Ten Best Arctic Lodges to view the Northern Lights

October 23rd, 2014

The wooden lodge symbolises warmth, retreat and comfort in the cold climes of the North.

But what makes a great lodge? Here at Magnetic North, we spend a lot of time thinking about it (perhaps too much time).

  • DESIGN: Nordic design lends itself perfectly to a warm Lodge atmosphere – from soft felt slippers, to gently scented candles and chunky knit throws.
  • LIGHT: Light is also key when designing a lodge to make the most of any daylight, which can be scarce in winter and, of course, to view the Northern Lights from the comfort of a cosy lounge. Lanterns, lamps and candles are essential for creating a relaxing atmosphere.
  • PEOPLE: But a lodge is nothing without its hosts and the people who care enough to put their guests’ experience first and to give them a holiday to remember. A great lodge is run by hosts who intuitively pre-empt their guests’ needs whilst giving them time and space to relax and feel at one with the natural surroundings.
  • FOOD: Food should be local, and prepared with care providing guests with a taste of the landscape whether it be from fjord, mountain or field. Most lodges have a communal way of serving food which should permit social interaction without being overwhelming.
  • ADVENTURE & RELAXATION: Lastly, a great lodge allows guests to choose their winning combination of adventure and relaxation. Activities should be close by and easy to book in advance. They shouldn’t be extreme but should allow guests to enjoy the landscapes whether it be by dog-sled, snow shoe or ski.

We think our selection of lodges below fit the bill…

1. NORWAY – Lyngen Alps
The Arctic Panorama Lodge in northern Norway stands on an island in a fjord. Needless to say, the remote location and full view of the surrounding landscapes and mountains provides guests with ample opportunity to witness the streams of colour of the Aurora Borealis. Our Northern Lights short breaks at the lodge include all transfers and meals and your selection of winter adventures including dog-sledding and snow mobiling. There are just six rooms in the lodge so it’ll feel more like a secret than a mass tourist destination. From £610 per person.

Arctic Panorama Lodge

2. SWEDEN – Brandon Lodge
Also on its own island is Brandon Lodge, with its coastal aspect overlooking the Luleå archipelago. In winter the tall statues of pack ice create an amazing wintry landscape and we particularly like the hovercraft on pack ice tour as a day trip to remember. Families will love the accommodation and activities on offer at the lodge and the chance to view the Aurora in a remote spot away from the city. From £1279 per adult and £468 per child.

3. CANADA – Blachford Lodge
Only accessible by ski-plance in winter, Blachford Lodge is a true wilderness destination. Located next to the Great Slave Lake, the accommodation is top notch and there are plenty of adventures to suit all levels of thrill-seekers. The lodge has lots of nooks and crannies to view the Northern Lights including a panorama lounge. And if you think that this would make a great Northern Lights honeymoon, then you are in good company as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited during theirs in 2011. From £1765 per person.

4. NORWAY – Trappers Hotel, Svalbard

Boutique hotel meets rustic hunting lodge, Trappers is one of our favourites located on the distant island of Spitsbergen in northern Norway. The log cabin atmosphere and trappings of a bygone era combine to great effect. The lodge is a perfect base for a winter Northern Lights adventure, whether you travel on expedition by snow mobile or dog-sled, or stay in Longyearbyen for the duration. Our winter spring break is a flexible way to design your own trip. From £880 per person.

5. NORWAY – Lyngen Lodge
OK, so this one should go first but we’d be accused of favouritism. We admit to having a complete love affair with Lyngen Lodge and all that it stands for. Great service, excellent Nordic style accommodation and fantastic adventures – all rolled into one short break. Just book before the rooms disappear!. From £995 per person.

6. NORWAY – Stengelsen Lodge
Fishermen of Northern Norway secretly like a little luxury and kept this lodge to themselves for too long. Now it’s open to winter bookings and offers a cosy and comfortable stay for those looking for husky sledding and a chance to stay at Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel which is just down the road. Trine, the wonderful hostess has a talented chef partner who delights his guests both at the Lodge and elsewhere in northern Norway. A short break in combination with the Igloo ice hotel starts at £985 per person.

Stengelsen Lodge Alta

7. NORWAY – Birk Husky Lodge
The Arctic borderlands between Russia and Norway provide plenty of scope for long dog-sledding adventures. Such was the thought of hostess Trine, when she set up her husky lodging near to the city of Kirkenes. The rooms of the lodge are comfortable and inviting and Trine’s home-prepared meals are simply delicious. The stars of the show are undoubtedly the husky dogs who inhabit the kennels nearby and are ready to take guests out on long husky sledding adventures. From £465 per person.

8. NORWAY – Engholm Husky Lodge
Another husky farm-turned lodge is Engholm Lodge near to Karasjok in Northern Norway. Sven Engholm is a man of many talents having built the design lodges himself by hand as well as being a champion husky musher. The rustic lodges all have a unique style and the newly built Raktu lodge is just stunning. Sven you’ve nailed it! Our 4 night dog-sledding and Northern Lights holiday has been popular already, but you can also tailor your stay with shorter and longer dog-sledding tours and cabin stays.

9. SWEDEN: Abisko Mountain Lodge
Its location next to the ever-popular Abisko Sky Station means this lodge is never short of guests. Rooms are modern and functional and the menu has all sorts of Swedish delights. Combine your stay with a visit to the ICEHOTEL at Jukkasjarvi or perhaps Camp Ripan in Kiruna.

10. ICELAND: Hotel Ranga
Lodges in Iceland are more like ranches, where sprawled farmland gives way to guest accommodation. Hotel Ranga is one such location in an isolated spot in southern Iceland. The suites are the pride of the hotel, and should be reserved for a special occasion. The restaurant gets lots of great feedback from our guests providing a taste of Iceland.

To arrange your holiday at a Nordic Lodge, please get in touch with us here at Magnetic North Travel and we’ll be pleased to put together an itinerary to fit your requirements.

As destination specialists for the Nordic countries, we’re able to offer a completely tailored experience, selecting the accommodation and adventures that suit you.

Autumn into Winter and the Northern Lights

September 9th, 2014

Special Offer

Long Weekend Cabin and Northern Lights Holiday Near Tromso in Norway

Enjoy a long weekend or mid-week break in northern Norway relaxing at your fjordside cabin and searching for the Northern Lights. With direct flights from London Gatwick, it’s never been easier to enjoy a weekend getaway to the Northern Lights zone.

A short distance from the city of Tromsø, our cosy cabins overlook the fjord where in winter time, the Aurora treats guests to spectacular displays over the water and mountains, unperturbed by city lights. You’ll be warm and cosy in your cabin whatever the temperatures outside. This package can be tailored to suit you with your choice of adventures including whale watching (Nov 15th onwards), dog-sledding, hiking and fishing.

Dates are available for October Half Term. Please get in touch to find out more.

Cabin Holiday Tromso Norway Kattfjord


DAY 1: Friday
Direct flight from London Gatwick to Tromso:
16:05 London Gatwick – 20:35 Tromso (September and October departures)
16:20 London Gatwick – 20:50 Tromso (November and December departures)

Arrival in Tromsø and transfer to your cabin at Kattfjord. Your private transfer takes around 40 minutes and includes a stop at a local supermarket so you can pick up supplies on the way. Alternatively we can arrange car hire if you prefer.
Look to the dark skies for appearances of the Northern Lights at night time.

