Northern Lights cruise in Norway

Northern Lights Cruises

Picture the scene: the clouds part, a hush descends, and suddenly the winter sky is transformed, a shimmering, iridescent curtain of green dancing across the firmament. Although the Arctic climate means that sightings of the Aurora Borealis are never guaranteed, a Northern Lights cruise will give you the best possible chance of witnessing this mesmerising natural phenomenon.

When to go

September to April

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Our expedition cruising guide to the Arctic will tell you everything you need to know, including when to visit, what to see and how to get there.

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Guide to the Northern Lights

What are the Northern Lights?

This spectacular light show is triggered by a high speed collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere. This causes the rarefied gases there to glow green, red and purple across the sky in an enchanting display.

The first part of an auroral display usually comes from the east, as the earth rotates into the area of maximum activity. You'll most likely see a pale green column first, but this may then grow into billowing sheets. If you're really lucky, the whole sky will be full of curving, twisting shapes. The formations can arise at any moment, filling the sky at an incredible speed.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

With the Midnight Sun bathing the Arctic in up to 24 hours of daylight in the summer, your best opportunity to see the lights is in the winter months when the sky is dark. Aurora activity is most commonly witnessed between the months of September and April, preferably under a clear, cloudless sky between 9pm and 3am.

One of the greatest barriers to witnessing the Northern Lights on a cruise is cloud cover, as they are simply not visible when it is overcast. January and February are often considered to be the best months to go in search of the Northern Lights due to the clearer skies, but of course there are no guarantees - and some say the autumn equinox and lack of winter snow clouds in September makes autumn one of the best times to go.

Where can you see the Northern Lights?

To further increase your chances of experiencing the Northern Lights on a cruise, experts recommend spending as long as you can around the Arctic Circle in an area known as the auroral oval. The auroral oval moves around depending on the level of geomagnetic activity, but northern Norway, the North Cape and Lapland are your best bet.

Within this area, the Northern Lights may be seen almost every night, but are seen less and less as you travel south. You should also get away from any light pollution, which is why an Arctic expedition cruise is perfect, taking you away from towns and cities.

What to pack for a Northern Lights cruise

First and foremost - wear layers! We recommend a cosy base layer, like wool or silk, followed by a fleecey item or two for insulation (because it really does get this cold!) and waterproof trousers are a must as a third layer to keep you dry. Make sure that your insulated jacket is windproof too with plenty of room for you to move around in. Take a hat and gloves to keep your head and fingers warm and plenty of thick, woolly socks.

As for your downtime on the ship, expedition cruises tend to embody a more relaxed approached to on-board attire, thus you'll likely not need gowns and jackets for dinners, with normal holiday wear being perfectly acceptable.

Next up, don't forget to take your binoculars! You will likely need them to hone in on the incredible wildlife and terrain. A good camera is a must have for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and make sure that you have enough batteries and memory cards while you're exploring because there likely won't be any way of buying more. Nothing worse than your camera breaking down when you're in Iceland just as you spot a killer whale in the distance.

How do you photograph the Northern Lights?

As you stand beneath one of nature's most sought-after nights you'll certainly want to snap a photograph or two to take back home with you. Some recommended equipment for keen photographers includes a tripod and cable, with longer lenses useful for tighter compositions. Taking off any lens filters, including the UV filter, is key to avoiding aberration on your images. Adjusting your aperture to as wide as your lens allows and switching from auto-focus to manual will help you to take a perfect photograph.

Aside from the actual "taking" of a photograph, the hallmark of a successful photo is its composition. You can, of course, take a photo of the striking green sky but to show it in the context of your surroundings will enhance and add a new dimension to the picture. Are you, for instance, near a forest, a lake or a mountain range? Experiment with your angles and you'll be a landscape photographer in no time!

Of course, there is no perfect set of rules for photographing the Northern Lights, as the quality of photos is reliant on light; thus there are elements of trial-and-error involved. However, experimenting with photography is half the fun, and no two auroras are the same, so play around with your settings and you'll find that you come away with a set of interesting and unique photographs.

Cruise Lines

Northern Lights cruise specialists


Ponant’s super modern fleet comprises four stylish yachts carrying a maximum of 264 guests each, six 'explorer' yachts, each carrying 184 guests, and the innovative ice-breaker vessel Le Commandant Charcot, carrying up to 245 guests in extreme environments, making it the largest modern expedition fleet in the world.

HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

With over 100 years of experience in operating the famous Norwegian Coastal Voyage, Hurtigruten is no stranger to the operation of hardy vessels in inhospitable waters, and has expanded even further with HX Hurtigruten Expeditions.

AE Expeditions

Ever since the owners took their first small group to Antarctica in 1991, AE Expeditions has remained true to its ambitions, operating small group voyages and flexible, innovative itineraries that deliver intimate and personal experiences.

Quark Expeditions

Specialising in polar expedition travel, Quark Expeditions has an innovative outlook which has resulted in a number of exciting ‘firsts’ in polar explorations for travellers from around the globe. They have a passion for polar travel, and for ensuring everyone they take to these far flung frontiers enjoys the trip of a lifetime.

Silversea Expeditions

Silversea Expeditions brings together the very best of Italian hospitality and exuberance, alongside the most inspiring team of expert guides, naturalists and scientists, and a marine team dedicated to your safety as you explore far from civilisation. This winning combination creates the ultimate adventure in style.


Every single day of the year, winter and summer, one of the Hurtigruten fleet departs from Bergen for the far reaches of northern Norway. Travellers can join for the full 12 day trip, or take a shorter leg.

Get in touch & let us tailor-make your perfect adventure holiday

Call us on +44 20 7399 7630 or visit us at our comfortable offices just off London's Regent Street.

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Mundy Adventures office, 48/49 Russell Square, London