The first time I got to know about the Northern Lights was through the animated movie Brother Bear. The artistry was so mesmerising that I yearned for the opportunity to admire the Northern Lights in their full splendour.

To cross this experience off my bucket list, I travelled all the way to Iceland this year to bear witness to the Northern Lights at the height of their magnificence. Though expensive, the opportunity to capture the lights was a once in a lifetime experience that I did not regret.

There were, however, a handful of things that I wish I had known about the Northern Lights prior to my visit. Whether you are about to visit the lights or are planning to catch it in future, here’s some information on how to prepare yourself for a truly arresting adventure.

  1. Manage your expectations
Northern Lights 1
Photo Credit: Nicholas Guyon, Swedish Lapland Northern Lights. 2016.

You’ve probably come across pictures of the Northern Lights on the Internet. The glorious, pastel hued rays of pink, purple, orange and green may make you giddy with the anticipation of seeing the Northern Lights in real life.

Unfortunately, what you get in photographs may not be what you’ll see in real life. Your camera may capture a myriad of colours shrieking across the sky, but don’t be disappointed if what lies before you is not what you’ve been envisioning from the photographs.

As our eyes are unable to detect certain colours in low-light environments, instead of dazzling belts of pink and orange, what can be viewed by the naked eye may very well be clouds of grey and white.

  1. Pack a proper camera

    Photo Credit: Wong, Ka Wing Swedish Lapland Northern Lights. 2016.
    Photo Credit: Nicholas Guyon, Swedish Lapland Northern Lights. 2016.

If you’d like to view the lights and their full spectrum of colours, a good camera is definitely mandatory.

With all that money spent on travelling to the Northern Lights, it’d be a waste if you are unable to experience the lights in all their grandeur. Through the camera, you’ll be able to catch the subtle rays floating across and dancing the sky.

If you do not own a DSLR – or if it’s too bulky to bring along on your travels – GoPro cameras provide a portable alternative that are still capable of capturing the lights. However, GoPro cameras are harder to stabilise, as you’ll have to hold the camera still for a few seconds to capture the light rays.

  1. A 300-day window to schedule your trip
    Northern Lights 3Photo Credit: Nicholas Guyon. Swedish Lapland Northern Lights. 2016.

Do your research before visiting one of nature’s greatest marvels, and it will definitely be one of the most fulfilling experiences you’ve ever had in your life. Unknown to many, there are about as many as 300 days in a year in which there will be clear skies for you to catch the Northern Lights.

When scheduling your trip, remember to check for the ideal dates to catch the lights, typically from September to March. If you fail to check the Aurora forecasts prior to your trip, don’t be disappointed if you only manage to catch a speck of green light due to an unexpectedly low Aurora forecast value.

However, as with most other naturally occurring phenomena, the universe can be fickle, and the weather unpredictable.

Even with all the preparation in place, it is still up to fate- and perhaps a stroke of luck-  as to whether you’ll be graced with the opportunity to view the Northern Lights in all their splendour.

The next predicted period with maximum level of solar activity is estimated to be in 2025, so mark your calendars and start lining your bank account.

  1. The Southern Lights
Northern Lights 4
Photo Credit: Nicholas Guyon Swedish Lapland Northern Lights. 2016.

The elusive cousin to the Northern Lights, the Southern Lights, is a less popular tourist decision, due to the sheer difficulty and inconvenience to travel to view it.

Unlike the North where land is aplenty, there are few places down South enough that will allow you to view the Auroras. The Southern Lights are as impressive as their Northern counterpart and may leave you with a fuller heart, due to the fact that few have embarked on the same path before you.

Travel is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Iceland and Norway have many other beautiful spectacles to offer other than the auroras, so breathe in the sights and sounds on your trek up; the opportunity to view the dancing lights is but a bonus.


*All images displayed in this article are the property of the photographer, Ka Wing Wong. Images may not be redistributed or redisplayed without permission of the photographer.

Amanda Tay is a writer at ShopBack Singapore. ShopBack provides cashback on your travel bookings, allowing you to save more on your hotel and flight bookings to catch the magnificence of the Northern Lights.

about Amanda Tay

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