In February this year, Gavin and I went to Arctic Norway to see the northern lights and attend the Northern Lights Music Festival “Nordlyfestivalen“.
The Northern Lights has to be one of the most incredible phenomena of nature. I had always wanted to see the Northern Lights but had heard many disappointing stories from various travellers who trekked all the way to the Arctic and waited patiently night after night without any joy. When I first heard of the high solar activity that was about to happen in 2012 and will result in aurora like never before, I decided to try my luck as there may not be a better chance than this in my lifetime. I chose Tromso after doing an intensive research on the best places for aurora sightings within few hours flying time from continental Europe. As it turned out, last winter we could have even gone to Shetlands and had decent viewing of aurora due to regular coronal mass ejection from the mighty Sun.
Few months before we were due to depart, I got completely obsessed with websites like “Geophysical Institute of Alaska” that provides Aurora Forecast and the Space Weather Prediction Center. I was also reading various articles on the best time of the night to hunt for the auroras and speaking to likes of Guide Gunnar who is a mini-celebrity in Tromso due to his deep knowledge of the aurora and the region as well as the ever popular tour he leads. Unfortunately, he was was going to be in London on the dates we were in Tromso.
We flew Norwegian Airlines and arrived in Tromso via Oslo late one February night. The Norwegian Airlines were fantastic, spacious seats and modern aircraft with free wifi on board, a novelty in Europe. Upon arrival at Tromso airport, we took the airport bus and checked into our accommodation, “AMI Hotel“. As hotels go in this expensive country, this particular establishment is reasonably priced with a nice selection of rooms equipped with modern amenities. The hotel is built on top of a hill which provides a vantage point and great views of the city below. Our room was spacious, had plenty of hot water supply and even a mini bar. The breakfast was included in the price of the room and they even served freshly made pancakes with fruits and jam every morning.
On the first night we walked past the cemetery up on a hill behind the AMI hotel to hunt for the Northern Lights. When we first spotted a faint green light in the distance we nearly jumped with joy. I was in complete awe of the magic happening in the sky above and could barely speak. From then on, as the night progressed, we got brighter flashes of the green light of aurora every few minutes. It truly is a sight to behold that leaves you speechless while making you forget about the numbing toes and fingers. After spending a few hours admiring them we walked back to the hotel and just as we were about to enter there was a bright flash in the sky and for few seconds it was covered in the brightest green light we have ever seen.
The next night, we took a tour outside the city and had an even better show of the dancing lights. I took my tripod on this tour which was a good idea because you need long exposure for decent shots. The remaining nights in Tromso, we walked back to the spot near the cemetery and again spotted Northern Lights although not as bright as the previous two nights.
During the day, we went for walks in the countryside interspersed with lots of hot drink breaks in cute little Norwegian cafes as it was sub sub zero outside. One day we took a cruise in the fjords which was spectacular. When our cruise ship arrived it was covered in ice. Quite a sight!
The Northern Lights Music festival was very interesting too and I was glad that they translated everything to English. I always say that Scandinavians speak better English than the English.
Here are some photos to inspire you to visit the Arctic.