One of the most popular things to do in Arctic Norway is to take a Tromso northern lights tour. I have done it myself and it gave me memories that will last a lifetime. This is a guide detailing why you should take a northern lights tour in Tromso, how to photograph the northern lights in Norway, and the best aurora tours Tromso has to offer.
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How to Book the BEST Tromso Northern Lights Tour in Norway
The Arctic is magical and there is just something about it that that fills me with wonder and excitement. From the lifestyle to the extreme daylight differences, it’s just one of those places on this planet that should be preserved and visited for people to really understand it.
But, there is one thing in the Arctic that makes it more remarkable than even words can begin to describe- the northern lights.
Pictures just don’t do them justice- even the most talented photographer cannot do the northern lights justice. The only way to see them is in person and witness the display first hand. During my week-long stay in the Arctic, I was lucky enough to see the lights on three separate occasions and each was different and wonderful for its own reason.
Seeing the northern lights isn’t always easy and you may need a camera to see them dazzling the skies. In addition, you will almost definitely need to take a tour to guarantee getting to witness them. In this post, I will detail all you need to know about going to see the northern lights and suggest some Tromso tours that I think will make the experience that much better. Click here if you’re looking from dog sledding in Tromsø or an ethical whale watching in Tromsø tour instead.
Basic Information about the Northern Lights
Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Norway
The northern lights only come out to play in winter and when it is fully dark out. The season runs from September to March but there are chances to still see them in August and April. Time-wise, you can see them any time when its completely pitch back, though the highest activity tends to be between 10pm-11pm.
However, none of this will matter if the night is not clear. Cloud coverage is the nemesis of the northern lights and will ruin all chances of you seeing them. On a better note, if you are on a tour, they will drive you to places where the sky is clear and there is a higher chance of seeing them. The other important factor in seeing the lights is the amount of solar activity that causes the aurora borealis in the first place.
There are apps and websites that will help you track this and will show you the chances of seeing the lights on a particular night. These apps are not always accurate and your chances are actually higher to see them than they may make you think. In fact, on my first night in the Norwegian Arctic, I saw them when the app said there was more or less a 0% chance in seeing them.
The degree of solar activity will affect how vivid they are; they range from what seems to be a white, puffy cloud to the full-on green and pink displays you see in photographs and on TV. Without an informative guide, I would never have known that the seemingly white cloud streaking across the sky was the northern lights over Norway! Luckily, learning to photograph the lights will make the white cloud show its true colors through the lens.
Photographing the Northern Lights
You will need four essential things to photograph the northern lights: a camera that you can switch to manual and adjust the ISO settings and the length of exposure, a wide-angle or pancake lens, a sturdy tripod, and a remote.
Photography is all about light and the camera processing it to create the images we see and shooting the northern lights is no exception. You will need to switch your camera to manual mode, which will allow you to fiddle with the settings.
- ISO (higher the ISO, the more light that will be let in)
- Shutter speed (longer the shutter speed, the more light that will be let in)
- F stop (how wide the lens is open)
First, get your F Stop as low it will go this will open the lens up as wide as it can be and will not draw focus on one small point. Then, you need to work out the best ISO- different cameras can handle different amounts. I have found that with cheaper, starter level cameras that having a very high ISO will make the picture rather grainy. Luckily, you can counteract the ISO with the shutter speed a bit.
Try keeping the ISO at around 800 (if beginner level camera) with a lengthy shutter speed of at least 15 seconds. You will then need to switch your lens to manual focus and then play around focusing in so you get a clear and crisp picture. This process can take some time and patience, but the results are well worth it.
The point of focus will be different for each lens, so it really is just a matter of trial and error. A tripod and a remote are the final important factors as they will keep your camera still and stop any unwanted movements from having to touch the camera. Once you have the perfect set up, you can snap away and take awesome photos without moving the camera.
I also advise bringing an extra battery or two as the cold saps all the power from the battery. Store the spares as close to your body heat as possible or in a bag with a handwarmer in it so they are able to keep their power levels up.
Another useful item to bring is a flashlight or headlamp if you want a picture of yourself with the northern lights behind you. It will help to have someone paint you into the picture using the flashlight (meaning to move the flashlight up and down over your body during the long shutter speed).
You can see all of my recommended products and the camera equipment I use below. Please note that I am a beginner photographer and these are not meant for experts, but for the average person (like myself) just looking to get some photos of the northern lights.
- Here is the Canon camera that I used for the northern lights
- Here is my wide-angle lens I used. But I preferred this pancake lens for its sharpness the most.
- Definitely don’t forget a tripod! This is my tripod.
- Also, don’t forget a camera remote!
- Bring a headlamp or flashlight if you want a photo of yourself in front of the lights.
- Spare batteries are lifesavers in the cold, Arctic weather.
Why I Recommend Taking a Tromso Aurora Tour
I am a fan of doing things independently in most circumstances but for hunting for the Tromso, Norway northern lights, I highly encourage taking a tour. The first reason why is that the lights are elusive- if you don’t know what you are looking for, you might miss them and if you don’t know where to look, you might never find them.
