Dynamic Variation:
Offers
x

There was not an exact match for the language you toggled to. You have been redirected to the nearest matching page within this section.

Choose Language
Toggling to another language will take you to the matching page or nearest matching page within that selection.
Search & Book Sponsored Links
Search
or search all of Norway

Facts and fiction about the northern lights

What are the northern lights really about?
Many are fascinated by the aurora borealis, but few know the science and myths related to the natural light show in the sky.
Northern lights over Grøtfjord in Kvaløya, Northern Norway
Northern lights over Grøtfjord, Kvaløya.
Photo: Gaute Bruvik / Visitnorway.com
Dynamic Variation:

But the phenomenon can also be explained in a tangible way: We have the sun to thank for everything, also the auroras, and during large solar explosions and flares, huge quantities of particles are thrown out from the sun and into deep space.

The maths of the northern lights

Here’s where it gets really interesting: When the particles meet the Earth’s magnetic shield, they are led towards an oval around the magnetic North Pole where they interact with the upper parts of the atmosphere, the layers of ozone, oxygen, and other stuff that protect the earth. The energy which is then released is sent to us as northern lights.

Dynamic Variation:

But never take the northern lights for granted. It’s as much a natural phenomenon as the weather. Its appearance and intensity are controlled by the sun’s activity and its location depends on the earth’s magnetic field.

The northern light appears in a belt, or an oval, which is situated above the Earth in a regular position in relation to the sun. The lights will usually be visible over mainland Northern Norway during the night and over Svalbard during the daytime. When solar activity increases, the northern lights can also be seen further south in Norway.

Explaining the northern lights

Interested in learning more about aurora’s origin? This video will explain the fascinating details of the northern lights.

Aurora borealis is far from a new phenomenon. The spectacle of the northern lights is described by early storytellers and has given rise to many legends. Symbols linked to the northern lights are for instance found on the Sami shamanistic drum. The phenomenon has several different names in Sami, amongst them “Guovssahas” which means “the light which can be heard”. It’s poetry in motion.

Dynamic Variation:

When and where? There’s no exact answer, but …

It is often said that the northern parts of Norway are the best places in the world to see the northern lights, as this part of the country lies just below the auroral oval. Well, if we’re honest that is only a partial truth, as ­the lights can be just as visible from destinations outside of Norway.

But our bold claim is that Northern Norway definitely is amongst the most comfortable and interesting places to see the lights, as hundreds of thousands of people live in this huge geographical area, offering a variety of hotels and activities to keep you busy.

Dynamic Variation:

It’s important to remember that aurora can be a bit of a diva, and she will only start the show when she feels the time is right. Patience is a virtue, also when chasing the northern lights. But to maximize your chances of a sighting, know that the lights are at their most frequent in late autumn and winter/early spring (from September to late March), during the hours from 6 pm to 1 am.

However, Aurora borealis has its climax when the weather is cold and dry, usually from December. Some will tell you that the driest weather and the clearest sky is found inland, but that isn’t always true.

With strong eastern wind, the coast can be clearer than inland areas. Avoid the full moon, though, as it will make the experience considerably paler.

A cool northern lights visualization

Dynamic Variation:

Lights, camera … action!

When the light show brightens up the sky, the moment is definitely worth freezing. The 27-year-old photographer Christian Hoiberg has loads of experience with eternalising aurora’s fleeting beauty in images.

Best deals from our partners

Book your next Norwegian holiday adventure now.

  • Crystal Lavvu Stay with Whale Watching and Northern Lights by Book Nordics
    Credits
    Crystal Lavvu Stay with Whale Watching and Northern Lights by Book Nordics
    Photo: Book Nordics
    Crystal Lavvu Stay with Whale Watching and Northern Lights
    Spend your night in a Crystal Lavvu under the Northern Lights

    Spend your night in a Crystal Lavvo in the Lyngen Alps. We pick you up in Tromsø and take you out on an adventure of a lifetime! Dinner, breakfast, transportation and whale watching included. | Book Nordics

  • Hurtigruten and northern lights
    Credits
    Hurtigruten and the northern lights
    Photo: Visit Norway
    Northern Lights Cruise
    Visit Tromsø, the North Cape and Kirkenes

    6-day tour, including a return cruise from Tromsø to Kirkenes with Hurtigruten. Visit the North Cape and try winter activities including dog sledding and snowmobiling. | Authentic Scandinavia

  • Aurora Dinner Cruise by Brim Explorer
    Credits
    Aurora Dinner Cruise by Brim Explorer
    Photo: Romain Charrier
    Aurora Dinner Cruise
    Arctic tapas under the Northern Lights

    Join our Northern Lights Cruise and enjoy a delicious arctic tapas menu from our local partner in Tromsø while we look for the Northern Lights! | Brim Explorer.

