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Destinations / Expat Club trips / Nature

Everything you need to know about the Northern lights

Everything you need to know about the Northern lights

This natural phenomenon always manages to capture the imagination. The Aurora Borealis can be unpredictable and ever-changing, but one thing is absolutely sure: they will always be a fascinating sight!

In fact, some of our most popular trips involve chasing this fantastic spectacle of nature!

Here’s everything you need to know about the Northern lights (and how to increase your chances to see them!)

Wandering souls or a bad omen?

Northern lights over Mount Kirkjufell, Iceland ©Thampitakkull Jakkree – Shutterstock

In the olden days, there were plenty of legends about the Northern lights.

In fact, there are a lot of folk tales about these lights, particular coming from the native communities around the Arctic circle. 

Many Inuit communities believed these were the spirits of the dead, human or sometimes of animals they’d hunted. Communities in Greenland explained the lights as the spirits of children who had died at birth.

Norse mythology explained the lights as the battle gear of the Valkyries, riding on horseback leading fallen soldiers to Valhalla. In northern Alaska, the lights were considered evil.

So what are these lights, actually? The Northern Lights Centre gives us a great description of this natural occurrence:

“The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.” 

Interesting how something you can primarily see in the dark has so much to do with the celestial object providing us daylight!

Step into the Oval

Admiring the lights in Rovaniemi © Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

The Northern lights Oval is the ring circling the magnetic North Pole. This is the best area to see the lights.

The Oval encompasses the north parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It also extends through Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Iceland. 

The exact latitude of the Oval will depend on the intensity of solar activity.

Many locations where the lights are visible are uninhabited and quite remote, sometimes even inaccessible. Luckily, we have places like Tromsø in Norway and Rovaniemi in Finland where you can spot them! You can even spot them in many parts of Iceland.

A neon spectacle or a pale fizzle?

Aurora borealis over Tromsø, Norway © Horia Bogdan – Shutterstock

There are a lot of factors that influence the intensity of the Northern lights. These are mostly weather-related.

Clear skies are essential to get maximum visibility. Evening and nights between 20:00 and 2:00 are best, too. In fact, the season of the polar night (between mid-November and mid-January) is the most optimal.

However, many locations, like in Tromsø and Iceland, the aurora is visible from late August and sometimes even stretching to mid-April.

What is surprising for many is the shade of green of these lights. Yes, it is possible to encounter the gorgeous neon-green shade you see in promotional pictures.

But of course, it’s also possible to have a more subtle pale green, depending on the weather conditions at the time.

The good news is, they are still stunning!

Go towards the light!

Expat Club organizes 3 trips where you can get the chance to chase the Northern lights.

The first opportunity is in November when we visit the land of ice and fire, Iceland. The weekend of the 1st to 4th November we enjoy the waterfalls, volcanos, lava fields, geysers, hot springs, and natural beauty of this country.

The next opportunity is a visit to the official hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi. A truly magical Christmas experience starting 22nd December until 26th December.  

Finally, to close the year 2019, we celebrate New Year’s Eve in Tromsø. The program includes many arctic activities like reindeer and husky sledding, and of course, chasing the Northern lights!

And because we want to increase our chances, we have two complementary Northern lights trips in the program.

Chase the Northern Lights and create the memory of a lifetime!

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