Susana has traveled to Scandinavia on many occasions but the highlight has been her trip to Tromso, Norway
See the Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway
Welcome to the definitive guide to seeing the northern lights in the beautiful and uplifting Paris of the North - Tromsø, Norway. Discover everything you need to know for your trip of a lifetime including what time of year is best to catch the aurora, what clothes to take, how the moon phases will dictate when to go, how much money you'll need and how to get there.
The northern lights are visible in much of northern Scandinavia - Sweden, Finland and Norway, and Tromsø is by far the most popular - for a variety of very good reasons.Tromsø in northern Norway is one of the easiest places to get to to see the northern lights and it's smack bang in the middle of the aurora belt. That's why I chose Tromsø as the place to visit to see the aurora and why I would highly recommend it to anyone else who wants to see them.
Tromso's Amazing Aurora Borealis
The Low Down on Tromsø, Norway
If you're considering visiting Tromsø to see the Northern Lights, then there are many considerations to take into account. Luckily, they are all explained right here! This is what you'll find out about if you keep reading.
- Where the best places to see the aurora borealis are
- What times of year are best to catch the northern lights
- The Science of the Aurora Borealis
- How to get to Tromsø, Norway
- Where to stay in Tromsø
- The weather in Tromsø
- What clothes to take
- What else there is to do in Tromsø
- How far your money will go in Norway
- Links to some very useful websites
Tromsø, Norway is in the Aurora Belt
The aurora belt follows the circle of the magnetic north pole. You are more likely to see the northern lights in one of these locations than anywhere else in the northern hemisphere.
Tromsø is located in the arctic circle and is often referred to as the gateway to the arctic because it's where most polar expeditions start from. The best months to see the northern lights in Tromsø are October, February and March.
I went at the very beginning of March making sure to avoid the full moon. Ideally you want to plan your trip as close to a new moon as you can so that the night sky is as dark as possible. Click here to check out the lunar cycle for any given month in any year. Lunar cycles.
The best times of day to catch the aurora are between 10pm - 2am, so make sure you are outside with your head up at this time of day!
Getting to Tromsø
From the UK
Getting to Tromsø from the UK is easier than ever now that Norwegian Airlines fly directly from London, Stansted to Tromsø, but only at particular times of the year. At other times, you can fly to Oslo Gardemoen, and then catch a connecting flight to Tromso.
If you're thinking of flying with Ryan Air be aware that they fly to Oslo Torp airport which is about 100km from the main Oslo airport (Gardemoen) and you would need to get between the airports to fly on to Tromsø.
From other Countries
SAS - If you're coming from Australia, America, Canada, Spain, France, India, Hong Kong, Japan or the Far East then you will more than likely be taking an SAS flight to Oslo Gardemoen and then hopping on a connecting flight with Wideroe to Tromsø.
Wideroe (Norwegian internal flights)
There are other options such as flying into Oslo Gardemoen then getting on a train or bus to Tromsø. Both are quite expensive and it is a lot quicker and cheaper to fly within Norway.
Tromsø on the Map
Tromsø in Winter
Surprisingly, winter in Tromsø is not especially cold. The record low temperature in Tromsø is minus 18 degres Celsius, whilst the average January temperature is minus 4 degres Celsius. The relatively mild winter is perfect for outdoor activities. When I went in March there was still tons of snow and aside from star gazing we had lots of fun in the day cross country skiing and dog sledding across the unspoilt and picturesque country side.
Cross Country Skiing
Tromsø has a fantastic network of cross country skiing routes across the town and the locals use them to get about as well as to have some family fun. On Sundays the routes are filled with families skiing together. Many of the four year olds put my own skiing abilities to shame. While you are there you can hire cross country skis (ask at the tourist information center) or if you decide to stay at the B&B I stayed at (Anemone), the owner is more than happy to lend you some of his skis for a small hire fee.
The dog sledding tours are something I would really recommend you try. Sledding across the open countryside was one of the best experiences of my life! It's well worth taking the option to drive your own sled and dogs rather than sitting on the back while someone else does the driving. It didn't take long to master the technique (about 10 minutes) and there was such a sense of exhilleration while I was flying along the crisp white snow with the dogs.
