Northern Lights rival Midnight Sun

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The prospect of seeing the Northern Lights is drawing increasing numbers of tourists to northern Norway in winter, making the phenomenon almost as popular as the Midnight Sun during the summer. Thousands are arriving regularly, from as far away as Japan and Taiwan.

The greenish light often cast by the Northern Lights is attracting tourists to Northern Norway from far and wide. PHOTO: John Stenersen

The coastal voyage line Hurtigruten has been actively marketing the Northern Lights (called nordlys in Norwegian) for the past few seasons and it seems to be paying off. “Hurtigruten has done a fine job,” Gunnar Nilssen of the tourism employers’ organization NHO Reiseliv Nord-Norge told newspaper Aftenposten. “Their project ‘Hunting the light’ has spread Northern Lights tourism all along the coast and spawned a lot of other winter activities on the side.”

While Hurtigruten ships have enjoyed increasing bookings during what used to be the off-season, hotels in the northern city of Tromsø have also seen occupancy rates in January and February that they could only dream about a few years ago, reported Aftenposten. Around 8,000 tourists arrived in Tromsø last year in the hopes of seeing the phenomenon, and the numbers are rising this year.

“The Northern Lights are on their way to surpassing the Midnight Sun in terms of tourists’ interest,” said Nilssen. “And I think this is only the beginning.”

Recent spectacular appearances of the Northern Lights along with predictions by astronomers and meteorologists that next winter will also be a good year because of solar storms, has heightened the interest and the likelihood that tourists won’t go home disappointed.

They tend to stay an average of three nights and are also drawn to outlying areas and, not least, to the seasonal hotels made of ice. “They plead with us to wake them up if the Northern Lights appear after they’ve gone to bed,” Tor Kjetil Wisløff of the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta told Aftenposten.

Among those arriving in northern Norway are Japanese honeymooners who seem to believe that seeing the Northern Lights will bring good luck to their marriage.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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