what it's really like to see the northern lights
Updated: Aug 18
Seeing the northern lights is something that is pretty much on everyone's bucket list, and some people spend their whole lives chasing them never to see them. Thanks to the endless pictures and videos online we all have this magical vision of what it'll be like if we do ever get to witness them, but does it live up to expectations?
The first thing you need to realise is that literally EVERY photo online is taken with absolute frickin PRO cameras and taken by people who know how to use them: exposure, saturation, shutter speed and other things I read about but can't remember. Seeing them with your own naked eyes is entirely different - but not in a bad way!
Truth is, most showings of the lights are very dull; mostly appearing as more of a cloud than this glorious display of dancing colour that you were expecting - something I definitely WASN'T aware of when I booked a tour.
IT TAKES A WHILE
For some reason, and honestly I really don't know why, but I had this vision in my head of getting off the tour van to this absolutely magical display bursting across the skies, and looking round in awe.
The reality, on the other hand, is that you'll likely spend the whole night driving to and from different places due to forever changing forecasts. You'll be constantly looking out of windows CONVINCED you just saw a flash of colour but wondering whether to tell anyone in case it wasn't.
You'll stand freezing your absolute bollocks off and wonder if it's even WORTH standing in the middle of nowhere in several feet of snow trying not to get too disappointed as time ticks by.
But trust me; it is worth every second waiting.
It's worth the crushing disappointment as you realise that the tiny greyish smudge in the sky IS in fact the lights, but that it's just too cloudy, or they're just not very active tonight. It's worth not even wanting to wait around for the cloud to shift if this shitty grey smudge is all you're gonna see.
BUT BE PATIENT. Trust your guide; they've likely grown up seeing the lights every winter- they know their shit. When the lights do decide to show, my god they put on one hell of a show.
In all my life (and by that I mean all (almost) twenty years of it) , I've never EVER felt the way I did the first time I saw the lights dance.
From what was a crappy grey smudge in the sky to what became singularly the most spectacular sight I'll likely ever witness. No photos or videos can capture the absolute elation and joy and downright AWE that seeing the lights brings.
And until I die, the thing I'll remember most is not the lights themselves, but the excited gasps and hoots of joy and the sound of awe that everyone there that night felt.
So even if you don't see them the first, second, or fiftieth time you try, KEEP TRYING because I can promise you that every second will have been worth it when you finally do!