Clothes for the Arctic
I would recommend packing the following:
- Thermal vests and leggings
- A waterproof jacket
- Clothes that you can layer up
- Some good waterproof ski boots
- Hat, scarf & gloves
One thing that's quite strange is that the snow on the ground is not wet. There were several times I ended up, up to my waist in snow and once you manage to climb out, after a really good giggle, you're not wet at all.
What Makes the Color of the Aurora?
The composition and density of the atmosphere and the altitude of the aurora determine the possible light emissions.
Oxygen atoms, for example, strongly emit photons in two typical colors: green and red. The red is a brownish red that is at the limit of what the human eye can see, and although the red auroral emission is often very bright, we can barely see it.
Photographic film has a different sensitivity to colors than the eye, therefore you often see more red aurora on photos than with the unaided eye. Since there is more atomic oxygen at high altitudes, the red aurora tends to be on top of the regular green aurora. The colors that we see are a mixture of all the auroral emissions. Just like the white sunlight is a mixture of the colors of the rainbow, the aurora is a mixture of colors. The overall impression is a greenish-whitish glow. Very intense aurora gets a purple edge at the bottom. The purple is a mixture of blue and red emissions from nitrogen molecules.
Solar Maximum & Minimum
Solar weather rotates on an approxiamtely 11 year cycle and 2012 is due to be the next solar maximum. This when sunspot activity and coronal flares are at their peak. Since the northern lights are created by particles thrown off of the suns surface the aurora will be more plentiful at the solar maximum but they can still be seen at other times. I went in 2007 which was the solar minimum and I still got a great display!
Photographing the Aurora
I am not a photographer so I don't know the ins and outs of how to capture the aurora on film. I know I didn't manage to get any good photos of the aurora I saw. Here's a link which explains how to do it.
How Much Does Norway Cost?
Norway is pretty expensive, but I wouldn't let that put you off - it is an amazing place and well worth the expense. A burger king for two cost me around £15 - $23 USD (we had planned on a nice meal but couldn't afford it!), a glass of wine is around £8 (needless to say I didn't drink any alcohol during my stay), two days basic food shopping was £45 - $70. I would say you need a minimum of 450 Norweigan Kroner per person per day just for bus fares, taxi fares, refreshments and basic meals.
450 NK = £45 or $70 USD
On top of that you obviously have your accommodation costs, flights and any activities you want to do.
Here's the currency converter so that you can work out how much your stay in Norway will cost you.
My Journey to Tromsø, Norway
Seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights was one of my lifetime ambitions and two years ago it was a dream that was finally realised.
I took my daughter to Tromsø, Norway, which is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights.
The 5 day trip to Tromsø was more magical and spectacular than I could ever have hoped for.
It's a trip I know I will do again and again. Once you've seen the aurora you will be caught in their spell just like I have been.
It's very hard to impart the strange awe and wonder that the Aurora Borealis inspire in oneself - it's a magical display that is far beyond words. Watch the video below to get a really good idea of what they look like.
Don't Miss This Amazing Aurora Video
Tromsø Norway - Essential Info
- NorwayLights - Northern Lights (Aurora) Forecast
- Tromsö | where your Arctic adventure begins
Official Travel guide to Tromsø. Tourist Information. Here you can find information about accommodation, activities, events, car hire, boat hire, Northern Lights, Midnight Sun. Arctic experiences in Tromsø, Lyngen, Sommarøy, Senja, Kvænangen, Målselv
Whenever you're planning to visit Tromsø Norway and catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis, I wish you luck and a magical trip!
Liz Westwood from UK on December 07, 2018:
This is a very informative article. I would refer back to it when I get around to planning a trip.
frida on January 07, 2013:
great! I just have to say that sadley I could not watch the amazing aurora video becouse i come from germany, and video is with music and german GEMA (music rights) are acctualy prohibiting it to be shown... I know it is augfull, it is very augfull censorship, but, hey, what about putting another video of amazing aurora withaout the music background for all of us (82 millions) from germany to see it? great site btw. thanx for all informations!
Susana Smith (author) from UK on September 27, 2012:
Yes you can see the lights without a guide!. We paid out a lot for a guided trip and saw nothing (it was just not a good night). We actually saw them one evening outside our bed and breakfast accommodation. If they are there you'll see them wherever you are.
