Head 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle and you’ll find an island surrounded by mountains under the cover of darkness: Tromsø. As capital of Northern Norway and home to breathtaking fjords, snow-covered landscapes and some of the best Auroral activity in the world, this is a destination that you’d be hard-pressed to forget.

Svelsby Fjord - 11am

Given Tromsø’s northerly position, between late November and January the sun remains below the horizon resulting in almost two months of polar nights, enveloping all life in a fascinating faux light that glows blue. It is quite an experience in itself, yet it’s another kind of light that brings in visitors, and one that comes and goes as it pleases: the Aurora Borealis. The city’s geographical position means your odds of witnessing this natural phenomenon are fairly high, but never guaranteed. Taking my chances and with my camera at the ready, I set off on my own chase of the Aurora and found much more than I had bargained for.

And Then There Was(n’t) Light

Landing into darkness just after 10pm, we couldn’t tell the difference at our new latitude. You’d be forgiven for being dubious about whether the sun could cease to exist until you see it for yourself. My body clock switched off without the usual rise of the sun and I managed to sleep through until midday, awaking only to find a colourless sky and the city’s snowy, lamp-lit streets. I began to find the notion of daytime a distant memory. 

Dramatic as I was, I took to the city and headed across Bruvegen bridge  to get a better look at my surroundings. Battered by Arctic winds I stopped midway and felt a sense of being on the world’s edge; cold yet humbled. Suddenly the lack of light didn’t seem to matter so much, the landscape had more than made up for what was missing.

Reaching the other side of the bridge our next stop took us 420m above sea level up to mount Fløya to see the city below us sparkle. Up here you could see the sun light the sky from behind mountain peaks, and without a watch it could pass as the break of day. I contemplated this before the light slipped away, returning us to darkness for the next 20 hours.

Dog Sledding in the Lyngen Alps

Anticipating 3-4 hours of light, the Lyngen Alps required an early start to get to. After travelling a little over an hour we arrived in Svelsby town where we got weather-ready suited and booted before we met our dogs. We seemed to get the seal of approval after a few affectionate dog noises were exchanged between us and we concluded that they liked us. Apprehensions at bay, we set off into the blue light.

Quickly we were out in the wild, encased by vast white plains and crystallised mountains – the experience was exhilarating. I could have gone off course then and there, fulfilling my Iron Will childhood dreams, but before I could try and ya! the dogs where the wind would take me, the light told us it was time to head back.

We began our short journey across the fjord to Tromsø, this time welcoming the darkness with open arms and hopeful thoughts.

Solar Winds and Silence

‘Like most women, Aurora is a little temperamental’ our guide told us as we clambered onto the bus wielding tripods and gear. I agreed to disagree with his statement and kept a firm eye out of the window.

One hour into our drive north to Kvaløya Island we made our first stop by a lake where the Aurora was out in full force, filling the night’s sky with a dusting of green. I fumbled with my camera as our guide took pleasure in explaining the science behind the lights, failing to capture what was my first experience of them.

Eventually complaints from the group were made about the light pollution coming from nearby houses, so back on the bus it was to find another spot where we wouldn’t be bothered by lights in a place where the next sunrise was 4 weeks away.

20 minutes, winding roads, daring not to look away from the window in case she vanished without a goodbye.

But then we made it. On a curve of the mountain we stopped at a point overlooking the sea, and there she was. This time bold and unafraid, first snail-like, trailing across the star-studded sky, then dancing furiously. Greens and reds, then greens, then reds; we all watched without saying a word.

It was just her and us, and it was silent.

freshly-pressed-rectangle

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87 thoughts on “Tromsø: Chasing Light in Arctic Norway

  1. Brilliant! The Aurora Borealis is at the top of my bucket list…stunning photos!

  2. joyofmaps says:

    Reblogged this on mapsworldwide blog.

  3. reikipadova says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Northen inspiration

  4. razorrahman3x says:

    Breathtaking! I can only imagine what your experience must have been in witnessing this natural beauty! I hope to capture this beauty and the midnight sun with my wife some day.

    1. Hope you’re not expecting them both on the same trip?

      1. razorrahman3x says:

        Hahah i won’t have both.. have to make one trip in the summer and the other in the winter.. although the idea of 24hrs of darkness is daunting..but based ob your pics, there is a glowing light beneth yhe horizon which is not bad..

  5. hallcivic says:

    Chasing Light in Arctic Norway

  6. anitaprimett says:

    beautiful pictures 🙂

  7. GalOnTrip says:

    the beauty of the aurora…i’m speechless! pus, sledding with the dogs must be unforgettable experience! i thought they would be husky, but it doesn’t seem they are. i wonder what type of those dogs they are.

    1. Gabriella says:

      Hi! So I’ve been trying to find out what kind of dogs they were, as like you I had thought they’d be Siberian huskies before we went dog sledding. I think, but am not sure, that they might have been Seppala Siberian Sleddogs… but I’m no expert!

  8. Truly special, thanks so much xx

  9. Nice. Love the Northern Lights, love the outdoors, love vikings, love the cold crisp winter, love dogs (it’s my career) and love bucket lists. Good work getting out there. Visiting Scandinavia and seeing the Northern Lights are both on my future list.

  10. Iron Will, great reference!

    1. Gabriella says:

      Haha absolute classic!

  11. CMFowler says:

    What fantastic writing and equally spectacular photos! Beautifully written post – must now go see for myself! I’m so happy to have discovered you. Thanks again!

    1. Gabriella says:

      Thank you! And wow, Africa! I’ve only been to the Côte d’Ivoire and it was such an experience. Africa is a continent I’d love to explore more on future travels.

  12. Denise [But First, Live!] says:

    ahhh! great photos! would love to see northern lights one day… gah!
    🙂

  13. foodballs says:

    one of the beautiful place on this planet.

  14. okapina says:

    Amazing! I went to Tromso last December but sadly there wasn’t enough snow for dog sledding and too much cloud to see the lights there! Glad you got to see them as well as explore more of the area.

    1. Gabriella says:

      Oh no that’s such a shame! We were there are the end of Dec/beginning of Jan and we were really very lucky. Between Jan 1st – 3rd there was a lot of auroral activity! I hope you get to see them one day if you have the chance again!

  15. brinchmann says:

    As a Norwegian living in Northern Norway… I’m glad that you got the chance to see the Aurora Borealis. What they told you is true, though. The northern lights are definitively temperamental, you aren’t guaranteed to see northern lights just because the sky is clear. Some evenings you see it, other nights you don’t. 🙂

    P.S. Dog sledding is a lot of fun!

  16. khedrick007 says:

    Amazing photographs!!

  17. Lovely post and great photos, I’m jealous 🙂

    1. Gabriella says:

      I think back to this trip and feel jealous that I’m not there now! They’re approaching midnight sun season, what an experience it would be to see that!

  18. Margo says:

    Hi, I do think this is a great web site.

    I stumbledupon it 😉 I will come back once again
    since i have saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the
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