Blanketed in polar night during the winter months, northern Norway is renowned for its aurora. Thomas Rees picks six places where you can see it in style
Just over an hour outside Tromsø, in the wilds of Norwegian Lapland, Camp Tamok offers a range of accommodation options for adventurous aurora hunters. Visitors can watch the lights from the warmth of a Sami tent, take shelter in the camp's Wilderness Cabin or rent one of three chalets with aurora watching windows set high in each wall. A stay at the camp can be arranged as part of reindeer-sledding expeditions and snow-mobile tours.
In Tromsø itself, a northern lights festival runs throughout January and February with events at the town's observatory and midnight concerts featuring Norwegian folk musicians in the Arctic Cathedral.
The logistics: Prices from NOK 995 (£100) per person with 50% discount for children aged 15 and under. More information: lyngsfjord.com/index.php/overnight-stay-menu
The Kirkenes peninsula in the remote north-east of the country enjoys spectacular auroral displays. At the Snow Hotel, travellers can track them down on guided snow-shoe treks and overnight tours into wilderness areas far from sources of light pollution. The hotel itself is home to Norway's largest ice bar and is decorated with elaborate statues sculpted by artists from the Chinese city of Harbin. Though some of their creations might be considered a little tacky (the prospect of waking up to the image of a life-size cartoon snowman holds limited appeal), it's an impressive place to spend the night. Guests can sample Norwegian specialities, including reindeer meat and Arctic char, in the adjoining Gabba Restaurant or catch their own on ice-fishing expeditions for the region's famous red king crabs.
The logistics: The hotel is open between the 20th of December and the 20th of April. Rooms from NOK 2,450 (£244) per person. Prices include transfers from Kirkenes city centre, a three-course dinner in the hotel's restaurant, sauna and breakfast. More information: kirkenessnowhotel.com/
Built afresh every year on the banks of the Alta River, the Igloo Hotel is sculpted from vast blocks of compacted snow and furnished with ice couches, a bar and even a wedding chapel. As Wanderlust's intrepid editor Phoebe Smith discovered, it's the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding wilderness and to seek out Norway's elusive aurora. The hotel offers snowmobile excursions, sledding and fishing trips along with overnight stays in traditional Sami lavvo on the Finnmark Plateau. The tents are heated by crackling log fires with blankets and reindeer skins to keep you warm as you wait for the lights.
The logistics: The hotel is open between the 6th of January and the 12th of April. Rooms from NOK 2,150 (£215) per person. Prices include bus transfer to and from Alta town centre, a morning sauna and breakfast buffet. Those not wishing to stay the night can arrange a visit to the hotel for NOK 105 (£15) per person. A drink in the igloo's ice-bar costs NOK 100 (£10). More information: sorrisniva.no
Set before the backdrop of the Lyngen Alps with sweeping views over the fjord below, the giant viewing platform of the Lyngen Lodge is ideally placed for star-gazing. Northern lights season runs from the 1st December to the 1st March and includes lectures on the phenomenon along with courses and advice sessions led by photography experts to help visitors capture the aurora on film. Northern light tours in the Lyngen Alps National Park can also be organised along with cross-country skiing and ice-fishing trips.
The logistics: NOK 1,925 (£192) per person per night for full board in double or twin sharing rooms. More information: lyngenlodge.com
Famed for their glaciers and populations of polar bears, the Svalbard Islands lie deep within the Arctic circle, over 78°N in places. The polar night reaches its peak in December and the first tendrils of daylight don't make their tentative return until February. Before then it's possible to glimpse the aurora at any time of day. The glass-ceilinged 'Cognac Loft' of the Trapper's Hotel provides an excellent vantage point. Furnished with driftwood, slate, seal-skins and furs, the hotel's hunter's lodge aesthetic is well suited to the weather-beaten archipelago. Rent a pair of skis and venture out into the mountains of Longyearbyen or stay in the warm with the hotel's bookshelves, well stocked with tales of Arctic exploration, for company.
The logistics: Rooms from NOK 1090 (£109). More information: www.basecampspitsbergen.com/hotels/Longyearbyen
It's hard to think of a more stylish way to see the aurora than from the waters of an on-deck hot-tub with a glass of champagne in hand. Hurtigruten offer a range of cruises along the Norwegian Coast that promise views of snow-covered fjords and a chance of glimpsing aurora-tinged skies. Some voyages even come complete with an on-board astronomer providing lectures and advice. The ships stop at regular intervals with opportunities to visit Tromsø and the former Viking capital of Trondheim founded in 997 AD. Trips into the Norwegian interior can be also be organised and include husky-sledding and snowmobile expeditions along the mountainous Finnmark Coast to the former trading post and fishing village of Kjøllefjord.
The logistics: At the time of writing Hurtigruten was offering a 2-for-1 deal on winter voyages with prices starting at £433. A 5-6 day Artic Highlights and Northern Lights cruise costs from £999 per person. More information: hurtigruten.co.uk
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