'Northern Lights is a handy practical guide' Daily Telegraph
'Bradt has published the first-ever Northern Lights travel guide, which answers those how, what, where and when questions posed by travellers in search of the dazzling atmospheric phenomenon' TNT Magazine
'Northern Lights is a good companion guide' Marie Claire
'Northern Lights gives some good advice on the best countries and destinations from which to view the aurora borealis nd there are good tips on what you should wear' Sky at Night
The northern lights are one of the major tourist draws of the Arctic and sub-Arctic winter. This book covers information on everything from how to photograph the aurora, to what to wear, to how the forecast works. It offers advice on the best European countries in which to see them, and why, and provides information on tour operators offering northern lights packages. Bradt’s Northern Lights is the only guidebook on the market that caters to the large number of people whose dream is to see the aurora borealis.
One night, a few years ago, I went on an evening visit to a commercial northern-lights viewing centre. I didn’t much want to go. I’d spent several months living in the far north, researching a book about dogsledging, and I’d seen the northern lights plenty of times. I’d become a bit blasé about tourist outings when I’d watched the aurora regularly from the doorstep of my own cabin. That evening, I preferred the idea of curling up beneath the duvet and going to sleep. But I was working as a journalist, specialising in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, I was on a press trip, and I had to go.
And so began one of the most remarkable evenings of my life. That night, the northern lights put on the most extraordinary display, the likes of which I had never imagined. First they crept up like green bony fingers from the horizon, as I’d seen many times before. But then they grew and swirled until they swept across the entire sky. They seemed to take on every possible form. At times they unfurled from the tree-clad horizon like a genie bursting from a bottle. Then they’d arc, or undulate like a curtain. At times they seemed to climb up into a three-dimensional tepee (which I now know is a coronal form, meaning the lights were performing over my magnetic zenith – see page 000), only to collapse downwards like a pile of luminous pick-a-sticks. They were pale-green, with a scarlet underbelly, and they danced across the starry black with a speed that I’d never thought possible.
I’d climbed to the top of a small hill, set up my tripod, and was taking photographs. The pictures were coming out brilliantly – but I could only snap one segment of sky, then another, and I couldn’t record the astonishing swirling movements. And so, in the end, I saw sense. I stopped taking photographs, lay down in the snow, and just immersed myself in the moment. The show lasted just ten or fifteen minutes but provided perhaps the most intense experience of beauty that I have ever known.
Most people travelling in quest of the northern lights won’t catch a display of this intensity. Some won’t manage to coincide their visit with any auroral activity at all. But even if you’re not lucky with the lights, a trip to the Arctic in winter will provide memories that, in my opinion, no beach holiday can ever match. There’s something about the blue light of the mornings that turns buttercup-yellow at noon, then takes on pinky tinges as evening falls, the serenity of the pure-white landscapes, the intricate design of a single snowflake, the sparkling jewels of hoar frost as it grows on the branches of spruce, that gets inside you and leaves you fixated on the Arctic, determined to return time and again. In the daytime, there’s dogsledging, skiing and snowshoeing for the energetic,snowmobiling for adrenalin enthusiasts; for the night, northern Europe is home to an ever-increasing array of ice hotels, oh-so-contemporary igloos, and cosy log cabins with roaring wood stoves. I hope that this booklet will help you to learn not just about the northern lights, but to taste of the wider holiday experience the northern countries offer. And I hope that you, like me, will find your northern journey so mesmerizing that, across the years, you can’t help but return.
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