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Travel bucket list idea:

See the Northern Lights on Norway’s western coast

  • Western Norway, Norway

Last updated: 21 March, 2024

The world’s greatest light show is Mother Nature’s own – the famous ‘Aurora Borealis’ – or more commonly known as the ‘Northern Lights’. It’s an extraordinary natural spectacle, caused by shifts of magnetic energy in the ionosphere, and it’s magical to watch them dance across the heavens, ethereal shapes in shimmering colours forming and dissolving. No wonder seeing them features on so many travel bucket lists.

Norway’s long, fjord-studded coastline not only offers breathtaking scenery, but is an ideal destination for seeing the Northern Lights – with dark skies, vast open spaces, and a prized location on the so-called ‘Aurora Belt’.

Still, there’s no specific one best place or time to see this notoriously fickle phenomenon, so we always recommend pairing it with another experience as part of a broader holiday adventure. Fortunately, Norway’s western coast is also a Mecca for outdoor adventure pursuits like whale watching, husky dog sledding and snowmobiling – meaning plenty of opportunities to pair with other bucket list experiences.

See below for our recommendations of great bucket list experiences on Norway’s western coastline, where you’re also likely to see the Northern Lights along the way.

Who to go with: tour operators

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  • Western Norway, Norway

large cruise ship going down Gerainger Fjord

Bucket List Experience

Cruise Norway’s Fjordland

Endless skies, snow-capped mountains, sheer-sided fjords, ribbon-like waterfalls and emerald green meadows ablaze with wildflowers – all combine to make Norway’s Fjordland one of the world’s most beautiful and serene cruising routes. And the water is one of the best vantage points from which to admire the view from.

Dozens of ships sail here in summer, visiting a selection of fjords, each one different. On a typical cruise, you might visit the Sognefjord, which twists and turns deep into the mountains, dotted with tiny villages, while the narrow Geirangerfjord is one of the most dramatic. At each stop, there’s an enticing menu of bucket list adventures on offer (see recommendations below) – like the long hike from Stavanger to the high granite block of Pulpit Rock, soaring nearly 2,000 feet over Lysefjord. In the autumn and spring, you may get to see the Northern Lights.

Any lover of the outdoors would appreciate the beauty and serenity of a Norwegian fjords voyage. The joy is that you can be as active as you like – or simply enjoy the scenery from the ship.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3-5 days

  • Norway

Cruise Norway’s Western  Coast

Bucket List Experience

Cruise Norway’s Western Coast

The 2,400km coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes is one of the world’s most dramatic – studded with astonishing fjords of geological grandeur, alpine mountains, and picturesque rural settlements. Days at sea take on a dreamy quality as you drift past snow-covered mountains and fjords.

But while the fjord-indented west coast appeals for its tranquility and scenery, there’s a vibrant cultural scene in the towns you’ll visit along the way. There’s also a host of thrilling bucket list outdoor pursuits on offer, from snowmobiling to husky dog sledding, kayaking on a fjord to hiking up a mountain for show-stopping views

Go from October to March for the opportunity to see the magnificent Northern Lights.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Min 5 days

Polar Lights Centre

  • Laukvika, Northern Norway, Norway

Beautiful picture of massive multicolored green vibrant Aurora Borealis, Aurora Polaris, also know as Northern Lights in the night sky over winter Lapland landscape, Norway, Scandinavia

Bucket List Experience

This rural science centre provides both an excellent vantage point for viewing and informative lectures about the science of the lights. It’s run by a friendly Dutch couple who man a collection of astronomic instruments that determine exactly when the Aurora is about to strike.

Good for age: 8+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 4+
Frequency: weekly
When: Any
Duration: Any

When to do it

Theoretically, the Northern Lights are visible at any time of year, but due to the endless days of summer in the far north, the skies simply don’t get dark enough to see them.

That makes winter prime aurora spotting season, especially the period between November to February, when Norway’s skies are at their darkest, and the aurora activity is usually at its peak.

For the best chance of seeing them, you also need clear skies (clouds are an inconvenient hazard for aurora spotters, and unfortunately there’s no solution but to wait them out). You also need low or zero light pollution, so it’s always better to get as far away from any urban centres as you can.

Even so, the Northern Lights are notoriously fickle; they can appear anytime, anywhere. But if you’re in the right area at the right time of year, your chances of seeing them are excellent – as long as you’re prepared to be patient.

If you haven’t already, see our round-up of the best places and ways to see the Northern Lights that also explains in more detail why they happen, and thus when you’re most likely to see them.