Chasing the Northern Lights!

nothern lights
Photo courtesy: Manisha Mehta

Here’s a travel write-up by Manisha Mehta, our official Travel Writer, who recently visit Norway with her husband and her four-year-old son. The Lifestyle Portal is truly happy to publish her travel story that she wanted to share with all our readers.

All we knew of Norway was it being a small, cold Scandinavian country somewhere in northern Europe. With a north to south length of over 2,200 kilometres, Norway has a population of only 5 million, probably lesser than that of Andheri. Though nature has more than made up for it through heavenly landscapes, snow-capped mountains, majestic fjords, and of course the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

We had been discussing and planning our adventure for months especially given the fact that the intensity of the solar flares responsible for Northern Lights was supposed to be very high this year and we did not want to miss the opportunity. However to see the lights, the best time to visit is February, which is brutally cold with temperatures ranging from 0 to -20 degrees Celsius. We were travelling with a 4-year-old, making the adventure all the more challenging.

Our first stop was the capital city of Oslo, which just like most European capital cities boasts of superb public transport as well some beautiful heritage and modern structures. While we were loaded will woollen clothing- jackets, caps mufflers, gloves and what not….cold is something you have to reconcile to while in Norway. With day time high of -3 degrees C in Oslo, stepping out in the open, even for a minute translates to half an hour spent wearing 5 layers of woollen, windproof, waterproof clothing….which for us Mumbaiites  was very cumbersome!

Photo courtesy: Manisha Mehta
Photo courtesy: Manisha Mehta

Greeted by Snow- on our first day in Oslo!

We were staying near the city centre at a hotel which is centrally located and within walking distance from the two major destination within Norway- the scenic opera house with its unique architecture with a marble embellished roof you can actually walk on and the peaceful Oslo Cathedral.

The next destination on our trip was Bergen. The journey to Bergen was a highlight in itself since the train which runs between Oslo and Bergen over Hardangervidda, Europe’s highest mountainous plateau, is believed to be one of the most scenic train rides in Europe. The Bergensbanen runs for 308 miles, taking six and a half hours to cross some of Europe’s most inhospitable terrain and climbs 1,200m. The sights, glaciers and landscapes are truly otherworldly and we were treated to vast expanses to snow-white landscapes interspersed with frozen lakes and tall pine trees surviving the cold.

White views from the train!

Bergen is known as the Gateway to the Fjords. This World Heritage city is surrounded by mountains and Fjords on all sides and overlooks the sea. Founded more than 900 years ago, Bergen has roots to the Viking Age and Bryggen (UNESCO World Heritage wharf) is the most historic remnant from this time.

One of the most ‘touristy’ things to do while in Bergen is to take the Floybanen (the funicular railway) which runs up the mountain of Floyen and ends at a stunning view point with sweeping views of Bergen at 1050 ft above sea level. Our little tourist really loved the outing with a toy train taking him to a mountain of snow!


Bryggen Wharf with UNESCO heritage structures dating from 14th C & Bergen Outskirta
Bryggen Wharf with UNESCO heritage structures dating from 14th C & Bergen Outskirta – Photo courtesy – Manisha Mehta

Trip to Tromso

Our next and most awaited destination was Tromso. As 400 kms above the Arctic Circle and with temperatures going as low as -20 degrees C, it was certainly the coldest and highest we have ever travelled! Apart from being the largest town in Northern Norway, it welcomes millions of tourists every year since it rests right in the middle of the Aurora Belt. That unique circumference around the earth where the chances of sighting the elusive Northern Lights are the highest. Visitors of the world truly unite at this one location where everyone on the tour bus- right from UK, US, Europe, Canada & of course India!- pray fervently for a clear night and cloudless skies in the hope of an excellent sighting.

We started our chase at 5.30 PM in the evening, with the temperature in Tromso at -10 degrees C & dropping. The best chance of seeing the lights are outside the city with no habitation in the vicinity to conflict with the lights in the sky. Our wait started from 8.00 PM with absolutely clear skies and severe cold which even the hot chocolate was unable to dispel. It began as a grey blur in the sky….more like the Milky Way seen on a night full of stars. And we waited ….as the outside temperature dropped to -18 degrees C. as the time progressed, there were some more grey-white blurs on the horizon which on the camera with the delayed exposure settings would appear hazy green and our guide assured us that the Northern Lights are up there. After years of hoping, months of planning and hours of waiting…a grey blur was definitely not what we expected!

Photo courtesy - Manisha Mehta
Photo courtesy – Manisha Mehta

At 12.00 AM however, the lights danced for us….and how! The shimmer of curtain of green, moving all around the sky above us, that celestial divine feeling of seeing something unreal, other-worldly, godly even. A sight which cannot be explained in words…even the photographs captured by us don’t do justice to this miracle of nature. Standing with our heads looking up, in our snowsuits, boots, gloves, caps, shivering with cold with a maniacal smile on our frozen face…all physical discomfort forgotten once the Lights start the dance.

Norway definitely is a must-visit country and the essence of its appeal is remarkably simple: this is one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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