People are always asking me where the best place to see the Northern Lights in Norway is, and the answer does depend a bit on what type of trip you want. I’ve seen the Northern Lights in many places in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, and here are my top recommendations.
The best place to see the Northern Lights in Norway: Tromsø
I usually send most people to Tromsø, Norway to see the Northern Lights, as it’s a big enough city to offer lots of Northern Lights tours and other activities, and it’s far enough north to have very high aurora activity. I lived in Tromsø for two years and usually saw the Northern Lights several times a week in the winter.
But I do have some other excellent suggestions for places to see the Northern Lights that are sometimes even better than Tromsø!
By all rights Norway should be the best place to see the Northern Lights in Europe – I mean, it reaches the farthest north – and yet it has one huge downfall that has ruined many a Northern Lights chasing tour.
Sorry, Northern Norway, but your weather sucks.
So if you head to one of the popular places in Norway to see the Northern Lights like Tromsø, Bodø, Lofoten, or Alta, while there’s a very high chance that the Northern Lights will be dancing above you every night you’re there, there’s an even higher chance that you’re not going to see any of it through all those thick clouds. So dumb.
Okay wait, maybe you don’t want to fully give up on Norway quite yet. While the weather in Norway is unpredictable, if you’re willing to drive around or take a Northern Lights tour, then your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway are really high, especially if you’re staying for at least five days.
You see, Northern Norway is full of mountains, which means that the weather can vary a lot even over short distances. So your Northern Lights tour guide should be able to drive somewhere with clear skies. Northern Norway is also quite narrow, so it’s also possible for your guide to drive all the way to Finland as well.
So what I always tell people is this: if you want to experience the most beautiful landscape and are willing to pay for Northern Lights tours (or are comfortable driving in the snow), definitely head to Northern Norway. You can find my top choices for where to visit here and the best Northern Lights hotels in Norway here.
The best place to see Northern Lights in Sweden: Abisko
Another excellent place to see the Northern Lights is actually in Sweden!
Abisko is a magical little village in the very north of Swedish Lapland, which is in the middle of nowhere so there’s no light pollution, and it lies directly under the aurora oval, so there’s pretty much always going to be at least some aurora activity there. The views here are nowhere near as beautiful as Norway, but your chances of seeing the Northern Lights even without a tour are excellent.
I’ve also written an in depth ebook covering all aspects of planning your northern lights trip, including the best places in the Nordics to see the northern lights, the best time to see the northern lights, my top northern lights accommodation choices, tour options, how to chase the northern lights (including which apps I use), how to photograph and film the northern lights, what to pack for your trip, and other exciting Arctic activities to try on your trip up North.
If you want to ensure you have the best northern lights trip possible, you can purchase the ebook here.
The surrounding mountains and lakes actually pull any clouds away so that it enjoys more clear nights than nearly anywhere else in the world under the aurora oval.
And if you really do have your heart set on Norway, Abisko is actually just a short train ride away from the Norwegian city of Narvik, and then from Narvik you can get a bus (like the Arctic Route bus) either to Lofoten or Tromsø. So it’s totally possible to see the Northern Lights in Abisko and also experience some of Northern Norway!
How do I know so much about Abisko? I’d love to pretend that I just nerdily did all this research myself, but actually I learned about Abisko through my friend Rachel who works in Abisko!
Rachel works for a Northern Lights tour company, where her partner is a photography tour guide and Rachel helps with admin work – meaning that she really does seem to know everything about Abisko and the Northern Lights, including impressive figures like how in the past four seasons 99% (400 out of 404) of the guests that joined one of their 4-day+ packages saw the Northern Lights on at least one of their nights in the Park.
So basically if you can set aside at least 4 days to spend in Abisko you’re very nearly guaranteed to see the lights – especially if you have tour guides to help you chase them.
In fact there was cloudy and snowy weather forecast for every single night I was in Abisko, yet her partner’s tours managed to see the lights every night thanks to the Blue Hole opening up.