Cabin Holiday Tromso Norway Kattfjord

DAY 2: Saturday

Our holidays to Tromsø and the cosy cabin are completely flexible meaning that you can choose your own combination of excursions and activities. There are plenty of local walks near to the cabin along the quayside and in the mountains. If you are travelling after 15th November, join a whale watching excursion from near to the cabin (£145 per person). Very recently hump back whales, orcas and porpoises have been feeding in the fjord next to the cabins which is a wonderful sight. They usually arrive between November and mid-January.
In the evening, why not join a guided jeep safari to search for the Northern Lights into the early hours of the morning with your local guide (£195 per person).

Cabin Holiday Tromso Norway Kattfjord (2)

DAY 3: Sunday

Today is another day for adventures.

We can arrange a transfer to the city of Tromso, so you can enjoy a visit to the city to explore the many attractions, restaurants and enjoy a stroll along the harbour.

If it is wilderness you are craving, we can arrange a guided horseback riding tour, dog-sledding (if snow has arrived) or a snow mobile excursion. Or why not enjoy a bird’s eye view of the hidden lakes, valleys and wildlife of this remote and unspoiled landscape with a helicopter tour.
In the evening, enjoy your final chance to search for the Northern Lights.

DAY 4: Monday
Enjoy a leisurely morning, checking out of your cabin before midday. In the afternoon you’ll enjoy a guided tour by car of the island of Kvaloya, before transferring to the airport in the early evening for your return flight. You can also transfer earlier to the city of Tromso if you wish to spend some time there before your flight.

21:20 Tromso – 23:50 London Gatwick (direct flight)


Based on minimum two guests travelling.

1 September – 7 November

  • From £799 per adult
  • From £329 per child (sharing with min 2 adults)

8 November – 12 December

  • From £899 per adult
  • From £399 per child (sharing with min 2 adults)

Please book early to benefit from the prices above. Mid-week breaks are available (Mon-Fri). Group discounts are also available.

The price includes:

  • Return flights with Norwegian Air from London Gatwick to Tromso including baggage check in and seat reservation
  • Airport transfers
  • Three night’s accommodation in a cabin on a self-catered basis
  • Three hour guided tour by road of Kvaloya Island
  • Electricity, bed linen, towels and end cleaning
  • ATOL Financial Protection (licence number 10706)

The price excludes all further activities and adventures and mandatory travel insurance. We’ll put together a price quotation based on your travel dates, and choice of adventures (please see the list below).


- Helicopter ride: £560 per trip (maximum three guests, 30 minutes)
- Fishing boat hire: From £230 per day
- Photo Safari by boat: £155 per person (3 hours)
- Guided hike: from £95 per person
- Self-guided cycling tours: please contact us

- Helicopter ride: £560 per trip (maximum three guests, 30 minutes)
- Car hire: please contact us for a quote
- Return transfer to Tromso: £150 each way
- Guided hunt for the Northern Lights by jeep – £195 per person
- Guided hunt for the Northern Lights by mini-bus – from £105 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)
- Northern Lights on horseback: £155 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)
- Evening Northern Lights Dinner Cruise from Tromso: £165 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)

- Whale-watching: £145 per person (from 15 November – 15 January)
- Helicopter ride: £560 per trip (maximum three guests, 30 minutes)
- Car hire: please contact us for a quote
- Return transfer to Tromso: £150 each way
- Guided hunt for the Northern Lights by jeep – £195 per person
- Guided hunt for the Northern Lights by mini-bus – from £105 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)
- Northern Lights on horseback: £155 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)
- Evening Northern Lights Dinner Cruise from Tromso: £165 per person (excludes transfers to Tromso)
- Dog-sledding (mid-late-November): from £165 per person

This holiday is available for the Northern Lights from September through to April. Please find out more at this link.

About your accommodation 

Your hosts Andreas and Hanna are third generation owners of the six fisherman cabins which perch on the water’s edge in a perfect position to view appearances of the elusive and beautiful Aurora.

Each cabin has a large outside terrace. All the cabins are allergy-friendly, so no smoking or pets are permitted. Each cabin has a total area of 100m2, over 2 floors.

Ground floor: fully equipped kitchen, dining area, TV lounge with satellite tv/radio/CD player, bathroom with shower/wc and 1 bedroom (single). Also outside storage room and drying room.

First floor: 2 large bedrooms (3 beds and 2 beds), bathroom with shower/wc.



Five Enchanting Kid-friendly Places to Visit in Scandinavia and the Nordics

July 24th, 2014

Trolls, fairies, wolves, forests, witches. Images which conjure up magic and mysticism among the young and old alike. Scandinavia is a region that loves to tell tales from Viking sagas to witches and fairies. We think it’s a great place to let the imagination wander and to hear stories which will stay with you for years to come. Here is our pick of three unique and wonderful places where enchantment is all part of the experience.

MoominWorld, Finland
Based on the world-famous Moomin books by Tove Jansson, MoominWorld is located on a tiny island next to the fishing village of Naantali in Eastern Finland. Crossing the bridge, you’ll leave one world behind as you enter into the marvellous and magical world of the Moomin Trolls. Pictures from the story books are brought to life as you wander the forest paths of the MoominWorld meeting the characters and enjoying the many activities on offer.

How to enjoy a holiday at the MoominWorld

Get in touch with us for your family holiday to Moominworld. We suggest a visit to Finland’s Capital city of Helsinki, followed by an enjoyable train ride to Turku. Here you’ll stay for a couple of nights during which time you can enjoy the cultural city and the chance to hop on the bus to Naantali to visit MoominWorld. Naantali Spa Hotel offers great accommodation if you’d like to enjoy more.

The Enchanted Forest, Sweden (Trolska Skogen)
Hidden away in the forest in mid-Sweden, the Enchanted Forest is a living fairy tale that takes you on some magical adventures. Our three year old daughter was utterly entranced by the characters we met along the way – the elves, the witch, the slumbering dragon to name a few. The natural setting deep in the forest along with atmospheric music heightens the feeling that fairies are never far away. Their little rope walkways disappearing into the undergrowth are simply amazing.

How to enjoy a holiday at the Enchanted Forest

A family holiday to this area of Sweden (around two-three hours north of Stockholm) brings you to wild, beautiful places where you feel like you are holidaying with the locals. Magnetic North Travel will arrange a stay for you starting in Stockholm where the kids will enjoy the islands, city life and the famous Gröna Lund fairground. You’ll then continue north by car where we will arrange luxury Nordic-style chalet accommodation at the seaside resort of Holick where you can be based for a number of days whilst you visit the Enchanted Forest and other local sights. We also recommend the axe museum and factory at Gransfors as well as an overnight stay in the fantastic Jarvso wildlife park en route back to Stockholm. Here you can sleep in a hotel within the wolf enclosure, which is a unique experience in itself and one which the children will always remember.

Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir, Iceland
Unlike the cuddly and friendly Santa we are used to, the Icelandic Yule Lads have a rather dark, more intriguing side. Always looking for well-behaved children, those who fall short are punished with rotten potatoes in their stockings. You can visit the Yule Lad’s home at a mystical rock formation in Dimmuborgir in northern Iceland where if you look carefully you’ll see the heads of the Yule Lads in the rock. In winter and at Christmas time, you may also see the Lads come to life in a ritualistic event not to be missed if you are in Iceland.

How to Holiday at Dimmuborgir

We’ll help to tailor your holiday in Iceland. You can stay in the city of Reykjavik and do a day trip to the North or stay overnight in the town of Akureyri. Here you can enjoy a visit to the amazing waterfall at Dettifoss and bathe in the soothing lagoon waters at Myvatn Nature Baths. You may also view the Northern Lights between September and April.

