Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Travel to the Northern Lights in Norway, Iceland & Finland

Who does not dream to travel to see the Northern Lights once in a lifetime? The polar lights, also called northern lights, are different each time, and that also is their appeal. And of course, there are physical explanations and a scientific name of the Aurora Borealis. Normally the resulting light spectacle is seen from Alaska to Greenland to Finland and even to Austria. The places to see it best is in Scandinavia, in the zones of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Lapland, which are favorable for northern light observations.

The Scandinavian countries and Iceland have been arguing for a long time in which country the northern polar lights can best be admired. In Sweden, you have the opportunity to fly cheaply to Stockholm and then continue the journey by train or rented car. You can also fly directly to the north of the country to Kiruna, which is somewhat more expensive but also much more pleasant.

In Alaska, the chances are not bad. There are some special tours that take you directly from Anchorage to the Northern Polarkreis, but also with dog sleds or snowmobiles. If you want to do something special, you can take part in a one-week excursion with the Winter Snow Train through Alaska's winter landscape!

The Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic are on the same latitude as Kamchatka in Russia and the island of Nunivak in Alaska. Also from the Orkney Islands, you have a good chance to see the Northern Lights. The island of Bute is about the same altitude as Edinburgh. On clear days and with a little luck you can see the Aurora in all of Scotland.

The capital of the Canadian northwest territories, Yellowknife, is often referred to as the Capital of the Polar Lights. And that's true! All you need is a warm winter jacket and a starry sky. But you do not necessarily have to go so far to the north. Even from the southern provinces, you can discover the northern lights.

I was lucky enough to meet my dream. It was already October. An extended November weekend travel was planned. I did not stop myself from doing so and stopped to travel on my plan in November because I should have had to wait for new moon until the end of December. However, I changed my location. Instead of going up to the Westfjords, the route should only go up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula to take a few sights of the Golden Circle and the Ringstrasse.

I know that this spectacle of light in the sky looks mostly dazzling turquoise green in the photos, mixed with white and red to lilac streaks. I do not know more. I know that it attracts many visitors, especially in winter, to Iceland and Finland. A special experience in the Scandinavian winter is the observation of the Northern Lights in Norway.

Fjords, Whales, Huskies & polar lights in Norway

Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you will find a perfect time out for the soul. The area around Tromsø is considered one of the best places to experience the fascinating nature of the polar lights in Norway. A Norwegian cruise in the fjords around Tromsö can take you to one of the best regions in the world to observe the fascinating polar lights in the sky. Especially From November to February the image is perhaps even crowned by a fin of an orca protruding from the water. A ride with the dog sled makes this varied trip a perfect winter dream.

In addition, during this time with the herring come the whales through the Arctic fjords in huge swarms. Discover the wintery Tromsø from a stunning resort right on the banks of the picturesque Malangenfjord and discover the Northern Lights. A husky safari, a snowshoe hike and extensive saunas in the panoramic sauna with wood-fired hot tubs in the open air can give you the opportunity to refuel your body and mind.

Reindeer, snowshoe & motor sled on polar light hunting in Lapland in Finland

Welcome to heaven on earth! In a short but intensive trip, you can experience the highlights of the Nordic winter in a particularly comfortable way. You can take a direct flight from Hannover or Stuttgart to Finnish Lapland. You can spend two nights in a chic glass igloo on the top of the mountain.

Northern lights in Inari

Due to the remote location in the far north, far from the lights of large cities, Inari is an ideal starting point for the observation of mystical polar lights. Every evening, you can be on your quest and do not miss the opportunity to experience the fascinating nature drama. By the way, you can learn interesting traditions and experience exciting trips to the dreamy winter landscape.

Photographing the Aurora Borealis is an art in itself. Whether the show will take 5 minutes or an hour, you cannot predict. Apart from the solar activity and a clear sky, the place from which you try to see the sky lights is crucial. Polaris has already been observed on most other planets of the solar system. There are also smartphone apps with an aurora forecast available for Android devices and in Apple's App Store.

Our ancestors and the Northern Lights

Many myths and legends have described the natural phenomenon in the last centuries. The Vikings were convinced that, after a great battle, the moonlight was reflected on the armor of the warriors, resulting in the northern lights. The first reports of auroras are indeed already 2000 years old.

