The neon glow of the Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights), has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. Seen in the Northern Hemisphere, this magnificent display of dancing colours (unbeknown to me) is actually in the sky above all year round. However, to experience this spectacle in the flesh, conditions need to be right with plenty of solar wind and complete darkness, with little or no light pollution. So where can I see this wonderful phenomenon you may ask? Iceland and Finland are firm favourites, but between late September and late March Northern Norway is dark from early afternoon until late morning, making it the perfect destination to admire the Northern Lights soaring across the sky. With its picture-postcard fishing villages, breathtaking fjords, and abundant nature, Norway is, without doubt, one of the easiest and best places to chase the Northern Lights and for that reason features heavily in our top 10 best Northern Lights tours.
1. Sami Reindeer Herding & Northern Lights Experience, Visit Natives
Priding themselves on unique and authentic sustainable indigenous tours, the Sami Reindeer Herding & Northern Lights Experience by Visit Natives is an intimate and amazing experience. Started by Anniina Sandberg, Visit Natives provides you with a totally unique opportunity to see what real life is like for both people and wildlife in the Arctic wilderness of Northern Norway. Anniina’s passion and enthusiasm for sharing authentic travel experiences shines through as you are given a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only take in the Northern Lights spectacle, but hang out with the native Sami reindeer and their herders.
Forget your typically predictable package holiday, this is as real as it gets! The action happens in Kautokeino, northern Norway with Sami native hosts and guides accompanying you every step of the way. You cannot help but feel fully immersed in local life – whether it be enjoying traditionally cooked meals, sledge riding with reindeer or being fortunate enough to participate in local traditions. Such a wonderful experience to feel so welcome and literally like part of the local community – that’s why we love Visit Natives. We even got to wear traditional Sami clothes and join in with some Sami joik singing! Yes, you are in the wilderness but that is what makes this Visit Natives tour so authentic.
Besides the immersive culture, you will also witness nature in its rawest form; reindeer quietly grazing in the wild, crystal clear stream waters good enough to drink straight out of and of course if the conditions are right, the infamous Northern Lights. Your heated wooden cabin is remote and your toilet located in a separate building, but traditional wooden Sami skis are to hand when venturing outside. Yes, it’s very cold but thermal layers, boots, gloves and hats are provided as well as helmets for when you are whizzing about exploring on the snowmobile. Simply no day is the same as there is no set structure, but that is what makes the experience so special. From learning how to tame reindeer or hunt an Arctic grouse, to fetching fresh water and cutting wood for the all-important fire, you really get stuck into daily Sami life. Getting meals organised for the evening a highlight as we never tasted let alone prepared some of the food we ate, including reindeer meat and salted fish. The Sami Reindeer Herding & Northern Lights Experience really is an eye-opener and a truly once in a lifetime experience, with fond memories that can be shared and treasured forever.
2. Northern Lights Lapland Tour, Transun
The 7 night Northern Lights Lapland Tour run by Transun takes you off the beaten track in Sweden to one of the most beautifully unspoilt places imaginable in the remote village of Karesuando, 160 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Accommodation in the lodge caters for families as well as couples, or if you fancy being out in the elements, an overnight stay in an igloo with an ice bed is an optional extra.
This tour is an Aurora hunting adventure full of exciting Arctic activities; climbing up snowy hills and tobogganing down – such fun! The husky dogs are up nice and early, ready to take you on your very own husky safari – two passengers per sledge being whisked through the arctic wilderness is a rare delight to experience. Or at the end of an eventful day there is always the option to simply sit on the hill behind the lodge staring in awe at the Lights in the sky above.
3. Northern Lights Iceland, Reykjavik ExcursionsReykjavik Excursions is a pretty accurate coach tour in terms of whether you will witness the Northern Lights. There are usually a large number of people per tour, and it’s obviously hit and miss as to whether you will actually see anything, but if the Lights don’t make an appearance you are offered to go out again another day. Each night Reykjavik Excursions calculate where the best place will be based on the aurora and weather conditions so it really is an adventure from the word go. The guides are real experts within their field and with their excellent knowledge take you to some of the best spots. It can involve waiting in the dark for some time though so make sure you bring a torch, super warm clothes and of course your camera!