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Tivoli in central Copenhagen is a nostalgic theme park that harks back to a bygone era of fairground amusement which was all about theatre, delight and dreams. Kids and adults enjoy the simple and old-fashioned fairground rides designed for pleasure rather than fear. The night time illuminations are an experience in themselves as are the different areas of the park inspired by various themes from around the world. Tivoli is a relaxed theme park in a relaxed city and well worth taking the children during a weekend break.

How to holiday at Tivoli Gardens

The team at Magnetic North will be delighted to arrange a weekend short break in Copenhagen and can advise you on hotel accommodation, other sights to visit and ways to extend your holiday in Denmark. Surely a visit to Legoland would be a fantastic way to enjoy more during your stay.

Santa’s Resort, Kakslauttanen, Finland
A less commercial version of Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi, Santa’s Resort at Kakslauttanen is every bit a magical with less of the crowds. The wooden resort in this winter wonderland in Northern Finland is a perfect place to bring the children to meet Santa and his busy elves. You’ll step inside Santa’s Cottage where you’ll enjoy gingerbread and a chance to meet his reindeer. The resort is really magical and combines well with a cabin or glass igloo stay at Kakslauttanen Resort.

How to holiday at Kakslauttanen

We’ll arrange a winter holiday for your family staying in traditional log cabins and less traditional glass igloos. You can choose from a range of winter adventures to combine with your visit to Santa’s Resort. Please click here for more details.

Contact the team at Magnetic North Travel to arrange your tailored family holiday or vacation in Scandinavia.

Hotel Review: Trappers Hotel Svalbard

June 10th, 2014

When we arrived at The Trappers Hotel, the town of Longyearbyen was cast in the dark blue hue of the Polar Night. The white fields of snow reflected the moonlight and Northern Lights were dancing above the peaks of the mountains around the Longyear Valley. Needless to say our first visit in the northernmost permanently inhabited town felt otherworldly already at first glance.








Before travellers began to arrive to the islands of Spitsbergen in search of unique winter adventures, the archipelago was mainly inhabited by trappers, or hunters, who lived in their cabins isolated in their work for extended periods of time. Sometimes they brought their families to join them. The boutique Hotel is decorated with Russian driftwood, seal skins, slate as well as objects and pictures which illustrate the time when many modern comforts were not present on the island. The luxury of Trapper’s Hotel combines a rustic and cosy atmosphere with a back drop of the local history.

The standard rooms come with twin or double beds with private bathrooms and views towards the mountains or the town. For families we can recommend the triple rooms or perhaps staying in one of the two suites which are more spacious. Breakfast is included for all guests although dinner is not available at the hotel. However, the hotel is conveniently located very close to all the shops and restaurants with a selection to suit most budgets from champagne tastings to a pub dinner. All Magnetic North clients receive an up-to-date recommendation list of places to eat in Longyearbyen in their trip notes.

Typical to Scandinavian hospitality, hot drinks such as coffee are available for guests at the lobby as well as a small library. Whilst there are no televisions in the rooms, there is a cosy Cognac Lounge where guests can relax after a day outdoors and meet other travellers or simply enjoy one of the books from the library. This is also a perfect spot for the final gazes for any Northern Lights appearances through the panoramic windows stretching across the ceiling before retiring to bed.








For whom is it suitable?

If you are thinking about taking the kids, we suggest 10 years and up if you are planning on outdoor adventures. Otherwise the hotel is suitable for everyone with a desire to explore one of the most unique destinations in the world – get in touch with Magnetic North to find out activities that fit your travel goals.

When should I go?

Just like rest of the Arctic, Spitsbergen witnesses the extremes from the dark blue darkness of the Polar Night to endless days during the Midnight Sun season – only here they can be witnessed longer and more extreme than at lower latitudes. Below are a few of our tips.

For Northern Lights hunters the polar night might be the most suitable time to go as Northern Lights can be witnessed even during day time due to Spitsbergen’s location in the high latitudes. Polar Night season lasts from October to early February. Magnetic North Travel has a three night Polar Night short break in Svalbard which celebrates this special season.

If you are looking for a longer expedition or an overnight trip in search of local wildlife, travel during Spring (mid-Feb to May) when the sun rises above the horizon and longer trips outside the town’s limits become available. Please note that spring time excursions get fully booked earlier than Polar Night.

Trappers Hotel Triple Room Svalbard









If you are looking for something completely extraordinary: After mid-April you can experience the Midnight Sun yet still go husky sledding and snow mobiling on the snow until the end of May!

Which Ice Hotel is best for me?

June 2nd, 2014

As destination specialists for Scandinavia here at Magnetic North Travel we offer a huge range of holidays, short breaks and honeymoons to the ice hotels and beyond.

Since the original IceHotel was first constructed in Sweden in 1990, others have since joined in Norway and Finland offering a choice of styles, Arctic adventures and hospitality. We’ve visited them all and work with all the ice hotels on a daily basis. Consequently, we know what each one offers, who they are best suited to and when’s best to go.

This short guide will help you to decide on which ice hotel is best for you. Simply get in touch with us and we’ll make all the arrangements to ensure that you have the best holiday in the Arctic possible.

ICEHOTEL Jukkasjarvi, Sweden











In a nutshell:

A slick, well-oiled ice machine, with years of experience behind it. Never short on wow factor and becoming more-and-more in demand and therefore, exclusive. This one is a sure bet for honeymoon couples and the art suites need to be booked early as they go quickly. The adventures are expensive in comparison to other providers in and Kiruna but they are all very highly regarded and enjoyed by our clients.

Great for:
Honeymoon couples
Romantic adventurers

Don’t go if:
You are on a budget
You are bringing the kids
Book with us

Snow Hotel, Kirkenes, Norway

In a nutshell:
A very different but equally slick operation based on a more personal approach. Visiting the Snow Hotel gives you a lovely warm feeling inside, mainly down to its wonderful hosts (and our friends) Anne and Ronnie. Their hospitality is truly memorable and hasn’t faltered even while the Snow Hotel continues to grow and offer even more capacity and choice of adventures. It feels more like a group experience rather than individuals arriving independently. The carvings in snow are very different to ice rooms and particularly enjoyable for the younger ones.

Great for:
Families and family groups
Romantic adventurers who like socialising with others
Combining the trip with the Hurtigruten Coastal Express

Don’t go if:
You like to travel independently and don’t like to feel like you are part of a group experience
Book with us

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway










In a nutshell:

Romantic and small scale, Sorrisniva has a certain magic to it being tucked away near the forest. The rooms are all similar in style and not as elaborate as the other hotels but the ice bar area and chapel are really beautiful. The restaurant is top quality and definitely the best of all the ice hotel restaurants offering seasonal and local produce on the menu. The husky sledding provider nearby is also wonderful and our short break with the husky sledding and Igloo Hotel is a great combination.

Great for:
Honeymoon couples and winter weddings
Friends travelling together
Husky sledding

Don’t go if:
You expect all the rooms to be different
You like a big group experience

Book with us

Snow Village, Lainio, Finland











In a nutshell:

A fun and colourful ice hotel with beautiful sculptures and a winter wonderland outside. The ice hotel rooms are all unique, but quite simple and the hotel itself feels small and personal. The Finlandia vodka shots in ice glasses are a nice touch and we find that clients enjoy the log restaurant and extending their stay in the tepee cabins which are perfect for couples. Winter weddings are also available at the Snow Village and usually work especially well if you will be bringing guests along with you.

