We had the unexpected opportunity to go to Oslo in 2011, and decided that, since we’d be in Norway in November, we’d really like to try to see the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. I did a bunch of research and found a city called Tromso that is known for sightings and is large enough to have plenty of flights to and from Oslo.
Early in our research, we looked into driving or taking a train to Tromso, which is on the west coast of Norway, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This is not practical, so Step 1 of planning your Northern Lights adventure is accepting that even if you are in Norway already, you are going to have to hop on a plane.
Step 2 was researching how to maximize our chance of seeing them. You see, the Lights don’t “dance” every single night, and even when they are out in force, if there is too much cloud cover, you won’t see them. We were told there were places in Tromso (such as an open park on a hill) that you could see them on a clear night, but with its position on the coast, you can’t really count on Tromso being clear.
We went back and forth about booking a “chase tour.” In general we are much too independent to enjoy being on a tour, and the best reviewed tours were quite expensive (everything, and I mean everything, in Norway is quite expensive; that was another thing we finally just had to accept). We looked into renting a car, but that was very expensive too, and the idea of driving around in the Arctic Circle by ourselves in winter made me nervous. There were some slightly less expensive “camp” locations where you are out away from Tromso and have a meal included (and maybe get to see some sled dogs) but again you’d be faced with the potential for cloud cover.
Ultimately we decided to go with the best reviewed tour guide for his Northern Lights Chase for $175 each (actually 950 kroner, but $175 is the US equivalent we paid based on that day’s exchange rate). He is called Guide Gunnar and my short review is, “he was totally worth it.”
First of all, the three nights we were in Tromso were all very overcast. So if we hadn’t booked a chase, we probably wouldn’t have seen the Lights. He had to drive our tour group far out from Tromso to find clear skies. But secondly, this man worked his extremely hard to get us a glimpse of the lights, and in the end, he found them for us.
What it finally came down to for us was that the roundtrip flight to Tromso to get a chance to see the lights was almost $190 each. So in the end, paying less than that over again to highly increase our chances of seeing them seemed like the good bet.
The Lights themselves were incredible and we got great photos. Enjoy!