Like, did you just read that? EVERYONE: get yourselves to Abisko!!
Another bit of insider knowledge I got from Rachel is that people are already booking their Northern Lights trips for next winter already in the spring.
I’m more of a last-minute planner so I was actually thinking of publishing this post next autumn, when I figured people would start thinking about making trips up to see the Northern Lights, but nope, you should probably start thinking about it now as tours and accommodation in Abisko can book out really quickly.
The aurora season in Abisko starts in early November and finishes in late March.
I’ve written up a guide to seeing the Northern Lights in Abisko on a budget, but if you do have the funds I would recommend booking a tour for every day you’re in Abisko and staying at the Abisko Turiststation.
There are lots of other accommodation options in Abisko, but the STF was my personal favorite of the places I saw, and it’s conveniently located at the foot of the Aurora Sky Station – a good viewing point for the aurora – as well as the start of other trails and hikes out to aurora viewpoints. Plus they serve delicious Swedish pancakes at their lunch buffet on Thursdays! Check current prices and availability here
And while you definitely don’t need to be on a tour to see the Northern Lights, it does add an extra chance of seeing them because your tour guide will do everything possible to help you experience them, even if it means they have to drive you far out towards clearer skies. You can book a Northern Lights tour with Rachel’s company here.
The tour is also just a really fun experience. Our guide walked us up to a tepee that he had set up on a mountainside and then anytime we wanted a rest from taking photos we could go into the tepee and warm up in front of the fire. Or if you’re more adventurous, you could try this Northern Lights snowmobile tour!
I spent the rest of my nights in Abisko in Rachel’s camper or down at the nearby lake. When we were inside Rachel just made sure to always have the Lights over Lapland aurora webcam up on her computer – it updates every five minutes so we could see if we needed to go outside.
In fact, on one of my last nights in Abisko it had been snowing all day, so I was totally caught off guard when late at night Rachel starting yelling at me to grab my tripod and get outside. The Blue Hole of Abisko had opened once again, this time for an amazing show!
It only lasted for a few minutes, most of which Rachel and I spent laughing and falling over in the snow, so I didn’t really get any good photos of it. Uh, plus we were in a truck depot, which isn’t the most photogenic place. But it was amazing – and solid proof that the Blue Hole of Abisko really is a thing.
The best place to see the Northern Lights in Finland: Saariselka
Now we can’t forget about Finland! Northern Finland has lots of popular Northern Lights resorts, but the best is definitely as far north as possible in Saariselka.
I’ve also stayed in Rovaniemi twice and loved it, but you’ll have better chances of seeing the aurora in Saariselka, as it’s much farther north.
The great thing about visiting Finland to see the Northern Lights is that Finland has lots of Northern Lights resorts with glass igloos and glass roof cabins. Standing outside all night waiting for the Northern Lights to appear is freezing business, so it’s much nicer to do it from the comfort and warmth of your bed! I really wish Northern Norway had more glass roof accommodation options.
I stayed at the Northern Lights Village in a cabin with a glass roof, which is a splurge but so worth it! Plus they offer lots of fun activities during the day, so you’ll have an amazing time here even if you don’t see the Northern Lights.
You can read about my experience at the Northern Lights Village here.
I spent 7 days in Tromso hoping to see the lights. Torrential rain everyday and then the heaviest snow. Tiny little wisp of glowiness through the cloud one night. £300+ down on ‘Northern Lights Tours’. Went to Sweden (not even that North) in August (not really Aurora season) and saw them unexpectedly after 5 days after doing my laundry at a campsite. Best laundry session ever!
Whaat that is the craziest story! Lucky indeed.
Finally, a reason to get excited about the namesake of my Swedish hiking shirt! I always thought it sounded so uninspiring, like a mix of German Abitur ‘secondary school diploma’ and Scandinavian sko ‘shoe’ :).
I so want so see Northern lights! I once missed them by a couple of hours in Tromsø: I was there for 24 hours and on my way into town from the airport, a lady on the bus told her guests she had seen them just that afternoon… But it was overcast for all of the dark hours after that!