Great for:
Winter weddings
Skiing in Yllas Ski Resort

Don’t go if:
You are looking for a high-end exclusive package

At Magnetic North Travel, we can customize each vacation at the ice hotel to suit your requirements. Choose from our selection of winter adventures, flexible travel dates and tour extensions. We’re here to help create the perfect trip for you. Contact us now.




Hotel Review – Malangen Resort Norway

May 8th, 2014

Malangen Resort Hotel Troms Norway Northern lights holiday short break

When the team at Magnetic North Travel first visited Malangen Resort (or Malangen Brygger as it was previously known), the hotel welcomed mainly business travellers in the warmer months. We couldn’t help but think that the 180 degree view of the fjord, high standard accommodation and close proximity to the city of Tromso justified a year round demand that could be met by the increasing number of leisure travellers to Northern Norway looking for an Autumn or Winter cabin short break. It felt a little bit like uncovering a small pot of treasure that needed a little work to make it shine. And that’s what we did.

Working with the resort since 2010 has meant challenging them to move away from the business market and put together some fabulous holiday packages for independent leisure travellers. Since then we have offered self-drive holidays to the resort – even in deepest winter. Clients have been attracted to the luxury accommodation with the possibility of eating at the hotel’s restaurant and using the spa facilities (which have a fantastic fjord view). Now with the completion of a sub-fjord tunnel, drive-time from Tromso city and airport is just an hour without requiring a ferry crossing. The icing on the cake has been a recent management take-over who has injected a new lease of life into the resort and working all hours of the day to improve their service for leisure and small group travellers. This means that we’ve been able to put together a short break programme without requiring car hire and we can also offer guests some great winter activity options direct from the resort.

Malangen Resort cabins Norway Holiday Short Break

The cabins and apartments have been most popular as guests are rewarded with seclusion and fantastic fjord views with the option to go self-catered or use the hotel’s restaurant. There are various standard of cabins and apartments. For honeymoon couples, the luxury cabins have been really popular with their wide terraces and luxury interiors. All of the accommodation options feature modern Scandinavian design but complement the setting with their more traditional exteriors painted in the red Rorbu fishermans cabin style or a sleek oak finish for the luxury cabins. The cottages work perfectly for families with children with separate bedrooms and space to spread out. There is also a nearby play park to keep the little ones amused.

Malangen Resort Hotel Troms Norway Northern lights holiday short break

If you are travelling in the summer, car hire is a must. You’ll have the freedom to return to Tromso for the day or evening, as well as explore the local area which includes the island of Senja. It’s just stunning during midnight sun season (June-August). With the back drop of the mountains and islands, Malangen Fjord is perfect for adventures on the water. Canoeing and kayaking on the sheltered waters are both great to do in the summer and you can also charter your own sail boat for an afternoon or midnight sun cruise. There are also some easy biking and hiking trails near to the accommodation.

Malangen Resort Norway Holiday Short Break
In the winter, we can arrange adventures for all ages including dog-sledding, snow shoeing, ice-fishing and Northern Lights tours directly from the resort. Further afield snow mobileing, reindeer sledding and overnight wilderness camps are possible to arrange. We’ll help to tailor the trip to suit your group, travel dates and preferred choice of activities and adventures.

We’re excited about our summer and winter programmes at Malangen Resort as it enters a new phase of its existence. Please get in touch with us if you would like to find out more about packages at the resort.

Malangen Resort Hotel Troms Norway Northern lights holiday short break dog sled

A three night Northern Lights package is £1319 (available from October to April). The price includes:

• Return transfers from Tromso city or airport at designated times (morning or evening)
• 3 night’s hotel or apartment cabin accommodation
• Half board (breakfast and 2-course dinner)
• Chance to hunt the Northern Lights each night (optional)
• Aurora Alarm service
• Day time husky sledding (including transfers, warm clothing, lunch)
• Day time ice fishing excursion (including warm clothing, lunch)
• Financial Protection
• Travel support (before your departure and during your trip)
• Personalised trip notes, kit list, travel documents and pre-trip inspiration

Please find out more at this link and to check availability

5 things that sled dogs can teach us

October 26th, 2013

Training your dog can be one of life’s toughest challenges. But what about when the tables are turned and we let dogs teach us a thing or two?

Nowhere in the world is this more apparent than in the Arctic where husky sledding is a way of life for many.

Our husky musher in residence, Stian, deeply believes in learning from working with husky dogs. His connection to the animals is truly remarkable and our guests never fail to be inspired by his team of 40 dogs.Here Stian tells us five things that we can learn from sled dogs.

1. Sled dogs are the most motivated individuals in the world

2. Sled dogs teach us the meaning of companionship, loyalty and happiness and how to work in a team.

3. By giving us feedback trough their actions they teach us how to be fair and motivating leaders.

4. When driving the dogs and caring for them, you’ll tie close bonds to them and learn about them. But even more you’ll learn about yourself.

5. The dogs will teach you to really appreciate life.

Of course, it takes a dedicated musher to ensure that his or her dogs stay motivated and happy. Everything from the food they eat and the kennels they sleep in through to the dogs in the team they mush with has to be right. Stian keeps all these parts in perfect balance and his dogs remain on top form.

Our guests are given a privileged chance to not only see this in action but to participate in Stian’s routine and life. The learning experience is life changing for many and the dogs will soon become friends.

If you would like to join us in the Arctic for our five day dog sledding adventure please visit the link below to find out more. The price is just £895 per person and includes all transfers, accommodation, food, warm clothing and guidance.


“Highlights: The long sledding day – when we got above the treeline, above the Devdessjavri lake on the sleds alone with the just the dogs pulling, unbroken snow, the pink-orange-blue skies above, and wind stinging my face and the most magnificent views in every direction. It was calm, energising and eye-wateringly beautiful all at the same time and I think it was one of the moments of the trip when it finally clicked what “authentic friluftsliv” may possibly be. I’ve thought back to that period of about half and hour so many times since we got back and can’t shake the feeling that it was something pretty special to experience… thanks again for the trip of a lifetime.” Jim


“I really did have such a great time, a superb break. I keep thinking about it so often. I’m already dying to go back! The highlights were the long trek day, when we were coming back over the frozen lake, with all the deep powdery snow, and the red and orange sky, and the mountains shining pink, with the moon in the sky. We stopped, and even the dogs were quiet as we marvelled at a green stripe across the sky – the Northern Lights. Breathtaking! Working with the dogs also. I’ve never had a dog, or even a pet, but working with those intelligent animals was amazing! Building up such a bond with my own team of dogs – getting to know them, earning their respect. It was beautiful to build such a relationship, and I was so very sad to have to say goodbye. They are beautiful, fascinating, and delightful animals to be around.” Julia

Photo: S. McWilliam


Inside the Volcano in Iceland

August 5th, 2013

Client report

One of our lovely clients, Cathy from the UK, has kindly provided us with some feedback about her recent trip Inside the Volcano during her short break to Iceland.

“A recent trip to Iceland with Magnetic North included an experience so unique that, at the time of writing, more people have climbed Mt Everest. Inside the Volcano tour begins with a short hike (3kms) over lava fields amidst stunning scenery to the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano.

Outside 'Inside the Volcano'

Outside 'Inside the Volcano'

By the time walkers reach the base camp, comprising one hut, generators, safety gear, portaloo and lots of impressive mechanical equipment that all had to be helicoptered in to the site, oneʼs knowledge of volcanic geology has been healthily bolstered by the very friendly and articulate guide.

