Welcome to Norway –

The land of the northern lights

Though the northern lights are visible in several countries, Northern Norway's easy accessibility and optimal conditions make it one of the best places on Earth to see them. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, have always been an object of fascination for Norwegians, whether in connection with ancient myths or serious research. That is why we Norwegians like to regard the northern lights as being Norwegian.

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The northern lights have always been associated with myths and legends, one of them being that they are lights dancing in the sky. You can now create your own northern lights dance together with a friend.

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Northern lights occur when electrically-charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

What are the Northern Lights?

  • How does the phenomenon occur?

    The northern lights are a physical phenomenon that occurs when electrically-charged particles from the sun hurtle towards the Earth. The light becomes visible when the particles collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. This phenomenon can only be observed near the magnetic poles. The polar light in the northern hemisphere is called aurora borealis - or northern lights - while the polar lights in the southern hemisphere are called aurora australis, the southern lights.

  • Myths and legends about the northern lights

    There was a great deal of mystery and myths associated with the northern lights in former times. Some considered the northern lights to be an omen of war or plague while others believed the lights were created by dead, old, unmarried women. People were advised against waving white clothing at the northern lights, as this would anger them and cause them to remove you from Earth. Others believed, on the contrary, that the northern lights would wink back if you waved a white garment at them. The Sami people believed that the northern lights had supernatural power, and they used symbols from the lights on their shaman drums.

  • History

    The northern lights have fascinated and captivated people through the ages, and they are mentioned in texts written by Aristotle, among others. Chinese texts from 2000 BC also describe what may be the northern lights. The earliest explanations and descriptions fuelled the myths and mystery surrounding the northern lights, and it was not until the 17th century that the phenomenon was studied in a more systematic and scientific manner. A connection was gradually discovered between the northern lights and magnetic disruptions, and that the sun's activity influenced the phenomenon. In 1886, Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland formulated the first comprehensive theory on the northern lights based on these previous observations. Birkeland developed and underpinned his theory, and his work came to form the basis for modern research on the northern lights. This research still continues today, and it has given us new information about the sun, the Earth's atmosphere and near space.

  • The colour spectrum of the northern lights

    The northern lights can be many different colours. This is determined by the gases with which the particles from the sun collide. This, in turn, is determined by the altitude at which the collision takes place in the atmosphere. The visible northern lights are from 90 km to approx. 150 km above the Earth's surface, and the colours can be categorised roughly as follows:

    • More than 150 km: Red light

    • 120 km - 150 km: Yellow-green light

    • Less than 120 km: Blue-purple light

where and when?

  • How often can you see the northern lights?

    The northern lights are influenced by activity on the sun, and strong solar winds increase and intensify the northern lights. The northern lights are therefore always present. Historically, the chances of seeing the northern lights are best in Northern Norway between October and February because the polar night makes them easier to see.

  • Where can you see the northern lights?

    The northern lights are visible in a belt around the magnetic North Pole. Because of their location and accessibility, the counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark are perfect as a base for experiencing the northern lights. Northern Norway also offers a number of other activities that, combined with the northern lights, can make your trip completely unique. Read more about Northern Norway here.

  • When can you see the northern lights?

    It must be a dark, cloudless night for the northern lights to be visible. Northern Norway during the polar night is therefore the best bet for experiencing the northern lights. Experience shows that the northern lights shine most often and strongest a few hours before and after midnight. The northern lights are strongest when an active area on the sun’s surface faces Earth. Spectacular displays of the northern lights thus occur at roughly 27-day intervals, the time it takes the sun to rotate once. October, February and March are the best months for seeing the aurora borealis.

TODAY'S WEATHER FORECAST

The barometer shows the chance of seeing the northern lights in three selected destinations. The barometer is based on weather forecast data from yr.no, delivered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the NRK.

The following factors are important if you want to take good photos of the northern lights: a stable camera, a high ISO setting, long shutter speed and patience.

tips and tricks

  • How to see the northern lights better

    The northern lights are best viewed on cloudless, dark nights. The weather is therefore the most significant obstacle to seeing the northern lights. There is a greater chance of stable winter weather in the inner reaches of the fjords and inland.

    Don't go looking for the northern lights when there is a full moon because the moon lights up the sky so much that it affects the experience.

    In urban areas, light from houses and buildings can also diminish the northern lights experience.

  • How to take better photos of the northern lights

    There are a few things you should remember if you want to take good photos of the northern lights. Dressing warm is important, there could be a lot of waiting around.

    • Use a digital SLR camera with a remote control release.

    • Use a tripod.

    • Remember to fully charge the battery.

    • Deactivate the flash and automatic settings.

    • Choose an ISO setting between 100 and 400.

    • The lens should be in manual focus mode and set to infinity.

    • Use a long shutter speed, for example 30 seconds or more.

    • An aperture of f 2.8 or better.

    • It is best to use a wide-angle lens, the faster the better.

    • Be patient.

Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic life/www.visitnorway.com

about northern norway

Experience the mountains, wilderness areas and
the coastline from Helgeland to North Cape.

Explore Plan and book
Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic life/www.visitnorway.com

Snowmobiles

Experience Northern Norway's fairy-tale winter landscape from the seat of a snowmobile.

Explore
Photo: Bjørn Eirik Østbakken

Safari

On safari, you can see whales and king crabs close up.
You can also see moose, eagles and reindeer.

Explore
Photo: Andrea Giubelli/www.visitnorway.com

Dog sledding

The vast expanses of wilderness in Northern Norway are made for dog sledding.
Choose guided trips or try on your own.

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Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life/www.visitnorway.com

Reindeer sledding

Let the reindeer pull you over Finnmark's wilderness on a sled or on skis.

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Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life/www.visitnorway.com

King crab safari

Meet the giant crab from the Barents Sea off the coast of Finnmark.

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Photo: Andrea Giubelli/www.visitnorway.com

The Hurtigruten coastal express

Experience the coast of Norway on the Hurtigruten coastal express.

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