In pursuit of a lifelong dream to witness the Northern Lights, we ventured to the top of Norway in the height of the European winter with the hope of viewing the spectacular phenomenon.
We chose the city of Tromsø, named the "Capital of the Arctic", to begin our Arctic adventure.
Tromsø is a University city, it's alive, full of young people and tourists all here for the same reason to see the lights.
Apparently it is also popular in winter amongst Asian tourists who believe in the "Übermensch" which basically means that if you conceive a baby under the northern lights (or while they're around), your child will be a "Super Human". It's based on the philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche.
We arrived with no plans or tour bookings, and after a brief visit to the overcrowded tourist info centre with visitors steaming in to line up for guided bus tours, we made the decision to hire a car and go on our own adventure...
We picked up our hire car from the airport, stocked up on snacks, supplies (and a thermos) and took to the road.
This was the best decision we ever made!
Lucky for us, the 2 nights we were in Tromsø were perfect. The conditions couldn't be better. The visibility of the Northern lights depends on a lot of variables - light pollution, cloud cover, location, moon phases and weather.
The lights, also named 'Aurora Borealis', are fast moving, electrically-charged particles originating from the suns solar winds, attracted to the poles by the Earth's magnetic field. In the Northern hemisphere, they're called Aurora Borealis, and in the Southern Hemisphere, they're called Aurora Australis. The colours of swirling light are caused by the various different gases in the upper atmosphere and how far the different solar particles get through our atmosphere to react with the different layers of atmospheric gases.
As I was in the passenger seat I was on the look out to spot the lights as we drove away from the city.
Only 10 kms out of Tromso I noticed something out the car window that wasn't there before. It looked like a fast moving cloud forming before my eyes. We pulled up and got out and sure enough there she was - our first glimpse of Aurora Borealis.
Excited and confident in our choice to do our own tour, we ventured on and followed the road alongside the fjord and came to a stop. We got out of the car and noticed the "lights chasers" tourist van parked in front of us. We realised we had found a secret spot the tour companies take you to. We got out of the warmth of the car into the freezing conditions and set up the camera. Lucky we did because within minutes the lights appeared dancing around us showing bright greens and pinks moving so quickly it was hard to believe our eyes.
We overheard an American tourist from the bus in front say she has waited 20 years to see the lights after many failed attempts. We couldn't believe our luck!
Temperatures were around -17 - -20 degrees Celsius, which meant taking your hand out of a glove for more than a minute you would loose all feeling.
But despite the cold we were feeling privileged and blessed to have instantly witnessed the Northern lights. We continued on around the fjord towards a town further North/West called Tromvik.
Following the Fjord we noticed buses and vans pulled up on the banks with tour groups circled around the fire.
We found a spot a little further down the road and realised we were completely alone.
As we got out of the car and began to set up we looked up and above us and to our amazement the lights started to form all around us. The only way to explain it, was like we were in the centre of a circle vortex with the lights 360 degrees dancing around us in all colours, like a nocturnal rainbow in the winter darkness. We couldn't take enough photos, the lights were moving so fast they were so bright and changing before our eyes. The colours were getting brighter and swirling around us filling the sky. We were alone together watching this, when there were hundreds of tourists in groups to see the lights who would have only seen a glimpse of what we experienced, it was pure magic. We felt it was a show just put on for us.
As we gazed at the lights in disbelief I was close to tears, and gave thanks to goddess Aurora for putting on this visual feast for us. In that moment, it was all well worth enduring the long journey and sub-zero temperatures to witness this incredible vivid display of light.
Our Arctic experience really was a once in a lifetime trip, to see the magic of the Aurora Borealis, stay in an Ice Hotel Igloo, go dog sledding through a breathtaking nature reserve with only us and the dogs piloting the sled and enjoying the gorgeous glow of snow that blankets the city this time of year.
I would recommend anyone wanting to tick the Northern Lights off their bucket list to visit Tromsø, hire a car and witness the phenomenon of the Northern Lights for yourselves.