When Angels are Painting – Seeing the Northern Lights in Norway

Northern Lights in Ersfjord, Norway

When Angels are Painting – Seeing the Northern Lights in Norway

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are a natural phenomenon that can paint the night sky with unearthly, surreal colours.

There are several myths about the Northern Lights. One of them says you should avoid waiving, singing or whistling at the Northern Lights. People used to believe that the spirits would come down and take you away.
Some Alaskan Inuits would hide their children, and sometimes try to throw dog excrement and urine up in the air to make the lights go away.

Nowadays we know that these dramatic and colourful lights are created when electrically charged particles from solar winds enter the earth’s atmosphere and interact with gases in the atmosphere.

The stronger the solar winds are the more intense the Northern Lights will glow.

The colour depends on the type of atmospheric gas and although mostly you see them glowing in a greenish colour, they can be seen in many different colours from creamy yellow to lavender purple and sometimes they will fade from one colour to the next.

Typically they occur within the Arctic Circle, but with a little luck they can also be seen further South.

Okay, so how about Southern Lights?

Yes, there are also Southern Lights which occur in the Antarctic Circle and with a little luck in Southern Australia or New Zealand.

In Europe the Northern Lights can be seen all around Northern Scandinavia and Iceland, but surely one for the best places for seeing them is Norway.

So where to see the Northern Lights in Norway?

Generally you need to be around the Arctic Circle, it must be a clear night sky and you should be away from big cities with high light pollution. And then you just need to be lucky and have strong enough solar winds coming from the sun.

Good chances for seeing them in Norway are from the Lofoten Islands up to the North Cape. And although you might also see some beautiful Northern Lights when exploring Svalbard, the chances are lower because being half way between Norway and the North Pole it’s already too far North.
The first time I saw the Northern Lights I was one week hitchhiking around Lofoten, hiking and camping at beautiful beaches. The rocky mountains of the Lofoten Islands offer a perfect setting for taking great pictures. Me and my hitchhiking buddy, Remi got invited to stay the night with a lovely family. And while we were sitting around having a chat suddenly they called us out. We ran out of the house and stood there in amazement. I didn’t want to take any pictures, but just enjoy the show.
Imagine how the colours where dancing across the night sky. Thin lines of green quickly changing with a pale yellow moving along the sky from one horizon to the other. Together with the smiling moon and the sparkling stars the painting is complete.

 

 

Most famous for seeing the Northern Lights is also Tromsø. There are several tour operators offering Northern Lights tours in Tromsø, but if you want to explore them on your own you need some transportation to get out of the bigish city.

I have a South African friend living in Tromsø. He told me the first time he saw the Northern Lights he was asking who’s turning them on and off.

While I was in Tromsø, I hitchhiked a few days around Kvaloya, the neighbouring island. The first night I slept in a guest house where they were so nice and let me sleep for free in the common room on the couch. I also saw some Northern Lights that night but when I had my camera ready they were gone already.
The next night I was camping in a beautiful fjord called Ersfjord, which is also well-known for whale watching. That night I saw some very beautiful Northern Lights. Camping at the fjord with the Northern Lights illuminating the sky and the sea reflecting the colourful rays was an amazing experience.

Another great place for seeing the Northern Lights in Norway is Skibotn. I like this place very much because it’s a small village, so you’re out in nether land in no time. Due to it’s very dry climate it’s most likely clear sky there.

And when is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

You have good chances to see them from October until March. They can be seen as long as it’s dark enough. I usually saw them the strongest around 10pm though.
The solar storms also come in a 11-year cycle with the last maximum in 2014. So 2019 or 2020 should have the least and 2025 again the most Northern Lights.

What the heck are these rainbow coloured clouds?

Polar Stratospheric Clouds! They have actually nothing to do with Northern Lights, but they are nearly as cool as Northern Lights and are far better than all hallucinogenic drugs!

These colourful clouds can only be seen in the Arctic during the polar nights. They consist of ice particles that reflect the low sun light.

 

Polar Stratospheric Clouds

 

How my hitchhiking buddy, Remi beautifully describes the Northern Lights…

Aurora Borealis. Just the name of it sounds colourful and magical : green, purple, strong, smooth, lines, curves. A dance more magnificent than swans moves, a move from the universe itself. It’s a dance unrealisable for humans, and yet it fills up our most fantastic dreams. There is something even more powerful and subtile than the colours and the dance : the music it delivers. Sounds for sore ears. Again, humans have never been able to reproduce it, on the contrary, they tend to go away from it! It’s a symphony in the sky, a ballad of flames and a melody to make you cry and smile at the same time. It’s the sound of peace. When you start to listen, you will only hear the beating of your heart, accelerating as the aurora is growing. Because silence is a masterpiece in these lands… All your senses are prisoners from the aurora, you can’t control anything, and what is happening is that you deliver yourself to it. Because you have never heard such silence and never seen such picture, in reality!

Thanks to Remi for some amazing pictures – check his Flickr account for more great pics!

 

Anyway, neither words nor pictures come close to the experience of seeing the spectacular happening of the Northern Lights. So you should definitely go and see them yourself!

41 Comments

  • Kaylene Chadwell

    I can’t wait to see the Northern Lights! They look so unreal and magestic! I love your photos and thanks for sharing this great info!

    February 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm
  • Rob Taylor

    Those Polar Stratospheric Clouds are awesome. I’ve seen them when I’ve been in Alaska and northern Canada. The arctic is so very underrated for its sights.

    February 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Oh yes, it’s totally underrated!

      February 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm
  • Traveling Rockhopper

    I can recommend Kirkenes in Norway 🙂
    I really fell in love with that place 🙂

    February 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Kirkenes must be interesting with all the Russian influence.

