In Helgeland, we witness the Northern Lights every winter, between September and March. It’s an amazing experience to see the heavenly dance of the aurora borealis! But to catch this performance requires good planning and a bit of luck. If you hope to see the Northern lights while you are in Helgeland, here are some good tips
The vast expanses of mountain wilderness and the long and pristine Helgeland coast give us many ideal places from which to see the Northern Lights. You need a viewpoint with minimal light pollution, well away from the towns and villages. Since most of Helgeland is south of the Arctic Circle, our days are usually brighter here, even during the Arctic Night. This gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding and winter kayaking during the day, while hopefully catching the Northern Lights in the evening.
What exactly are the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights occur when charged particles thrown out from the sun’s corona break through Earth’s magnetic field and into our atmosphere. This usually happens where our magnetic field is weakest, near the poles. When the charged particles from the solar winds react with oxygen and nitrogen high up in our atmosphere, you can see green, red and purple light dance across the sky.
When can you see the Northern Lights?
The best time to “hunt” the Northern Lights is between October and March. On the long, dark winter nights you are far more likely to see the aurora borealis. Strictly speaking, the Northern Lights are periodically active throughout the year, even in summer, but due to the competing daylight they are almost invisible. As the midnight sun comes to an end, we usually see the first Northern Lights in late August or early September. From then on we have the pleasure of seeing the aurora borealis at irregular intervals until the nights become too bright again in the spring, in late March and early April.
However, this performance is not an everyday occurrence. You need a good weather forecast of clear skies, as well as a good Northern Lights forecast. Yes, there really is such a thing! You can download an app such as My Aurora Forecast, or websites like this one. The popular Norwegian weather forecaster Yr.no is planning to add a Northern Lights forecast to its website, so soon you will have both forecasts in one convenient place.
Where can you see the Northern Lights?
You may see the Northern Lights throughout Helgeland, from Bindal and Brønnøysund in the south to Saltfjellet and Meløy in the north. And it isn’t necessarily the case that you will have a better experience the further north you go. Light pollution and weather conditions also play an important role.
Yes, you might be lucky and see dramatic Northern Lights that overpower all the artificial lighting if you’re staying in town somewhere. But you will have a much better chance of experiencing the phenomenon if you go out to one of the islands, or head for the mountains, for instance near the Wilderness Road (Villmarksveien), or hike in or near one of our national parks.
Helgeland has Norway’s most eco-friendly Northern Lights?
Helgeland is the southernmost part of Norway that experiences the Arctic Night, and thus has good Northern Lights conditions. This means the shortest travel route for Norwegians as well as most tourists, which in turn means less expense and a lighter CO2 footprint for your Northern Lights adventure!
Tips for travellers who want to see the Northern Lights:
- Make your plans based on the Northern Lights forecast. The forecast available covers the next 27 days, giving you lots of time to plan. Forecasts of KP4 and higher are promising.
- Check the weather forecast. You need clear weather with as cloudless conditions as possible to see the Northern Lights.
- Stay as long as you can. If you are travelling a considerable distance, it makes sense to stay here as many days as possible. The longer you are here, the greater the chances that good Northern Light activity will coincide with clear weather.
- Choose a place with minimal light pollution. The farther away you are from towns and street lights and the darker the night sky, the more visible the Northern Lights will be.
- Have access to a car or a guide. If you are able to drive an hour or two to reach a place with optimal weather conditions, the more likely you are to have a great Northern Lights experience. Just make sure you are well-rested enough also for your return drive.
- If it’s windy, watch the sky from your car or where you are staying. The nights with good conditions for Northern Lights tend to be cold. If there is a strong wind at the same time, it can be dangerous to walk far from your car on unfamiliar land. In the car, you are protected against the wind.
- Bring warm clothes and a hot beverage. You often have to wait a while for the Northern Lights. Even though the forecast may call for good Northern Lights at 10 pm, they may not appear until several hours later. Be patient. Standing or sitting still, especially outside during the autumn or winter, we urge you to bring really warm clothing, and a thermos with plenty of hot beverage. It can be a good idea to have a sleeping bag you can crawl into while you wait.
- Charge your phone and headlamp before you go. Pay extra attention to your health and safety when you are out in the cold late at night. And remember, batteries lose their charge more quickly when it’s cold.