Northern lights in Tromsø: the best places to see them

Admirer les aurores boréales à Tromsø

Discovering Norway? Don’t miss an aurora borealis viewing in Tromsø and treat yourself to an unforgettable souvenir!

If you travel to Tromsø in winter, you can’t miss the chance to try and catch a glimpse of the northern lights. Located 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, the region is an ideal place to observe these magical natural phenomena. Every year, they attract numerous enthusiasts and apprentice hunters in search of the famous green trails. Alone or accompanied, carefully study the weather and solar activity and set off on an adventure into the polar night. To increase your chances of seeing them, here’s our complete guide to watching the Northern Lights in Tromsø!

Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

Observer les aurores boréales près de Tromsø, à Ersfjordbotn

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Simone Gramegna

Tromsø is one of the best places in Europe to see the Northern Lights. To give you the best chance of enjoying this unique experience, discover our selection of must-see spots.

Spot n°1: in Tromsø

If you don’t own a car, and don’t want to take a themed tour? There are several places accessible by bus where you can try to admire the northern lights in Tromsø. They may be less visible due to light pollution, but you should still be able to enjoy them.

Much of the center of Tromsø is undeveloped, giving you easy access from the city center to a prime spot: Lake Prestvannet. Nestled in the heart of a huge park with numerous paths and cross-country ski trails, it’s a popular spot for locals. Away from the city, it offers an ideal vantage point from which to admire the northern lights, far from the light pollution of the city center. The Kroken ski resort also offers a peaceful, undeveloped setting.

Finally, the Fjellheisen cableway takes you to the top of Storsteinen Mountain (421m). As well as offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city, peaks and fjords, you can catch a glimpse of the northern lights if solar activity is high enough. Last departure is at 11 p.m. in winter, midnight in summer.

Good to know: all these places are accessible by bus:

  • Bus 28 or bus 40 to Lake Prestvannet;
  • Bus 24 to the terminus for the Kroken ski resort;
  • And bus 26 to the Fjellheisen cable car.

Spot #2: Kvaløya and Sommarøy islands

Another incredible vantage point are the islands of Kvaløya and Sommarøy. The former, less than an hour’s drive from Tromsø, boasts many remote spots, particularly along Route 862.

Sommarøy Island, on the other hand, offers sublime unspoilt landscapes, untouched by visual pollution. Located 1h15 from Tromsø, it’s a popular spot for watching the majestic green streaks reflected in the sea, in an enchanting setting.

Spot #3: Ersfjordbotn, the fjord that can’t be ignored

Ersfjordbotn is undoubtedly the most famous northern lights viewing village near Tromsø. In fact, Ersfjordbotn is just 20 km from the city, a 30-minute drive. It’s very easy to get to, thanks to its nearby parking lot, and offers an exceptional setting, day and night. Facing due west, you can sit on the beach and cross your fingers for a glimpse of the northern lights.

Tip: continue on from Ersfjordbotn towards Tromvik. You’ll find many sublime viewpoints along the way, free from visual pollution, and often with the impression of being alone in the world.

When is the best time to see the northern lights in Tromsø?

Installer son camp durant l'observation

Photo credit: Shutterstock – V. Belov

The aurora borealis can be seen in winter, particularly from September to March. The time of day you observe them also counts: they generally appear between 6 p.m. and midnight. Aurora hunters even talk of peak chances around 10pm!

It’s a natural phenomenon caused by the electromagnetic activity of the sun, so the weather plays a big part in your search for the Northern Lights in Tromsø. One of the most important things is to have clear skies. Cloudy skies don’t prevent the Northern Lights from appearing, but they do prevent you from admiring them!

Solar activity is measured in Kp, on a scale from 0 to 10. The higher the number, the greater your chances of seeing the natural phenomenon. However, at latitudes such as Tromsø, a KP value of 2 or 3 may be sufficient in places protected from visual pollution.

What tools are available to predict the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

Comment bien capturer une aurore boréale ?

Photo credit: Shutterstock – V. Belov

There are several tools available to help you predict the Northern Lights in and around Tromsø.

  • First of all, it’s essential to consult a local weather site. The sky has to be perfectly clear to see the aurora. Yr.no is a very good site, with information on cloud cover.
  • Next, you need to ensure that there is sufficient solar activity. The websites aurora-service and norway-lights provide the kp index. These sites are very comprehensive, and also provide a forecast of the aurora borealis according to your location.
  • Finally, the aurora-service website also offers an aurora alert system. Up to an hour before, it sends you an SMS to warn you of solar activity greater than Kp 4 in the region where you are. This service costs €4.99 per month, regardless of the number sent. With no minimum commitment, you can cancel at any time.

How to photograph the northern lights?

Storsteinen, spot idéal d'observation des aurores boréales

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Ida Haugaard Olsen

Northern lights photography in Tromso is a discipline in its own right. To get the best shots, you’ll need the right cold-weather gear and the right camera equipment.

First of all, you’ll need to bundle up warmly. After all, you’ll have to wait in the polar cold for several hours before you can hope to see the magical green streaks appear. The idea is to adopt the onion technique, piling on layers of clothing. Wear thermal underwear, protect your extremities with hats, gloves and scarves, and take along a thermos.

In terms of photographic equipment, you’ll need a tripod and an SLR camera with good sensors. The light levels are extremely low, and simple compact cameras or smartphones will only give you dull, even black photos. What’s more, SLRs allow you to manage exposure times: you need to be able to spend 10 to 30 seconds to take a good picture of the northern lights.

For the best photos, prefer a manual mode with a shutter speed of 10 to 15 seconds. Finally, when it comes to focusing, there are two schools of thought: focusing on a fixed part of your frame, or focusing on infinity, leaving plenty of room for the sky, of course.

How do I book an excursion to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

Le spectacle des lumières vertes du nord

Photo credit: Shutterstock – V. Belov

Want to make the most of your chances? Then take a special Northern Lights tour. Numerous service providers offer group or personalized outings, including Adrenaline-Hunter and Arctic Travels.

Accompanied by a guide, you set off on a hunt that depends on the day’s weather and solar activity, lasting between 4 and 7 hours. The big advantage is that he knows the area and the phenomenon inside out, so he can take you to different places during the outing, and give you tips on how to photograph them best. What’s more, some offers include the loan of a tripod and observation equipment.

Where to stay in Tromsø for these experiences?

🗺️ Where to stay in Tromsø?

🏠 Airbnb Tromsø: the best Airbnb rentals in Tromsø

🛎️Les 5 best hotels for your stay in Tromsø

Now that you know how to watch the Northern Lights in Tromsø, pack your bags!