4. Half Term Family Northern Lights, Aurora Addicts
If hoping to witness the Northern Lights with a family in tow, Half Term Family Northern Lights expeditions with Aurora Addicts are perfectly suited to meet your needs. Catering for children and offering tours that are actually in school holidays is a bonus, but being able to offer reduced rates so they are affordable for families is simply amazing. The enthusiastic host is extremely accommodating and his local knowledge means that he has the inside scoop on where it is best to go to see the Lights. There are plenty of activities available (whale and sea eagle watching to name a few) suitable for all ages, but it is the personal touches that make this such a wonderful tour. From a comforting hot drink whilst out exploring in the brisk Norwegian air, to the warm crackle of the fire with the backdrop of pure white snow; these are some of the memories you and your children will take home from this once in a lifetime experience.
5. Astronomy Voyage in Norway, Hurtigruten
For the serious searcher of the Northern Lights, the Astronomy Voyage in Norway with Hurtigruten is one not to be missed. These Scandinavian cruise specialists offer a 12-day cruise throughout winter starting in Bergen with various stops along the way including Trondheim, the Lofoten Islands, Honningsvag and Tromso (where you can visit the Northern Lights Planetarium). The best bit about this cruise is that on-board are expert astronomy lecturers who know all there is to know about the Northern Lights and the solar system. It presents a wonderful opportunity to not only discover Norway’s ports, fjords and mountains but to learn more about the fascinating Arctic night sky and witness the Aurora Borealis. It’s worth mentioning that if the Northern Lights fail to appear, Hurtigruten gives you another 6 or 7-day Classic Voyage cruise free of charge.
6. Rovaniemi Northern Lights Adventure, Authentic Scandinavia
Run by Norwegian tour operator Authentic Scandinavia, the Rovaniemi Northern Lights Adventure is an 4 night tour taking you to northern Finland, where the Northern Lights frequently shine from September to March. There are plenty of activities to choose from here including snowmobile rides and of course at Christmas time a visit to Santa at Santa Claus Village. Situated just outside of Rovaniemi, this is a perfect aurora choice as it offers a unique experience of staying in a glass igloo hidden away in the unspoiled Taiga Forest. Your quest for the Northern Lights continues when you are taken in the evening by Husky-led sled to remote wilderness, the later and darker it gets the more chance you have of witnessing the Lights.
7. Discover the Northern Lights Photography Tour, Beyond Arctic
Travelling by mini-van, Beyond Arctic offer a Discover the Northern Lights Photography Tour where you will visit 2 or 3 locations out of their 50 hot spots. Obviously bringing your own camera is a must as phone cameras don’t always capture the Northern Lights well. The guides accompanying you are professional photographers who can help set you up in preparation for some fantastic photography. At the start of the tour you are provided with warm clothes and shoes, and a backpack full of supplies – the snacks and hot drinks are most welcome later. A combination of experienced guides and knowledgeable photographers makes this the perfect tour if you are hoping for breathtaking pictures.
8. Northern Lights Midnight Adventure, Iceland Everywhere
The Northern Lights Midnight Adventure from Iceland Everywhere is a tour led by an experienced and rather charismatic guide. It’s a mini-bus tour consisting of small groups but you still receive a personal service; to the point where the guide even shows you how to best setup your camera to maximize your capture of the Northern Lights. He even takes pictures of you with the Northern Lights in the background if you so wish, definitely one for the photo album!
9. Northern Lights Cruise, Arctic Expedition
This four hour Northern Lights tour is a short boat cruise with Arctic Expedition, departing from Tromsø city center. There are three boats of varying sizes that are used depending on the number of pre-booked seats. Setting sail in the evening, sit back and relax whilst admiring the breathtaking scenery, fjords, and mountains on your journey. As far away from the city center and light pollution as possible, this is one of the speediest ways to experience the Northern Lights.
10. Northern Lights Hunting, Nordic Adventures
A three hour tour by mini-bus, this is a really nice tour if you are looking for a straightforward search for the Northern Lights in Finland. Collected from your accommodation in Rovaniemi you are then taken to a remote location where you wait for the Northern Lights to make their appearance. The evening is delightful as you sit huddled around the warm glow of an open fire, eating freshly cooked sausages and drinking plenty of lovely hot drinks. The local guide is informative with his tales of Finland, and despite the fact you are with a group the tour itself is an intimate experience.
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