FAQ: My journey to see the Northern Lights, temperatures and clothing
Travelling to see the Northern Lights in Norway? Here's a guide to temperatures to expect and clothes to bring on your voyage.
Will I see the Northern Lights on my voyage with Hurtigruten?
Although we can't make any guarantees, the odds of seeing the Northern Lights on a cruise with Hurtigruten between October and March are very, very good. In fact, if you book a 12 day Classic Round Voyage and do not see the lights, we will give you another voyage for free.
Why is a Hurtigruten and Norway the best combination for seeing the Northern Lights?
- Where Hurtigruten sails in northern Norway is directly beneath the Auroral Zone, and area of consistent auroral activity.
- Of the 34 ports we visit from Bergen to Kirkenes, 22 are north of the Arctic Circle, giving you plenty of opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
- Being at sea avoids the artificial ambient light common on land, so the Northern Lights will be brighter and more vivid.
What are my options if I want to see the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten?
To increase your chances of seeing the aurora, you should choose one of the following voyages with Hurtigruten:
1. Astronomy Voyage: This limited voyage is accompanied by special lecturers - experts on astronomy and expeditions to see the Northern Lights.
2. The Classic Round Voyage (12 days): Sail from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. If you don't see the Northern Lights on this voyage between October and March, you get another voyage for free.
3. 6- and 7-day Classic Voyages: If you prefer a shorter cruise, our Bergen - Kirkenes and Kirkenes - Bergen voyages provide excellent opportunities to see the lights.
What temperatures should I expect?
To give you an idea of the temperatures you can expect to experience on your search for the Northern Lights, below are the average daily temperatures (°C) for Tromsø. These do not include wind chill factor, which will lower the temperatures.
Tromsø: Sep 6.9°C / Oct 2.7°C / Nov -1.2°C / Dec -3.4°C / Jan -4.4°C / Feb -4.3°C / Mar -2.8°C
What about frostbite?
This occurs when the skin and underlying tissue freeze due to extended exposure to very low temperatures. It can affect any part of your body, but the extremities, such as the hands, feet, ears, nose and lips, are most likely to be affected. However, by wearing appropriate clothing and taking sensible precautions, frostbite can be avoided.
What should I wear?
With the right clothing, the Arctic winter can be surprisingly comfortable. Many local suppliers will lend or rent you the thick outer garments that are expensive to buy. If your holiday consists of organised excursions such as Northern Lights viewing; plus, short dog sledging and snowmobile trips, good-quality ski clothing should see you through (tip – check out summer sales in for bargains on winter clothing, especially those marked ‘thermal’). However, if you’re going to be spending extended periods outdoors in sub-Arctic and Arctic weather, you should upgrade to a higher level of protection.
The Layer Principle
It is much better to wear a number of thin layers than just a few thick ones. The air trapped in-between thin layers warms to your body’s temperature and acts as valuable insulation. Make sure your clothes fit well and that some of your layers are of differing sizes. This will help you avoid feeling constricted, which will be uncomfortable and prevent air circulation.
In cold conditions, it’s better to wear wool, silk or synthetic polypropylene next to your skin. Avoid cotton; when you sweat, it gets cold and clammy and doesn’t dry out easily. Merino wool, on the other hand, is excellent. On top of your base layer, you’ll need to wear at least two or three additional layers, which should be made of fleece or wool. Remember that you’ll need long johns as well as upper body protection.
A well-insulated, windproof jacket is a must, as are insulated trousers or salopettes in cold conditions. If the weather is likely to be wet, you’ll need waterproofs. Some local suppliers, such as snowmobile operators, will loan one-piece thermal suits to put on over your jacket and trousers.
7 things to bring on your Northern Lights Voyage
In very cold weather, it’s a good idea to wear two pairs of gloves – one thick pair of mitts (mitts don’t separate the fingers so they keep your hands warmer) and a thin pair of gloves underneath that allow you the use of your fingers when you need to do something fiddly but still ward off the icy cold for a short time. If you’re prone to cold extremities, you can buy carbon hand and foot warmers from most good outdoor shops. Shake these up to activate them, pop them into your glove or boot, and they stay warm for around eight hours. If you’re going to stay outdoors for an extended period, pack a spare pair of gloves – if you lose one in cold temperatures, your fingers will soon freeze.
You’ll need proper winter boots if you’re going to be outside for extended periods. If you’re buying new boots for your trip, make sure you request a size larger than you normally wear, to comfortably accommodate extra pairs of socks. Hiking style winter boots are suitable for simple excursions such as watching the Northern Lights and town-based activities, but they’re not advisable for more adventurous snow-based activities as snow can easily get inside them. Make sure your footwear has good grip for walking on snow and ice.
These should be made of wool, never cotton. Pack an extra pair or two in your rucksack if you’re going out snowmobiling or dog sledging – if your feet become damp or wet you should change into dry socks; wet feet soon become frostbitten feet.
4. Hats and headwear
Bring a wool or fleece hat which covers the ears, as well as a balaclava, buff or face mask to cover your mouth, nose and cheeks. Noses and cheeks are especially prone to frostbite, and should be kept covered whenever possible – skin can freeze in minutes in very cold weather.
You may need sunglasses or tinted goggles as the sun on the snow can be dazzling. Contact lens wearers may find the cold and dryness makes lens-wearing uncomfortable and should pack glasses as an alternative.
If you intend to use any sauna facilities, you may want to pack a swimsuit – unless you’re brave enough to go ‘au naturel’. There may also be occasions when you’ll have the opportunity to soak in an outdoor hot tub watching the Northern Lights overhead.
The northern air is very dry so you’ll need to pack plenty of lip salve. Some people have problems with water-based moisturisers. Specialist products are available – ask your local chemist.