Hahaha abi + shoe made me laugh out loud. That’s so frustrating that you just missed them like that! You definitely need to try to see them again.
I’ve spent a week in Tromso this January and it was cloudy almost every day. However when the sky was clear I was lucky to be spending the night in Kvaloya island and watched an amazing performance of Northern Lights. After that, the next two nights the sly was completely covered again, so me and my friend took part in an Aurora chase and we drove all the way to Kilpisjarvi in Finland (not far from Sweden as well) to find clear skies. We were lucky again! Aurora is a wonderful thing to see, even though it does not really look like on the pictures – stil stunning!
Oh interesting that the Aurora you saw looked different! The two main times I’ve seen it have been crazy shows with lots of green and pink stripes, but Rachel was telling me that often it looks really different to that. I need to see more of it now!
Melanie Fontaine / Journey & Camera says
You just totally made me want to visit Scandinavia’s Arctic North again! I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights close to Tromsø once, but that was before I was really into photography and so I’d obviously like to experience this again! 🙂 Now, I just need to get organized enough… By the way, I just have to mention that you have possibly some of the coolest friends ever – I mean, reindeers AND Northern Lights? 😉
Right? Ughh they’re so cool!
Kristen Kellogg says
Wow! I need to get to Sweden after reading this post. SUCH a beautiful place!
You really do – it is THE place to see the aurora!
where I live in Dalarna we get to see them too but not often very strong. The most amazing experience was in Finland, close to the Norwegian and Swedish border. I almost cried, so beautiful it was. We were camping and just made some hot chocolate by the campfire. just perfect and magical.
Oh wow, that sounds like the most idyllic scene ever!
Victoria @The British Berliner says
I’ve never seen the Northern Lights, but wow, doesn’t it look gorgeously beautiful!
So… Magical This post really urges me to go there.. Thanks for the wonderful information..pictures are stunning. Loved it. Hope i make there soon.
Nice info about where to see the Northern lights and also stunning photographs
Witnessing the northern lights is one of my biggest goal..Hope one day, i witness this magical experience… And the post encourages me a lot.. Thanks for sharing.
I hope you see them!
Wow, this was an incredible post.. with this new information I have questions about my trip.
I’m going to Travel on February 4th 2018 to Tromso to see the Northern Lights, but with this new info I’m wondering if I do the perfect chose or if I can do something to go to Abisko.
Thanks!! Hope to have luck to see this wonderful gift from the nature.
If you’re really desperate to see the Northern Lights and the weather isn’t cooperating when you’re in Tromso, you could always get a bus down to Narvik and then bus or train across to Abisko – it should only be a few hours away. But hopefully you will be lucky in Tromso and can just stay there!
We had initially planned to go to tromsø.Only after reading your blog, we changed our plans and headed to Abisko. Stayed at kiruna for 2 days and decided to drive down in search. The day we landed the weather wasn’t conducive at all, Completely overcast with light rain and snow all over. Disheartened we thought this time we might miss it.
Yet we tried our luck,At around 1:30 in the morning, The blue hole of abisko(yes I can guarantee it exists) opened up out of nowhere and We got to see the dance of the lights for a good 3 hours in sessions, It was all over the place. Pure magic and beauty, makes you shed a tear or two 😛
It’s been almost a week now since I saw it and I am still left in awe.. Will definitely do another trip.
We have been extremely lucky and only because of this blog and your advice, I get to tick the first item off my bucket list. :).
So here I am expressing my gratitude. 😀
Thank you Silvia wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Keep posting and inspiring
I’m so, sooo happy you had such a good experience in Abisko! It really is a magical place.
Hi! The Northern Light pictures from your post are really awesome and beautiful!! I will be visiting Abisko this coming December and my budget is really tight that I am not able to join any Northern Lights tour. Do you have any suggestion about the place that I can go to catch the light? I will be staying at Abisko Mountain Station. Anyway, I saw the pictures from the two webcams set up by Lights Over Lapland and am wondering what is the location those pictures are taken from so that I will have an idea where to head to when I am in Abisko next month. Thanks.
