The northern lights in the sky over Lattervik

Chasing the Northern Lights in Norway

Norway

The snow crunched beneath our feet as we ventured into the cold morning. There was a stillness in the air. The light of the new sun was just beginning to pierce through the clouds, illuminating the sea and bouncing off the snowy mountaintops.

Those mountains. Tall and powerful. Mesmerising us with their beauty. This was definitely one of the most striking sceneries I had ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Beautiful fjords in Lenangen, northern Norway

As we walked down the road, we saw not a single soul, with the exception of a few birds circling in the sky. Time stood frozen in the arctic breeze and a feeling of peacefulness hung in the air.

A little way down the road was the only shop you could find for miles around. You can buy everything you need here – except wine to our dismay. Opposite there is a little cafe, opened three weeks prior to our visit by the owners of our Airbnb. These buildings were dwarfed by the mountainous scenery that surrounded them.

We stopped in the cafe for brunch that same morning. Not only do they sell food, but also beautiful bohemian home decor and plants. I would have bought everything if I could have stuffed it into my backpack.

Roy and Trude who own both our Airbnb and the cafe radiate with positive energy. They’re eager to help you in any way and advise on where best to visit.

I tucked into a delicious toasted brie sandwich and sipped on hot chocolate as Roy and Trude instructed us on how to get to a lighthouse, which they said had one of the best views around.

The days are short when you get as far north as we were. In November, the sun rises around 10am and sets at 2pm. So, to make the most of the light we set out for our walk not long after returning from breakfast.

It’s only a short drive north to where the road ends and the coastal path begins. Here, we left the car and took to foot. Beneath our feet was a carpet of dark pebbles dotted with illuminant white stones that reflected the deep blue hue of the midday sky.

The only plant life to seemingly survive in these harsh conditions is grass and heather, which coated the hilly land to our right and acted as a thankful windbreak from the arctic winds.

Emily admires view of the fjord in Beautiful fjords in Lenangen, northern Norway

Snow-topped fjord near tromsø

We took our time walking along the coast, the sky turning from blue to pink as dawn rapidly turned to dusk. Every so often we were met with a frozen stream which spilt onto the path in front of us, forcing us to walk around. Everywhere we looked we were met with astonishingly beautiful views.

We reached the lighthouse just before sunset. It was probably the smallest I’d ever seen, but it did its job well, illuminating the sea and warning to the boats floating on the icy sea to stay clear from the land.

Lighthouse in Lenangen
Cute lighthouse in Lenangen, Norway

The landscape surrounding us was unusual, to say the least. It looked like a scene from Mars. It’s terrain contained strange rock formations that stretched to the sky, left over from the erosion of glaciers millions of years ago.

Here the land ended and we were stood between two sea inlets, revealing views of a small village across the water, huge mountains with vertical faces that plunged into the sea and a fierce wind that peppered you with ice and snow.

Lenangen fjords

Sheltering from the wind provided a remarkable increase in temperature. We spent time climbing the rock formations or just sitting and simply absorbed the breathtaking view. The sea had a stillness to it, but every so often it would let out a low rumble as the waves cumulated and crashed into the rocks.

Gradually the sea turned darker as night drew in rapidly, and we began to head back to our Airbnb for food and a nap. It is a strange thing to witness sunrise and sunset within 4 hours of each other.

Hoping for the aurora borealis

Later that night, feeling refreshed, we decided to hunt for the northern lights or ‘aurora borealis’. We didn’t have to venture far, we crossed the road outside of our lodging and headed to the boathouse and pier.

Gazing at the sky, we spotted what we first thought was a whist of a cloud in the air, running the length of the night sky. The sky in these parts of the world is a slightly different colour from elsewhere I have been, it has a slight tinge of green.

Johan took a long exposure with his camera and when it developed we all let out a gasp. It wasn’t a cloud we had been staring at, but in fact was the misty haze caused by the aurora.

The aurora borealis in Norway

Anxious to see more, we went to the pier by the little boat house, lit an open fire to keep warm, and directed our eyes at the sky. It wasn’t long before our patience was rewarded. The sky began to clear and the aurora became visible to the naked eye. We were mesmerized.

I can’t write down in words the emotion that seeing this magnificent natural wonder gave us. Every hair on my body stood up on end, I was locked in almost a trance, forgetting how cold I was for a split moment.

The aurora moved like waves above us. Stripes of green and red danced in the sky before whisking away into the night. So close it seemed that if we climbed those mountains we could dance amongst them.

The northern lights in the sky over Lattervik

We spent hours on that little pier, feeling like a tiny speck in the cosmos, overwhelmed by what we were seeing. The sea glistening below us reflected the colours of the sky.

The next day we had the long journey back to Oslo. We said our goodbyes to Roy and Trude and set on our way, smiles on our faces, knowing we had witnessed something magical, that some of us may never see again.

Where did we stay?

View of the mountains from our Airbnb in northern Norway
View from our Airbnb

We stayed at an Airbnb called The Sea Lodge in Lenangen, 90km (56m) north-east from Tromsø. The couple, Roy and Trude, who I spoke about above were the loveliest hosts, telling us all the best places to visits and making our stay comfortable.

One thing to bear in mind when visiting these parts of Norway is that ferries are likely to be included in your Google maps route which can stop running in the evening.

When I got directions from Tromsø to Lenangen, it told me it was only 2 hours drive, but our flight landed late and the ferries were no longer running. To make things worse, a snowstorm had begun making visibility and road conditions terrible. Thankfully, Trude’s father was also driving back to Lenangen from Tromsø and met us in a gas station so we could drive in convoy. The journey through the blizzard took about 4 hours.

When is the best time to see northern lights in Norway?

The best time to see the northern lights is when the nights are long, typically between late September and early March. Although, you want to aim for the months where the weather is best and the sky is more likely to be clear, which is October, February and March.

Where in Norway can you see the northern lights?

The further north you go, the higher the chance of you seeing the aurora. Ideally, you want to head north of the Arctic Circle and spend at least 4 days there. Roy, who owned the Airbnb, told us that during the season you can see the northern lights up to 3 times a week if you’re lucky.

We were extremely lucky to have seen them as we visited in late November, and only stayed in Lenangen for 3 nights, seeing the aurora on the final night!

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