The celestial dance of colors, a spectacle of nature’s artistry, the Northern Lights have long captured the imagination of many. Among the best places to witness the Northern Lights is Luleå (Lulea), Sweden, a gem in the Arctic landscape. Let’s embark on a journey to understand why you need to visit Luleå to observe this surreal phenomenon.
Why Luleå Stands Out
Luleå, located in the Norrbotten County of Sweden, is a coastal city on the edge of the Bay of Bothnia. With its crisp Arctic air, minimal light pollution, and strategic location, Luleå serves as a front-row seat to the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) theatre.
Luleå is positioned comfortably within the Arctic Circle, an area where the Northern Lights are most active. Away from the dazzling lights of major cities, Luleå’s relatively remote location ensures darker and clearer skies for an unobstructed view of the lights.
Best Times and Spots: When and Where to Look Up
There are many websites that gives you a forecast of aurora activity, however, keep in mind that Northern Lights is erratic, so there are no guarantees. Things change by the minute, so patience is key. Having said that, we used the National Oceanic And Atmosphere Administration’s site as a board guidance to when the aurora activity is most intense.
While the Northern Lights can be unpredictable, your best bet would be during the winter months, from late September to late March. During this time, the prolonged Arctic night creates a conducive environment for the lights.
The longer nights increase your chances of witnessing this spectacle. As well as, the lower the temperature will also improve your odds, since the phenomenon is caused by electrons striking very cold oxygen. Make sure also that it isn’t snowing, or have many clouds in the sky.
While the city can offer impressive views, venturing away from urban lights can dramatically enhance the experience. We explored many places; however, these four spots are what we consider as “prime” locations for a sighting. Open spaces without any obstruction, such as buildings or trees, and no lights nearby are the best.
Tips for Enthusiasts
1. The Northern Lights can be elusive. It is recommended to dedicate a few nights to increase your chances of witnessing them. We stay on average 2-3 nights. Luleå boasts several cozy accommodations, many of which offer Northern Lights packages. Opt for lodges or cabins that give you direct views of the sky. Such as, Pine Bay Lodge and Brändön Lodge.
2. Luleå’s Arctic climate can be shocking. Layer up and ensure you are well-prepared to face the cold, with the average temperature being -20 degrees Celsius. Be sure to bring clothes, gloves, and boots that are warm, wind-proof, and water resistance, as the weather can change any time.
3. If you are driving, you will need winter tires and a shovel in case you get stuck. Some roads will be uncleared and icy, don’t take any chances and stick to roads that are shoveled and salted. Bring also reflectors and flashlights so that others can see you, and you can see the terrain.
4. Local guides, well-versed with the area, can take you to the best spots and share insights about the phenomenon, enriching your experience. However, you need to book well in advance and even joining a guided tour can massively improve your chances to observe the Northern Lights, nothing is for certain.
5. Don’t forget a tripod and a camera. The Northern Lights are best captured with stable equipment and longer exposure settings. We tested that iPhone 14 and above, as well as Pixel 7, can yield good results.
6. While you are there, don’t just wait for the night. Glide on a sled through the snowy landscapes led by excited huskies, engage in the tranquil activity of ice fishing, ski across frozen lakes or speed down hills, embark on a snowmobile adventure, or visit the UNESCO listed Gammelstad Church Village. Beyond these activities, Luleå also offers a blend of Sami culture and Arctic cuisine. There are plenty of restaurants that have local dishes on their menu.
What We Learned
The Northern Lights are more than just a natural phenomenon; they are an experience that touches one’s soul. And there’s arguably no better place to embrace this than in Luleå, Sweden. Whether you are a photographer, nature enthusiast, or someone seeking a mystical experience, Luleå beckons you for an Aurora adventure like no other.
If you want up to date information about the chances of Aurora Borealis happening, then the perfect place would be the Norrsken Sverige (Northern Lights Sweden) Facebook page. The community is very active in giving updated information about the spectacle.