The Northern Lights, a Bucket List Experience

14 December 2023
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When Pentravel Expert Loryn Holmes first heard that she was going to see the Northern Lights, she was overwhelmed with excitement – and spent many hours researching exactly what she was in for! 

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is a natural light display in the sky caused by solar wind (as well as loads of other scientific influences which we won’t get into, like magnetic fields, ionisation, coronal mass ejections and optical emissions). Auroras take different forms, but the most distinctive and brightest are curtain-like arcs, which you can only see in high-altitude polar regions. No wonder travelling to the Northern Lights is such a popular Bucket List experience! 

Where can you see the Northern Lights?

Like any natural phenomena, the Aurora Borealis is as elusive as it is beautiful. To maximise your chances of seeing the ethereal display of dancing colours, there are a handful of places on earth that will give you the best shot. These include certain areas in Sweden, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, Scotland, or Norway, where Loryn got to see nature’s magical show. 

Her epic adventure began on a midnight flight to Bergan. With a full day to explore from her hotel, The Grand Hotel Terminus, Loryn got to enjoy several Bergen attractions, such as Bryggen Street, a UNESO World Heritage Site. “The brightly coloured wooden buildings that run the length of the street date back to the 20th Century and are where you’ll find awesome little trinkets or souvenirs to take home,” she said. 

Other notable attractions include the Fish Market and the Fløibanen Funicular up to Mount Fløyen. “Just an 8-minute ride and you’re rewarded with the most amazing view over Bergen!” Weather permitting, Loryn suggests you enjoy a cup of coffee out on the viewing deck. “If not, take comfort inside the shop or restaurant at the top,” she adds. 

All aboard for a Northern Lights cruise

Loryn’s journey continued on board the Hurtigruten MS Nordlys, a Norwegian expedition ship that’s been kitted out especially for trips to the Northern Lights. “It’s not your typical cruise ship,” she said. “Hurtigruten is renowned for exploration, experience and expedition, with entertainment more geared towards education.”  

Having undergone a massive refurbishment recently, the Hurtigruten MS Nordlys now boasts an aft-facing main restaurant with deck-to-ceiling windows, an Activity Center, a fine dining restaurant which serves innovative dishes and a gym, with two aft-facing outdoor hot tubs. 

On deck 7, the Multe Bakery serves freshly baked cakes and pastries, smørbrød (open sandwiches with generous amounts of topping), smoothies, a large assortment of local ice cream with homemade toppings, premium coffee, organic herbal tea, and premium juice. 

Then there’s the forward-facing Explorer Lounge and Panorama Bar offers a unique atmosphere and the best views on the ship – with front-row seats for enjoying the Northern Lights, Midnight Sun, wildlife and nature as it passes by. 

Plus, the staterooms and suites are extra-large – some with bay windows and spectacular views. “There’s enough cupboard and storage space to pack a good few weeks’ worth of clothing!” added Loryn. 

Life on board

The MS Nordlys has her own on-board Expedition Team that serves as a university at sea. Interesting lectures, presentations and activities inside as well as out on the sun deck of the ship make this an exciting and educational journey.  

“There is always an activity to get involved in, whether it be a local food tasting, presentations on the Northern Lights, Vikings or even learning to folk dance,” said Loryn. Out on deck you may participate in live points of interest to learn more about the nature, culture and other phenomena you encounter along the coast. “In addition, there are a number of tours to choose from in most of the stops along the way.    

Exploring Norway

On land, Loryn explored some of Norway’s most remarkable destinations and attractions, such as Trondheim and the Trondheim CathedralBodø and Saltstraummen, and the Lofotr Viking Museum“I would have loved to have spent more time in Trondheim. This quaint little town offers the visitors a truly unique cultural experience,” she said. 

Loryn also got to experience an authentic viking dinner, dog sledding at TromsoVillmarkssenter, and an excursion to the North Cape. 

So, how was it?

Loryn concludes: “When people ask how it was, the only word I can use to describe it is amazing. With any travel destination, you can only attempt to paint a picture for someone – until you have experienced it firsthandYou have to see it for yourself.

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