Northern lights, or aurora borealis, appear when energized particles released by the sun zip through space on solar winds. As they enter the Earth’s magnetic field, they lose their energy and produce a diffused glow in luminous shades of green, red and blue. Mysterious and beautiful, the northern lights are a featured attraction on a growing selection of Artic cruises.
Be aware that these winter cruises can’t guarantee an appearance by the northern lights – there’s always an element of luck. However, the lights are quite common on clear winter nights from October through March. A variety of cruise lines and ships, small to midsize, can take you along the coast of Norway, and perhaps to Iceland and Greenland, too, with the potential to see the aurora borealis each night.
During the days, you can visit snow-covered fishing villages, ride on sleds pulled by husky dogs or reindeer, tour historic settlements, and learn about people live in a region of nearly perpetual winter.
The majority of northern lights cruises travel along the spectacularly scenic coast of Norway, stopping in ports such as Bodo, Tromso and Alta.
Just north of the Arctic Circle, Bodo is surrounded by mountains and fjords. Cultural attractions include the Salten Museum, with exhibits on commercial fishing, indigenous Sami people and Vikings. There’s World War II history in this region, too: much of Bodo’s center was destroyed by bombing, and the Bodo Cathedral is a symbol of post-war rebuilding.
Tromso’s historic center is intact, with colorful wooden houses dating from the mid-1800s (the building of wooden houses was banned after 1904). At the Polar Museum, learn about the many Arctic expeditions that have launched from Tromso. Visit the Arctic Cathedral, Tromso Museum or Polaria Aquarium; or, simply enjoy a drink in one of the many welcoming local pubs.
Alta is a historic Sami settlement where you can see petroglyphs and rock paintings created thousands of years ago. There’s little precipitation here, and the generally clear skies make it ideal for northern lights viewing and study. If your ship stays overnight, you can have dinner or even spend the night at the Igloo Hotel, made entirely of ice and snow (with lots of furry wraps for warmth).
For more information on northern lights cruises, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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