Norway – The best places to experience northern lights

Few places on earth offer better conditions to witness a limitless starry night sky than Northern Norway. But to hit the jackpot and experience the spectacular northern lights you’d probably need a few tips from the locals. When Visit Norway interviewed several people in major European cities about their relationship with starry skies, they uncovered that four out of five respondents miss seeing a night sky full of stars from where they live. Three out of four have never seen the northern lights.

Paal Brekke, solar physicist and senior advisor at the Norwegian Space Agency, explains that those living in or close to urban areas in Europe will never see the full extent of our galaxy, The Milky Way, nor the northern lights unless they travel to places unaffected by artificial lights. That’s because particles and moisture reflect artificial lights from buildings and streetlights in the air layers above us. Outside the northernmost countries of Europe, it’s almost impossible to find places that are dark enough to get a full-fledged experience of the night sky – and especially to see the northern lights. Sometimes, the northern lights can be visible all the way down to southern France and northern Italy, but this may only happen a couple of times every decade, Brekke says.

A northern lights mecca

Brekke confirms that the northern lights would have been visible to many more Europeans, and far more frequently, had it not been for light pollution. But in northern parts of Norway, you can easily get to large, dark areas surrounded by forests and mountains, with minimal light pollution and the elongated dark coast, amplifying the darkness. It’s simply a mecca of experiencing the northern lights in all its glory, says Brekke, also an author of several books and a movie about the northern lights.

That’s probably why Northern Norway each year is so popular with travellers between late September and late March, hunting for the clear starry sky and especially the northern lights. In this period the region is dark from early afternoon until late morning, which increases the chance of witnessing the northern lights significantly compared to other parts of Europe.

But where do you go to have the best chance possible to see one of earth’s most spectacular light phenomena? Here’s a guide of some top destinations:


The wild, raw nature of the Lofoten Islands makes this a picture-perfect place to hunt the northern lights. Lofoten is situated just beneath the auroral oval, a belt of light that encircles the geomagnetic poles and provides some of the best chances in the world of seeing the northern lights.


The exceptionally clear skies over Narvik give you a front row seat to watch the northern lights in winter and the midnight sun during the summer.


At 71° degrees, the northernmost viewpoint in Europe, Nordkapp is so far north that the strength of the aurora borealis hardly matters, as long as the sky is clear.


If you want to get away from the crowds, Senja, just an hour’s scenic boat trip from Tromsø, is the place to go. The wild nature will make your aurora adventure an eventful trip for both body and soul.


Located 900 kilometres north of the Norwegian mainland and 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole, Longyearbyen offers excellent conditions for northern lights. the polar night from November until the end of January means that there is no daylight in Longyearbyen in winter.

The Lyngenfjord Region

Situated between Tromsø and Alta and sheltered behind the dramatic Lyngen Alps, Lyngenfjord has the perfect conditions for starry nights, and offers you a good chance of catching the northern lights. Since the region is sparsely populated, the next spot without light pollution is never far away.


The world’s northernmost student city lives up to its nickname ‘”the Paris of the North”. All year round, there’s always a concert or festival to attend. Seeing your favourite artist under the northern lights gives the experience an indefinable x-factor.


Varanger isn’t a place to rush through. It’s ideal for hiking (especially in early autumn), birdwatching, and undisturbed northern lights hunting.


The northern lights often illuminate Vesterålen’s polar night. This natural phenomenon is difficult to catch on camera, but if you join a northern lights safari, local guides will teach you how to capture the moment.


Alta is next to nothing and close to everything. A modern city in Northern Norway surrounded by the arctic tundra and mountains. Some of the first modern studies of the northern lights actually started in Alta.


Get the best of both worlds with spectacular nature experiences and buzzing city life in Bodø, situated in the southern part of Arctic Norway. This is an excellent base camp for your Arctic adventures.


The fascinating town of Kirkenes is a unique cultural melting pot of Norwegian, Sami, Finnish, and Russian influences, just a few kilometers from the Russian border. The dry and clear winter climate increases the chance to experience the northern lights (more than in other coastal cities).