Burcu Başar

Tromso: We need to Talk About the Northern Lights

Seeing or not seeing the Northern Lights, that is the question. Don’t you agree? One of the most sought after travel experiences of our current times is the concept of “experiencing the Northern Lights”, a concept that I somehow refrained from getting close to for a long time. The main reason for that was to avoid the potential disappointment that I would have to face if I planned my whole trip around this concept and then did not get to see the lights. Even if you travel during the best season, seeing the northern lights is a very much of a coincidental event. There are people who get to see the lights as early as in August (quite miraculous) whereas there are some others who do not get to see the lights even in February – which is considered to be one of the best months to catch the lights. You need to be above certain latitude in order to see the Northern Lights. As a result, Iceland, Northern Norway/Sweden/Finland and Canada are among the best destinations for a Northern Lights trip. You need to have very clear and totally dark skies. Accordingly, if you are staying in one of the northern cities – such as Tromso in Norway – your tour driver will take you away from the city as much as possible to avoid the city lights. Following the years of resistance, I – this past winter - finally went on the long deferred Northern Lights trip upon insistence of my friends. I however was still quite cautious and paid attention to not associate the whole trip with the Norhern Lights by including another week in Lofoten Islands – my favorite place on Earth – to the tail end of the trip so I would have something else to look forward to if the Northern Lights affair did not work out. Did we see the Northern Lights? Yes. We were lucky that we got to see the lights right during our first night out. What if we did not get to see the lights? To be honest, there is a high possibility that we would skip the Northern Lights tour on the second night and instead spend our time at the cozy cafés and restaurants of Tromso as the tours were very expensive (minimum USD 200 per person) and the weather was extremely cold. The experience of Northern Lights is a quite special one, I have to admit this. I however have some other confessions to make as well. The way you get to see the Northern Lights with your naked eyes is substantially different than how those lights are seen through the cameras and in the various Northern Lights shots that you can find online. You naked eyes cannot capture the vividness of the lights the way camera does. Even though I am today quite happy to have seen the Northern Lights and have an idea on what all this fuss is about, there was another sky phenomenon, which moved me way more than the Northern Lights. I wrote about it in this story.