I would consider myself to be quite fortunate to have witnessed the northern lights 4 nights out of 13 nights in scandanivia; once in Rovaniemi, Levi, Tromso and lofoten each.
Here’s what I learnt during my trip that NONE of my research prior to my trip ever told me. The blatant truth about hunting for the northern lights:
1. The aurora can be seen from airplanes
Even before landing in Lapland, Lapland greeted us with the northern lights on the plane! This was just before landing at rovaniemi at around 9pm ++
2. Rely on yourself. No one is going to alert you when the northern lights appear.
This was taken while on a northern light hunt on snowmobiles in Levi. And the truth is, it was more of a “snowmobile tour” rather than a northern lights hunt. You will ride all the way to a lappish hut in the forest without stopping to see the lights. At the hut, you can either sit inside and enjoy some warm drinks and food or search for the aurora outside. The guide is not responsible to alert you because they are busy setting up the fire and food.
Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my snowmobile tour and the guide was really bubbly and informative. It’s just that if you want to see the lights, you need to be proactive and not wait on others.
Here’s my full review of the snowmobile tour:
3. Book yourself a tour that hunts for the northern lights SOLELY
Tromso, northern lights hunt with photograph
The best display of northern lights I saw was when I went on a northern lights hunting tour. The tour was a private tour where the guide will take pictures of you with the northern lights.
This was taken by the tour
Here’s my full review of the private tour:
This was taken with my own camera.
During the snowmobile northern lights hunt, there was a family that brought along a digital camera but they didn’t even know how to use the camera and it was clearly not an appropriate camera to capture the aurora. They were fumbling around and by the time they wanted to take pictures, the aurora was gone. I felt sorry for them to have travelled all this way to the artic and not get to capture a picture of the lights.
It is better to get a proper camera and learn how to use it to take pictures of the lights prior to the trip. I cannot stress how important it is to do your own research (but if you chanced upon my blog, it means that you are, good job!) You don’t want to be fumbling around when it appears as there is no telling how long it will appear for.
4. Be patient and discipline
Lofoten islands, just outside my cabin
We spent the whole night waiting and checking for the lights every 15mins. We had to go out into the cold to stare at the sky as the reflections in the windows made it hard to see clearly. Honestly it was a really grueling task, checking the sky from 9pm till midnight, but we were paid off when the aurora appeared.
We were counting down to the new year 2016 and at midnight, fireworks were set off at different islands across the ocean. The aurora seemed to know that it was the new year and she graced us despite the extremely cloudy weather.
I’m not quite sure if it is possible but it looks like the sky was fully backlit with the northern lights here. Could it be that the aurora was so strong that it created such a glow with the clouds?
5. The lights may appear white to the naked eye
It appears green in the picture here, but in actual fact, it was white in color to all of us
Often times, the aurora looks like clouds in the sky – white. I had to view it on my camera display to check if it was really the aurora.
I hope my tips were helpful and all the best in your hunt for the northern lights!