Northern lights over the Ersfjord in Tromsø. Photo: Bjørn Jørgensen / Innovation Norway .Northern lights over the Ersfjord in Tromsø. Photo: Bjørn Jørgensen / Innovation Norway

Let there be northern lights

Last updated: 22.08.2009 // The North Cape in Finnmark is one of many good places in Northern Norway to see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis.

See pictures of the northern lights at - the official travel guide to Norway.

Seeing the northern lights is a jaw-dropping and mystical moment. The lights are at their most frequent in late autumn and winter/early spring. October, February and March are the best months for auroral observations. The highest northern lights frequency is between 6 pm and 1 am.

In order to get full value from the show you should avoid the full moon and places with a lot of light as they make the experience considerably paler. Also remember to wrap up warmly.

Theoretically, you can see the northern lights all over Norway. However, the best places are above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway.

Be patient

When dreaming about seeing the northern lights, you must remember that you are at the complete mercy of nature. The northern lights love to play hide and seek. Observing the aurora borealis is often a tug of war between your patience and the aurora itself. Stay in the northern lights area at least a week, preferably two, and you will be rewarded - unless local weather suddenly decides to obstruct your view with clouds.

A rainbow at night

Sometimes the northern lights come all together, dancing across the sky, orange, purple, green and sunset red. Other times they are simply curtains of computer-screen green or a twister of wispy light. The northern lights are never the same twice.

Living legend

Perhaps not so surprisingly, the northern lights’ spectacle has created as many legends as there have been people watching. Northern light symbols are found on the Sami shamanistic drum. The phenomenon has several different names in Sami. It is, for instance, known as Guovssahas, which means the light which can be heard. The northern lights were traditionally associated with sound by the Sami.

During the Viking Age, the northern lights were the armour of the Valkyrie warrior virgins, shedding a strange flickering light. And according to Japanese legend it means good luck to conceive a child under the northern lights.


Reality, if not as poetic, is equally impressive. The sun is the father of the auroras. During large explosions and flares, huge quantities of particles are thrown out of the sun and into deep space.

These clouds travel through space with speeds varying from 300 to 1,000 kilometres per second. When the particles collide with the gases in the earth’s atmosphere they glow, producing a fantastic array of colour.

An absolutely fabulous trip to see the northern lights

Joanna Lumley, the actress from the BBC series Absolutely Fabulous, had dreamt of seeing the northern lights since she was a child. And finally she got to live out her dream. In a splendid BBC film, she travels across Norway in search for the aurora borealis. For Joanna, as for many others who get to experience the illusive lights, it was an altogether emotional experience.

Watch an extract from the film Joanna Lumley - In the Land of the Northern Lights.

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