Everything You Need to Know About The Northern Lights in Tromsø

When to see the Northern Lights? How to photograph the Northern Lights? Where to go to see the Northern Lights? We have got you covered.

You have seen the photos scroll through your Instagram, videos fill your Facebook feed and voila, the Northern Lights have been moved to the top of your bucket list. This spectacle is something that truly has to be seen in person, but where do you even begin? Where do you go to see the Northern Lights? How do you photograph the Northern Lights? What do you wear? We have gathered the best information to better prepare you to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø, one of the top rated destinations in the world to watch the Northern Lights dance in the sky.

Let’s Begin: Why do the northern lights appear?  

What are the Northern Lights?

According to the Northern Lights Center, the dancing of the aurora is caused from collisions of particles that come from the sun. They are attracted to the magnetic poles of the Earth and then collide with different gasses in the Earths atmosphere. Your guide will give you a further explanation of the lights while on our tour.

Where do the Northern Lights appear?

The Northern Lights appear in the ‘Aurora Zone’ or ‘Aurora Oval” which is a belt centered around the North Pole. The ‘zone’ includes Northern Scandinavia, specifically Tromsø because we are luckily located in the middle of the Aurora zone, which gives us the highest chance to see the lights.

 

When are the Northern Lights visible in Tromsø?

The Norther Lights start appearing in Tromsø around September, and usually can not be seen anymore after March. The strongest lights are during the seasonal changes of September and March.

Why see the Northern Lights in Tromsø and not other destinations? 

Tromsø is in the middle of the Aurora Belt

Visit Tromsø has shared many reasons for why you should venture to Tromsø versus other designations to see the Northern Lights. The first being that Tromsø is in the middle of the ‘Aurora Oval’ which is an area that has the highest chance to see the Northern lights, regardless of the sun cycles. 

Tromsø has a lot of amazing hotels & apartments

Tromsø has great options for accommodations. There are over 2600 hotel rooms to choose from, where you can also spend the night on a 72 foot sailing ship and watch the Northern Lights from a secluded bay. Our favorite hotel, The Clarion Edge, has been awarded Clarion’s top property in 2016.

It's not that cold... seriously.

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

A destination offering much more than the Northern Lights

Tromsø is the perfect place for arctic activities. Tromsø has it all. Northern lights hunting, whale safari, dog sledding, skiing, snowshoe hiking, reindeer sledding, sleighing, great restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and stunning nature. It is an easy choice if you were to ask us.

Design your trip here

Tromsø has great flight connections

Tromsø has great flight connections including Oslo, London, Helsinki, Munich, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Stockholm. We also fly regional to Bodø, Alta, Kirnes, and Narvik. You can also fly to Longyearbyen, Svalbard from Tromsø airport. The airport is also 10 minutes from town, which means you do not need to spend hours in the car or a bus to get to town.

It's the perfect weekend getaway

If you are looking for an all-encompassing weekend getaway, Tromsø is perfect. You can sail through the fjords on a 72 foot sail shop, anchor in a secluded bay, watch the Northern lights in a hot tub, wake up to orcas outside of your window and enjoy 3 meals all in 24 hours (for the same price as 1 night in a hotel). 

What should I wear watching the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

The art of layering

Under-layer: If there is anything you should not leave the house without, it is your wool, silk or synthetic base layer against your skin. Avoid cotton if possible since it does not dry out very fast, which will just make you colder. Merino wool is our favorite.  

Base-layer: a ‘puffer jacket’ or something that is warm enough to keep the heat in. Usually fleece or wool is the best option to keep you very warm.

Outer-layers: On the outside should be a well-insulated, weatherproof jacket or trousers. While your clothes may not have to be completely waterproof, we recommend dressing to stay dry. Think ‘ski gear’

Your head, hands & lips

Gloves: It is a great idea to bring not one, but 2 pairs of clothes with you when you are traveling to the far North. The wind can be wet and it is hard to get your hands warm once they have gone ‘cold’. If you find yourself not used to the cold weather, we recommend carbon hand-foot warmers that you can buy at most outdoor shops. Shake them up to activate them and pop them in your gloves or boots.

