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5 Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in the Norwegian Fjords
July 29, 2019
Norwegian Fjords Northern Lights

The northern lights shining over the fjords of Norway.

There are two places you can commonly find Norwegian fjords and northern lights. One is in Norway. Obviously. It’s in the name. The other is at the top of pretty much any given traveller’s bucket list south of Oslo (and probably a bit to the north as well).

But how likely is it that you’ll actually get to see the famously elusive Aurora Borealis if you head to the Norwegian fjords?

You can’t guarantee any natural weather phenomenon, but there are certain steps you can take to maximise your chances of getting that much sought after sighting of the northern lights. Before we get into the details, though, let’s cover some of the basics of the Norwegian fjords and northern lights. Get settled class. It’s time to do some learning.

What exactly are the Norwegian fjords?

Hiker on Trolltunga

Trolltunga rock in Norway on the border of the Hardangervidda plateau. Photo: iStock / Gosiek B

A fjord is a long, narrow stretch of the sea sandwiched between high, mountainous cliffs. Fjords are typically formed by the submergence of a glaciated valley, and thanks to the fact that they’re outrageously beautiful, and that they seem to make up about 65% of those automatic, scenic desktop backgrounds that pop up on your phone or your laptop, they’ve become the hottest place in the world to travel in the past few years.

There are over 1000 fjords in Norway, most of which are up in the north – where you’re most likely to see the lights – or over on the west coast, where you’ll find the likes of the UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord. They’re a hotbed for adventure. People hike the Norwegian fjords. People climb the Norwegian fjords. Some kayak the Norwegian fjords. Many cruise and sail the Norwegian fjords. There’s not much you can’t do on the fjords, really, except take a bad photograph, so it’s no surprise adventurers flock to the fjords in numbers.

5 tips to see the northern lights in the Norwegian fjords

Nothern lights tromso

Lighting up Tromso, Norway. Photo: iStock / MuYeeTing

How likely are you to see the northern lights if you do travel to the Norwegian fjords? You can’t guarantee that you’ll see the northern lights anywhere, of course. Even if you travel deep into the Arctic and camp near the fjords. But we do make this statement in the same way that we’d say you can’t guarantee it’s going to rain in Scotland during Springtime. It’s not a certainty, sure, but there’s a damn good chance it’s going to happen.

Anyway, here are some tips to give yourself the best chance of getting that sighting of the northern lights:

1. Choose the right time of year

Aurora borealis over mountains in fishing village fjords

Aurora borealis over mountains in fishing village at Sakrisoy, Lofoten, Norway. Photo: iStock / Mumemories

You can see the northern lights strongest when the seasons are changing, during September and March, but anytime in between that, from October-February, also gives you a great shot of a sighting. Our Sail, Hike and Chase the Northern Lights trip has an 88% success rate of spotting the northern lights between September and March if you want to make things a bit simpler.

2. Don’t go to sleep too early

Northern Lights when to see them fjords

The northern lights are unpredictable but are usually visible best at night.

The northern lights are famously unpredictable. They can pop up any time from roughly 18:00 to 06:00, and often the best time to see the lights can be a bit later in the day, around midnight. If you do fancy a nap, give a mate a nudge and tell them to wake you up if the lights come around. Get them to do the hard work for you and make sure you don’t miss out!

3. Get yourself on a boat

Women on boat in Norwegian fjord northern lights trip

Enjoying the water ahead of northern lights hunting time.

There are many great things about being on a boat, especially when you’re surrounded by the Norwegian fjords. There’s no place to view those colossal rock walls quite like the centre of the water. And you might even be joined by some pretty spectacular wildlife if you’re lucky, too – from eagles and seals to whales. A boat provides the perfect, unobstructed view for spotting the lights.

4. Keep your camera charged and at the ready

Northern lights camera fjords

Make sure you’re fully charged for when the moment arrives if you want to get that all-important photo. Photo: Mattia Righetti

Everyone wants that famous shot of the northern lights for their Instagram/photo frame/scrapbook (delete as age-appropriate). Few people know it can be a lot harder to take that photo than they imagine though. Shooting with a long exposure lens can be the best way to bring out the natural colours of the lights, whereas taking regular shots with a phone camera will likely just capture a blank night sky. Looking through your camera with the appropriate settings on can actually be a great way to spot short glimmers of the lights when they’re too faint to detect with the human eye.

5. Enjoy the journey regardless!

Norwegian fjords northern lights boat sailing

Watching the world go by on a sailing boat in the fjords.

The most important thing about hunting the northern lights is patience. It’s unlikely they’ll pop up in front of you on demand, on day one. They’ve got other things to do, other people to impress, don’t they? So settle into your environment, appreciate the sky and the wildlife and the forests and beautiful scenery of the fjords. It’ll often be once you’ve hit your ultimate point of zen that they fade into the colour above you. Pretty mystical, right? And what a moment that’ll be.

You can’t see the northern lights above the Norwegian fjords if you’re not in Norway. Check out our handpicked trips to the Norwegian fjords to see the northern lights and other adventures in Norway