It is here one dons a helmet and harness to make a short walk across a narrow bridge over the vent, before descending 120 metres into the magma chamber in a cage very like the ones used by window cleaners for skyscrapers.

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

To have a crater of this magnitude still standing is a rare exception as normally the liquid rock in the chamber would find a way to the surface – causing an eruption. Then the crater is usually closed by cold, hard lava. Here, for some unknown reason, the magma seems to have disappeared – either solidified in the walls or retreated somewhere deeper.

Whatever the answer, the phenomena has created the only place on the planet where humans can descend into a volcano.

Once lowered onto the chamber floor, groups have about 45 minutes to take some photos, clamber about and study the incredible colours of the rock face. The quiet grandeur of the chamber itself is a humbling experience and one never to be forgotten.

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

Once back up to the surface, bowlfuls of delicious hot lamb soup are served along with tea and coffee. All the guides are incredibly friendly and professional and health and safety matters are high on the agenda. £200 for a 5/6 hour trip may seem a little steep at first, but actually it is worth every penny for such an amazing adventure.”

Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano

If you would like to follow in Cathy’s footsteps and visit the Volcano during your next visit to Iceland, just get in touch with us to find out how. Cathy and friends enjoyed the Wellness Short Break which includes three spa experiences and we arranged the Volcano tour as an extra daytrip.

Magnetic North arranges tailored holidays and short breaks to Iceland throughout the year. You can visit inside the volcano during the summer months (May-September).

Top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia

July 9th, 2013

Magnetic North’s Kirsi travelled to Northern Norway in June 2013 and here recounts her tales from the sea followed by her top tips for whale watching in Scandinavia…

Whale Watching Safari in Andenes Norway

I can see someone pointing at the distance and exclaiming in excitement. They have spotted a spout of water rising from the sea as the whale exhales and comes to the surface for breath. As we come closer I can see it as well. Holding my camera I hear deep and slow breaths before the whale dives and the huge tail fin appears above the surface. This was my first encounter with a sperm whale, a creature that can grow up to 20 meters and can dive down to 3 kilometers yet is a mammal just like us – only once they are born they are approximately 4 meters in length.

The researchers who study whales have learned to tell them apart by their tail fins, which act like a finger print on each of the whales. Not only can researchers tell them apart by their fins, they also recognize their habits. Beneath the surface they communicate by clicking – perhaps warning other males they are bigger and stronger or inviting them to join them for a feast of herring. A lot of fascinating research has been established, yet the full extent of their social communication remains largely unknown.

The whales are known to live in colonies, the females travelling with the calves in warmer waters whereas large colonies males come to feed for herring in the Northern coast of Norway, are all males. Sailors have known them to feed in this area for centuries. The Carta Marina which Swedish historian and cartographer Olaus Magnus drew in the 16th century based on stories he had heard from the sailors gives a glimpse into how whales have been seen in this region centuries ago. On the map you can see huge sea creatures resembling whales in the coast of Northern Norway, from Lofoten islands and Andenes up to Troms. Needless to say, the stories Magnus recorded may have been exaggerated as they were passed from a story teller to another, but also prove that large sea creatures have been known to feed in this area for hundreds of years and have made a lasting impression on anyone who saw them as they still do today.

Sperm whales, which are the largest of toothed whales are very common but you can also meet killer whales (also known as orcas), harbour porpoises, pilot whales and humpback whales in the northern coasts of Norway. Get in touch with us to plan your very own encounter with these beautiful and magnificent creatures on a whale safari!

TOP 5 places to see whales in Scandinavia

Stø, Norway
Located in Vesterålen just by the Bleik Canyon, where plankton rises from deep sea to the surface attracting a great variety of sea life, including whales. The great sperm whales come here to feed on squids and fish that swim in the deep waters. You can view whales here both summer and in winter time.
Visit with us:  www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/tales-from-the-sea-in-vesterlen-islands

Andenes, Norway
Just on the northern tip of the island of Andøya, the village of Andenes is also located by the Bleik Canyon and offers stable feeding grounds for whales. Whales are also studied in this area which gives your guides up-to-date information on the whales. You can also visit a museum which gives you all the insight to the life of whales beneath the surface of the sea.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/whale-watching-holiday-in-the-lofoten-islands

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is well-known for its unique volcanic activity and stunningly beautiful nature but you can also join whale watching cruises right from the capital of Iceland. You can find more than 20 different species swimming close to the shores of Iceland. Whale watching tours depart all year round from Reykjavik.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/reykjavik-golden-circle-5-day-explorer

Senja, Norway

Just a short trip from Tromsø, at 69 degrees North the beautiful island of Senja is among one of the best places to view the whales. For those wanting to get off the beaten track and travel with excellent wilderness guides, Senja offers excellent chances for viewing sea life in its natural habitat. We warmly recommend Senja if you are interested in photographing wildlife with our experienced guides.
Visit with us - http://www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/tromso-northern-lights-short-break-and-whale-watching-tour-senja 

Kattfjord, Norway

Just outside Tromso, on the island of Kvaløya (translates to whale island), you can spot whales swimming in the fjord from your cosy fisherman’s cabin. The stunningly beautiful fjord and mountains also offer the perfect backdrop for viewing the elusive Northern Lights.
Visit with us: www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/cosy-cabin-holiday-in-search-of-the-northern-lights-in-troms-norway

We can arrange tailored itineraries with whale watching included year round – just get in touch to find out more.

Guest post from an extremely talented northern lights photographer – Natalia Robba

May 16th, 2013

The Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) – Everything you need to know

Hey fellow Aurora fans!

After several years of research, kilometers travelled, multiple destinations visited, dark drives down foreign icy roads, snow storms, disappointment, exhilaration, several failures but more successes, here is my two cents on everything Aurora Borealis.

You can also join me on a unique tour to search for the Northern Lights in the Lyngen Alps in Northern Norway from 18-22 February 2014. Find out more here.

First off, before I start I wanted to elaborate a little on the above. I’ve always held a certain fascination for the Northern Lights. My earliest memory was a documentary on the Discovery channel on Antartica when I was around 12 years old. I found them ethereal and magical and straight away wanted to know more about them and see them.

Being a 12 year old though has it’s drawbacks. Being completely at the mercy of my parents destination wishlist meant that I wouldn’t really get to chase this dream until a little later on. So that plan was on the back burner for a few years.

So I studied, left school, and started working. At the age of 20, the Northern Lights popped into my little noggin again, and with freedom and a paycheck, I started doing my research and was adamant this time on seeing the Aurora Borealis.

I researched everything from Solar cycles, weather patterns, prediction techniques and annual aurora statistics to ideal destinations under the Auroral Oval.

I’m now 26 and over the last 6 years have seen the Aurora Borealis many times in many varieties and intensities. Those places include Yellowknife (Canada), Skibotn (Norway), Tromso (Norway), Kiruna (Sweden), Abisko (Sweden) and Ivalo/Inari (Finland). I’ve also experienced some failures along the way, and while you can never be guaranteed Aurora displays, I have learnt a few useful things along the way :)

What causes the Aurora Borealis?

Aaah the Sun =) The beautiful Sun! Not only does it sustain life on Earth, but it creates one of the most beautiful natural displays known to man. The Aurora Borealis happens due to the interaction between the Solar Wind and the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are a few terms worth remembering just so it’s a little easier to understand.

