The arctic circle is located at the northern most pole of our world and is approximately 10,000 miles in circumference. It was interesting to learn that the arctic circle is not a fixed line and can fluctuate up to 2° depending on the axis of the Earth.
This area only has about 2 months of summer each year and temperatures in some areas can reach 80° during that period of time. Of course, in some areas it hits -32° in the winter with total darkness for up to 40 days in the winter. While the area is beautiful, it is not an area where I could live.
We boarded the Island Princess cruise ship for a two week trek into the Arctic Circle to look for the northern lights. We left from Southampton, United Kingdom.
What exactly is this phenomenon? The lights are the by-product of super charged particles of the sun that slam into our (Earth’s) magnetic field. These particles are supposedly traveling at 45 million mph when they hit our magnetic field which redirects this energy to our geomagnetic poles – north and south. Galileo gave them the name of aurora borealis and the sightings have been recorded as far back as 567 by King Nebuchadnezzar II.
Needless to say, there is quite a bit of travel time from England up to the best area for viewings – about 5 days by ship. We were hit with an Icelandic storm on day 2 that produced very high seas and 45 mph winds. This storm also created a low cloud cover that is NOT conducive for viewing the geomagnetic light storm.
After not being able to make port in Stravengar due to the storm severity, we finally passed through it and docked in Tromso. Turn on those Northern Lights!
Cold wet weather greeted us, but did not deter us! Our planned photo tour was cancelled so we had a lovely cappuccino, strolled the town, went into the Polaria Museum and back to the ship to dry off and warm up.
Back out again for an evening sauna on the end of a pier. Hot sauna then jump into the ocean and repeat. OK, we skipped the cold ocean and used the cold shower provided. Had a dozen college kids to keep us entertained. We finished up and onto the ship by 9:30.
OK, we have an 8:00 pm-midnight Northern Lights tour but nothing else planned. I made reservations at an Italian restaurant so we proceeded ashore late afternoon. Alta is a town of 20,000, but felt much smaller. We strolled the walking area, their new mall and off to dinner.
Hearth baked pizza was our focus. But with drinks in hand, we ordered a meat/cheese plate appetizer and a pizza. Their homemade marmalade from locally picked berries and local honey were the highlights! Dinner was great!
Now time for our tour with Alta Adventure. And it did not disappoint! Within minutes of the start of the journey, Marius asked us to help him look. I said, “Right there?” Pulled off the road, jumped out and everyone was snapping pictures. The birder came out in us – “Was that an owl we just disturbed and flew away?” Yep, but no one clearly saw it, so we missed IDing it. An incredible night of Northern Lights (thank you, Marius) followed with intermittent wildlife – a red fox and a pack of wolves talking – a walk to the rock etchings, finished with hot chocolate and a fire outside.
We’ve now been going from 7am till well past midnight for two days straight. We drug our bodies out and back into Alta for a beach walk and dinner. The beach walk turned into 5 miles. Our dinner was at Erica’s, tapas. The picture looks great and the food was even better!
Lofoten Islands – Gravdal and Leknes
The seven Lofoten Islands are an adventurers paradise. There is so much to see and you can hike, paddle and fish to your hearts content. Seafood is the main staple and it’s on every menu. For an area that only gets two months of summer, they have a large harvest of berries and veggies. For meat lovers, you can find plenty of game here with reindeer being very popular.
We did a walking expedition and visited the towns of Gravdal and Leknes. A beautiful day for an easy stroll.