The Aurora Borealis

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Traveling to the arctic only to see the northern lights is always strongly discouraged. The aurora borealis is so fickle that you can never be certain that you actually would get to see them too. During my previous trip to Norway I got to see them as many as three of the four days. In Finland, I didn't see them a single time. And so far I had been in Norway for five days without any luck.

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Andenes Norway

There isn’t that much to see in Andenes, but still I liked to spie around in this little port city.


We had now seen everything south of Svolvaer. But there was still a lot to discover along the north side of the Lofoten Islands!
Travel brochures, travel agencies and blogs didn’t really help us with looking for fun activities in the northern parts of the Lofoten, and so we decided to just take a leap in the dark.

The northernmost point where we could drive to was Andenes. A fishing town that is best known for its whale safaris.
If we wanted to see these big fishies, we would’ve needed to leave at half past six in the morning already. And after the past few days we didn’t really want to do that…

From Svolvaer it was a very long drive to arrive at this small village.
The scenery en route was totally different from that in the south of the archipelago. For the first time during our tour of the Lofoten Islands we weren’t that impressed.
Don’t get me wrong! The landscapes are still beautiful, but the views we had seen the last few days were even better.

The roads from Svolvaer to Andenes twirled through long tunnels, concrete panoramas and hillsides which blocked all of the nice views. During our four hour car journey we really began to miss the beautiful Lofoten landscapes we had seen earlier!

andenes port norway

Big fishing ships and boats in search for giant whales leave from the bigger port of Andenes.


“Pfew” – My mother and I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived in Andenes. After the long drive we could finally stretch our legs, and at a first glance the town seemed surprisingly nice.

We parked our car in a street with a few shops, but for the rest we saw no sign of life.
Andenes resembled a ghost town. Deserted and silent, except for the sound of screeching seagulls.

We decided to explore the village a bit more, since we didn’t really have anything else to do.
The small harbor was decorated with some modern rorbu’s, a restaurant and signage for the whale safaris. The sloshing water were home to small fishing boats and entire schools of cormorants and gulls.
Across the road we saw a kind of industrial terrain with large fishing boats, and that seemed to be the only place where we could detect any sign of life.

A big lighthouse was towering over the city, right next to the reception desk of the popular whale excursion company.

We decided to warm up in a small tavern, since we still hadn’t eaten anything yet during this long journey.
Along the way we passed a beautiful villa which seemed to be abandoned for some time now. Dozens of seagulls had built their nesting spots around the windows or under the roof of the house.
In the uninviting tavern we ordered two sandwiches and some hot drinks. We were a bit surprised, because we didn’t seem to be alone after all! A Dutch family and some school boys came here too eating their lunch.

andenes harbour

Flocks of cormorants, lots of fishery and gorgeous landscapes. An (almost) abandoned harbour town needs to be scarier!


We definitely took our time, sipping our drinks as long as possible. And in the meantime we also took full advantage of the WiFi signal, because we still had quite some time to kill.
I knew Andenes was a long drive from Svolvaer, so I decided to do this trip today. Today’s weather forecast was exceptionally good! Few clouds, and in the evening a strong aurora activity.

To significantly increase our chances of seeing the aurora I decided to drive as far as possible for the day. So that during our return we still had to conquer hundreds of kilometers of pitch black landscapes in which the aurora borealis could possibly make its debut. But before we would cruise through darkened Norwegian landscapes, we were able to enjoy the experience of a beautiful sunset still.

Around Andenes there were several gorgeous beaches. Rather than go back the way I drove this morning, I picked the much longer coastal route.
The low-hanging sun spread an orange and pink glow and made the Norwegian scenery even more beautiful.

Andenes Lofoten islands

Andenes isn’t so that bad after all!

In search of the Aurora Borealis

The sun gave up for today and it slowly it began to drop down into the sea.
We decided to start getting back to Svolvaer.
I had clearly miscalculated the timing a bit, because the sunset lasted surprisingly long. By the time the sun had completely disappeared, we were already driving for one and a half hours. Moreover, even then the skies were still dark blue and not pitch-black.

The landscapes were still nice of course, but the air was not nearly dark enough to see the Aurora swing by. We still had a long way to go and I didn’t really look forward to driving in the dark through the meandering and small roads a lot longer, so I started driving a little faster.
I still had more than a hundred kilometers to go, so in case the light did show up I still had plenty of time!

roadtrip lofoten

Come on! Why don’t the heavens start getting darker!

We waved the last village goodbye and got back on the road with the boring landscapes. Twenty kilometers further and the sky was still not completely dark.
Yet something strange was going on… It seemed as if the sky was split in two by a giant line of light.
Could it be? Was I incredibly lucky and could I finish my trip through Norway with a glance of the famous northern lights after all?!