Solar Wind – A stream of particles originating from the Sun that travels towards us (and other planets alike). It can vary in density (i.e number of solar particles i.e. protons/electrons in the stream), and in speed. Higher speed streams will reach us faster than slower streams.
IMF – Interplanetary Magnetic Field. This is the magnetic field carried with the solar wind. Remember the sun has it’s own Magnetic field, and as the particles leave the Sun, they carry with them magnetic field lines.
Magnetopause – This is a boundary between the Earth’s magnetic field and the Solar Wind. Think of it as a sort of barrier stopping the Solar Wind from reaching us.

The Earth’s magnetic field is pointed North at the Magnetopause (this is illustrated in the image below). Think of a magnet for a second….If the IMF is in a Northern direction, then it will ‘clash’ with our own Northern Magnetic field at the Magnepause and it will repel the solar wind.

However, think of the opposite. If the IMF contains Southern facing magnetic field lines, it will ‘link’ up with our Northern facing Magnetopause and both field will cancel each other out! This in essence opens a portal for Solar wind to enter our atmosphere.

So to sum up, as the Solar Wind approaches and strikes the Earth’s Magnetopause, it causes it to bend and flex. If the IMF in the Solar wind has a southern facing direction, the Solar Wind will eventually causes a ‘break’ in the Magnetosphere and creates two Magnetotails that swing around and behind the Earth. When the Magnetotails from both sides meet up on the otherside, they ‘snap’ and slingshot the Solar Wind particles towards our poles.

The Solar wind particles collide with the Oxygen/Nitrogen atoms in our own atmosphere. These collisions ‘excite’ the Oxygen atoms. When these ‘excited’ Oxygen atoms return to their previous calm state, they emit light in the process. This results in the Northern (or Southern) Lights.

This is slightly over simplified, but illustrates the process by which Solar Wind particles reach our poles.

What triggers high intensity Auroras?

The body of knowledge on the Solar wind and it’s relationship to our planet and the Northern Lights is far from complete. But relationships have been deduced and there are things we do know with relative certainty. Before we answer this question lets specifically look at the ways in which the Solar Wind reaches us.

  • Coronal Holes – Coronal Holes are dark regions on the Sun’s Corona (sort of it’s own atmosphere) where temperatures are cooler. They act as ‘funnels’ for the Solar wind to escape the Sun and travel towards us. Coronal Holes are generally responsible for High Speed Solar Streams (and also Low speed streams). The intensity of Northern Lights caused by these streams are dependent on the IMF of the Solar Wind Stream, the number of solar particles in the stream (plasma density), and the duration of time the stream is hitting us.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) – CME’s are sudden high speed ejections of large amounts of solar wind and magnetic field lines from the Suns surface. They are sporadic and unpredictable and originate from Sunspots on the sun’s surface. They are classed by intensities, B, C, M and X. The latter being the most powerful. Typically they also take 24-48 hours to reach us. So when news arrives of decent CME’s Aurora hunters all over the world await with baited breath and hope for clear skies =)

So what conditions can cause Geomagnetic Storms? Here are a few examples:

  • Solar Wind Streams with good southern IMF – Solar Streams with a decent southern Bz (Southern IMF of approx -5nT or less), with moderate to high Particle Density (approximately greater than 5 protons/cm3), that last for extended periods of time, can cause Geomagnetic Storms and cause intense Aurora displays. Therefore contrary to popular belief, fantastic Auroras are not just the result of CME’s from our Sun.
  • CME’s – CME’s of class C, M and X (C being the weakest, M more powerful and X are real whoppers and only happen a couple of times a year) can trigger geomagnetic storms. The higher class CME’s are more likely to spark high intensity Auroras i.e. M and X, CME’s are intensified when they carry negative IMF’s too.

There are situations when weaker CME’s or weaker Solar Wind streams can still cause some amazing Auroras! Say for example that a good Solar Wind Stream is approaching Earth with a Southern IMF, this will in effect ‘weaken’ the Magnetic Field and allow Solar Wind to enter our atmosphere. Imagine now…there is also a CME on the way behind the Stream. Even a low class CME (say B or C) could be intensified due to the fact there is already a ‘portal’ open.

So as you can see, if’s not an exact Science. I’ve learnt to get a feel for conditions and can now predict with relative confidence when to expect something decent. I hope this helps you too!

What’s the best time of the year to see the Aurora Borealis?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked about the Northern Lights. The basic answer is that, although the Aurora Borealis is always present at the northern and southern magnetic poles, we can’t always see them because of daylight hours getting in the way during the summer months at such extreme latitudes. Therefore the best time to try and see this natural phenomenon is anytime between late August – early April when the window of opportunity with regards darker skies is higher.

Statistically speaking (I like my statistics) there seems to be higher Auroral activity around the Equinoxes, that is around the months of late September and late March. This is to do with slight variations of the Earth’s tilt axis relative to the Sun’s tilt. During the equinoxes the Earth’s magnetic axis more suitably aligns with that of the Sun’s and larger deviations into negative Bz are more likely, therefore facilitating Solar Wind particle transfer into our atmosphere. Suffice to say, activity does tend to be higher around these months.

This is NOT to say that spectacular Aurora’s are not possible in the interim months, in fact I have seen fabulous displays in other months. But since I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like, I like to give myself the best chances and stick to those times.

My personal preference is February/March, due to the fact weather tends to stabilize in Northern Scandinavia after December.

Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?

There is no one right answer for this one as there are many places you can see the Northern Lights. As long as you are situated far enough North (or south if you are thinking of the Aurora Australis) then you stand a chance of seeing the Aurora. North of 63/64 degrees latitude roughly is a good place to see them.

The Auroral Oval

However, there is a slight catch to these numbers, in that I’m not talking about standard geographical latitude, but Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude. The Earth’s magnetic field is not perfectly aligned around our geographic poles, it deviates slightly. Therefore this ‘Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude’ is the true latitude you need with regards our magnetic field (and therefore Auroras). This is why in Europe, you need to be in Northern Scandinavia to see the lights, but in certain places in Northern US and Canada, you don’t need to be at such a high latitude. So, to sum up, North of 63/64 Corrected Geomagnetic latitude and you’re set =)

Here are maps for Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude:
Europe – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNE.html
UsA & Canada – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNW.html

All you need to do is click on a location on the maps linked above, and you’ll be given latitudes, most importantly the corrected magnetic latitude. If the location is greater than 63/64 you will be able to see the Northern Lights there (if there’s activity and clear skies).

The Auroral Oval over Northern US and Canada

For some people, this might not be particularly helpful as we need specifics, easy to access towns that are close to convenient airports etc. So a more tailored answer for Aurora chasers is that any of the cities underneath the green band in these images, are good locations to spot the Northern Lights.

As for my own personal recommendations? Here is my top 5 places to see the Northern Lights. All tried and tested and I’ve had success in each one. They’re fantastic places to try your luck! I’ve listed them in order of my preference and given reasons why.

My top 5 Places to see the Northern Lights

Here are some of my suggestions for where to best see the Aurora Borealis from. These are tried and tested. Feel free to get in touch if you have other towns in mind and would like some advice.

  1. Ivalo, Finland

River Ivalo behind Hotel Ivalo

I visited Ivalo and the surrounding area in March 2012. The landscape in this part of Finland is vastly different to that of Abisko in Sweden and parts of Norway. It is much flatter, but so beautiful in a different way!

The landscape has a very winter wonderland type feel to it, with snow capped trees, and snow mounds everywhere. Really beautiful =) The people in Ivalo and the Inari region are so friendly and welcoming. Ivalo itself is a relatively small town, with everything you need, supermarket, local pub all within walking distance. I stayed at the Hotel Ivalo for a week. The hotel is basic but more than adequate, with clean rooms and decent food. The best part about this hotel is its lovely location in Ivalo. It sits right off the River Ivalo, literally, 20 seconds walk behind the hotel down a gentle slope onto the beautiful frozen river (On the picture to the right the Hotel is on the left hand side!) Not only is this a hub for daily activities such as snowmobiling and cross country skiing, but makes a good location to view the Northern Lights if you cant get out of the city!