Dec/Jan should be ok. It just might be very cloudy/snowy though.
I think there is camping in Tromso, but I don't know where. Same with hostels. I'm sure there are I just haven't researched them. The B & B I recommended was cheap!
Buses and taxi's were not too expensive - in fact the buses are quite cheap from what I can remember.
I looked into buses and trains from Oslo, but Tromso is a long way from there and it takes a long time. You are better getting an internal flight. The problem is if you fly with Ryan Air you will not go to the main Oslo airport but one that is about 50 miles away. I don't think you can get the connecting internal flights from there.
Best wishes for your trip!
Jus Prado on September 13, 2012:
Well done! Very rich informations and experience!
I have so many questions that I don't know where I can start! If you are keen to answer I'll be delighted!
- Is possible to try to see the lights without a guide?
- Are there camping areas in Troms?
- I'm planning around december/ january this year, do you think is it good attempt?
- Can I find some hostel worthwhile (not so expensive) in Troms?
- Are the fares of bus, taxi, gear rental too expensive?
I'm thinking to take Ryanair from Dublin to Oslo and then some bus until the next airport...I'll remain looking for more informations to see which route is better :)
Since now, thanks for all!
Susana Smith (author) from UK on July 19, 2012:
You're welcome Suku. November could be ok, there just tends to be more cloud cover. If you get some clear nights though you should be in for a treat!
suku on July 16, 2012:
Thanks for such a detailed and informative article! I intend to make a trip with my mates sometime in mid-november this year. Do you think its a good time to see the lights in november?
Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 26, 2012:
Kiruna and Abisko are a great locations to see the aurora, especially this year as it's a solar maximum. What time of year are you planning to go? October, November, February and March and the best months. Sounds like you have a wonderful trip planned! I would love to do a 5 or 7 day dog sled trip. Enjoy!
Trevor on March 22, 2012:
Great article, Susana. Thank you. I am looking into a dog sled trip to see the northern lights next March, but the closest I could find to Tromso is based out of Kiruna, going through the Lapland, including Abisko. That location is inside the thin green circle on your map, but outside the thick green belt. Do you think a trip in that area is not in an ideal place to see the northern lights? Obviously I want to maximize my chances, but still have fun on a multi-day dog sled trip. Thanks for any thoughts!
Susana Smith (author) from UK on February 28, 2012:
October is generally the rainiest month in Tromso, so expect quite a bit of cloud. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troms%C3%B8#Climate
Frank O'Hare on February 27, 2012:
My wife and I have definitely decided to visit Tromso in October but are not sure about the amount of cloud at that time.
Aarati on February 20, 2012:
Its really very informative and useful article. Me planning a trip to experience northen lights next month. Keep up the good work.
Jeannie on January 07, 2012:
We're heading to Tromso in 2 weeks and looking forward for this amazing experience. Thanks for sharing your experience!! :D
Ben Mallison on January 01, 2012:
Great Blog. My trip is booked for early Feb - you have got me excited!
VALERIE on November 20, 2011:
This was really helpful.im planning to go soon and thanks for sharing a lots of tips here.
GeeHollyInUni from East coast of Australia on November 14, 2011:
I love your hub you have put so much work into it
Brian Burton on October 20, 2011:
Had to comment event though I see the article is older. It was nice to read and very interesting. Little off topic for me to comment on this, but I especially loved this line "A burger king for two cost me around £15 - $23 USD". Makes sense, but never would have thought about something like that.
Rosie on April 13, 2011:
Is it risky to hope to see the lights in late Dec this year. most people seem to be saying Feb/March...I would have to re book my trip though!
Lynn Luther from North Carolina on February 24, 2011:
Very interesting read!
MJC from UK on January 31, 2011:
Hi Susana S.
I love Aurora Borealis! Thank you for the great and detailed information! One day I have to go to Norway!
carrentalinfo on January 19, 2011:
On my wish list:)
Sarah G on January 05, 2011:
Thank you for all the great info! Booked flights a couple of days ago and trying to piece together the trip now. It's been an ambition to go there and try to see the lights. I can't believe I'll be there in 6 weeks, so excited. Thanks for making it sound every bit as good as I have imagined it to be.
