What to expect on a cruise to see the northern lights

Wednesday, 2 January 2015 7:48 AM

If you are hoping to book a truly memorable cruise, a trip to see the spectacular northern lights should certainly be on your shortlist. These are one of the most unusual natural phenomena in the world; to find out more about what to expect on this kind of cruise, read on.

An introduction to the northern lights

Also known as the aurora borealis, the northern lights are an unforgettable sight. Typically green in colour - though sometimes with shades of pink and purple too - the lights decorate the night sky in Norway at intervals between late September and late March.

It is not possible to predict when exactly the lights will appear, so it is important to be patient when waiting for them to come out - and to remember that there is no guarantee you will see them at all. However, one of the advantages of cruising to Norway to observe them is that you can spend several evenings on the lookout, therefore giving you a better chance of seeing them than you might have on shorter trips.

Typically, the lights appear most frequently in winter and early spring, which is why you will find many northern lights-focused cruises - such as those offered by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines - depart in February. You need to be prepared to spend a few hours watching the sky waiting for the spectacle to appear, so remember to bring some warm clothes.

What else your cruise might involve

While you are likely to be most excited by the prospect of seeing the northern lights, one of the key benefits of deciding to go on a cruise is that you will have so much more to look forward to. Depending on the itinerary you choose, Molde, Tromso, Alta, Kristiansund and Bergen may be among the amazing destinations you get to explore.

In each destination, there will be a number of excursions you can take. In the town of Molde in Norway, for example, you will have the opportunity to visit the fascinating Romsdal Outdoor Museum, which comprises more than 40 buildings. As you explore, you can learn aabout local history all the way from the Viking period to the 19th century - and you might even see a performance of a local folk dance.

Tromso is another exciting place to visit. Home to the world's northernmost university (the University of Tromso), it is a popular spot for observing the northern lights. While you are here, you can take a tour and see landmarks like Tromso Church, which is the north's largest wooden church, as well as the Northern Lights Planetarium.

The city of Alta - which is also in Norway - is another marvellous destination to discover. By taking a city tour, you can learn all sorts of exciting things, including facts about its history, culture and economy.

One of the most interesting things about Alta is that remnants of Stone Age settlements dating back a huge 10,000 years have been discovered here, while 6,000-year-old rock carvings have also been found. You can see the latter on a trip to the wonderful Alta Museum, since these were uncovered right next to it.

Other exciting excursions include trips to Norway's beautiful fjords, such as the Hardangerfjord, and cycling around the charming city of Bergen. All these wonderful trips make a cruise to see the northern lights all the more memorable.

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