Since the dawn of time, the Aurora Borealis enchants anyone who is lucky enough to witness this natural event. The people of the northern hemisphere had been familiar with the northern lights long before there were any written records of this heavenly phenomenon. Nature was and still is the ruler of life in the Arctic. For the inhabitants of the polar regions, therefore, it was necessary to recognize the signs sent by nature and to draw the correct conclusions from them. The true hour of the weather forecast, it is said, lies somewhere in the Arctic.

The polar light was a beautiful drama of Mother Earth. It was often interpreted as a divination in the past. There were shamans who thought that the future could be predicted. Hunting was something that the chasing peoples were particularly fond of predicting. But the message of the northern lights was never clear and, above all, it was always different, since they always appear in a different form. Sometimes they are a vague veil of the green veil, waving slowly over the sky, or they come in the form of a radiant crown. Another time they drive as aggressive-pulsating red, green or purple rays across the skies of Lapland.

In the Finnish language, the Aurora Borealis has many names. One of them is Revontulet which literally means fox fires. This is due to the old Lapland conviction that the northern lights are brought from a red fox coming from the east. When it ran, it produced sparks with every stroke of its rod on the mountains that danced over the winter sky. Who would succeed in catching this magical fox, and produce the aurora light, would have a lot of luck.

In the Finnish epic Kalevala, most stories are set in Eastern Finland. The place Pohjola is mentioned several times. Pohjola was an ever-cold place where Louhi, the Mistress of the North, ruled. In the Kalevala, Louhi is described as an evil witch of great power. It was assumed that there were also illnesses and the frost in Pohjola. The only reason for traveling to Pohjola was to promote young men to daughters of the North. They were regarded as extraordinarily beautiful and enchanting.

Those who dared to enter Pohjola could see the glowing gates of the north from a great distance. The shining gates rose from the frozen ground into the sky like a huge fiery snake. That is why in Finnish another name for the northern light is Pohjanpalo, the fire of the north.

In some parts of Finland, the women covered their heads, believing that the northern lights could pull them into the upper world by the hair in which the souls of the deceased rise. In Scandinavia and North America, it was also assumed that the northern lights could be called by whistles, which should be terribly dangerous. But the worst mistake that one could commit was to see them and laugh.

This was the worst mockery against the divine nature of the polar lights. The fear of the phenomena was more frequent in the areas where they were a rather rare sight. The Greeks, for example, thought that the Aurora Borealis was an evil omen, in consequence of which men were haunted by war, catastrophe, and plague. The opinion that this was the revenge of the enemies killed in battle was widespread.

The Sami languages have many names for the Northern Lights. One of them is Guovsahas, which means the light that can be heard. And, in fact, one can, with good luck, perceive the northern lights as crackling. Which would also suit the red fox, because if its fur charges electrostatically, it may sound similar.

It is only a hundred years since we know the scientific explanation and the link between the solar activity and the northern lights. In the thousands of years before, the inhabitants of the North have imagined fantastic stories to make this phenomenon, which can not be explained to the tangible human mind.

Immediately after our arrival at the airport of Keflavík, we put ourselves in our small rental car, leave Reykjavík to the left and turn off on Iceland Route 1. The road that will lead us around the island. After a short stop in Borgarnes and a coffee at the restaurant, which was also the godfather in "The amazing life of Walter Mitty", we follow the ring road to Blönduós, where we spend our first night in Iceland.

Blönduós is, like so many places in Iceland, a small nest in the nowhere, more supply station for the inhabitants of the surrounding farms as an independent city. The next day we continue northwards - the temperature drops and provides snow instead of rain, which has been a loyal companion on our trip.

In the afternoon of the second day, the Eyjafjörður, at the end of which Iceland is the second largest urban agglomeration, appears on the horizon: Akureyri. With a little more than 18,000 inhabitants, Akureyri is the capital of the North - economic and cultural center of a region that, apart from the city, consists of sheep, mountains, fjords and some horse farms.

For us, this little town is the basis for some tours in the surrounding area over the next five days. Our apartment is on the other side of the fjord, in an architecturally extraordinary cottage, which offers a wonderful view of Akureyri. And on the first evening, we are lucky and see green shimmering northern lights over the Akureyri mountains for the first time on this trip.