Rebecca Genin on November 23, 2010:
Inspiring stuff! There's a great microsite that Visit Norway has put together where you can create an animated digital drawing of the lights over Tromso. It's called My Northern Lights. I thought you might enjoy it...
Susana Smith (author) from UK on November 18, 2010:
Hi Robin, I didn't have any problem booking a dog sledding tour when I got there (at the tourist office), but to be on the safe side you might want to book before you go. I guess it depends on how busy the season is. The tourist information office link is just below these comments - why not drop them an email?
Hope you enjoy your trip!
Robin Diskin on November 17, 2010:
Hi, your info is so helpful and informative,we are going in mid december,we want to go dog sledding,is it best to book before you go or when you get there cheers Rob.
Susana Smith (author) from UK on November 07, 2010:
That's a pain. Norweigan must have stopped their direct flights from Stansted to Tromso. The only direct flight I can find in February is from Gatwick with Norweigan. They do seem to only do direct flights at certain times of year which I wasn't aware of. http://www.skyscanner.net/flights/lgw/tos/110212/1...
Katie on November 07, 2010:
I just looked up that flight you mentioned from London Stansted to Tromso and it doesn't seem to be on the website. There's one from Gatwick but it stops in Oslo. I'm just wondering if it only foes at certain times of year? I want to see the lights at the end of February.
Great article by the way! Most informative and objective one I've come across so far.
Susana Smith (author) from UK on March 07, 2010:
Hi Matt - Early Aututmn is a good time to go to Tromso to see the aurora, but if you can hold off a few months, March is even better. I watched a program last night which explained why this was so on the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00rf172/Wond...
You're never guaranteed a display, but 2010 should be fine. In Tromso, you can see the aurora most clear nights when it's dark. Hope you catch them!
Matt on March 07, 2010:
So 2012 is the solar maximum, but 2010 (this year) must still be pretty good just two years away from it right?
Is it likely I'd be able to see it every night if I went this Autumn/Fall?
ruby on February 10, 2010:
good advice, looking forward to experience Tromso.
Truth Exposed Pub from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on December 18, 2009:
Love this hub! Reminds me of the three years and change I spent in Fairbanks, Alaska. Did a lot of winter walking while in grad school, and when I was lucky enough to see the lights, they were always extraordinary. Almost impossible to describe unless you've seen them first hand. Thanks for sharing!
Wik on October 03, 2009:
very nice hub, for some great 360 panoramas from Tromso check this site http://www.virtualtromso.no
Susana Smith (author) from UK on September 26, 2009:
You're welcome upal :)
Ashraf Mir from Dhaka on September 25, 2009:
This is an interesting article. thangs for sharing.
Susana Smith (author) from UK on September 22, 2009:
Hi Jimmy - I'll check out your hub :)They are magical aren't they? And once you've seen them you just want more! I'm planning a trip to Tromso for feb/march in 2012 when we should be in the solar maximum.
jimmyred from Brisbane on September 21, 2009:
great info, cheers! I've recently fallen in love with the lights and built my own hub :) https://hubpages.com/travel/See-The-Northern-Light
Susana Smith (author) from UK on September 05, 2009:
Norway is spectacular! Make the commitment and go - you won't regret it :)
sheristeele from Siler City, NC on September 04, 2009:
Cool idea for a hub! Love the pics.
E. A. Wright from New York City on August 29, 2009:
Something I'd love to see someday.
Sarah m Marie on August 26, 2009:
Beautiful pictures, a lovely journey, and a place close to my heart as my grandparents were from Norway. Wonderful detail.
Aqua on August 23, 2009:
Awesome hub - I grew up in Alaska and the northern lights were out all winter. I miss them so much!
elisabethkcmo from Just East of Oz on August 17, 2009:
great info, thanks
enjoying your hubs!
XTASIS from The Beginning on August 16, 2009:
Good hub! lots of tips. Thanks!
Susana Smith (author) from UK on August 16, 2009:
Definitely one for the bucket list! But get there before you kick it - truly amazing!
dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on August 16, 2009:
You got me sold! I definitely want to go there. This place is going on my Bucket List for sure!