In Search of the Northern Lights in Norway

Image courtesy of Hurtigruten

Image courtesy of Hurtigruten

Northern Lights hunting through the fjords of Norway with Hurtigruten

Sparks from the tail of a fire fox, the souls of stillborn babies, the dead playing a game with a walrus skull for a ball. Centuries ago, these were all explanations for the natural light display we now call the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights.

It’s the opportunity to witness these ethereal phenomena that attracts me and many others on a weeklong Norwegian coastal cruise with Hurtigruten. Guests have come all the way from China, Japan, the U.S. and Europe—united by a common goal. 

So what does it take to see the Northern Lights, exactly?

“As long as we are north of the Arctic Circle, the only conditions we need to see the Northern Lights are clear skies and darkness,” said Bjørn Lemcke, assistant expedition leader on Hurtigruten’s Nordnorge. “We get many weird questions from guests about the Northern Lights. I always joke that I turn them on around midnight, and that I have a switch under my desk.”

Sometimes the activity is strongest late at night, when guests are fast asleep. If you value seeing the lights over your beauty sleep, Bjørn suggests turning on the “info” button inside your cabin so that you can hear announcements about sightings on deck.

 “When the announcements are made, it’s crazy. Everyone will get up in the middle of the night if they haven’t seen it before,” he said.

Not all the excitement takes place in the middle of the night, though. You might choose to spend the day admiring the Art Nouveau architecture in Alesund or walking up some 400 odd steps to the top of Mount Aksla. Perhaps you’ll try dog sledding at dusk in Tromso or take a winter walk in Bodo, through Viking graves and an ancient village.

My favorite daytime excursion with Hurtigruten was a trip to the North Cape. A 1,000-foot cliff overlooks the northernmost point in Europe, and the untouched, barren landscape really makes you feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth.

The North Cape feels like the end of the earth. (c) Hurtigruten 

The North Cape feels like the end of the earth. (c) Hurtigruten 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Did you see the Northern Lights or what, lady?

Well, the conditions were not in our favor for the majority of the cruise, with rain, snow and overcast weather. However, on our very last night onboard, after much perseverance and hours spent on deck, I finally caught a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Though they were not shining as brightly as they could have been, I was able to get some decent photos on my digital camera thanks to some handy tips provided by Bjørn and the rest of Hurtigruten’s Expedition Team.

Whether you see the lights or not, a trip along the Norwegian coast with Hurtigruten is filled with eye-opening experiences, cultural programming and striking scenery— leaving you with a new appreciation for the way Norwegians see the world.

Sunset on deck (c) Hurtigruten

Sunset on deck (c) Hurtigruten

My trip to Norway was made possible by Visit Norway and Hurtigruten. Views expressed are my own.