Everything You Need to Know to See the Northern Lights in Norway

From Svalbard to Tromsø, here are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway.

Adventure seekers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights should consider a trip to Norway, one of the best places on earth to experience one of nature's coolest phenomena. The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are electrically charged particles from the sun that smash into Earth's magnetic field. They're funneled down to the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, creating a horseshoe shape of excited green (and occasionally brown and red) particles that swivel and shape-shift over the Arctic Circle, making the dark skies of Northern Norway a prime place to witness the aurora borealis.

The lights are more intense during solar maximum, the period when the sun is at its most active, but that won't occur again until mid-2025. However, that doesn't mean you should postpone your Northern Lights hunt. Although intense solar storms are currently less common, they still do occur frequently, and the Northern Lights are a constant sight in the skies above the Arctic Circle.

The bigger concern is finding clear skies, which are never guaranteed in this part of the world. You'll need to be as strategic as possible by using weather forecasting, knowing where to go, and booking a hotel with a wake-up service or a tour guided by aurora professionals. At that point, as with any weather event, it's all down to a little celestial luck.

Here, we outline how to prepare for your best shot at seeing one of the most beautiful wonders of the world among the fjords, mountains, and villages of Norway.  

Northern Lights season in Norway

The Northern lights are always happening, it's just that you don't see them during the day. While the Arctic Circle's midnight sun makes it impossible to see them during the summer, the long dark nights of winter are perfect for Northern Lights viewing.

November through February is the absolute peak season for Northern Lights viewing because the nights are the longest, but a visit anytime between September and March should give you a good chance to see them, with March offering the best chance of clear skies. Just make sure you're on the lookout throughout the night to maximize your chances. It makes sense to set your alarm to get up every hour or so after dusk to look out of your window. Better still, some hotels have an aurora wake-up service so you can sleep without worrying that you're missing out.

What's the best time in 2022/2023 for the Northern Lights?

Norway's peak season for the Northern Lights is between September and March, though that's to do more with the long, dark nights at this time of year rather than an increase in solar activity. Forecasting the Northern Lights means predicting solar activity, which is virtually impossible with our current technology.

However, despite not being able to predict them, what we do know is that the Northern Lights are best seen between 65° N and 75° N. Although the capital, Oslo, sits at just 60° N, northern Norway's latitude puts it in the ideal position to experience the Northern Lights.

Displays of the Northern Lights do tend to intensify around the equinox months of September and March because the magnetic fields of the Earth and the Sun's solar wind are more likely to be in sync. There are no guarantees, but stronger displays are therefore more likely around the spring equinox on March 20, 2023 and around the autumn equinox on September 23, 2023.

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Best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway

Anyone planning a Northern Lights hunt in Norway needs to know their geography.

The capital of this long and thin country, Oslo, is too far south of the Arctic Circle to see the aurora borealis. So, you'll want to head to northern Norway where there's a handful of towns, like Tromsø and Svalbard, perfectly-situated for aurora viewing.

Northern Lights near Tromsø

Sitting at 69° N right in the center of the aurora zone, the city of Tromsø is a popular place for Europeans to take a weekend break in winter just hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Although you can sometimes see them from the town, for the best view it's better to get away from the city's significant light pollution. The Lyngsalpene mountain range is where many local Northern Lights chases take place.

Northern Lights near Trondheim

A fraction below the Arctic Circle at a latitude of 63° N, Trondheim in central Norway marks the southern limit of the Northern Lights zone. Seeing them here is relatively rare, however, and they only occur during particularly strong solar activity.

Northern Lights near Svalbard

Between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this island realm of fjords, glaciers, mountains, and polar bears is, at 78° N, as far as you would want to go to see the Northern Lights. Stay in Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost town, and take organized dogsledding, snowmobile, or snowcat adventures into the wilderness. You don't even need to do them by night to catch the Northern Lights; Svalbard's long Polar Night leaves it in darkness almost 24/7 from November through January. However, Longyearbyen is rather light-polluted, which means you'll need to get away from the town and into polar bear territory, so it's best to take a tour.

Forecasting the Northern Lights in Norway

SolarHam gives a reliable three-day geomagnetic forecast used by aurora hunters, while the Aurora Forecast app shows you the position of the auroral oval around the Arctic Circle and also indicates the probability of seeing them where you are.

A great resource unique to this part of Scandinavia is Yr from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, which will help with finding a cloud-free corridor in this part of the world. Also useful is the Norway Lights app, which gives a prediction using data on both the Northern Lights' activity and cloud cover.

Norway Northern Lights tours

There are many Northern Lights trips available from Tromsø. Marianne's Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tours organizes an eight-hour Northern Lights photography trip from Tromsø, lessons included. If you're on the ground, take warm clothing — and an extra layer — although you can usually warm up in the bus.

Visit Norway offers an aurora dinner cruise from Tromsø to view the Northern Lights from the fjords.

Although its latitude of 60° N puts it south of the Arctic Circle, there's a special reason to travel to Bergen to see the Northern Lights; this is where Norwegian Coastal Ferries' 12-day Hurtigruten Classic Roundtrip Voyage departs from. It reaches Kirkenes via 34 ports of call (including Tromsø), and it even has a 100-percent Northern Lights guarantee.

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