It’s the time of year when daylight is growing scarce in Scandinavia, but as one door closes another opens. In this case, a door in the sky which lets through a dazzling display of ethereal, elusive light that has enchanted the world for centuries.
Every year the Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights draws thousands of tourists from around the world all hoping to watch the sky work its magic. Tromsø, a student city in northern Norway draws arguably one of the biggest crowds.
After 20 years of operating tours, Guide Gunnar remains as enthusiastic about the Northern Lights (which he refers to as either Lady Aurora or she) as ever. He took some time out to answer our questions.
What makes seeing the Northern Lights so special?
It’s something you can’t control, and can’t predict, so you just have to load up with great patience, and just be out there and wait. Sometimes she is shy, and some nights she’s just crazy… so, you never know actually what will happen night to night.
Do Scandinavians find them special, or are they simply used to seeing them?
I remember very well when I began doing the chase back in 2006, and the locals were asking: “Why?” In general, for the people here in the Arctic the Northern lights is what the sun is for Australians.
What are some of the myths and legends behind the Northern Lights?
There are so many! Hundreds of years ago, the Sami, the native people, thought it was a God who came up from the sea, and they thought it stole the babies from them. Later on, he Norwegians kids were warned to wave with a white blanket or scream at it, or else it will come down and take you.
For people planning a trip to Scandinavia and hoping to spot them, what is your advice?
Please don’t travel with too high expectations, since it’s a natural phenomena, so nobody can control it. It’s important to travel to the Arctic with more than a wish to see a great Aurora show, so include another activities, enjoy the city and the culture, the local people and just enjoy the environment and let the Northern Lights come like a surprise for you.
Too many who travel to the north for the Northern lights leave disappointed since they thought they also would get the great show they have seen on many pictures and videos. Every night is different, and some nights there is no activity or the weather can be bad, so my most important advice is: stay at least five nights.
And don’t forget to lift your head and check if the sky is clear when you’re walking around in the city – maybe she’s dancing above you. Patience is your most important key!
Tell us about the most amazing Northern Lights experience you’ve ever had.
In February 1999 I went to Svalbard / Spitsbergen for a week snowmobile guide course. It was minus-35 degrees and freezing cold, but suddenly all the sky began to move into an amazing crazy corona with intense rock’n’roll dancing all over with four to five colours visible for the naked eye. It was the highlight on a freezing cold snowmobile training.