Really if you just walk away from the street lights you should be able to see the lights perfectly from anywhere in Abisko – you don’t need to go somewhere special. The webcams are set up from the sky station (which is expensive to go up, but also unnecessary I think) and the other I think is from the mountain station where you will be staying. It’s all mostly dark countryside in the area, so just take a walk out from your hotel and you’ll have a good view!
Any places to be recommended or suggested which is free from the lights? Because I am worried that I might get lost somewhere in the dark when I explored it on my own. And is it easy to reach Lake Torneträsk from Abisko Mountain Station? Thanks.
Cheree Singal says
This is the beautiful post.
I didnt find a way to add a new comment so I am replying to your comment. Is there a way to get to Abisko from Alta or vice versa? Is it possible to cover both the places in one go in a short time? Thank you!
You can drive! It will take about seven hours one way. Or you can fly from Kiruna, but you will have to change flights.
Hi Silvia! Your blog posts have been so helpful and fun to read.
We are wondering if there is just as good a chance to see NL in some of the smaller villages outside of Abisko, and not just inside Abisko itself. Do you know anything about Camp alta in Kiruna, for example? It seems like Abisko might be a little outside of our budget. We are flying in the last week of March, so we would like to know if there is a really big difference for the chances of seeing NL, and if the chances are significantly less outside the national park.
I have just found your site and I’m so pleased I did. I’m m off to Abisko on Tuesday with my eldest daughter. I have 3 and for their 16 th and 18 th birthdays, I give them a trip on a budget. My eldest turned 18 and has always wanted to go and see the Northern lights. I fell on an article about Swedish hostels and found the one in Abisko. We are flying to Stockholm and getting the night train up. We are both so excited! I have read all your tips and feel pretty prepared now.
I’m going to Abisko next week and i’m panicking because all weather sites are predicting snow. But from what you’re saying you had the same predictions and still saw it. I’ll be there for 4 days. Should i buy a photo tour or i can benefit from the blue hole by just going to the lake? I’m kinda on a budget.
You don’t need a tour to benefit from the blue hole – just keep an eye on the skies at all times, because it can open up really quickly, but also briefly!
Where would be the best place to try and see the northern Lights from early Feb 2019? Ideally somewhere family friendly for two kids ages 3 and under. We are in Oslo for some of the week and would like somewhere we could get to easily ? fly? Thank you for such useful posts.
S H says
I must say you are right about Abisko! I went on a budget Lapland tour a few years ago with some friends and it was possibly one of the best experiences ever. I was really worried that we weren’t able to see the Northern Lights, since we were only in Abisko for two nights. On the first night, we were anticipating to see the Lights, since the Kp index was fairly good, but it was too cloudy to see anything. The forecast for the next night (cloudy and low Kp index) wasn’t looking good either, so we weren’t expecting to see any lights. At that point, I was about to give up. Miraculously, when I left the hut, I was able to see the auroras dancing in the skies! It was an unforgettable moment.
David Maxwell says
Hi Silvia. First off- i absolutely love this article (and your other similar ones) and for the last few days i have been using it as a foundation for my research into booking a surprise birthday trip with my girlfriend to hopefully see the Lights. (i am less fussed on husky rides etc). However i have hit a slight problem….! Many websites say that November is very cold and so October is a great time to visit. As such i have set aside a preliminary date of 28th Sept to arrive in Stockholm and then spend 4-5 days up in Kiruna/Abisko. However…..many of the organised tours don’t start until Nov and in many cases December. Overall, do you think October is therefore too early in general……or if i’m less interested in doing tours, just go for it!? I’m worried that if i come then eg not all the other tourist offerings are ‘open’.
