The Northern Lights
Everything you need to know about nature's own mesmerizing light show, the Aurora Borealis, and how to see them.
It's dark. You're outside, and everything is quiet. Suddenly, a flicker of light in the sky grabs your attention; pale and modest at first, it soon becomes intense and vibrant, transforming the dark sky into a mighty display of nature's power. It’s hypnotic and impossible to ignore.
But perhaps strangest of all: There is complete silence. Cascades of green, yellow, violet, and red dance across the sky in silent harmony. The Northern Lights are like a mighty symphonic ballet with muted sound...
The Northern Lights and Where to Find Them
The Northern Lights are also known as the Aurora Borealis, a name given to them by scientist and astronomer, Galileo. Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn, and Borealis is derived from the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas.
The Northern Lights appear to those on the ground in different forms. They can look like a swirl of colors dancing through the sky, rays of light reaching up into space, and sometimes they appear as a giant fissure stretching across the sky.
They manifest as a dynamic light show across the skies high up in the Northern Hemisphere near the Arctic Circle. The lights are strongest right beneath the auroral ovals, which makes northern Norway a prime spot for Northern Lights sightings.
Facts About the Northern Lights
Thank the Sun for the Northern Lights
Beyond Science: What causes the aurora borealis?
The unearthly beauty of the aurora borealis mesmerizes all who stay or travel in the polar regions.
And like most natural phenomena, it has a prosaic explanation: The Northern Lights are caused by electrically charged particles, high in energy, entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
And those particles originate from the sun.
The Aurora Season Lasts for 7 Months
Technically, the Northern Lights are present for much of the year.
There just aren’t enough hours of darkness to see them during the summer months, even above the Arctic Circle.
The winter season in the Arctic lasts from late September to late March/ early April. During this time, the Arctic sky is dark enough for the Northern Lights to be visible in the right conditions.
Have more questions about the Northern Lights?
Photo: Swen Stroop, Ørjan Bertelsen and Allen Hwang
History of the Northern Lights: Myths and Legends
It's no wonder the aurora borealis have influenced folklore and stories through the ages. Imagine gazing up at green, red, and purple lights flickering across the sky. Captivating, for sure. Scary? You bet. Today we know the science behind the lights, but back then, stories painted them as everything from bridges to the afterlife and football players to dangerous monsters and warning signs.
Having influenced art, history, and religion, the myths and legends behind the Northern Lights are a fascinating insight into the mindset of different people across continents:
9 Reasons to See the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten
The Northern Lights have enthralled mankind for a long time. Even today, they captivate travelers who venture north to the Arctic. On a voyage with Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast, the aurora borealis comes to you. Here's why a cruise with us is the best way to experience the Northern Lights:
1. The Northern Lights usually appear multiple times and at multiple locations during your cruise with us.
2. The Northern Lights will often appear directly above the ship, and our outdoor observation decks offer brilliant, unobstructed front-row views.
3. Being at sea avoids the artificial ambient light common on land, so the Northern Lights will appear brighter and more vivid.
4. While in northern Norway, Hurtigruten sails directly beneath the Auroral Zone, an area of consistent auroral activity.
5. Of the 34 ports we visit from Bergen to Kirkenes, 22 are north of the Arctic Circle, offering plenty of opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
6. The lights can make appearances in Norway as early as September and as late as May; Hurtigruten sails every day, all year.
7. There is no time limit, so you can enjoy them for as long as they appear.
8. Onboard announcements ensure you don't miss a single sighting.
9. There are no hidden fees or separate excursions just to see the lights.
Hunt the light on a sailing with Hurtigruten. Video: Ole Christian Salamonsen
FAQ: Your Journey to See the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten
Traveling to see the Northern Lights in Norway? Here's a guide with the most frequently asked questions about cruises to see the aurora borealis.
Learn more about:
What temperatures to expect
What to pack
Your options when traveling with Hurtigruten
Interview with Our Northern Lights Expert
"The northern lights are comparable to snowflakes; there are millions of them but no two will ever be the same."
Dr. John Mason has been working with Hurtigruten since 2007, and this will be his 11th consecutive winter season on our Astronomy Voyage.
The Hurtigruten team recently had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Dr. Mason, quizzing him on all things aurora-related.
Nature's Greatest Light Show
Witnessing the celestial Northern Lights shimmering in the star-studded sky is a life-affirming experience that will remain with you forever. Their wondrous, magnetic beauty is the reason why you'll happily brace the Arctic chill, and why you'll be drawn back to see them time and time again.
We look forward to welcoming you on board!
No Aurora? No Problem!
We're so confident the Northern Lights will make an appearance during your 12-day roundtrip cruise in Norway between October and March, that if they don't, we'll give you a 6- or 7-day cruise free of charge!