      February 18, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  • Deborah

    I love this post! Seeing the Northern Lights is definitely on my bucket list. And, now, I know exactly where to go.

    February 18, 2016 at 4:26 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      I’m glad you like it! 🙂

      February 18, 2016 at 7:31 pm
  • Lillian

    I went to Northern Finland for a week in mid-November and didn’t see any due to the clouds… okay correction we saw a glimpse through a break in the cloudes for half hour on the night this past November when they were super active and beautiful. So disappointing but loved the adventure anyway and hope to visit the north again to see them. Great photos!

    February 18, 2016 at 5:17 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      The more time you spend up here the more likely you will get to see them. Take your time and enjoy! 🙂

      February 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm
  • Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs

    Awesome pics, love it! These are so magical, can’t get enough of them!

    February 18, 2016 at 11:21 pm
  • Jared @ thehesitantchef.com

    My sisters live in Norway and they’ve been trying to get me to come so I can see these. I’m jealous. They look amazing. I can’t wait to see them!

    February 19, 2016 at 12:21 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      You should definitely go! 🙂

      February 19, 2016 at 12:49 am
  • revisfoodography

    Yes, these are true magic. I was lucky to view them last year in Alaska. Beautiful pics 🙂

    February 19, 2016 at 12:30 am
  • Amandas_Wanderlust

    Great post. Your pictures are absolutely stunning.

    February 19, 2016 at 12:05 pm
  • Wanderlustingk

    Stunning! I visited Iceland over Christmas, but didn’t get to see the Northern Lights. Hopefuly the next trip up north in winter. Love the photos!

    February 20, 2016 at 12:12 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Oh Iceland must be amazing too! I’m sure you will get to see them soon! 🙂

      February 20, 2016 at 12:52 am
  • elizabeth

    Beautiful pictures! The Northern Lights are amazing to see. I like the myths about them.

    February 20, 2016 at 11:52 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Yeah, the myths are pretty cool! 🙂

      February 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  • corinnevail

    You can’t help but love the Northern Lights. I lived in Alaska and have seen them many, many times. We used to have a call tree when they came out, since a lot of the time it was in the middle of the night. Beautiful photos!

    February 21, 2016 at 7:57 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Oh, Alaska must be a lovely place for living! I bet you get to see good Northern Lights over there.

      February 21, 2016 at 8:41 am
  • Lauren

    Beautiful visuals! Thanks for sharing!

    February 22, 2016 at 12:54 am
  • [email protected] Yoga Mat Monkey

    Stunning photos! Thanks for the bit of history and explanation as to what the Northern Lights actually are. Great post!

    February 22, 2016 at 1:58 am
  • Sally

    Amazing!! Those photos are spectacular!! Can’t wait to witness them myself one day 🙂

    February 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  • The Traveling Gals

    Looks amazing! I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights.

    February 22, 2016 at 3:36 pm
  • Sofia

    Awesome photos! Would love to see this one day..

    February 22, 2016 at 3:37 pm
  • Brianna

    I LOVE the title of this post! What a beautiful way to describe the Northern Lights. I haven’t seen them before, but I know they’ve appeared a few times in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan!

    February 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  • Iman Brooks

    Beautiful and informative. Some of this information was very new to me.

    February 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm
  • Style Domination

    Fantastic! I really hope to see the Northern Lights one day!

    February 22, 2016 at 5:38 pm
  • MariaAbroad

    Wow, those pictures are stunning. I think I would be afraid a little to miss the amazing show by focusing on taking pictures. But I would be equally upset, if I didn’t take pictures. I guess I’ll have to stay long enough, so I can do both <3 How long do they usually last? Is it usually just a few minutes or does it last longer?

    February 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Yes, I totally agree. You have to stay long enough! I’m up here in Arctic Norway already since half a year. So lots of chances! 🙂 It depends, sometimes they are passing quickly and when you get your camera ready they are gone already. Sometimes they will last several hours constantly fading in and out.

      February 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm
  • Cheryl

    Nice photos! I have been wanting to see the Northern Lights for some time now – you have re-energized my goal!

    February 23, 2016 at 12:00 am
  • Maya

    Gorgeous photos! I’ve seen northern lights few times in Canada but wouldn’t mind seeing southern lights either 😉 I’ve seen pink and purple in souther lights (on photos). But still haven’t managed to shoot the northern lights properly.

    February 23, 2016 at 2:45 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      Yeah, seeing the Southern Lights must be amazing too! And I’m sure Arctic Canada is also great for seeing the Northern Lights. 🙂

      February 23, 2016 at 2:32 pm
  • Vyjay Rao

    This has been a lifetime dream, cannot wait for the time when I stand in front of the Northern Lights, great article and amazing pictures.

    February 23, 2016 at 6:29 am
  • Katie Featherstone

    Wow, this looks absolutely magical.

    March 2, 2016 at 10:40 pm
  • thatsofarah

    Amazing views! I’m stunned. Hope I’ll be able to make it there one day!

    March 3, 2016 at 8:44 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      No need to hope! If you can dream it, you can do it! 🙂

      March 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm
  • klauss

    ohmy, its unforgettable impression )

    March 3, 2016 at 9:42 pm
  • Aaron

    There are many great places to see the Northern Lights in Canada as well … I also tried to see the Southern Lights when I was in Argentina late last year, but the weather down in that hemisphere makes it too cloudy for people to see the Southern Lights with any real regularity.

    March 22, 2016 at 3:17 am
    • Stevie
      Stevie

      I bet they are also quite amazing in Canada and Alaska. It might be better to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania or Southern New Zealand.

      March 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

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