Winter’s Best and Brightest Spectacle
The same extreme reaches of northern Europe that provide endless days of summer sunshine promise something just as remarkable during the otherwise daunting winter months: the Aurora Borealis (“dawning of the north”) or Northern Lights, an eerie, silent display of dancing lights in the heavens above.
On most clear winter nights, Arctic winds collide with the electron-charged atmosphere of the earth, creating an aurora of these swirling apparitions around the magnetic North Pole. The predominant color is green, but, during major nighttime shows, the skies also take on fleeting pink and gray curls along the edges, with a glimmer of lilac in the center.
To learn the cold, hard scientific facts, the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromsø, gateway to the Arctic and Norway’s self-dubbed “Paris of the North,” has the technology and film documentaries. But city lights can lessen the intensity of the spectacle: local Sami (Laplander) guides take visitors by snowmobile, dogsled, or reindeer sled to the frozen inlands of northern Norway.
The once nomadic Sami are concentrated in inland towns such as Karasjok (305 miles/485 km east), capital of the Sami region, and Kautokeino (263 miles/418 km southeast).