The northern lights!

Excited I parked on a snow-strewn parking lot.
I got out of the car and yes… There she was! The northern Lights!

It was still not completely dark, but the white and green lines left no doubt. The whole sky was filled with a curved aurora borealis.
The colorful aurora held quite stiff at the moment. But I knew from previous experience that it could go dancing or even disappear at any moment.

Passionately I took my camera and tripod out of the car and crossed the street. While making my way through the thick snow I gave a thumb’s up to my mum, who was almost as excited as me.
This was certainly not the prettiest location, but the aurora is so unpredictable that you better make some pictures while you can.

aurora borealis lofoten islands norway

Finally! The Aurora Borealis! And now let’s just hope that the lights intensity increases!

The aurora would become much more visible as the sky darkened completely.

Together with my camera on the tripod I watched this phenomenon with sparkles in my eyes. During my romantic encounter with the lights I kept yelling to my mother: “Do you see it?” – “Isn’t it gorgeous?” and then I heard a “Woooow!” or “So much fun!” as a reply.

I explained to my mother earlier that the aurora actually looks completely different in real life.
Often you will see pictures where the aurora borealis is very green and seems to take over the entire sky, but that can be a little deceiving.
The Northern Lights actually aren’t that green. They’re more white with a greenish hue. Only when there is a very high aurora activity you can see the green very clearly, and if you’re very lucky you might even see some pink too.

If you want to capture the aurora with your camera, you have to use a slow shutter speed. The effect of this is that you let a lot more light into your camera lens.
This makes your camera catch the smallest vibration on screen (hence why the tripod is necessary). But at the same time, it also captures the movements of the dancing lights and thus creates a more impressive picture.

I think it’s therefore impossible to make a truthful picture of the Northern Lights on your camera. Yet this doesn’t mean that it therefore becomes less spectacular!

northern lights in the lofoten

Pitch-black skies and dancing lights! My visit to Norway was perfect!

When the upper layers of this earth were stained completely black, the aurora become more and more ferocious. And just at the moment it had become extremely bright, it also began to dance.
Gigantic light waves twirled and floated through the air. What a spectacle! A powerful burst of energy and yet you don’t hear a thing.
The strongly contrasting lines of the aurora kept getting brighter and bigger and suddenly they started to form some sort of triangular flower.
The petals became shorter and longer and a second later the strange light show exploded into a raging wild whip.

With tears in my eyes I clicked uncontrollably on my camera’s buttons while I kept checking out all of the action that was going on above.

When I returned to my mother, she told how beautiful it was. “How strange that the stars are now much more visible.” she said.
Actually I had never payed any attention to that fact, but it seemed to be correct. The stars were a lot more visible!

aurora borealis norway

The green Aurora Borealis mirrors over the white mountain tips and the watery surface.

Back to Svolvaer

An hour later we decided to head back home. The aurora still shone ferociously and so we could better seek out some other locations, because this really wan’t such a nice spot.
Along the way I stopped a few times, but it was not until an hour later that I finally stumbled upon a nicer area.

I hit a small country road where I parked next to the beach.
With my camera mounted on my tripod, I jumped through the deep snow until I landed on the cobblestones of the beach. Actually not such a smart idea, because I could’ve easily slipped between the snow-covered rocks.
The beautiful light reflected on the mirror-like surface of the ocean and the snow on the hilltops got an emerald green gaze.

“Sam? Everything OK? “My mother yelled.
Oops! It was already a half an hour later and I kept snapping pictures in these freezing temperatures.
When I walked back to our little car I was over the moon. My mother laughed.
“Aren’t you cold? You can also see the lights in the car!”
I kept rambling about how nice the lights were and how crazy in love I felt with Norway.
“You’re a real adventurer!” She said.

aurora norway lofoten

As if we hadn’t seen enough! When we got back to our hotel, we got the best view of the evening!

When we returned to Svolvaer, the northern lights behaved much calmer. The swinging light lines were less fierce and as suddenly as they had come they disappeared again.

After parking our car next to our accommodation in Kabelvåg for the last time, we got surprised by Mother Nature for the second time today.

Just above the small village, the Aurora reappeared in full regalia.

While my mother was preparing some food in the kitchen –I think I drained all of her energy these last couple of days, sorry mum!– I got to see the brightest lights of the evening. For mere seconds, the whole sky was filled with the green light, and suddenly below there also appeared some pale pink edges.

By midnight I was able to fall asleep with a big smile.
Norway had again been fantastic.

pink northern lights

Green and pink northern lights?! I honestly can say that I’m a lucky basterd!

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