In your wildest dreams, what do you want to do? If you could go anywhere and see anything, what's on your agenda? For me, experiencing the Northern Lights was most certainly at the top of my bucket list.
Self disclosure, I'm not really a math and science type of gal. I love rhetoric and writing anything and everything from business correspondence, to newspaper articles, to this little lighthearted blog; but give me a calculus equation and my answer will be "no thank you". I have however, always enjoyed Earth sciences, to include astronomy and atmospheric sciences, thus the Aurora Borealis has forever impressed and fascinated me.
First and foremost, I have to give a mega monumental shout out to GreenFox Guiding for an amazing experience and kick ass photos to document our light chase. When you're staring up at the sky waiting to see the dancing lights, you don't want to be preoccupied and fiddling with your camera to get a shot. Unless you're a budding photog, in which case you very well may... but I'm not in that category, so I was pumped that our guide Jacek also happened to be a super skilled photographer. You'll be seeing his photos throughout this post.
So how does one plan for a night of chasing the Northern Lights? For this phenomenon, timing is everything, but so much of it is also luck! Sure you can plan some things, like the time of day you are chasing- darkness is necessary to see the Aurora, so you'll be chasing at night and you will need to be away from any "light pollution". Keeping on trend with darkness, you're most likely to see the lights between late September through late March, so plan for a fall or winter visit. It's important to note that there isn't much daylight during the winter, so choose wisely if you are planning to fit in a lot of other activities during the day. Most companies you book your daytime activities with will take this into consideration.
Another BIG factor in whether you will see the Aurora Borealis or not is the weather forecast. Aurora occurs very high up in the atmosphere, so cloud coverage can completely block your view on an unclear night. For our visit, the weather forecast was NOT in our favor. Clouds, drizzle, the whole list of things you don't want for a night of chasing the lights. If this happens to be the case during your visit, I can suggest two things: keep your hopes high, but your expectations low. Once I saw our forecast I was ready to book a second night of light chasing, just in case, but I waited it out. Our guide was incredible, using smartphone apps, experience, a network of chasers, and good old fashion science to find a great spot to see the lights. After a drive out of the city, we settled next to a fjord in an area that used to be occupied by Vikings, set up shop, and waited.
Sooner rather than later, clouds began to shift above us and we waited patiently. I saw so many bright burning stars emerge as the clouds shifted. As a perpetual city-dweller this was a new sight and almost enough for me, as I had promised myself to keep my expectations low in the event that the weather didn't participate. Finally, the sky opened up and we were rewarded with waves of light through the clouds. It was nothing short of incredible, and completely worth all the distance we traveled to see it.
One of the most mesmerizing things I have seen or experienced.
After watching the Aurora shift through the moving clouds above, we set out to find a camping spot. Nestled on cozy reindeer pelts, we watched Jacek make a campfire and pass out reindeer sausages and traditional Norwegian pastries called lefsa. The lefsa were tasty! The closest thing I can compare it to is if you stacked tortillas on top of each other with cinnamon butter layered in between.. mmmmm. As you'll recall I said they were yummy, not necessarily healthy.
In our small group for the evening we were joined by an English family and a French couple. We roasted our sausages and shared stories like old friends, passing a bottle of wine between us while the Aurora continued to show above us. Despite the winter weather of northern Norway, my heart was so full and happy that I felt warm and fuzzy all over. Or was that the Merlot?
If the Aurora Borealis and all its glory is on your bucketlist, check out these tips for planning your chase...
Where to go:
We chose northern Norway for our trip, but the Northern Lights are also most visible in the Finnish Lapland, Iceland, southern Greenland, Northern Russia, Alaska, and northern Canada. So what do these locations all have in common? other than being cold, these locations have the title of being within the Arctic Circle and Aurora Zone, where the Aurora is most visible.
When to go:
Unfortunately there is never a guarantee of seeing the Aurora, but timing your trip properly can amp up the possibility. Try to visit during months of high activity, between late September and March. If you want to work in snowmobiling or sledding, stick to winter months of November through February.
Eyes on the skies:
Cloud cover will hinder your view, but can't be predicted well in advance. It's the luck of the draw, so be patient and prepared to wait for clouds to move, or even better, schedule more than one night to chase the lights if you can swing the cost to do so.
In general, I can't recommend this experience enough. Yes it's far, yes it might be cold, it is not really a "budget trip", but it was SO worth it!
Thanks again to Jacek and GreenFox Guiding for the perfect night and killer pics. If you have any questions about planning your Northern Lights chase, leave them below or shoot me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience" -Ralph Waldo Emerson
BON VOYAGE, BABES!! xoxo