Being a small town, Ivalo doesn’t actually have that much light pollution, which means Aurora viewing is entirely possible within the city. In fact I was witness to a wonderful display right on River Ivalo behind my hotel for about 2 hours with several of the hotel guests.

Of course this was a happy little extra, there are other options that involve heading outside the town, to some gorgeous locations in perfect darkness.

  • Pros – Winter wonderland landscapes, amenities in town, low light pollution, plenty of activities. Further inland, therefore colder with more stable weather patterns.
  • Cons – Staying inside the city does have some light pollution, but as long as the Aurora Borealis isn’t too weak you will see them. So tours may be required.
  1. Abisko, Sweden

Abisko Mountain Lodge

Abisko is a lovely little arctic town in the North of Sweden, nestled between Kiruna and Narvik in Norway. The scenery is beautiful with the famous Lapporten mountain range in sight, and wonderful frozen lakes nearby. The small town is offered some protection from cloudy weather due to the Norwegian mountain range, so some say there are clearer skies in this region than others in the area. I myself have noticed that it can clear up in a very short space of time in Abisko!

I stayed at the Abisko Mountain Lodge and I really can’t say enough good things about the place. Service, food, location is all top notch, and the best part of all? You just need to step outside your room/cabin into darkness to see the Northern Lights, so you can be ready at a moments notice. So there is no need to pack  your car and head out into the dark night and sit in the cold for hours on end (as I’ve done many times!). This really is a bonus to this type of accommodation  Your window of opportunity for viewing is so much higher when you can just step outside. If you’re up for something special, you can also take a chairlift up to the Aurora Sky Station for some amazing views over the beautiful Abisko region, and hopefully a great view of the lights!

  • Pros – Beautiful scenery, excellent food, wonderful hosts, no need to go anywhere to see the lights, activities organised from the lodge.
  • Cons – Can’t think of any!
  1. Kiruna, Sweden

My family and I under the Aurora in Kiruna

Kiruna is a quirky mining town in the North of Sweden. It’s a wonderful base as from here you can get to Jukkasjarvi (where the Icehotel is) or to Abisko (my first choice).

Kiruna itself isn’t the most picturesque town, but does have a large selection of hotels, and many activities. My recommendation here if you’re not planning on staying in Abisko, is to head out to the Ice Hotel which is just a 15-20min taxi/drive from Kiruna.

Alternately you could stay in Kiruna and take nightly tours out to see the lights. But that will prove more expensive.

  • Pros – Good base, lots of activities leave from Kiruna, plenty of hotel selection. Easy access to Abisko and Ice Hotel.
  • Cons – Kiruna is a relatively large city and suffers from moderate light pollution, so you’d need to find a darker spot, either by tours, or renting a car and driving outside the city.
  1. Tromso, Norway

It’s almost a little painful for me to place Tromso 4th on the list. Tromso as far as cities go is an absolute gem. It is a gorgeous city nestled in the Arctic North. I’ve been there 4 times and loved it just as much as the time before. Some call it the Paris of the North and this title is well deserved. It is a beautiful, bustling town with every possible amenity you could think of. Restaurants, hotels, pubs, cinemas, shopping malls the lot.

City of Northern Lights

The Clarion Collection hotel is a lovely nautical themed hotel (ask for a room with a view of the harbour they’re wonderful). Very fairly priced, good food, and free chocolate waffles and coffee all day are a real plus when you return from the cold.

My personal reservation with Tromso is twofold, it is the largest Arctic city I have visited, so has the worst light pollution. It is also a coastal town, and close to the Gulf Stream, therefore temperatures are milder than you would expect, but as a result suffers more from cloudy skies.

You would likely need to drive outside the city limits to find darker skies, and further inland  if cloudy, to find clearer skies (along the E8).

  • Pros – Beautiful city, all amenities, numerous tours and tourist activities.
  • Cons – Heavy light pollution, tends to suffer from cloudy weather
  1. Yellowknife, Canada

Blachford Lake Lodge grounds

I’ve placed Yellowknife 5th on my list mostly because it’s across the pond from me ;)So for us Europeans perhaps it’s slightly more out of reach, but for all of you over on the other side of the Atlantic I can’t say enough good things about this place, in particular the Blachford Lake Lodge which is where I spent my 5 nights in Yellowknife.

The lodge is on its own private plot of land and is accessible only by Bush plane, but oh my was it worth it! The landscape is absolutely astonishing. So beautiful and desolate at the same time, with wonderful safe forest trails surrounding the property. The lodge itself is top notch and has all the luxurious commodities you would need. The Chef is professionally trained and apart from the Abisko Mountain Lodge, I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten better!

  • Pros – Amazing location with stunning scenery, private (no chance of overcrowding tourists), food to die for.
  • Cons – Hard to get to, no roads so you’re completely at the mercy of the weather.

Some other recommended locations are:

  • Norway – Lyngen, Alta, Kirkenes, Malangen
  • Finland – Inari, Nellim, Utsjoki
  • Sweden – Jukkasjarvi
  • Alaska – Fairbanks, Bettles
  • Canada – Churchill (Manitoba), Gillam (Manitoba)

Can the Northern Lights be seen further South?

Another common question is from people wanting to know whether they can see the Aurora Borealis from a little further south. This is entirely possible to a certain extent. I mentioned earlier that a good location for Northern Lights viewing was approximately North of 63/64 Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude, and in my opinion it is if you want to see the Aurora as brightly as possible, in all its glory, directly above you. (Personally I prefer to be bang underneath it at 65-67 Corrected Geomagnetic Latitude).
But this isn’t to say it’s not possible to see the Aurora to a different degree further south.

The general rule of thumb is that the further south you are from the Auroral band, the further North, and the lower, the Aurora will appear on the horizon. Keep travelling going South and eventually it dips beneath the horizon and we can no longer see it.

So how can you know if its possible for you to see it from your location?
Check out the latitude maps I linked earlier again:

Europe – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNE.html
UsA & Canada – http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/Aurora/globeNW.html

Roughly look at the location in question, and then see where you’re positioned relative to the coloured lines in the image. These are the KP Index lines. They roughly tell you what KP Activity number the Aurora needs to have, for you to be able to see it at the location in question.

The current KP Activity index can be seen here.

How many nights do I need to stay to see the Northern Lights?

The more the better! This is a little obvious, but really I always say the same thing. For most people trips to the Arctic Circle are a rarety, and expensive. All things considered I feel that since we’re going through the effort to travel so far, we might as well give ourselves the best shot! I strongly advise anyone that is serious about wanting to see the Aurora, to stay ATLEAST 3-4 nights. More really is better. There may be activity, but cloudy skies, or clear skies, and no activity, so stay as long as is possible.

According to the scientists in Kiruna, Sweden, you have about an 80% of seeing the auroras if you stay in the area for at least 3 days. This is likely too for any destination at similar latitudes (like those listed above).

I tend to spend between 5 and 7 days in any one location, and I’ve had a lot of success with this timeframe.

Can you actually see the Northern lights with the naked eye? Or is it all camera trickery?

The definite answer is YES! Yes you absolutely can see the Aurora with the naked eye. You can more than see it, when it’s active enough it’s so bright, intense and fast that your eyes won’t be able to keep up! You’ll want to stop time just to take it all in.

