Norway

Is Tromsø the best place in Norway to see the Northern Lights? We don’t believe that it is. Controversial perhaps, but please read further to understand our reasoning.

The coolest of cool northern cities Tromsø, has become synonymous with the Northern Lights and there’s little doubt that it is a tremendous starting point for a spot of Norwegian Aurora hunting. However, all that Northern Lights publicity surrounding Tromsø can, in our opinion, be slightly misleading because, in our experience, artificial light pollution and the Northern Lights make for unhappy bedfellows. The fact of the matter is that you are very unlikely to see the Aurora in its full glory from the centre of a city. 

Hence, on an Artisan Travel holiday in Norway, you will find yourself heading out of the towns and cities into the islands or the mountains and fjords. That is where you’ll find the dark skies that are absolutely crucial if you want to maximise your Aurora viewing potential.

Of course, we want you to be able to enjoy what Tromsø has to offer, but we’ll make sure the city is used as a base for starting Aurora hunting activities or that you also visit dark sky destinations such as Spitsbergen or Senja during your holidays with us. 

 

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More than just dramatic Fjords

Norway was at the very front of the queue when Mother Nature was dishing out spectacular landscapes. The country is renowned for its dramatic fjords but there is far more to it than these magnificent waterways formed thousands of years ago by glacial retreat. 

Islands such as Senja and Sommarøy are sparsely populated and where they are peopled, the colourful towns and fishing villages are achingly pretty. They are also ideal as a base for your Aurora hunting excursions because there is so little light pollution here. 

There are few Northern Lights hotspots more dramatically striking than Karasjok and we’d encourage anybody with a love of the Great Outdoors to have a long hard look at it as a holiday destination.

From September through to March, the lights make regular appearances all across the north from the islands, to the border with Russia near Kirkenes. It’s even possible to go Aurora hunting for 24 hours per day if you travel north to Spitsbergen, as the winter brings perpetual darkness - great for the Northern Lights

Norway’s northern coastline is warmer than it is inland which means that autumns are positively mild in comparison to most areas north of the Arctic Circle. Visiting the likes of Tromsø or Sommarøy during this time offers excellent value and Aurora viewing opportunities. 

Winter brings snow of course, but that means that there are even more activities such as dog sledding available but it can still remain milder here than inland. 

 

Some of our Highlights

We’ve been travelling to Norway to research holidays for over 15 years. Not surprisingly, we have a few tales to tell and here are a few of our favourites:

  “I loved the king crab safari out of Kirkenes. We went out to the Barents Sea on snowmobiles and our guide plucked this huge, huge crab from the icy salt water. Our guide then cooked up a feast for us."   Alex Charlton

"One thing I certainly hadn’t expected in Spitsbergen was to see the Northern Lights at 5pm in the evening. That’s the thing about Spitsbergen in the deepest of winter though, it is dark for 24 hours per day and as the local tourist board proudly point out, it is possible to go Aurora hunting all day (and night) long.”   Amy Walkington-Gray

 "During a recent trip to Norway, the first port of call was the “The City of the Northern Lights”, Alta. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel enjoys the most enviable of positions in a beautiful snow-covered valley. After a lovely meal and the obligatory drink in the Ice Bar, I was more than ready for bed and my snug sleeping bag kept me toasty warm all night as I slept in a snow room for the second night in a row."  Dawn Kitson

 “Seeing the Northern Lights dancing above a black silhouette of jagged mountains on the island of Senja is very possibly my favourite ever travel memory.” Graham Hughes


Image credits: Kirkenes Snowhotel, Trym Ivar Bergsmo, northernnorway.com, Spitsbergen Travel, Green Dog, Engholm Husky winter, Northern Norway, Douglas Bardwell, Terje Rakke,Nordic Life - Visitnorway.com, Francisco Damm

Popular holidays to Norway

Our Locations

Remove the letter “r” from Norway and you are left with “No way”. We would probably add an exclamation mark too because when you start to tell folk about the country’s natural and man-made wonders, the only possible response is “No way!”.

It’s difficult to know where to start so let’s start in the south and work our way north.

The vibrantly coloured art deco town of Alesund is the perfect base for exploring Norway’s famed fjords. Sitting on several islands, the town is the gateway to some of Norway’s most spectacular scenery including the absolute must-see Hjørundfjord.

As you head north, the terrain becomes more rugged but no less attractive. Island after island dot the coastline of Nordland and Finnmark and the archipelagos are home to some of Norway’s greatest treasures. They are also great driving country, with quiet roads and links to the likes of Sommaroy, Senja and the absurdly picturesque Lofoten islands.

Driving isn’t so much fun in winter unless you are steering a team of sled dogs across the snowy wilds of Northern Norway. You can do that from the kennels of a mushing legend, Sven Engholm at his base just outside Karasjok.

More winter treats await further north. Tromsø is a vibrant city and the gateway to many a Northern Lights adventure (although we would suggest staying outside the city if you are solely focused on chasing the Aurora Borealis).

Even further north, you reach far-flung Kirkenes on the Russian border. It’s a fascinating Arctic town with the added attraction numerous winter activities, the Northern Lights and a Snow Hotel where you can spend the night in a room made of ice and snow.

Lastly, we come to Spitsbergen, the most northerly landmass before you hit the Polar Icecap. The landscapes are stark, brutal but overwhelmingly majestic. You can’t leave town without an armed guard for fear of Polar Bears but, for anybody looking for that sense of frontier adventure, there’s not much point looking further than Spitsbergen.

 

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Your words...

Kirkenes Northern Lights and the snowhotel

Where to start - what an amazing trip. We did the trip to Kirkenes and went snowmobiling across a frozen fjord, dog sleighing through the Siberian forest and looking for the Northern Lights on the frozen ocean. It is truly indescribable. It really was a once in a lifetime experience and I thank you for making it go so smoothly. We had no problems at all - all the pickups were on time and well organised, everything that they said was included was (including a lunch that we were not expecting) and all the activities were outstanding. We went for my mums 50th birthday and it really did make it unforgettable.

Chris Meigh
Travelled 14th April 2015

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