The goal of our trip to Tromsø, a beautiful city in northern Norway, was to see the Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights. Tromso is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights so we wanted to take full advantage of our time there. We were so excited to go but were surprisingly disappointed quite a bit. Like many things in life, it’s all about expectation. So I thought I’d share some of my experience with you and hopefully you won’t be disappointed but rather well prepared for anything the night might throw at you. All I can say is keep your expectations low and stay positive and remember that you will truly will be chasing the northern lights but remember, it’s all a part of your winter adventure.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BOOK YOUR NORTHERN LIGHTS NORWAY SAFARI
WEATHER IS EVERYTHING
It’s important to remember that the weather controls everything on this type of tour. Thick clouds, snowstorms and rain will leave you light-less and surprisingly, tours typically still run regardless of the weather. So you may end up going on a totally pointless run with no views because the weather didn’t cooperate. However, there is some hope; sometimes you might spot the aurora even on a cloudy night; everything depends on cloud movement and if there is a break in the sky. Obviously, clear skies are best. Because of this, I would highly recommend that you plan to stay in Tromso several night. This will give you plenty of time to keep trying should you encounter bad weather. Even if you happen to get lucky the first night, there are plenty of activities (dog sledding, reindeer sledding, etc) in Tromso that you can plan for the remaining nights.
You may find yourself ready to go on a perfect fine evening but because of icy road conditions, your northern lights safari will still get cancelled. This happened to us the first night. The weather seemed fine (just scattered snowflakes) but the roads were dangerous so our Tromso northern lights tour got cancelled. It’s easy to forget that tour buses cart everyone around and while they are heavy, they can easy lose traction on icy roads. If you’re worried about missing out due to roads, I’d recommend finding a tour company that is small and uses vans for transportation. Their prices might be higher, but I think it’s worth it. I was in contact with a different company at the time who had reached out to me via Instagram and while our tour got cancelled, they still continued with theirs (and got great photos that night).
BRING A TRIPOD
I know a lot of tour companies will promise a tripod as part of the package but remember that human error still exists and you may not get that promised tripod. Your photos 100% depend on a tripod so I would be sure to bring one along if photographing the lights is a primary goal. Our bus to the viewing site broke down and they couldn’t access the tripods due to a problem with the brake lines. This left everyone in the bus (minus us) without a tripod.
BRING A DSLR
You won’t regret bringing your DSLR on this trip. Your photos will be much better and your phone simply can’t capture the beauty of the lights. I also wouldn’t rely on the tour guides and their cameras as there are countless people on the tour with you all requesting photos. If you cannot bring a DSLR (or tripod) and photos are important to you, I would again recommend booking a small photography-based northern lights tour.
RESEARCH YOUR COMPANY
We traveled with a well known company and still experienced several setbacks (cancelled tour on the first day, bus breaking down which resulted in no tripods, no hot chocolate and no warm suits and an uninformative guide) so make sure you do your research and read reviews. Then keep your expectations low because even with all your research, you may still experience issues that can’t be helped.
PACK WARM CLOTHES
You may be wondering what to wear for a northern lights tour, curious if you need that extra layer or that extra hat. You do. You’ll be standing outside for several hours, possibly knee deep in snow and unmoving. I’d recommend long underwear, snow pants, several layers of tops, a down-filled coat, gloves, wool socks and knee high boots. Leg warmers are also great as well as air-activated hand warmers. This brand is really great: click here. You won’t regret overdressing but I guarantee you’ll be irritated if you have to sit inside to warm up while everyone else is outside enjoying the lights. Here’s what I wore (and I still got cold): long underwear, jeans, leg warms, boots, gloves, beanie, wool socks, long sleeved tee, sweater, hooded coat and the air-activated warmers mentioned above.