The problem is, there’s a common misconception that because Aurora photography can sometimes use long exposures to enhance the Aurora’s, that this is infact untrue to life, and it isn’t. When the Aurora borealis is weak, long term exposure photography is handy because it allows the camera to capture light over time, and as result you get a nice green band in your photos, much brighter than perhaps you can see yourself.

But this is just because the Aurora is weak. Infact it may appear to you (when your eyes have fully adjusted to the dark) as a pale green/ almost white band of light in the sky, immobile, and very faint. SO much so that you might think to yourself, is that it? Is that the famous Aurora Borealis?

Take the two shots below as examples, the top shot was a 2 second exposure, the bottom one an 18 second exposure!

Aurora Borealis over Nellim, Finland
2 second Aurora Exposure
Weak Aurora over Skibotn, Norway
18 Second Aurora exposure

The top picture looks almost identical to the naked eye as the photo, whereas the bottom picture really looks nothing like it did in real life and infact appeared to me as a very VERY faint, and pale band in the sky. Just remember, photos with short exposures are more true to life, longer exposures enhance what we see.

It’s important to note, the Aurora Borealis is present in a great variety of intensities, from it’s lackluster weaker form, to it’s in your face, vibrant, dancing from one side of the sky to another in 2 seconds flat form. The latter will literally take your breath away, so much so the camera might be the last thing on your mind. You will just want to stare and take it all in.

So please, don’t be put off by any weak Aurora’s you may have seen, or any stories about how it’s all long exposure trickery. The Northern Lights are by far the most beautiful natural phenomenon I’ve witnessed. You just have to be lucky and catch her right ;)

Below is some video footage I captured of the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, Canada back in March 2008. I’ve sped it up quite a bit as the display was over 2 hours long! But rest assured the movement is very fast at normal speed too! Apologies for the grain, it’s actually read video footage, not time lapse images.


Will the Full Moon affect my Aurora viewing?

Short answer, not much. I used to be put off by the Full Moon, and always booked my Aurora hunting trips around the New or Crescent Moon, but there really is no need for this and it really limited the times I could travel!

Contrary to popular belief and suggestions, the Full Moon or Gibbous Waning moon will only affect your viewing of the Northern Lights if they are WEAK. In which case, it will make it harder to see the pale green bands in the sky. But honestly? If the Aurora has any decent level of activity it really matters very little, and it’s those impressive Auroras you really want to see =)

I actually PREFER the brighter moon phases as the Moon lights up the landscape beautifully and brings out all the details in my photographs. Just remember, even the Full Moon pales in comparison to a moderate to active Aurora, and it gives beautiful photographs ;)

I guess what it boils down to is preference, and for us photographers what it is you’re after from your shots. If you want a nicely lit landscape, the Half to Full Moons actually help us out (as long as the Aurora is of moderate activity). If you want more of a Star-field, or want to capture the Milky Way and the Aurora Borealis, then plan your travels around a New or Crescent Moons as the moonlight does obscure the star field.

What colour are the Northern Lights?

The most common colour of the Aurora Borealis is shades of green. Different colours start to appear depending on what elements are interacting with our Earth’s magnetic field. As the Solar Wind becomes trapped in our Magnetic Field at the poles, the solar particles collide with atoms and ions in our atmosphere and become ‘excited’. It is the settling down of this excited state that results in the emission of ‘light’. If the excited particles in question are Oxygen, we typically see the green/yellow light, however, if the Oxygen particles are at very high altitudes, a more seldom seen Red light colour is emitted at the top of the Aurora. If it’s Nitrogen particles, we are more likely to see a blueish tinge to the Aurora. Purples, whites, blues occur often in coronas (coronas appear as almost spindle looking shapes directly above, as if reaching directly down to you), but overall green is the most common =) There isn’t a geographical place where specific colours occur, its all totally random and depends on the activity of the Auroral oval over different parts of the world.

Can we predict Aurora Borealis activity?

A lot of people message me with dates they have in mind to travel to certain destinations, and they ask if there’s anyway to know if there will be Auroras (often times these dates are months in advance!)

The truth is, predicting the Northern Lights is a tricky business and there’s never an absolute guarantee. Predictions are always most reliable the closer we are to the dates in question (much like the weather).

To be specific, it takes approximately 24-48 hours for solar wind to travel the distance from the Sun to Earth (depending on the speed of the Solar Wind or Coronal Mass Ejections (CME). So relatively accurate predictions can only really be made in that time frame, 2-3 days ahead. Here are a few useful resources for gauging general Aurora activity currently and over the next few days:

Geographic Institute at Fairbanks University - A popular general prediction model. Good used as a general guideline but not updated everyday. Predictions are made for 5-6 days ahead, however if an event occurs on the Sun, this prediction model will not account for new activity due to it’s update intervals. Take with a pinch of salt.

SWPC Prediction Center – Ovation Model - A good realtime model showing the Aurora Borealis’ current oval over the Earth. The brighter the green (or white) in the model, the more intensely the Aurora can be seen over the estimated geographical location underneath.

SWPC KP Model – The Kp model is an indication of fluctuations in the horizontal component of our geomagnetic field, also referred to as the Kp value over a 3 hour period. Kp values of 3+ are considered to be conducive to Geomagnetic storms and more intense Auroras. However, Kp’s as low as 1/2 can sometimes spark some wonderful Auroras, especially if you’re situated directly underneath the Auroral band. This is because there could be isolated substorms that do not last for a long enough period to register as a high Kp number, so the average will be lower.

Astronomy North – These guys tend to be pretty accurate with predictions and likely monitor events on the sun as well as current solar wind data.

Longterm forecasts tend to be unreliable, but there are ways to see what potential long term activity COULD be. There is a method known as the Carrington rotation (you can see an example of this on the Gedds page) which is based on the Suns rotation pattern. The Sun fully rotates on its own axis every 27 days. If there is an active Sunspot that is causing Solar Flares or CME’s, there’s a chance that 27 days later, that same Sunspot could still be there and could dish out similar levels of activity.

The problem with longterm forecasts, is that Sunspots decay and die, and their activity wanes. So the Carrington rotation is not always reliable, and when the Sun rotates completely and is facing the Earth again, a particular Sunspot might not be there anymore.

Aurora Borealis activity is never guaranteed, unfortunately it’s a little like playing the lottery. Many people are blessed with days of fantastic displays, while others leave their holiday destinations only to hear of Auroras the day they left. (Personal experience! Very frustrating).

The most important thing to remember with the Aurora is that you need to be patient. She could make you wait hours but it will be totally worth the cold and frustration when she finally puts on a show for you.

I personally use a combination of current Solar activity and Solar Wind readings from the ACE satellite, and generally know when to head outside to within an hour of activity. But the above should get you on the right track :)

Here are some photographs I’ve taken over the last 5 years or so, all of which are in the locations listed above. I hope you enjoyed my article! Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll try and answer =) You can find my full Aurora stream here

All photographic images and written content are copyright protected and are the property of Natalia Robba. If you’d like to order some prints, use my photographs, or republish my written content, please email me at natalia.robba@gmail.com to request permission.

To check out Natalia’s website head over to: http://www.natalia-robba.com/

Follow her Twitter stream here or catch up with her on Facebook here. Or join Natalia on a unique photo tour in February 2014: http://www.magneticnorthtravel.com/tour/details/northern-lights-photography-workshop-holiday-lyngen-alps-norway

Happy hunting!

Magnetic North Travel.