximum: The best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway
Northern Lights over Tromsø. Photo: Vegard Stien/Visit Norway

Next year, the Northern Lights promise to be stronger than they have been for a decade, and Norway is one of the best places in the world to see them shift and shine. Here are the best places to go and do it.


The Aurora Borealis, a spectacular phenomenon of vivid green and pink light pulsating in the night sky, has a special relationship with Norway. 

The Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland, called the "father of the Northern Lights," discovered that the lights were caused by solar winds clashing with the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field at the turn of the 1900s. 

This coming year, the display is likely to be better than ever. 

The Space Weather Prediction Center in the US in October reported that this peak in solar activity was arriving sooner and was more powerful than it had predicted in 2019 and was now likely to come between January and November next year. 

READ ALSO: Why the Northern Lights over Norway will be more intense this winter

Visit Norway has set up its own Northern Lights website, which gives forecasts of your chance of seeing the Northern Lights at all of the most popular destinations. It also has Northern Lights apps for iPhone and Android.

Norway's weather app Yr also has a Northern Lights feature that lets users check cloud coverage and Borealis activity. 

So where are the best places to see it? 


Tromsø is at the centre of the Northern Lights' oval, which means there's always a good chance of seeing the phenomenon fom September until April. 

However, it's still a city (population 64,000) and the city lights can make it hard to properly appreciate the Aurora unless the displays are strong. 

Spotters tend to make for the Tromsø Bridge, which gives you great views of the city and its Arctic Cathedral with the lights above it, or take the cable car up to Mount Storsteinen where the outdoor deck is a fantastic location to gaze at the constantly changing light show while looking down on the city below. 

Another alternative is to go to Prestvannet, a reservoir half an hour's walk from the city centre, which is just far away from the city lights for the city not to interfere too much with your experience. 

Northern Lights tour companies based in Tromsø include Arctic ExplorersNorwegian Travel, which arranges Northern Lights chases in minibuses, and Best Arctic, which arranges trips out to its Aurora Safari Camp. 


The Northern Lights over Senja. Photo: Reiner Schaufler/Media Nordnorge


Even if you are staying in Tromsø, it can make sense to get away from light pollution by hopping on a boat to Senja, Norway's biggest island, which only takes an hour.  

With jagged mountains that would remind Tolkien aficionados of the Gates of Mordor, charming fishing villages, superb hiking and a ski resort, it's well worth the trip anyway. 

But being out on the island's more remote locations allows you an undisturbed view of the lights. Popular places to go are Tungeneset, a viewpoint from where you can see the razor-sharp mountains going into the sea, and Bergsbotn, a viewing platform that gives you a complete panorama of the Bergsbotten mountain range. 

The island's three most popular beaches, Ballesvikstranda, Ersfjordstranda and Bøstranda, are also popular viewing areas. 

Senja is home to the Aurora Borealis Observatory, a small family-run hotel specialising in Northern Lights experiences. The specialist tour company Senja Experience runs Northern Lights tours, Overlanding Senja has a fleet of Mitsubishi 4x4s that takes visitors on Aurora hunts.  


Pictured are the Northern Lights above the Lofoten Archipelago in north Norway.

During the winter the sun sets over many places in Norway, and doesn't rise again for four to six weeks. Pictured are the Northern Lights above the Lofoten Archipelago in north Norway.Photo by Johannes Groll on Unsplash

Lofoten Islands 

Like Senja, the Lofoten archipelago, with its steep-sided mountain islands and historic fishing villages, is worth visiting anyway, but as the islands sit within the aurora oval, they are also a fantastic place to see the Northern Lights.

Those high mountains and cliffs, however, mean you have to think carefully about where to go depending on the strength of the aurora. 

The Visit Lofoten website recommends that for a low-activity Aurora (KP 1-2), you want to be somewhere with an open northern horizon and sky, such as Uttakleiv beach. 

But as the activity rises above KP 3+, the aurora arch moves higher in the sky until it gets to 90 degrees overhead, with the points of origin of the aurora on the horizon shifting slowly towards the east and west. 

If you were on Uttakleiv, and the activity got stronger, it would move behind a mountain, and you would then have to go to Haukland or Vik beaches, which have unobstructed views west and southwest. 

READ ALSO: How to maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway

Other recommended places are the Hamnøy Bridge or the village of Reine. 

Lofoten Lights, in Svolvær, specialises in Northern Lights tours, while Lofoten Aktiv arranges trips out into the wilderness on snowshoes to view the lights, as does the Svinøya Rorbuer hotel in Svolvær. 

Pictured is a pack of dogs pulling a sledge beneath the Northern Lights in Norway.

Travelling to Norway in December? Here are a few things you should know. Pictured is a pack of dogs pulling a sledge beneath the Northern Lights in Norway. Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash


On a cruise

Sailing up the West Coast north between the Lofoten Islands and Tromsø takes passengers right across the Aurora oval, giving them an extremely high change of seeing the aurora, at the same time as the boats sail far enough offshore to avoid all light pollution. 

Hurtigruten, which operates the most cruises, is so confident that passengers travelling between September and the end of March will see the aurora that they offer anyone taking a voyage of more than 11 days a "Northern Lights guarantee". If they don't see it, they receive another seven-day cruise for free.  

To ensure no passengers miss a display, the crew make "Northern Lights announcements", alerting passengers whenever there is aurora activity overhead. 

Havila and other cruise operators also offer Northern Lights cruises.

You can find the Hurtigruten tours here and the Havila ones here. 



The other city option is Bodø (population 56,000), the most southerly large settlement in the Norwegian Arctic. As in Tromsø, the most popular place to view the Northern Lights is at the top of the local mountain, Keiservarden, which is 366m high and a two-and-a-half hour hike from the city centre.

Other popular places to view the Northern Lights from are beaches such as Løpsstranden, just to the north of the city, Mjelle, half an hour's drive north, or an hour's drive south on the island of Sandhornøya. 

The company Opplevnord does Northern Lights chasing on electric offroad bikes, and the company Polar Tours runs bus tours out to the countryside near Bodø to view the phenomenon.  

The Northern Lights over the Cathedral in Alta. Photo: Anne Olsen Ryum/Media Nordnorge


Alta, in Norway's far north, used to be a centre for Northern Lights research, with an observatory opened in 1899, around the time Birkeland did his research. One of the buildings is now a Norwegian Trekking Association cabin, so you can spend the night where the astronomers made their observations. 

The Altafjord provides a perfect reflection for the lights, enhancing the visual spectacle. The local Northern Lights tour companies in the areas take visitors up along the Arctic coast or alternatively inland onto the Finnmark plateau to find the best place to view the lights, depending on their strength.

At Pæskatun, a 20-minute drive from Alta, there's a Northern Lights viewing resort at the slate quarry. 


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