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The Northern Lights draw travelers in pursuit. Is it worth it?
I flew all the way to Svalbard (north of Norway), an international Arctic territory, to learn that I was likely too far north and the weather often too cloudy to have any reasonable shot at seeing them. I had already booked two nights of activities where I stumbled around in the dark.
That seems common. Whenever I have been that I might see them, and local tourism bureaux and tour agencies don’t hold back in marketing, once I am there I hear a bunch of reasons why it ain’t gonna happen that night.
There is an oval whey there are most prevalent, and Tromsø, Norway, where I had an overnight connection in squarely there. Despite being very tired I booked a last-minute evening tour, missed dinner due to late flight and found myself standing in the cold dark hoping for something to happen. We got very little.
This is what my pocket camera got, much worse than what guide Geir got with his professional camera, yet still much more than I saw with my eyes.
Here are my lessons learned:
- Don’t pin a trip’s success on seeing the Northern Lights.
- Go with an expert. I wrongly thought you would just look at your window and see them. You need someone who knows where to look and how to look. I booked with Aurora Photo Guide. Geir stood in the cold with eyes peeled to the sky for hours while I huddled in the van with hot chocolate and biscuits.
- If really determined, some providers offer plans to allow multi-day retries in case not successful the first night.
- The pictures, those HDR shots, look much better than the reality.
With all the reputation, I wouldn’t have skipped an attempt to see them, however I think even if they had been a great night, it would have been underwhelming to my expectations. I would have preferred dinner and a bit of rest before my onward flight.
Readers, what are your Northern Lights experiences?