The northern lights are among nature’s greatest phenomena, and Northern Norway is one of the best places to see them. Cities such as Bodø, Narvik and Tromsø offer a great combination of cosy accommodation, shops and lively restaurants. Combine this with the region’s stunning scenery, fresh air and thrilling activities and you have a winter destination like no other.
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Where is the best place to see the northern lights?
Located just inside the Arctic Circle, Bodø and the surrounding area has stunning light conditions all year round, even during the darkest months. The polar nights, which many assume are a time of darkness, are actually an endless variation of light. The winter months surprisingly reveal beautiful glimpses of the sun – from deep blue to glowing variants of red, orange, yellow, magenta and indigo.
With its wild and wonderful landscapes, mountain plains, woodlands, islands, shorelines and fjords, Bodø and the surrounding area is an El Dorado for nature enthusiasts. If you are the adventurous type, you might want to try caving, scuba diving, eel fishing, mountaineering, kayaking or snorkelling in Saltstraumen – the world’s strongest tidal current, which is located within easy reach of the town.
The largest city in Northern Norway, Tromsø is located at 70 degrees north, at the centre of the arctic oval. Surrounded by fjords, mountain peaks and islands, this is the perfect start for your Arctic adventure. The steep mountains and beautiful fjords are so close to the city centre that you can admire them from the main street. It’s also possible to spot sea eagles and playful seals just a 30- to 45-minute drive from downtown Tromsø.
There is a plethora of activities in and around the local area including dog sledding, snowshoeing, museums, snowmobiling and the famous cable car, not to mention numerous bars and restaurants serving delicious local food.
Located between Bodø and Tromsø, Narvik is surrounded by mountains that rise out of the fjord and up to more than 1700m above sea level. There are a number of attractions in the area including the Polar Park Wildlife Centre where you can get close to wolves, the new Narvik War Museum and the scenic train journey along Ofotbanen which crosses the border to Sweden. And if this is not enough – how about some skiing? One of Norway’s most spectacular alpine skiing destinations – Narvikfjellet – is easily accessible from the town centre.
Other attractions in the area include the Polar Park Wildlife Centre, where you can get close to wolves and other species, the new Narvik War Museum and the scenic train journey along the Ofotbanen, which crosses the border into Sweden.
When is the best time to go?
The best time to see the northern lights in Norway is between September and March but remember, seeing them is not guaranteed! It all depends on the activity of the sun and the weather conditions; you will need a clear night and cold, dry conditions.
For the best chance to see the lights, join a northern lights safari where a professional guide will take you out of town and away from manmade light sources in search of the elusive aurora.
What other activities can I do while I’m there?
Tromsø is a great spot for dog sledding and snowmobiling – several operators provide day trips. Narvik has excellent floodlit ski runs and several museums, as well as a cable car that makes for some amazing views across the city. And Bodø is famous for Saltstraumen, a natural, powerful whirlpool that forms at high tide around 33 kilometres from the city centre. Join a boat trip to see this natural phenomenon in action, as it reaches up to 10 metres across.
How to get there and get around
Fly to Bodø and Tromsø from Edinburgh, with one stop connections via Bergen with Loganair. Once you’ve landed, you can travel between destinations using public transport. Regular bus routes run between towns and the famous 729-km Nordlandsbanen between Bodø and Trondheim is an attraction in itself, providing beautiful views along the coast line.
Discover more about Norway:
Fjord Norway – the region containing around a thousand fjords that stretches along Norway’s western coast – is home to some of the most stunning vistas on the planet. These deep valleys, carved out by ancient glaciers, provide the backdrop for unforgettable hikes, amazing railway journeys, adventurous kayak trips and even the chance to walk on a glacier.
Surrounded as they are by fjords and mountains, Bergen and Stavanger in Norway make for an unforgettable weekend away. And in addition to their natural beauty, these trendy cities are packed with excellent, five-star restaurants and unmissable historical sights.
Norway is a phenomenal place to visit thanks to its fantastic cuisine, bounteous nature and fascinating history – not to mention the amazing northern lights. And following an increasingly favourable exchange rate between the pound and Norwegian krone in recent years, the country is more affordable than ever.