Nothing else in the sky looks like the Northern lights. But where do you find the best location for Aurora viewing?
Despite the bone-numbingly cold temperatures, and the fact that the northern lights are transient, variable and unpredictable, Norway’s far north has become the place to be in winter. Hunting for the northern lights is immersive experience, but the small town of Alta is for many a favorite starting point.
This is a beautiful area to see the magical northern lights, which dance across the inky black skies in beautiful swirls of color. Here the cosmos parades its electrical and magnetic forces, and produces colors and movements that are unique in Nature.
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Although the northern lights was something that was strictly warned against in ancient myths, there are loads of positive reasons for choosing Finnmark for your northern lights adventure. If you have seen photographs of this beautiful phenomenon, they are pale compared to the real thing. The northern lights must be seen and experienced under a still and cold winter sky.
Starting out on a tour is an experience in itself since you drive away from the town, following the weather forecast to a location where there’s total darkness. Best of all is that it’s easy to get around and you have good chance of seeing the lights.
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Even if you can experience northern lights many places in Scandinavia (and other parts of the world), the Finnmark area is where the northern lights appear with the greatest frequency of all. Guides with local knowledge bring you by car or dog-sledge to secluded areas.
There’s a good selection of hotels and hostels, so you’ll never have much trouble finding somewhere to stay, and with easy accessibility and mild winter climate, it’s attractive to people who wants to see this phenomenon of the heavens.
There is, however, no guarantee that you will see the northern lights, for in the Arctic, the nature and weather are the bosses, and so it has been for thousands of years. But experts say your chances will increase the nearer you get to the so-called ‘auroral zone’, a band that stretches around the planet 2,000-3,000 kilometers from the magnetic pole. In fact, “the northern lights” and “the southern lights” occur simultaneously and are almost mirror images of each other.
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Beyond your latitude, there are other factors at play. You won’t be able to see any lights if it’s still daylight (a serious consideration during Norway’s bright summer), and there’s a chance that clouds can ruin your view. But in the Auroral zone, the northern lights are an everyday phenomenon.
From a scientific point of view, it can well be claimed that there is an aurora every night, but some of the occurrences are so faint that most people hardly notice them. From the tourists` point of view, however, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that we can see the northern lights at least every other clear night in the county of Finnmark, but needless to say, you’ll need a bit of planning and a bit of luck.
The common form of Aurora in Northern Norway is usually called night-time Aurora, since it appears on the night side of earth. The display usually begins in the late afternoon or in the evening and continues with varying intensity often far into the night. But never let tour companies tell you that you’ll definitely see the lights – they just don’t know that the conditions will be right. For tourists in search of northern lights the county of Finnmark should probably be one of the preferred ones. But avoid days around the full moon, when the sky is so light andnot the best ones for observing the lights.
The best time to see the northern lights in Finnmark is between late September and early April. Alta is calling itself the city of the northern lights, and this coastal town in Finnmark might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Feature image (on top): Northern Lights Man. Photo: GLØD
Finnmark, Norway – The Best Place to Experience the Northern Lights, written by Tor Kjolberg