Travel experiences don’t get any more extraordinary than seeing the Aurora Borealis in Scandinavia. This natural phenomenon lights up the skies above the Arctic Circle between the months of September to April of every year. There are many places in Norway to witness the Northern Lights but nothing quite competes with the Lofoten Islands for sheer natural beauty.
Conditions need to be impeccable for this lightshow to occur – dark skies and no cloud cover are some of the ingredients for success. Patience is a virtue when chasing the lights. Nothing is guaranteed so the more time you set aside the better. This is part of the reason why the Lofoten Islands is such a fantastic Northern Lights destination – you could easily spend a few weeks here exploring the islands and waiting for the opportune moment.
Lofoten consists of seven main islands and 12 villages that hug the rugged coastline. The most impressive feature of the archipelago are the granite peaks that loom large over you. In between the islands are a series of fjords that you can navigate by boat. Some parts of Lofoten can be reached by car – across roads and bridges that marvel with their engineering ingenuity – while other hidden gems are only accessed by cruise ship or yacht.
There are endless experiences to enjoy while you wait for the weather gods to bless a Northern Lights viewing. Henningsvaer is a fishing village regarded as the “Venice of Lofoten”. Visiting in winter means the peaks of Henningsvaer are blanketed in snow. Photographers will have a field day capturing the brightly colored wooden houses, snow-capped mountains and the Instagrammable Henningsvaer Fotballbanen (football pitch).
Haukland Beach is another popular spot. During winter the usual crowds disappear leaving the beach empty. Watching a sunrise or sunset here surrounded by snow is pure joy. The best lookout point at Haukland Beach is Mannen – a 400 meter hike that offers stunning views of three different beaches. Other winter activities in Lofoten include alpine skiing, kayaking, Arctic fishing, dog sledding and soaking in hot tubs under the night sky.
As you can tell, the Lofoten Islands aren’t short on sights to see. Planning a multi-week trip during Aurora Borealis season will give you plenty of time to explore the islands and wait for the lights to appear. Below we go into detail about the Northern lights and how you can best experience them in Lofoten – either by venturing on your own or by joining a sailing expedition with World Sea Explorers. They can help you see the lights in unique ways.
What are the Northern Lights and How do they Appear?
The two types of aurora which light up the night sky near the northern and southern poles are called Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. Both are incredible but the Northern Lights take the cake when it comes to color and formation. Solar storms generated from stars millions of miles away give off electrically charged particles that enter the earth’s atmosphere.
These particles collide with atoms and molecules which then get turned into gas and transformed into glowing colors. Different types of gas (like nitrogen and oxygen) produce different colors during an Aurora display. If you see purple, blue or pink chances are it was nitrogen. Seeing green means oxygen was in play. The collisions that occur in the atmosphere produce quick flashes of light. This is how the aurora gets its dancing effect.
Due to the random collisions of particles, no two Northern Lights displays are the same. You might get lucky and witness a ballet of dancing colors all night long or you may only see a brief flash of light for ten minutes. Some nights produce bright hues that can easily be taken in by the naked eye. Other times a quality camera is required to capture the full effect.
The great thing about hunting for the Northern Lights in Lofoten is that the villages don’t have much light pollution, so with a bit of good fortune you can gaze at the auroras from your rorbu balcony. A rorbu is a traditional fisherman’s cabin. If you visit the islands in mid winter – when the sun doesn’t rise for 24 hours or longer – then you will have more hours to potentially see the lights. A full day without sunrise is called a Polar Night.
Solar activity is difficult to predict and the best forecasters can only say what is likely to happen two days in advance. Therefore, staying in Lofoten for a decent amount of time and visiting during the middle of winter really does make a difference to your chances. Even if you stay for a couple of weeks and your luck runs out, you will still have an amazing time traveling through the Lofoten Islands when it’s turned into a winter wonderland.
Technology can also help you learn when it’s the right time to go out and see this phenomenon. Tourists from all over the world looking for this sight are using the Aurora Forecast App to track solar activity and get notified of the best time to see the Northern Lights. This app gathers data from various global sources, such as NASA, NOAA, and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, to provide accurate predictions for Northern Lights visibility.
Where to See the Northern Lights in the Lofoten Islands
There are no bad spots in Lofoten to see the Northern Lights as long as the conditions are right. You could head to a secluded beach, hike up a mountain, book a sailing voyage or sit in the comfort of your own accommodation with the lights off. No matter where you choose to go, the auroras will be waiting for you. One important tip is to find a place where you can face north because that is the direction where the lights appear.
Beaches are popular for Northern Lights viewings since they don’t require too much physical effort to reach. Haukland Beach or Uttakleiv Beach are great choices in this regard. If you like the idea of being a little higher then a mountainous area is what you should opt for. Make sure you wrap up warm due to the fact that you might be waiting out in the cold for several hours. Also, bring all of your photography gear to capture the lights.
Smartphones don’t cut it for Aurora Borealis photography. Pack your best equipment such as tripods and lenses. Bear in mind that a fast shutter speed is necessary in order to capture the swift movements of the lights. A slow shutter speed could lead to blurry images. Coming home with photos is nice, but ensure you take the time to watch the Northern Lights and soak it all in. You don’t want to be mucking about on the camera for too long.
Best Northern Lights Tours in the Lofoten Islands
We recommend booking with World Sea Explorers for your Northern Lights adventures in Lofoten. Their private yacht charters transport you to magical hidden gems above the Arctic Circle. World Sea Explorers have three awesome experiences that you can book for Aurora Borealis hunts. The first is a Northern Lights Cruise which includes a local dinner and a hot tub.
The main appeal of this four hour cruise is that you journey to the darkest areas of Lofoten. There won’t be humans or artificial light in sight. This is a great option for small groups, families or couples who want to immerse themselves in nature while getting a chance to see the Northern Lights. Not only are the lights epic but the stars and Milky Way are just as impressive. Sit back in the hot tub while enjoying the celestial show above.
For something even more special, book the five day Whales & Aurora trip that voyages through Arctic fjords in search of wildlife and the Northern Lights. From October to December, whales come together to feed on herrings as these fish migrate in the high north. Orca and humpback whale sightings are all but guaranteed since you will have the time to wait for their appearance. The Aurora Borealis are just the cherry on top.
The final Northern Lights option with World Sea Explorers is Ski & Sail Lofoten. Stay in a floating base camp for four days and head up snow-covered peaks for some of the most thrilling backcountry skiing in Europe. After each day of carving up the slopes, you will be able to head back on the yacht for dinner and a hot tub soak. If you time your trip right the Northern Lights will come out to say hello whilst you are relaxing onboard.
Final Thoughts on Lofoten Aurora Sightings
Norway is a country of many natural wonders but the Northern Lights truly are the greatest of all. The Lofoten Islands make for the perfect destination to see the lights in all their shapes, sizes and colors. Nothing prepares you for the range of emotions you will feel when you come across a strong intensity aurora. Cloud cover and weak solar activity can frustrate even the most patient traveler, but hang in there and your opportunity will come!