When to see the Northern LightsEverything you need for your ultimate Northern Lights experience in the Arctic
Asking when to see the Northern Lights? We got all the answers you need to plan your ultimate Northern Lights holiday!
The Northern Lights start appearing above the Arctic circle in the end of August, and usually can not be seen anymore after the end of March. The strongest lights are during the seasonal changes of September and March, but the whole period between September and March are excellent times to see the Northern Lights. They are unpredictable and can be seen at any time from 6pm to 6am, with the most ‘popular’ viewing times from 8pm-2am, which is when most tours happen.
So in essence, it depends on where you are. You need a certain level of darkness known as “Astronomical Twilight” – this is where the sun is more than 18° below the horizon. In Tromsø, this is from the 1st of September to the 12th of April and it is almost impossible to view the northern lights outside this time as there is just too much daylight. However a very strong activity may still be detectable with a camera outside these times.
The further north you are, the higher are the chances of strong Northern Lights activity and the longer the period it appears during the year. In comparison to for example Iceland, Tromsø is located on a higher latitude and increase the chances of Northern Lights to appear. You can read more about this on our “Where to see the Northern Lights” Guide.
What about the weather? Tromsø has a much milder coastal climate than other destinations the same latitude. This is due to the gulf stream which brings warmer air up to the Arctic. The average winter temperature in Tromsø is around -4°C, though if you have to travel inland it can get up to -25°C.
Tromsø’s average temperatures, precipitation & wind are:
September: 9.6°C / 88 mm / 2.3 m/s
October: 4.5 °C / 89 mm / 2.9 m/s
November: 0.1°C / 30.3 mm / 3.8 m/s
December: 0.5°C / 235.6 mm / 4.4 m/s
January: -1.5°C / 166.2 mm / 4.9 m/s
February: -2.9°C / 108 mm / 3.6 m/s
March: -1.6°C / 148 mm / 3.7 m/s
Therefore, it makes it one of the top destinations to watch the Northern Lights as its latitude and mild winter temperatures is one of the best combinations in the world.
Make your trip worth while. Traveling to the far North is a long trip for many, which is why it is important to choose a destination with many activities to do in case the weather is not on your side. For example, Tromsø offers hiking, sightseeing, fjord sailing, fishing and RIB-Boat excursions during the late summer and fall. During the winter one can snowshoe hike, go dog sledding, feed reindeer, sail through the fjords, fish for your own lunch and of course, witness the Northern lights in many ways.
Key Takeaways: The Northern Lights appear from September to March at anytime from 6pm to 6am (as long as it is dark). September and October are ‘lower season’ months with less crowds, warmer temperatures and can enjoy hiking, sailing and fishing. December through March is considered the high season where one can also dog sled, feed reindeers, witness the polar night, snowshoe hike and more.