What we learnt from our LittleXplorers Arctic adventure…
About a year ago, I chanced upon Scandiplanet‘s poster on Facebook. I remember dropping their owner, Suriati, a message on Facebook expressing my interest to take up a package with them. Suriati had families engaging her services before, but not families with very young kids like us. We would be the first of such clients and she was keen to make our dream a reality. For the next couple of months, we were in close correspondence planning and designing for a family (and young kids) -friendly arctic tour adventure.
I’ve listed down some useful tips for families who are thinking of going to Norway to see the Northern Lights.
1. More days is better than less
We decided early on that we would set aside 5 nights for our LittleXplorer trip as we wanted a higher chance of catching the Northern Lights. We have had friends who left the Arctic region disappointed that they did not manage to catch the Northern Lights. The assumption is that they would be able to see the Northern Lights during the short period that they are in the region, hence most people set aside only 1-2 days for Northern Lights. We also found out that there is a much higher chance of catching the Northern Lights in Norway than elsewhere cos Tromsø has the best location on the Aurora lattitudinal belt, so we decided to just stick with Norway.
2. Northern Lights are unpredictable
The Northern Lights occur because of the collision between particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere. It gets pretty technical but what we gathered from Roy is that this solar activity is an important data point for him when he goes out for Northern Lights chases. There (usually) needs to be some solar activity aka the collision of particles for the lights to be seen.
3. You need to chase!
Even if there is solar activity, you need to find a spot where there are clear skies and little light pollution. That also means Tromso city might not be the best place to see the Northern Lights. You need to go for a Northern Lights chase, which means getting out of the city and finding a spot or a few spots which would give you a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Don’t assume that there would be a magnificent light display right where you are or just outside your stay for the night. It might not be your lucky day.
Do your research, opt for a Northern Lights chase package for a higher success rate. One chase alone might not be sufficient. Scandiplanet recommends that you go for 3 chases, if not 2, to increase your chances of a Northern Lights sighting.
4. Pick the right guide / package
If your base is in Tromso, I would recommend that you go with Roy from Arctic Trip. He is excellent at identifying possible Northern Light spots, he knows where the weather changing areas are, the best spots to catch the lights and he is prepared to drive beyond Norway to Finland or Sweden if necessary. He is sincere in helping his guests catch the Northern Lights and I heard that he had a perfect record last year ! Vendors with a high success rate is an important consideration too!
Do also pick an all inclusive package as you wouldn’t want to be lugging around snow suits and boots just for 1 or 2 nights of Northern Lights chase. And if you have the chance to have a meal in the outdoors, cooked over open fire, go for it. That in itself is an experience like no other!
5. You can actually see the Northern Lights elsewhere
Technically you do not need to be in the Arctic region to see the Northern Lights. What I found interesting is that you only need a Low range of solar activity to see a good display in the Arctic region. If the solar activity is on the high side, the lights will not appear strongly in the North but will be visible in places further south like Oslo and even UK and some parts of US. Point (3) applies, look for a place with little light and clear skies.
6. Manage expectations
It helped that Northern Lights was only one of the many highlights of Norway that we were looking forward to, like playing with reindeers, learning about the Norwegian culture, outdoor trekking and campfires. We wanted to manage our own expectations and not be overly disappointed in the event we didn’t get to see the lights. There is more to Norway (and Iceland, Finland, Sweden) than just the Northern Lights.
We had some of our best meals in Norway, cooked in the outdoors (as Low as -1degree at one point of time) cooked over huge open fire. We saw some of the most gorgeous sceneries, sunrise and sunset that we have ever seen before.
In the end, seeing the Northern Lights was a bonus !
7. All-inclusive package might just be worth it
We don’t usually book travel packages because we’d rather do the planning ourselves. The only travel package that we have gone for so far was for our Mini Pilgrimage early this year, and that was because we needed to purchase our Visas. We also needed guidance on the religious rituals.
The LittleXplorers package is a tie up between Scandiplanet and Arctic Trip, so you will definitely be in good hands. It is a package designed with young kids in mind. We had the flexibility to move around the activities depending on the Northern Lights condition for the day. We started our day later than most other tour groups. The boys got along well with 2 year old Markus and they had multiple play date sessions at Roy’s place. It felt more like a free & easy trip than an organised tour.
We had 1 free & easy day in Tromso city, and that’s when we first realised that Norway is an expensive country. A standard kebab meal costed us SGD$25, a can of Coca-cola was SGD$5. Having been in UK just the week before, everything seemed overly expensive in Norway. We realised then that we probably got the better end of the bargain for our all-in 6d/5n package. We figured that if we were on our own, to enjoy the experiences that we had and the food we ate, it would have probably costed us more!
The LittleXplorers Arctic Adventure turned out to be the best leg of our Europe trip. I loved it that we did all that we had planned for with Suriati, but what we got out of it was much much more than just that. We learnt a great deal about the outdoors and the Norwegian way of life. We lived like the locals, we had many firsts and we did stuff we can only dream of doing in Singapore. We survived the Arctic, and most importantly, with God’s will, we got to enjoy 2 nights of absolute Northern Lights bliss, right where we were. Definitely a trip to remember. Contact Scandiplanet if you would love to experience such an adventure too!