Kala Iyer says
Hi Silvia, Your posts are really informative and useful.. I am planning a trip to Norway end of September 2019. As someone earlier had mentioned, my plans were to go to Tromso. We’ll be in Tromso on the 3rd or 4th of October. Do you think that we have a chance to see the lights? Or should I be looking at traveling to Abisko.
Tim Gocheco says
Loving your blog. I’m currently planning a northern light trip in Feb 2020 and am using your blog as our “bible”.
So far my itinerary is: 2 nights in Kiruna, 2 nights in Abisko, and 2 nights in Tromso. I’ve been reading that the light tours from Tromso is very expensive vs the ones in Abisko. We’re coming from Asia and our main priority are the lights but we would like to see the picturesque areas of Tromso as well.
Is this itinerary ok or would you have other suggestions? Hope to get your inputs. Thanks so much!!
That sounds like a wonderful itinerary to me!
Ly Tran says
I’m absolutely in love with all Abisko related content in your blog and it inspires me to plan a trip myself. I’m planning to stay in Abisko for about week but I have not been able to decide whether to go on Dec or Jan. So many things that confuse me (daylight, probability of seeing northern light, weather, availability of other activities). Do you have any suggestions? Thank you in advance ^^
Hi Sylvia, while planning for norther lights, I read through all your articles and have started contemplating to visit Sweden. Our travel dates will be in the first week of November, 2019. Could you guide me If we should plan it with 2.5 yrs and a 7 yr old kids? Some friends are suggesting the kids to grow to 10+ for this trip. Need your perspective on how to plan with this age kids, where to say, how many days we should spend at abisko, any other travel tips?
Awesome blog. qq you mention “The aurora season in Abisko starts in early November and finishes in late March.”
Does this mean if i am there in 1st week of October (was planning Norway NL btw) i wont see NL in Abisko? Is Novermber better if want to cover Abisko too?
You definitely can see the northern lights in Abisko in October. A lot of tours start in November because that’s when the high season for northern lights tourists begin, but if you’re happy to do private tours or watch the lights on your own it won’t be a problem.
Roselind Soto Concepcion says
First of all, this was of extreme help since my boyfriend and I were going to Norway but just decided to go to Abisko (thanks to you) on January.
The only problem is your friends are no longer making the tour (at least it seems like it: https://www.viator.com/tours/Sweden/Nightly-Aurora-Photo-Tour-in-Abisko-National-Park/d68-15481P1?mcid=54929&awc=11018_1621385537_47b5acf64b06dc19bfdb30462f1044e6&aid=awinUSDEEPLINK_78888 )
Do you think they could recommend us another tour?
We would be veeeery grateful,
Phoebe Wargny says
I realize this post is a few years old, but we are attempting to plan a trip from our home in Switzerland for next month (mid-October) during a school holiday. I really want to see the lights, but I’m worried there isn’t enough other stuff to do in October to keep my kids occupied. Hiking in the park will only interest them for a day or two, and all the dog sledding etc won’t have started up yet. Do you have any fall-specific recommendations or know of anyone who might?
Hmm I’m afraid I don’t know much about kids, but maybe Tromsø would be a better option for northern lights because there are so many other things to do here. You can go on hikes with the huskies, even if there isn’t snow! You can read more about Tromsø here: https://www.heartmybackpack.com/norway/things-to-do-in-tromso/ and autumn in Norway here: https://www.heartmybackpack.com/norway/things-to-do-autumn-fall/
Hello! Thanks for the great information in your posts. We are looking at flying to Tromso in February and renting a car. We hope to go to Abisko also, but wonder what the roads are like between the two towns. We come from an area with lots of snow/ice driving but no mountains. Should the roads be fairly easy or should we rely on the train? Thanks!!
It’s a really long drive to Abisko from Tromsø, so I wouldn’t really recommend going there. If the skies are cloudy around Tromsø you can drive inland to Skibotn and towards Finland. You could also visit Senja and/or Lyngen! There’s no train by Tromsø, but driving is fairly easy as there’s not much traffic, so you can go slowly.