Aurora Borealis. Speak to anyone and the Northern Lights is definitely on the list of top things to experience.
This spellbinding, natural light display appears when high speed solar particles collide with atoms and molecules in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in vivid bursts of light. Of course, being a natural phenomenon means that anyone planning a Northern Lights trip should be aware that there is no guarantee of seeing the lights. Weather, cloud cover, time are just some of the factors to consider.
So here are 5 top tips for planning a Northern Lights holiday:
Plan your Northern Lights trip NOW
On 10 Jan 2008, NASA reported on their website “Hang on to your cell phone, a new solar cycle has just begun”, marking the beginning of Solar Cycle 24. Solar activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles and we are now in a period known as Solar Maximum, which means that the next two winters should be the best chance to see the Northern Lights.
Plan your holiday around other activities
Even if all the conditions are looking promising, there are no guarantees with the Northern Lights. So the best approach is to plan your holiday around other activities and, if you happen to see the aurora borealis at the same time, then that’s a magical bonus!
All the Arctic adventures on offer will prove to be memorable, including reindeer and dog sledding, snow shoe excursions or snow mobile rides, and all will give you a chance to see the Northern Lights at the same time.
Use an experienced guide
Even for the most independent-minded, this is one trip where going with an experienced guide is recommended. Going with a local guide who has built up their experience over many years and can detect the best conditions on the day of your excursion will help you get the best of your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Be prepared for late nights
Northern Lights trips for great for couples and families alike, but, as obvious as it may sound, make sure your children are at an age where late nights will not be a problem.
Although Arctic winters mean that there is no or little sun during the day, the Northern Lights are seen on dark, cloudless nights (normally between October and March in the Polar Regions) and the most likely time is generally between 10pm and 1am.
Consider the temperature
The temperature is another consideration in planning a Northern Lights trip, especially if you have children. As an example, Tromsø in northern Norway is a good base for Northern Lights excursions. Winters there are not considered especially cold, with -18°C the lowest recorded, and average January temperatures being -4°C. However, planning your trip around the equinox time at end of September and March is good for Northern Lights activity and temperatures may be more favourable (though less snow).