If you’re in Northern Norway, specifically around Tromsø, I have an insider tip for you right here!
Tromsø is pitched as the northern lights capital of the world, boasting more aurora filled night skies per year than any other place. The thing is though, you can have top notch space activity but it means nothing if you don’t have a clear sky. The climate at the top of Norway is such that you can easily have cloud-filled skies, and to see the aurora you need to know how to escape those clouds. I’m here to tell you exactly how to do that!
The area around Tromsø is laden with water in the fjords and with the sea nearby, and of course with the ice and snow in the winter. The jet stream passes by just to the south, carrying warm, moist air from west to east. The air movement and humidity interacting with the local temperatures and the mountains means that clouds come and go regularly, and to see the northern lights we need the sky to be clear of clouds at the same time that the space activity is peaking and the particles from solar discharge are colliding with the gas particles in the ionosphere. It’s all a bit tricky to work out, but the side of this we can best control is the clouds.
Near Tromsø, towards Finland, there’s a long, high valley named Skibotndalen. It stretches southeast from Skibotn into Finland and that stretch of road, the E8, is called the Northern Lights Route (which in itself is a big clue.)
This valley has it’s own microclimate and tends to be drier than the surrounding area, so the skies here are generally clearer and the chances of seeing the night sky and therefore the northern lights is much greater. Local northern lights tours use the Norwegian section of this road, but if you have a rental car you can go way into Finland and find some awesome views with lakes, rivers, trees and mountains abound to use as a foreground, and there’s a shop, gas station and restaurant about 10km into Finland where the Euro makes things much cheaper than the Norwegian side of the border where the Kröne is a noteably expensive currency.
Good luck with your aurora hunting!