Boots: There can be a lot of ice in town, which is why we would recommend weather proof boots with warm insulated wool socks to keep your feet warm and dry. You can also buy spikes for the bottom of your boots in town so you do not slip and fall in town.
Hats & Accessories: Make sure to keep your neck and head warm with a hat, earmuffs or a scarf. These are essential to being very comfortable, and an easy way to keep heat in your body. We also suggest a neck warmer to pull over your nose in wet, windy conditions. Oh yes, do not forget lip balm to keep your lips soft and crack free.

We provide 'warm dry suits'

If you are traveling with Pukka Travels, we will provide you with a warm safety suit (on all of our sailing tours), and a similar warm Suit If you are joining on one of our Tesla tours. Though these suits keep all of your heat inside, it’s important to ‘layer’ your clothes so you are not too cold. The Northern Lights sometimes calls for 30 minutes of standing in the arctic winter.

How do I photograph the Northern Lights? 

How do I take photos of the Northern Lights like the ones I see on Instagram?

We have all seen them, the videos and photos of the Northern lights pop up through your instagram and facebook feeds. Deep purples and saturated greens fill the night sky and it almost looks as if we have entered a new planet. Our most frequently asked question is ‘how do I take photos that look like the ones I see online?’ The answer is quite simple, and you do not need to be a professional photographer to figure it out.

Can I take photos of the Northern Lights with my iPhone?

We have many adventurers come to Tromsø with no ‘fancy’ camera, but still want the opportunity to take photos of the Northern Lights. Do not fret, you too can take ‘fancy’ photos of the northern lights, with your smartphone… and an app to help you. We recommend our guests to download the ‘long exposure’ app because it allows more light to come into your iPhone camera, similar to the larger, fancy ones. Once again, a tripod is recommended, but we have you covered.

How to set up your camera to photograph the Northern Lights
  1. If you have a DSLR, or a camera that can be set to ‘manual’ mode you want to first have your camera on a tripod. Since it’s dark outside, there is not enough light to keep it steady without one.
  2. Set your camera to a high ISO (between 800 and 3200),
  3. Set your aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6, and your shutter speed between 15-30 seconds. Shutter speeds past 15 seconds will result with a ‘slight star movement,’ which is something you have also seen in photos.

Luckily, your Pukka Travels guide will help you put your camera on the correct setting if all of this camera talk is gibberish to you, not to mention we have tripods you can borrow free of cost.

What is the best phone app to photograph the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

Our favorite app for shooting the Northern Lights with an iOS (apple) device is ‘Northern Lights Photo Taker‘ which costs $0.99.  Definitely worth the purchase if you want a ‘quick snap’ of the lights.

Download it here: 

What if your photos are on the proper settings but are coming out 'too bright'?

This is because you have unwanted ‘light pollution’ or ambient light. Man made light sources, cities, populated areas are usually not good places to shoot from. Dark, secluded and deserted places with dim to no lighting and little movement is key. On our tours, we take you to areas with very little to no light so you can get the perfect photograph. 

Is it possible for someone to take photos of me while on a Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø?

Of course! If you are looking for a photographer for your tour, please do not hesitate to ask us. We can arrange one of our photographers to go out and photograph you with your friends, family or loved one our with the lights dancing in the sky.

What are the top Northern Lights Tours in Tromsø?

Northern Lights Fjord Sailing Excursion

Our Northern Lights Sailing is a 3 hour excursion that gives you the opportunity to see two arctic phenomenons, the powerful mystery of winter and the chance to see the Northern Lights all while sailing onboard one of our luxurious catamarans. In the winter, the sun is replaced with the polar night, exchanging the light of the sun with saturated greens and purples dancing in the moonlight.

Time: Daily 21:30-00:30
Season: October-March
Price adult: 1400 NOK
Child (3-12 y/o): 700 NOK

→ More information here 

Northern Lights x Tesla Experience

The Northern Lights is something all explorers should experience. Up here in Arctic we have learned how to make the most of this magical phenomenon. What better way to enjoy this evening tour from the comfort of a brand new Tesla Model X. Our guides have an extensive knowledge of the area and we take you to some of our hidden gems with 100% flexibility to optimize chances of seeing the lights.

Time: Daily 20:00-00:00
Season: October-March
Price adult: From 2200 NOK

→ More information here

Overnight Tromsø Northern Lights Experience

The dream overnight all-inclusive package in Tromsø. 4 adventure tours, 1 overnight stay, 3 home-cooked meals, for the same price as one night at an average hotel… on a comfortable catamaran. Arctic Sail Safari, Northern lights,  fishing and fjord sailing included.

