Hunting the Northern Lights
In many ways, you could say that chasing clear weather is far more important that chasing the actual Northern Lights. After all, clear sky is essential to see this phenomenon. Mountains, valleys and fjords all affect weather, wind and clouds. Consequently, being well acquainted with the local area plays an essential part in whether one finds good conditions or not, particularly if the weather is not the best. If the conditions in Alta are poor, we head elsewhere.
We believe in small groups so we have a maximum of eight guests per guide/vehicle. This enables us to provide more personalised service to our guests and, at the same time, better working conditions for our guides. This contrasts with other operators who choose other solutions involving larger buses and more guests per guide. Our small minibuses also offer greater flexibility than larger buses when it comes to where one can drive.
Challenging weather and driving conditions place extra demands on drivers and vehicles. Our guides are experienced and confident driving on the snow and ice-covered roads, while we believe our new VW Caravelle four-wheel drive vehicles are perfect for this purpose. These are safe, comfortable and well equipped minibuses seating eight passengers in addition to the driver. Our vehicles are equipped with Webasto heating systems, which means it’s still warm and comfortable inside even if it’s -25 ˚C outside and the motor and lights are switched off.
If your group is larger (e.g. family, friends or colleagues), we can accomplish this by using a larger bus and several guides.
Experienced local guides
Several of our original guides from the first season are still part of our team. Consequently, we have acquired considerable expertise. The fact that our hit rate of finding the Northern Lights has increased can’t be put down to luck alone. Last season, we found the Northern Lights on 90% of our tours. Due to our long experience, we have developed considerable experience interpreting weather forecasts, weather signs and knowing where to head in different types of weather. We believe this is a decisive factor for finding clear sky and the Northern Lights. By the way, all our guides speak English and one can even guide in German.
The great photo
The hunt also involves finding nice locations so you can take excellent photos. Local knowledge and the ability to see and compose subjects are also essential. Over the years, we have also developed our own techniques for photographing the Northern Lights. Our guides take wonderful landscape photos, as well as sharp and evocative photos of people under the Northern Lights. For many of our guests, a photo of themselves with the Northern Lights blazing across the sky in the background is the image they want to take home as a memento. As an extra bonus, we give such a photo to our guests at no additional cost (conditions permitting).
Briefing and Soup of the Evening
After picking up our guests from their hotels, we head straight to GLØD headquarters for a briefing about the Northern Lights in general and, more specifically, how to find it on that particular evening. We also cover how to photograph the Northern Lights. On our tours, we serve hot soup with bread/flatbread. This will provide additional energy since we will be out for several hours. We will either serve the soup at the HQ during the briefing or later in the evening, hopefully while the Northern Lights are dancing above us. The soup is included in the tour price, but don’t regard this as a full dinner. We also serve hot chocolate and a homemade sweet treat, mørlefse.
Extra gear and warm clothing
It can get cold when we are out chasing the Northern Lights and, even though our vehicles are equipped with Webasto heating, you may require extra clothing. We provide insulated winter thermo suits and foot bags. The latter is a super trick we learned from the mushers, the people who drive sled dogs in Finnmark. You put the handy foot bags over your own shoes.
You can also rent a tripod if you wish.
Read feedback on TripAdvisor from guests who have been on our Northern Lights hunts!
How do we find the Northern Lights?
Alta is an excellent place to see the Northern Lights. However, to improve our chances further, we leave the bright lights of Alta behind us and become Northern Lights hunters! Equipped with the latest Aurora and weather forecasts, and local knowledge, we travel by minibus until we reach an area with clear sky and good views. This may mean a drive of up to 200 km, either along the coast, fjords or in the inland of Finnmark. Generally, we don’t need to drive so far, and around 100 km during an evening hunt is far more common.
Help with camera settings
We help you to adjust the settings on your camera so you can take your own photos of the Northern Lights. To take the best possible photos, we recommend a camera with manual settings, preferably an SLR camera. Don’t forget your tripod! In addition, we have professional camera equipment to ensure great photos of the evening’s Northern Lights activity.
The film of “Hunting the Northern Lights” evening tour
Northern Lights guarantee
We are unable to provide any Aurora guarantees. However, your chances remain very high! During the last three seasons, we have found the Northern Lights on 87-91% of our tours! To increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, it may be a good idea to book several departures.
Alta is known as the “Town of the Northern Lights” – and this is no coincidence. There are few places on earth where the chances of experiencing Aurora Borealis are as high as they are here. Kristian Birkeland knew this as early as 1899 when he built the world’s first Northern Lights observatory on Halddetoppen, in Kåfjord, just 6-7 km from Alta.
Why is Alta a good Northern Lights destination?
- Right below the Northern Lights
Firstly, given Alta’s geographic location, the Northern Lights Oval is virtually always directly above (zenith) or just north of the town.
- Stabile climate
Secondly, Alta has an extremely stable climate. In winter, the days are normally cold and the sky cloudless – and clear skies are essential for spotting the Northern Lights. For instance, in 2009 Alta had just 410 mm of precipitation, something which few other places can claim. This provides many days with clear weather!
- Geographical conditions
However, if it’s overcast in Alta, the chances of finding the Northern Lights are still good. Alta is situated at the head of the Altafjord and from here you can drive in various directions – west towards the Langfjord, north towards Skillefjordnes, north-east towards Skaidi or south towards Kautokeino. The sky is generally clear at one of these places!