What no one tells you about the northern lights

IMG_0805 (1)As a child, I did not fancy having a truckload of clothes or cars. Infact I dreamt about being an astronaut because the stars and the sky enchanted me. Today I may not be an astronaut but I am still pretty much enamoured by the night sky.

My first encounter with the northern lights was in a newspaper. I marvelled at the phenomenon, googling more about what they actually are. I fell in love. I hoped that I would someday chart this territory.

Nearly 16 years later, in 2016, I took the onus of deciphering the lights. Tromso it was!

On arrival in one of the world’s northernmost towns, I was greeted by twilight. Yes, December barely sees the sun and for 3 days I was on a joy-ride enjoying the nights.IMG_0713I decided to sign up for one of the tours by Arctic Explorers. The probability of seeing the lights in tromso was bleak. Hence Monica our guide from Arctic Explorers decided to drive to the town of Ulkeinemi in Finland so we could get clearer skies and higher activity.  With a close knit bunch of travellers (just 8 of us), it was indeed a tete-a-tete to remember.

Interestingly Ulkeinemi falls on the border with Sweden and Finland on either sides. Simply cross over the bridge and you’re in Sweden. Being vegetarian, I was given a meal of soup and oats with roasted marshmallows for dessert. We roasted them in a bonfire on the frozen river, caring a damn about any melting ice, only because it was too deep to give away. 🙂 Oh yes, and at -20, you do need something to keep you warm. Another good thing about arctic explorers was the fact that they also give you thermal suits, shoes and gloves beforehand. Without these, you cannot fathom moving around in that cold.


A display with pale, white-like clouds in the sky dancing in all glory is how the Aurora appears to the naked eye. Here’s all you need to know about the aurora which most people and companies don’t tell you.

  1. The aurora doesn’t appear lavishly green to the naked eye as in the photographs. Know why? Because a camera with more than 20-30 seconds of exposure can capture the colours in a much more pronounced manner than the naked eye. A very weak Northern Lights can appear extremely strong on camera.
  2. The different colours are actually different gases- Green, Purple, Orangish-yellow being emitted on account of heightened solar activity.

  3. Always go for tour companies that are committed to giving you a good experience and who do not mind moving around to see a place of heightened activity. A lot of the operators are simply money-minting machines who claim to ‘give you the experience of a lifetime’.

This is not to say that the aurora is any less spectacular. It remains by far a baffling experience, one that you should vow to experience.IMG_0884