After Sweden and Iceland I chose Northern Norway as my next Northern Lights destination. I visited Tromsø in the first week of March, 2015. I stayed there and rented a car to travel around the city.
Tromsø is a small city so you can easily see the city in a day. However there are few museums so if you want to visit them all, it may take two days or more. Intercity transportation is very easy with city buses and most places are in walking distance.
Cloudy Tromsø at Night
When I was in Swedish Lapland people were telling me that the weather in Northern Norway are much more unstable because of close distance to sea. I knew that is bad for watching Northern Lights and it’s not always easy to run away from a bad weather system. The weather in Tromsø was very unstable during the period I stayed there. One day it was all foggy, next day all cloudy, next day clear but then mixed rain and snow started and so on. Was it cold? No. It’s certainly not that cold like Swedish Lapland. In fact the weather is like in Stockholm or Oslo. Much more calm and warmer but again people said that this year it wasn’t so cold at all. Maybe it’s a global thing because Arvidsjaur, Sweden wasn’t cold either.
I tried to watch the Northern Lights over the cityscape but I couldn’t managed it because It think it was not possible with that light pollution. There was a Full Moon, so that added some lights into the sky with city’s light pollution it made it worse for my scenario. So to summarise Tromsø’s condition; weather was unstable, temperature was not too cold and light pollution was very high for watching the Northern Lights. Yes you may have seen some city photos with the Northern Lights but I believe it’s only possible if sky is clear, if moon is close to new moon phase and if solar activity is strong at that moment. Digital cameras can see more compared to human eye. That is another fact. So what I’m trying to tell you is that if you want to watch the Northern Lights in Tromsø then you should stay there for a bit longer to increase your chances or you can do this: Escape from the city and go somewhere around. And that’s what exactly did.
Escape from Tromsø
To see the Northern Lights you should always improvise in your travel and search some places that suitable for watching the Northern Lights. This means that you should find a spot where away from city lights or busy roads and it must have an open wide view so you can watch it altogether. You can always find some good recommendations on the internet a fine place to watch the Northern Lights or you can find it yourself. I think the second option is much more fun to do. Perhaps you will find a spot that would be much much better than any place.
Lyngenfjord, A good spot to watch Northern Lights
In two days I drove over 750 kilometres around the Tromsø and I saw some heavenly places and sceneries during my road trip. Norway is a true heaven with the infinite landscape. Roads are always between the sea and snowy mountains. You drive along with the beautiful fjords. Long tunnels, one way only bridges, icy roads, frozen lakes, snow covered tree and etc. Whatever you are dreaming for a beautiful winter scenery, Norway simply got it!
Even the widest panorama can't describe this awesomeness
First day I drove from Tromsø to Skjervøy. It's a small town in Troms county, located 250 kilometres away from Tromsø. Road conditions were OK. Roads are mostly open and some parts are icy or snowy. Since every car has spikes on tyres it gives a better grip on the road. You'll just need more attention on the road and you should avoid from instant reactions that skids your car.
Spectacular views on Norwegian Roads
During my road trip I drove around Lyngenfjord. Lyngen is the longest fjord in Troms county. It has definitely a spectacular view of Lyngen Alps combined with reflection on Lyngenfjord. You can visit Lyngenfjord web site for more information.
Usually it takes about 3 hours to get there but I drove there in 6-7 hours because I stopped almost in every place that I liked. It was dark when I arrived Skjervøy so I began to my return trip to Tromsø. When I was driving there I found some good locations around Lyngenfjord for watching the Northern Lights. Some spots are close to roads but there you have an open wide view to the sea and you are completely away from any light source, except when I was there it was Full Moon, in fact it was Super Mini Full Moon.
Full Moon turned night into day
Solar activity was very low during my whole trip but I stopped in one good spot and looked for some activity. There was a mountain behind me so it was blocking the full moon and I got a wide view to the sea. In the beginning there was just a weak wave in the sky but then suddenly it came alive. It wasn’t like a solar storm but it was enough to watch them. Patience is the most important thing to watch the Northern Lights. So all you have to do is wait. If sky is all clear and if you are away from light pollution then you should just wait there.
A calm sky suddenly busted with Northern Lights
Moving between different locations are not a good idea. Because when you are driving from one spot to another they can suddenly pop-up in the sky and you just miss the opportunity. If you participate in a Northern Lights tour, actually they are doing the same thing. They know some good locations. They take you to those locations and you’ll wait there.
I was afraid of that Full Moon will affect the visibility of the Northern Lights but then I realised that my concerns are for nothing. It’s true that it’s affecting the visibility but it’s not like blocking it. In fact it adds some different atmosphere to the scene. Full Moon is not blocking the visibility of the Northern Lights but surely it’s blocking to see more stars in the sky. It’s always recommended that the Moon should be in the new phase and I agree to that but Full Moon is not the end. Don’t worry.
Snowy Mountains, Good for hiking
The next day I drove to Sommarøy and Tromvik. They are very close to Tromsø, about one hour to drive. I must say that the road scenery was spectacular at sunset. Sommarøy is a small island and it has a great view to watch the sunset. I arrived Tromvik at night and to be honest there was nothing to see and the road conditions were not so good. I just went there to find a chance to watch the Northern Lights again but I returned to Tromsø empty handed. The problem was the light pollution of Tromsø. I was away from Tromsø 50-80 kilometres but it was still visible in the sky. So I just watched yellow lights instead of the Northern Lights. However I recommend visiting Sommarøy. It’s very close to Tromsø and the scenery is beautiful.
Sommarøy, a peaceful place for ending the day
I spent 5 days in Northern Norway and I’m very glad that I did this. Despite of the weak solar activity, I’m glad that at least one night I watched them. Sometimes it’s pure luck and nothing more. For example, after 2 weeks later there was a huge solar activity and it caused a G4-class solar storm.
Exquisite Road Trip at Sunset
There is absolutely no guarantee to watch them when you want. You can just increase your chances by doing right things. This is why I wrote this travel notes about my Northern Norway trip. I hope this article will help you in your journey. You can always ask me about my journeys and the Northern Lights in general.
I also suggest you to read How to Use Your DSLR in Cold Weather & Shooting the Northern Lights. You can find some vital information for your digital camera for using in cold weather.
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