Love outdoor expeditions? Then a Northern Lights cruise is definitely for you. An enchanting voyage, the Northern Lights is a magical display that will truly take your breath away.
What are the Northern lights?
Nature’s most spectacular visual phenomena, the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis) are a view of the polar lights during the night at the earth’s arctic. Caused by electrically charged solar particles passing into the earth’s atmosphere, the Northern Lights are a beautiful light show of green, yellow, red and violet colours which dance across the night’s sky – swirling and curling as they go. It’s a mesmerising sight, which needs to be seen to be believed.
The many myths…
For centuries, many myths centred round the Aurora Borealis. Long before the scientific explanation, people just didn’t know what to make of the spectacle. Fear, excitement, wonder and alarm were amongst the emotions… Just what was this dazzling display they were witnessing? Of course, many myths were conjured up. In Norwegian folklore, the haunting lights were considered to be the spirits of old maids dancing in the sky and waving; the Maori of New Zealand believed the lights to be the reflections from torches or campfires.; and it’s also thought that the early dragon legends of China and Europe originated from the Aurora – due to the ‘fiery breath’ appearance of the lights.
A Quest to see the Northern Lights
Norway is considered to be the prime place when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights. The lights can be seen all over Norway – at certain times. The key areas are above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. The reason why the lights are so intense here is because the Aurora Borealis belt lies directly above the coastline – which runs from the Lofoten Islands to the Northern Cape.
Now, experts recommend that when in search of the Northern Lights, you spend as much time above the Arctic Circle as possible – away from other towns where there may be sources of artificial light. And, naturally, the longer you stay, the better chance you have of seeing them. Hence when booking a Northern Lights cruise, it’s generally recommended that you go for over five nights.
The Northern Lights tend to be seen during late autumn, winter and early spring – but witnessing them cannot be guaranteed. They’re dependent on unpredictable conditions in the atmosphere – and on the sun.
Time to experience the marvel for yourself
Referred to by many as the ‘most beautiful voyage in the world’, it comes as no surprise Northern Lights cruises are sought after. There simply is no better way to experience the Northern Lights than there is when sailing in remote coastal waters – far away from any artificial light.
Established Northern Lights cruises are offered by Norwegian line, Hurtigruten. On-board, you’ll journey all the way up into the Arctic Circle – where sightings of the Northern Lights appear most often. Hurtigruten’s itineraries include all the sighting ‘hot spots’- such as the arctic town of Tromsø’.
Situated in northern Norway, Tromsø lies in complete darkness for most of January (Tromsø is so far north that the sun doesn’t breaks over the horizon). So, it goes without saying, in Tromsø you’re in with a very good chance of seeing the lights. It is here the Northern Lights Festival – or Nordlysfestivalen –is held in honour of the legendary lights. An incredible atmosphere, the festival is a great way of seeing the awe-inspiring display of the Northern Lights at its very best.
Just the icing on the cake
There’s more to Norway than the Northern Lights, of course. You can immerse yourself in the unspoilt beauty of the Norwegian scenery. Providing an up-close look at fascinating fjords, snow-clad mountains and charming villages, Norway truly is a remarkable place. There’s also the opportunity to participate in a whole host of winter activities and experiences that are available on these voyages. From experiencing the thrill of a Husky dog sledge ride, cross country skiing to reindeer racing to getting up close to an array of wildlife, Norway offers an amazing adventure from start to finish.
What to pack?
It’s going to be chilly so make sure you pack all those winter necessities like a warm hat, gloves, scarf and thermal clothing. The temperature can vary – so your best bet is to wrap in layers – this way you’ll be able to adapt easily to any changes in the weather. It’s also recommended that you pack breathable rain and windproof clothing. Other essentials include shoes with a good grip (due to icy conditions), a trekking pole and a pair of UV protective sunglasses – as the reflections of snow and ice can be harmful to the eye.
We have a great selection of Scandinavian cruises which can take you to the Northern Lights, so take a look at what’s available then give us a call to book.
By Ian Lewis