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). Can you see the Northern Lights from Norway? Absolutely.

But how likely is it that you’ll actually get to see the famously elusive Aurora Borealis if you head to the Norwegian fjords? Is it a case of just avoiding light pollution, or is there more to it?

You can’t guarantee any natural weather phenomenon (never mind solar activity), but there are certain steps you can take to view the Northern Lights. Or certainly to maximise your chances of getting that much sought after sighting. 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 rock in Norway (on the border of the Hardangervidda Plateau)
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. Think Norwegian coast. 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 in northern Norway – 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.

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5 tips to see the Northern Lights in the Norwegian fjords

The Northern lights in 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.

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

Plan your trip to Norway well. You can see the northern lights most strongly 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. A Tromso northern lights tour where you sail, hike and chase the Northern Lights across the fjords is one of the best ways to do this, and this trip has an 88% success rate of spotting the northern lights between September and March! Norway fjords and northern lights... on a boat! Oh, and obviously avoid summer, when the midnight sun will scupper all your plans.

2. Don’t Go to Sleep too Early

Two figures watching the northern lights from the deck of a boat.
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 a boat in a Norwegian fjord
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.

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4. Keep your Camera Charged and At the Ready

A photographer taking a shot in the Norwegian fjords
Make sure you’re fully charged for when the moment arrives 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.

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5. Enjoy the Journey Regardless!

People on a boat trip in the Norwegian fjords
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 when you visit Norway, 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 the light show starts and they fade into the colour above you. Pretty mystical, right? And what a moment that’ll be.

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