Tromsø is one of the most magical places I’ve been to. A bustling city tucked amongst the fjords, 190 miles North of the Arctic circle. Parts of Tromsø feel so otherworldly, but at the same time so entirely familiar. There’s a busy road network, international airport and the World’s most Northerly university. If you wander the streets after dark (which during Winter is … Almost all of the day) you’re equally as likely to stumble across the Northern lights as a pub playing Norwegian death metal.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed feeling scared. I used to love watching Are You Afraid Of The Dark at sleepovers. And reading Goosebumps books under my quilt. Ghost stories would have me terrified of bedtime. And I vividly remember watching my first Horror film. Fear was uncomfortable, but exciting.
Growing up meant my fears have obviously changed. I’m less concerned with ghosts and more likely to threat about work. Worrying about adult things is far from enjoyable. I never relish in it. And wouldn’t seek it out. But this is where my love of Halloween comes from. I love remembering those feelings.
Something which stood out for me in Svalbard, was serious nostalgia for those times. Hiding under my quilt, or too scared to repeat an urban legend in the mirror. Longyearbyen was a magical place. But some of the circumstances made the mind wander. In the same way 8 year old me would have been frightened, I found myself genuinely scared. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it.
I love the Arctic. And whilst all Arctic countries have amazing features in both seasons, I particularly love the Arctic in Winter. There’s no way of guaranteeing weather, Northern lights or wildlife. But even so there’s something magical about it. A different feeling in the air. Which is totally different to how I imagined it would be. The polar night occurs in the most Northernmost (and Southernmost although I’m yet to go to Antartica!) parts of the World. And is the period in Winter when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. The further North you go, the longer the Polar night lasts. In December in Svalbard the sun doesn’t rise for a month. Whilst during the same period in Tromsø, there would be two hours daylight each day and in Iceland four.
Some of my fondest memories of the past few years are from the time I’ve spent traveling with my husband. Although looking back on our first holiday together, I’m amazed we survived. Never mind went on any more.
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis). And over the past 4 years I’ve been lucky enough to see them several times in two countries; An experience I’ll never forget! However it’s worth noting that in that same period, I’ve been unsuccessful in seeing them in 3 occasions. Right place. Right time. Just didn’t happen.
I still feel lucky to have seem them at all! And 40% isn’t bad. However I’ve picked up some good tips along the way which I thought I would share. The Northern lights are the topic I’m asked about most, by family and friends interested in the places we’ve been.
This is a weird post to write. Looking back at my photos it looks like Finnish Lapland is as magical a place to visit as any other I post about, but my experience was overall a negative one. I wouldn’t dream of writing a post slating a country or area, or even type of holiday as it’s very subjective and I can’t stress enough that as expected, Finland and more specifically Lapland are absolutely beautiful places. However, the hotels we stayed in -which are World renowned, just this morning I saw it featured on Forbes- completely ruined it and a quick glance at TripAdvisor shows that I’m far from on my own in feeling that way.
We only stayed in Svalbard for four nights as I knew in the darkness there would be a limited number of things to do and see.
We spent the whole time exploring, often until late at night as the lack of daylight was disorienting. As taking photos in such dark conditions was really difficult, I’ve got nothing more than bad phone snaps from the trip, so I apologise in advance for the bad quality!
I have to reiterate how bad the photos I’ve taken in Svalbard are. I feel frustrated whenever I look at them but in terms of photography I can’t imagine worse conditions, light is afterall pretty essential!
The photo at the top of this post was of the mountain opposite our hotel, whilst I was testing my settings incase the Northern lights decided to show up. It’s one of the only photos I took with my SLR as it was so dark.
As Svalbard is so far North -78° North and the last land stop before the North Pole- during the Polar night the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all for several months.
The past six weeks have been a total nightmare and I didn’t think I would be going to Svalbard. Immaturely, I was more upset about the fact I’d have to miss this trip I’ve dreamed about for years than the fact I was ill. We didn’t know for sure if we would be going until the day before, but thankfully I felt ok and decided I was going to go anyway.
Svalbard is 78° North and the last land stop before the North pole (which would be pretty difficult to visit, as it’s out on the sea ice and moving slowly all the time). During the polar night the sun never rises and temperatures are normally very, very cold. I say normally, because sadly due to global warming when we visited it was relatively mild, dropping to -6° at the lowest point but staying mostly around freezing.
Svalbard is the world’s most Northern town and it has more polar bears than people, so you can’t leave the settlement -Longyearbyen- without a weapon.
It took us four flights to get there and we stayed for just four days, but it was one of my favourite trips we’ve ever taken.
I underestimated just how dark it would be, without any light pollution you could barely see in-front of you without a torch so all the camera gear I packed my only luggage with turned out to be redundant and I took almost all of my photos on my iPhone. I considered not blogging about the trip because the photos are of such poor quality but decided to do it anyway, so I apologise in advance for the photo quality!
I’ve enjoyed sharing some photos from my trip to Norway in 2014, but decided to combine the last few days in one post. Norway was so beautiful, I took literally hundreds of photos and picking ones to share for these posts has been hard as there are so many moments I loved.