Chasing the northern lights is an experience that is high on everyone’s bucket list. But unlike other tourist attractions, you cannot just simply go there, click a few selfies and post them on your Instagram. They are a natural phenomenon also known as Aurora Borealis which are created when random particles collide into each other and are only seen if the conditions are right. Extremely hard and difficult to predict, they are a rare sight which most visitors fail to experience despite planning ahead.
However, there are a few things which can help you in guessing where and when they occur to give you a better chance at planning your chase. Here are a few tips that will help you get a perfect glimpse of the magical phenomenon that travellers can’t stop gushing about!
Knowing where to go
The best place to witness the Northern Lights is somewhere near the Arctic Circle. In Europe, the best places to see this are in Greenland, Iceland, Norway and some parts of Finland, Sweden and even Russia. In other parts of the world, it typically occurs in countries in the Northern Hemisphere such as Canada and Alaska in North America. The reason most people flock to Tromsø in Norway is because of the high success rate of seeing the Northern Lights not only because its exact latitude but also because you can drive inland from the coastal climate to chase them.
The colder it is the better are your chances
A night out in cold or even freezing temperatures may not be your idea of a perfect trip. However, the colder it is, it’s better because air can hold less vapour which means lesser water molecules are obstructing your view. However, if it is cloudy, snowing or facing any blockage activity in the sky, then its hard to see the Northern Lights. Hence it is important to check the weather the whole time to check which locations open up.
You have to be as far away from the city lights as possible
It may be your dream to just look outside the window and see the beautiful Northern Lights. However, there is absolutely no chance of seeing them unless you step out of the light pollution of any city. The best way to see them is by going to any place which is really dark or take a tour even if you don’t really like them. Local tour guides track this on their radar all the time to ensure you get the experience even if they have to drive you to extreme interiors.
You can see them despite a full moon
Contrary to expert claims of not being about to see the Northern Lights during a full moon, moonlight does not ruin your chances of seeing them. Although the pictures you take might not be as bright with a full moon, so the dates for a full moon are something you should keep into consideration while planning.
Clicking the perfect pictures
You cannot just take photos of the Northern Lights with your iPhone, GoPro or even the best of phone cameras. You will need a DSLR camera with long exposure and wide lens to photograph them on your own. However, you don’t need to splurge on it just for your trip if you don’t own one as local tour guides can offer you photography along with the packages and even show you some cool tricks to get that perfect picture.
Best time to see them
The best time to see them will vary upon the destination. However, largely September-January is the best time to see the Northern Lights. You can still see them sometimes up to April when the Arctic has partial or full darkness. Planning at least a week-long trip during these months is your best chance to not miss out on these lights.
While planning a trip, it is important to remember that there is never a guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights. They also don’t look like the photographs in real life at first glance. However, if you keep your expectations low and a positive attitude, you will be greeted with one of the strongest and most spectacular natural phenomena on this planet!
‘Curated by Neha Bhise’