Chasing the Northern Lights

No photo to show since i failed in my attempt to see it. The Northern Lights are a beautiful phenomena. Some people call it a “once in a lifetime experience”, especially tour operators trying to cash in on tourist dollars. I would suggest that one should not think of the Northern Lights as a once in a lifetime event. Just think of the residents in those regions where he Northern Lights occur, they would see it over and over again. And it is really not impossible to get to any place in the world. With proper planning, YOU can see the Northern Lights.

Here’s what i learned:

  • It gets dark enough at night for you to see the Northern Lights only during the late autumn through winter period, so your holiday would have to be a winter holiday. If you’re not afraid of cold, winter could be just as fun.
  • When there is good auroral activity, you might be able to see it from anywhere, but it will be good to stay away from the city area where there is light pollution, and good to stay clear of the full moon period, so plan accordingly.
  • You can’t plan the weather, and this is THE factor that will ruin your chances (as it did mine). So, plan for at least 3 to 5 days in your itinerary to see it.
  • One way to plan a 3 to 5 days itinerary in Scandinavia is to rent a car and drive the Northern Lights Route, which traverses Norway, Finland and Sweden. This way, you fill up your days with some nice sight seeing through 3 Scandinavian countries while giving yourself maximal chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
  • Check the weather forecast. The tour operators do this to decide where to bring their clients to see the Northern Lights and you can certainly do it yourself. However if you’re wary of doing your own driving (there’s really nothing difficult about it), it’s not a bad idea to just go with a guide. From Tromsø, i could recommend Guide Gunnar. Even though i did not join their tour, while on my tour with another operator, i saw their mini-bus went further towards the Finnish border (which probably had better weather at that time), while the driver of the mini-bus i was on was reluctant to go further nor wait longer (waiting time of only under 2 hours). So, quite a disappointment after paying NOK 850 (S$195) per person and not seeing the Northern Lights (though they probably would have offered to bring us out again for free on a different day, as they did for another couple). Guide Gunnar charges NOK 950 (as at time of writing) but it is probably worth it since they do seem to try harder. In any case, as with all services offered in Norway, they try to deliver you the goods in all honesty, so rest assured that you will get what you paid for.
  • Don’t give up if you failed to see the Northern Lights, just try again! I’m definitely including this as one of the things i will do before i die!

Anyway, to get an idea of what the Northern Lights look like, check out the videos here.

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