  • Looking out from a glass dome in northern Norway
    Credits
    Camping in northern Norway
    Photo: Glød Explorer
    Aurora Canvas Dome
    Save 10% by joining our Adventure Club

    Spend a night in a glass dome under the northern lights. Wake up inside the remote pine forest of Alta overlooking majestic snow-covered mountains. Private bathroom and sauna facilities available. | Book Nordics

  • Kirkenes Snowhotel from the outside at nighttime
    Credits
    Kirkenes Snowhotel from the outside at nighttime
    Photo: Visit Norway
    Arctic Winter Adventure
    Snowhotel Kirkenes, Hurtigruten & Tromsø.

    6-day winter adventure tour including an overnight stay at Kirkenes Snow Hotel, a cruise with Hurtigruten to Tromsø, and a wide selection of optional winter activities. | Authentic Scandinavia

  • Norwegian Fjords & Northern Lights  by Authentic Scandinavia
    Credits
    Norwegian Fjords & Northern Lights by Authentic Scandinavia
    Photo: Grim Berge
    Norwegian Fjords & Northern Lights
    Oslo, Bergen, Flåm and Tromsø

    6-day winter adventure. See the fjords and the Arctic city Tromsø. Amazing winter activities like dog sledding, northern lights safari, and much more can be added. | Authentic Scandinavia

  • Tromsø Wildlife & Northern Lights by Authentic Scandinavia
    Credits
    Tromsø Wildlife & Northern Lights by Authentic Scandinavia
    Photo: Brim Explorer
    Tromsø Wildlife & Northern Lights
    Tromsø City Break with a Wildlife Cruise

    4-day break to Tromsø including a wildlife cruise and hunt for the northern lights. With one day free, you will have the opportunity to add additional winter activities like dog sledding, a reindeer safari, and more. | Authentic Scandinavia

  • Tromsø
    Credits
    Tromsø
    Photo: Truls Tiller
    Tromsø Winter Break
    Tromsø, Northern Lights and Dog Sledding

    4-day winter break to Tromsø in Northern Norway, including dog sledding and a northern lights chase by minibus. Additional winter activities can be added. | Authentic Scandinavia

  • Sleigh Ride Under the Northern
    Credits
    Sleigh Ride Under the Northern
    Photo: Book Nordics
    5-Day Northern Lights and Winter Adventure in Lyngen
    Exciting winter activities and northern lights

    Want to gaze up at the northern lights dancing in the pitch black sky? Or swing crampons and an ice axe deep into a frozen waterfall? How about a cross-country skiing course followed by a trip in remote mountains? Or dog sledding? This trip lets you experience all of these activities and more! | Hvitserk

  • Northern Lights Stay at Lyngen Lodge by 50 Degrees North
    Credits
    Northern Lights Stay at Lyngen Lodge by 50 Degrees North
    Photo: Graham Austick / Lyngen Lodge
    Northern Lights Stay at Lyngen Lodge
    Mountain Lodge and winter adventures under the Northern Lights

    5-day stay in boutique lodge with transfers, dog sledding, all meals, snowmobiling, and sea safari. | 50 Degrees North

  • Lofoten & Northern Lights by 50 Degrees North
    Credits
    Lofoten & Northern Lights by 50 Degrees North
    Photo: Piotr Krzeslak / Shutterstock
    Lofoten & Northern Lights by 50 Degrees North
    Authentic experience in the Lofoten Archipelago

    4-day tour with Aurora Chase Guided tour, RIB boat tour,  and accommodation  in a traditional fisherman's cabin. | 50 Degrees North

  • Magical Northern Light by Up Norway
    Credits
    Magical Northern Light by Up Norway
    Photo: Sorrisniva
    Magical Northern Lights
    Go dogsledding and whalewatching

    This journey encourages you to create your own magical connection in Alta, going on adventures such as dogsledding, snowmobiling and ice-fishing, and seeking the illuminations of the polar night. | Up Norway.

Get inspired

Your Recently Viewed Pages

Back to top