On a Tromso northern lights tour, you will be with a seasoned northern lights hunter who will point out the lights, even when they may not be that obvious to an amateur or the naked eye. Tour companies also tend to have local Norwegian people and spotters in different locations who will guide the tours to places where they have seen the lights, therefore increasing your chances.
Secondly, tour guides will help you get your camera settings right and perform flashlight duties.
Finally, tours will cover large amounts of distances to get you to see the lights. Doing this yourself may be tiresome and difficult, especially if you are traveling around during the daytime too.
The Best Tromso, Norway Northern Lights Tours
There are plenty of tours out there that are available to book. I have put together a good selection for you that I think are the best ones out there to book (and I know from experience!) Each Tromso aurora borealis tour offers a different unique experience or take on seeing the lights.
As the lights are a natural phenomenon, tours cannot guarantee you will see the lights, but they will do their best to make sure you see them… even if it means often driving for miles through the Arctic to get to clear skies and prime spotting locations.
Northern Lights Photography Tour
This small and personal tour will help you get the most of photographing the lights and the spectacular arctic landscapes. Departing from Tromso, the tour lasts for around 7-9 hours with a maximum of 8 people. Your guide will take you on an epic hunt in search of the lights and talk you through all you need to know.
Once you have found the lights, hot chocolate and snacks will be available to keep you warm as you snap away. The guide will be able to help you take the perfect pictures and they will also have their own camera with them and will take photos of the night as well.
Northern Lights Experience with Aurora Camps
Experience the magic of the lights and learn about the Sami culture in one evening. You will embark on an epic hunt for the lights with experienced guides who will drive you out into the arctic wilderness based on weather forecasts. Once the lights have been found the guides, who are all professional photographers, they will assist you in taking the best possible pictures of the lights.
After a night of hunting the Tromso northern lights, you will be taken to traditional Sami camps and enjoy food and drinks by the warmth of a fire in a Lavvu. This tour includes a hot meal at the Sami camp. Please inform the tour operator of any dietary requirements. The tour lasts for 7 hours and departs from Tromso.
Northern Lights Cable Car Excursion
Take in the Tromso northern lights from a mountain top restaurant. This unique experience includes taking a cable car up to a restaurant, where you will enjoy a delicious dinner and wait for the northern lights to come out to play.
Light pollution is minimal and you will be able to see the fantastic lights clearly. The Tromso northern lights tour lasts for about three hours and includes the cable car ride and dinner.
3-Hour Northern Lights Sailing Excursion
Take to the Arctic seas to go on a Tromso aurora borealis tour with this cozy and intimate excursion. On board the luxury catamaran, you will head out of the fjords and hunt for the lights and experienced captains will navigate your boat to where the weather will be clear and there is a good chance of seeing the lights.
Onboard the boat, you will be provided with snacks and warm drinks. Safety gear will also be provided for use as well as free to borrow tripods. A maximum of 12 people will be on the tour that lasts around 3.5 hours.
Northern Lights 7-Hour Tour from Tromso
Hunt for the lights across the Arctic Circle traveling as far east as the Finnish and Swedish borders. The seven-hour tour will take you out into the Arctic to hunt down the amazing lights. The experienced tour guides and northern lights hunters will take you as far as possible to see the lights so make sure you take your passport with you.
Once the lights have been found, you will enjoy stories around the bonfire with the light snacks and hot drinks available. If the weather across the regions is severe, the tour may be canceled. The tour lasts for around 7 hours, although this may change depending on the time of year. If the duration of the tour decreases, so will the prices.
Reindeer Camp Dinner with Chance of Northern Lights
Wrap up warm and head out to a reindeer camp for dinner, storytelling, and the Norwegian northern lights. The northern lights have played a huge part in the Sami culture and there are few better ways to experience them than hanging out with the Sami and their reindeer.
During the five-hour tour, you will head out to a camp, feed the reindeer, enjoy a traditional three-course meal, and have the chance to see the spectacular lights. During the evening, you will also learn in-depth about the Sami way of life which until recently, was kept under wraps.
Dinner is a traditional Sami stew that is normally served at weddings and you will eat it while you hear traditional songs. Vegetarian options available (give a heads up though!)
Tromso Ice Domes Hotel Overnight Stay
If you want to experience something completely different, take the opportunity to go out to the Tromso Ice Domes Hotel. The experience will take you closer to the Arctic than you could ever imagine. In the evening, you will go on a snowshoe hike out into the wilderness to try and spot the amazing lights.
Along with the opportunity to spot the lights, you can learn about the culture and wildlife of the area with a guide at your disposal during the whole stay. For dinner, you will enjoy a delicious dish cooked over an open fire. This is where to stay in Tromso to see the northern lights.
Seeing the northern lights in Tromso is something that should be on everyone’s list when visiting the capital of Northern Norway. I hope that these Tromso northern lights tours give you a good starting point for your journey to seeing one of the most magical phenomenons on Earth.
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