Despite the bone-numbingly cold temperatures, Norway’s far north has become the place to be in winter. This is a beautiful area to explore with lots of fun activities to enjoy, but the main reason people turn up is simple: to see the magical northern lights, which dance across the inky black skies in beautiful swirls of colour.
This guide will give you tips on when to visit Norway for the best chance of seeing the northern lights, and will also give you some suggestions on the best places to see the lights – from Bodø and Alta on the Norwegian mainland to more remote places like Lofoten and Svalbard.
We’ve also rounded up some of the best northern lights tours, in case you fancy getting off the beaten track or simply want to learn how to photograph the aurora. Here’s everything you need to know about seeing the northern lights in Norway.
Is Norway a good place to see the lights?
Well, it can be expensive. But there are loads of positive reasons for choosing Norway for your northern lights adventure. It’s safe, it’s easy to get around, and large parts of the country are far enough north to give you a good chance of seeing the lights.
There’s a good selection of hotels and hostels in the north of Norway, too, so you’ll never have too much trouble finding somewhere to stay. In northern Norway you also have the ability to mix aurora spotting with a look around fjords, or a trip up into the mountains.
If you’re worried about the costs adding up, and your main mission is to experience the northern lights, our advice would be to consider Sweden instead – it’s a little cheaper and you’ll have just as much chance of seeing the lights.
Where can I see the northern lights in Norway?
For the most part, you’ll only be able to see the aurora in the northern part of Norway. Experts say your chances will increase the nearer you get to the so-called ‘auroral zone’, a band that stretches around the planet around 2000–3000km from the magnetic pole.
The good news is that lots of places in Norway fall under that band. As a very rough guide, the area between Bodø and Svalbard is usually considered the best for seeing the northern lights in Norway.
Of course, if the conditions are right, there’s nothing to stop you catching the lights well outside that area. It’s not unheard of to see them as far north as Svalbard or as far south as Oslo – but realistically, the chances of you seeing green skies over the Norwegian capital are very low indeed.
There are other factors at play, beyond your latitude. The intensity of overhead displays depends a lot on the amount of solar activity, and of course you won’t be able to see any lights if it’s still daylight (a serious consideration during Norway’s bright summer). Then there’s the weather to think about – even if all other conditions are perfect, there’s a chance that clouds can ruin your view.
Needless to say, you’ll need a bit of planning and a bit of luck: it really is possible to spend a long weekend (or even a couple of weeks) in the north of Norway without seeing the northern lights. For that reason, never let tour companies tell you that you’ll definitely see the lights – they just don’t know that the conditions will be right.
If you want to go please check travel to Norway – Reise nach Norwegen
Despite all that, there are some things you can do to boost your chances of seeing the lights. The places we’ve picked out below are known for their clear skies and frequent displays, so it pays to visit one of those. You should also leave yourself plenty of time – you might get lucky, but only having one night in the north is going to cut your chances significantly. You should also aim to visit at the right time of year (read on for tips).