Price: From 5900 NOK
Season: November – February
Time: 18:00 – 14:00 (+1 day)

→ More information here 

Northern Lights x Mini Bus Chase

Witness the Northern Lights on a comfortable northern lights mini bus tour in Tromsø with a guide who has the passion to help show you the northern lights dance in the sky above.

Price: Adult: 1490 NOK
Child: 1190 NOK
Season: November – February
Time: Two daily departures: 18:00-01:00 & 18:30 01:30

→ More information here 

Pukka Travelers: Questions you have asked us about the Northern Lights, Answered. 

Should I have any expectations about the Northern Lights?

We like to be as transparent as possible with our customers, and as you may have read in a few articles online, many say the Northern Lights are not as bright as they appear in person and all of the images are photoshopped. As you previously read in the ‘photography’ section, there are many techniques that allow you to enhance the experience of the Northern Lights in your camera due to lighting and longer exposure. The lights also show up in different frequencies where some people simply get luckier than others.

Like fishing, waiting for the Northern Lights is about patience and sometimes a game of luck. The chances that you will see the Northern Lights in Tromsø are quite high, and luckily in our favor. According to statistics, there is an 81% chance to see them while sailing out on the water and a 92% chance to see them on land.

What time of day should I watch the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

While there is 24 hours of darkness (the polar night) in Tromsø starting at the end of November, the best time to see the aurora is between 17:00 and 02:00. They usually dance in the sky from 2 minutes to 1 hour (on very strong evenings). We always check the forecast before heading out so we know which spot to go to. The weather is quite local in Tromsø, which means while it is cloudy in town, it can be clear 30 minutes away.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

While the aurora may be active during the Arctic summer where the sun does not set, you can only see the Northern Lights when the sky is dark. This means that you can see the Northern lights from September – March. 

Is there a Northern Lights Forecast for Tromsø?

Yes! We often refer our customers to use http://norway-lights.com/#tromso as a resource to monitor the Northern Lights while in Tromsø. Even if it does not say ‘go’ we take you far away from Tromsø in areas with no light pollution to give you the best chance to see the northern lights.

Which months are the Northern Lights most active in Tromsø?

The Northern Lights are active during the equinoxes which is March and September. With that being said, the Northern Lights can be seen in Tromsø from September to Late March, when the sky is at its darkest.

What if I do not see the Northern Lights?

Our biggest concern is your happiness, and nothing would satisfy us more if our guests get to experience the Northern Lights. However, we can unfortunately not guarantee that you will see the lights. This is why we offer a discounted price when you purchase more than one Northern Lights tour, regardless if you see the Northern Lights or not. Reach out to our support team for more info!

Does the moon affect the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

No. We often see vivid Northern Lights with a full moon. In fact, we think it adds romanticism to the experience. With that being said, the moon is a light source which can make the lights slightly less vivid, with that being said it does not affect the experience that much.

Is it better to see the Northern Lights from Land (car tour) or Sea (boat tour)?

According to our local statistics, there is an 81% chance to see the aurora when sailing out on the water and a 92% chance to see them on land. If you are interested in photographing the Northern Lights, we suggest a land-based tour. This is because you will have more time to set up your shot, without the risk of the boat slightly moving back and forth. On the other hand, water based tours are more of an ‘experience’ where you can see Tromsø from afar, cruise through the polar night on a spacious and warm catamaran with the Northern Lights dance in the sky above the sea.

Overall, how would you rate seeing the Northern Lights?

The Aurora is something that can only be experienced in person. While photos are incredible, there is something magical about laying on the nets of a catamaran, or down on a blanket with the night sky lighting up in different colors. 

Get inspired by the power of the North: 

Other tours in Tromsø: 

Learn more about the Northern Lights: 

Author: 

Perri Rothenberg

Perri Rothenberg

Digital Strategy & Partnerships

With a spirit of a true adventurer and a keen mind for communicating in the digital marketplace this burst of power has joined Pukka Travels from the USA. Perri focuses on international collaborations and online strategy for our PUKKA brands. Her favorite part about Tromsø is skiing under the Northern Lights.

Interested in writing for Pukka Travels? Contact her at: perri@pukkatravels.com

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