The next day we spend with tea and biscuits and a great view of Akureyri in our apartment. A snowstorm stops us from exploring the surrounding area. The next morning, the sun dips the landscape into a wonderful golden light. We get into the car at -8 ° C and sunshine and drive through the finest Icelandic winter landscape past the Goðafoss waterfall and to Lake Mývatn. This is located on a plateau and is surrounded by cold volcanoes and huge lava fields. In the gleaming sunlight, we circled the lake and felt two dozen times to try to capture this beauty in images.

On our second excursion, we continue along the coast of the Tröllaskagi peninsula along the other side of the fjord. We pass through smoky and bubbling geothermal fields, pass through pretty little villages like Dalvík and Ólafsfjörður, squeeze through a single-lane tunnel and rest at our destination in Siglufjörður, a small fishing village just north of the peninsula, where the Arctic is no longer going Ocean separates us from the North Pole.

After five nights we leave farewell to Akureyri and follow the ring road to the east of the island. The journey takes us past waterfalls and huge lava fields, which are still pale white from the last snow. However, the weather has already changed: the torrential rain hits the fjord landscapes of the East, so we can only guess a bit about nature. When the fog and the rain-clouds are clearing up for a short moment, we see a unique landscape full of mountains, fjords, and waterfalls, even more so by the rain.

I could hardly wait for the time to take off and read the weather reports every day in the hope of having clear nights. I landed at Keflavik in the evening and picked up my rental car. The sun went down slowly and I was totally astonished at the weather. There was not a single cloud in the sky!

Inwardly I was already enjoying the weather and was looking forward to the evening hours. I steered a happy cheer to Borgarnes, where I had planned my first night. When I found a place to stay, I asked the woman from the pension to the expectations for tonight regarding the northern lights. She said that I should stay in the warm room.

Without great hope, I sat down in my small rental car and drove off. The roads were smooth and covered with snow, the clear sky was partly overlaid by clouds and so I headed to Stykkishólmur. On the way I stopped several times, impressed by the deep blue evening sky and the last light, which slowly disappeared on the horizon. At some point, it was nearly midnight. The sky was still dark and I was about to give up. After I had already driven to the Kirkjufell and the sky was almost completely covered.

I felt I was the only one who was on this road, but the sky cleared up the farther I drove back. And suddenly it was there, the northern light! I thought it was strange clouds, and I could not believe my eyes. When I then stopped it was however to see. I was in the middle of nowhere and so my first recording of the northern lights came about. Certainly not a masterpiece, but I was actually just glad to be able to put this moment on my memory card. Again and again, the light disappeared and reappeared. Always bigger and more intense.

In the meantime, it was really cold. But the northern light was too fascinating to go home. In the deep darkness, I drove again in the direction of Borgarnes. Partially, the sky exploded in green colors. The colors changed between green and purple and it was just so spectacular that it can not be described in words. One could see with the naked eye the northern light wandering, as it stretched over the entire sky and I directly stood under it. Again the sky fascinated me a bit more.

We are in the west of Iceland on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and tonight it will happen. So we stand under the starry Icelandic sky. The first bright light streaks can already be seen above the horizon. So we sit comfortably back at the table and feed on the fish dishes of the chef, who with his black hat act like a wizard in the kitchen.

The northern lights dance in the sky. A true light rain can be seen from the tent. As if the stars were not enough, an illumination was presented, changing their choreography every few seconds. Bright light showers rained from above. Ellipses floated like a sort of heavenly arena. It was a divine spectacle and a great art.

I draw the camera, doubting whether I can capture this. Of course, the camera cannot reflect the three-dimensionality of the incident, which only remain in my memory. The image changes every second. So I am amazed twice first on the movement in the sky, which I see myself, and then on the colorful light show, which reflects on the camera eye. It is the bright insanity. The next day my pictures are admired, and I am assured by the Icelanders that this discrepancy is normal between the human eye and the camera.

I like the energy, the dancing particles in the sky and do not want to physically dripple it all. And at the end of our journey, we are once again blessed by a solar storm. With a bit of luck, this is the place for wonderful northern lights, which we can admire on an evening at the beach of Reykjavík.

Now we are heading to the gray Berlin. Hello Germany, Hello Berlin!


Kay Ellen said...

Amazing sky and captures!!

Kay Ellen

SweetMarie said...

I have never seen anything like this! It's so beautiful!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

My brother was planning on joining aurora tour and I seriously considered joining until he cancelled! I will definitely have to check out in my life!!

Reeni said...

These are breathtaking!