Gazing at the northern lights above Tromsø

The Northern Lights – Where, when and how do you get the most magical experience?

You can experience the Northern Lights in Tromsø from late August to mid-April. It needs to be dark, the darker the better. The absolute best time is between 18:00 and 02:00. By the way, a cloudless sky is best. 

Did you know that the Tromsø region is one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights, perhaps even the very best place? The reason for this is our geographical location directly below the Northern Lights oval. We often witness Mother Nature’s majestic light show here in the north. 

Remember that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, so there are never any guarantees. However, good planning, newly acquired knowledge, warm clothes and a dose of patience improve your chances of a successful hunt for the Northern Lights.  

We recommend allowing plenty of time and giving the Northern Lights the time they need. The more nights you spend here, the greater the chance that the Northern Lights activity and the weather will cooperate. 

There is no doubt that Tromsø is a special place that makes an impression, and the Northern Lights certainly play a major role in enhancing the overall experience in autumn and winter. However, it’s worth remembering that there are many wonderful things to do here in the north. Tromsø is where urban delights meet the wild Arctic nature. This unique combination satisfies many an explorer’s urge and creates life-long memories.  

Where can you see the Northern Lights?  

The key is to put your nose in the air and look up!    

We have already mentioned that, owing to its geographical location, the Tromsø region is “the place” to see the Northern Lights. This is backed up by statistics showing that the Tromsø region has the most Northern Lights in the whole world. While it’s often possible to see the Northern Lights in downtown Tromsø, including from your hotel room window, we recommend getting away from the bright city lights and heading out of the city to areas with little or no artificial light. 

How do you get the best possible Northern Lights experience?  

Our best advice is to go on an organised tour with a local guide, who shares their knowledge and offers advice. The guides monitor the weather, cloud cover and the Northern Lights activity carefully. Storytelling is also an important part of the Northern Lights experience – and this is something that Tromsø’s local guides are good at. 

When listing activities on our website, we distinguish between Northern Lights hunts and Northern Lights experiences. Northern Lights hunts take place by car, minibus or bus and the focus of these activities is finding the Northern Lights. Northern Lights experiences combine the hunt with activities such as sleeping in a lavvu (Sami herdsmen’s tent) or going on evening activities such as dog sledding or snowmobiling. In this case, the focus is on the activity with the Northern Lights as a bonus. 

Remember to book well in advance because Northern Lights activities are often fully booked. The same applies to accommodation. The Northern Lights season is a popular time to visit Tromsø! 

We also recommend dressing warmly, as it can get cold here during the winter and you will often spend time sitting still and waiting. It’s not quite as cold during autumn, which is a good option for those wanting a “milder” Northern Lights experience. 

If you choose to join activities such as dog sledding or snowmobiling, the activity providers often provide thermal suits and winter boots. 

When do the Northern Lights appear? 

The green aurora often dances in the sky about the Tromsø region from late August to mid-April. However, it’s worth noting that most Northern Lights activities are not available until early September. 

Some people believe that the Northern Lights activity is stronger during periods of high solar activity because the Northern Lights oval expands. However, research shows that this has little impact on the activity directly below the Northern Lights oval, such as in Tromsø. 

As mentioned, the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are highest when the sky is cloudless, but don’t despair. The weather here in the north changes quickly and, if it’s cloudy, a hole may suddenly appear in the cloud cover. 

It’s also worth noting that the Northern Lights may suddenly appear as explosions in the sky, and then disappear again before you know it. On other evenings, the natural light show may last for an hour or more. One thing is certain: You can’t trust the Northern Lights. You must accept that it’s unpredictable and you must be patient. 

Did you know that…?  

  • The golden colours of autumn may be combined with the Northern Lights in an exceptionally beautiful way. When you add hiking in the colourful mountain landscape, the wonderful fresh autumn air and indoor cosiness in the evening, it’s little wonder that many locals describe autumn as their favourite time of year. 

  • During the Polar Night, which lasts from late November to late January, the Arctic light impresses locals and visitors alike. We are talking about the light during the day because, even though the sun never rises above the horizon during this period, it never gets completely dark here during the daytime. The sky is often decorated with beautiful pastel colours. For many, this is just as momentous as experiencing the Northern Lights. 

    However, here in Tromsø, we are so lucky that we often get both on the same day!