Posted on 17-Sep-2018 by Administrator
If someone were to tell you that there were places where you could see the sky smeared with bright neon patches that seemed to play hide and seek over the canvas of the night-sky, you would probably say it was coming straight out of a fantasy book. But, strange as it may seem, this phenomenon is not only real, but something that can be seen multiple times in all its glory in multiple countries worldwide. Northern lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are a series of multi-coloured patterns- ranging from neon green, to violet to purple and even red- that can be seen cross the sky for the about six months a year in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Finland and even some parts of Alaska, Canada and Scotland. Specifically, it occurs within the Northern Lights zone (at latitudes 65 to 72 degrees). It is truly a spectacle that cannot be justified by mere words, rays of lights stretching out like the hands of some heavenly body, sometimes with unmistakable grace, and sometimes, with a velocity so fierce it looks as if there is a celestial power hell bent on forking the sky into two.
There are ancient Viking legends about the Northern Lights that say that the illuminations in the sky are the reflections of the Valkyries’ armour as they led the warriors to Odin. In Sweden, fishermen believed that the lights were reflections of giant schools of herring swimming beneath the ocean. The Aurora Borealis are so deeply ingrained in the culture of these nations, you can find a different native legend in every country you visit, each as interesting and variant as the last. What really causes the Northern Lights, as we now know, are the clashes of high-energy electrically charged particles originating from the sun, trying to penetrate the surface of the earth. Yet, the sheer beauty that it conjures makes the viewer disregard the science behind and it believe that the powers above are truly engaged in a magnanimous, magical tug-of-war.
But what you might be wondering is, why do you specifically need a cruise in order to enjoy the Aurora Borealis when they can be seen from several nations in the upper Artic Region? Well, you surely could, had you made this trip about a century ago. Modern day electricity and vibrantly lit up nights in almost every country make the impact of the lights dimmer. The darker the surroundings are, the more vibrant the lights. The ethereal silence mid-sea also adds to the out-of-the-world feel that the lights give. Also, most cruises today have outdoor observation desks as well as on-board announcements specifically for the Northern Lights, not to mention the fact that there can be no joy greater than to see the bright lights reflected back in the eyes of your family and loved ones in the middle of the inky black waters.
The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the autumn and winter months, September being a particular favourite of most cruise-goers. Although the lights can be seen all year round, the winter months having lesser daylight make them more effective. Cruise liners are offering cruises lasting anywhere between seven to twenty-one days. And there is no limitation to the activities and entertainment options at your disposal during the day. Explore exotic towns and indulge in activities such as reindeer and dog sledding, sailing in river boats, exploring local cuisines and market places not to mention the entertainment, shopping and leisure options available on the ships themselves. The following are some of the best places to visit while on a Northern Lights cruise tour:
Norway: Norway is quite the ideal destination for anyone wanting to get a taste of the exquisite Norwegian lifestyle during the day with activities such as dog sledding, King crab fishing, the famed Whale Safari in Tromso, and visits to Kirkenes, Stavanger, Alta and Bergen. Artic Norway being located in the middle of the Northern Lights zone, as well as its proximity to other Scandinavian countries, can help you tick off multiple holiday destinations on one cruise while being spellbound by the Lights at the same time.
Iceland: Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a particular favourite of passengers travelling with their young families. The city is dotted with kid-friendly activities, from whale watching trips, the domestic animal zoo as well as Tjornin, an idyllic city pond were children can feed ducks.
Greenland: Contrary to what its name suggests, quite a lot of this island is actually snow covered and white, and far removed enough from the glitz of the cities to be an ideal place to see the Aurora Borealis. A cruise to Greenland will also give you the opportunity to explore its varied wildlife including polar bears, whales, musk oxen and a number of rare species best seen in their natural habitat.
Scotland: A world away from the business of London and the rest of the UK, the Scottish highlands and nearby islands feel like a gateway to heaven, particularly when you can see green pastures and moors around you, and the ‘mirrie dancers’ -as the Northern Lights are called there- in the sky. A cruise to Scotland will also take you to Faroe Islands, Lerwick in Shetland and Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands. Lerwick, Shetland’s main port, is on the same latitudinal level as Bergen in Norway, and the wonder of seeing the lights from these clutches of islands can be nothing short of magical.
While there are a number of cruise liners offering Northern Lights cruises, there is probable none as well versed, trusted and innovative in doing so than the Hurtigruten cruises. They have a highly skilled and experienced crew and a diverse fleet consisting of nimble, intimately-scaled expedition ships, as well as astronomers present for certain cruises, to make sure you can see the lights every night, and from the best spots as well. What their ships do not have in state-of-the-art luxury they more than make up with the atmosphere that they provide you with, giving more priority to nature and serenity with like-minded, sophisticated travellers. What’s more, while in Northern Norway, Hurtigruten sails directly beneath the Auroral Zone, an area of consistent auroral activity. They visit thirty-four ports from Bergen to Kirkenes, 22 of which are north of the Arctic Circle, and sail every day of the year. Also, Hurtigruten is the only cruise line that gives a Northern Lights guarantee on their 12 day voyage.
Another mainstream cruise liner, P & O Cruises departs from Southampton, with a stop at Amsterdam before sailing north to Norway. Celebrity Cruises offers gives you a lucrative land package in Reykjavik, Iceland with the on-cruise Northern Lights experience. Small Cruise Ship Collection is offering 14 night cruises starting this September touring inarguably three of the best places you can see the Northern Lights the best from, Norway, Greenland and Iceland. If you have the insatiable hunger explore the tranquil coastal life along with the exotic scenery in these seemingly tucked away nations, this cruise is ideal for you. Cruise & Maritime Voyages, on the other hand, has an impressive line-up of cruises for the Northern Lights beginning this October. This includes the 14 night Land of the Northern Lights tour, the 21-night multi European city tour also exploring several locations exclusively for the Northern Lights, and the 13-night Iceland and Northern Lights tour, many of them at major discounts going up to 60%! For cruises exclusively for Greenland, there is the Arctic Umiaq Line, a year round ferry freight cruise ship touring over ten ports on Greenland’s west coast, carrying over 250 passengers.
What you need on a Northern Lights cruise, along with lots and lots of warm clothing, is also a fair bit of patience. Perhaps the best thing about these magical lights is the fact that there is no set pattern, each is as magnificent as the last, and the true thrill is to see it racing along the canvas of the sky. A simple google search, or any number of HD photographs cannot do justice to the sheet opulence of this brilliance of nature. But carry all the cameras you want, with every frame picturesque, whether the winter wonderland during the daytime, or the Auroral wonder come dusk.
It is an experience that unlike its fleeting presence in the sky, will stay in your memories forever. Go North!