Northern Lights dimming no bigie
Despite coming to the end of a solar cycle, the Northern Lights are not about to pack up and disappear. “If you are speaking to the locals, and I am one of them, I grew up with the Northern Lights, the cycles aren’t really that significant in regards to seeing the lights,” explains Tietse Stelma, CEO & co-founder of specialist tour operator 50 Degrees North. “Of course you do see more activity in certain years, but if you wanted to go see the Northern Lights in the next five or six years then there’s plenty of opportunities to see them, you just need to have a well-designed tour and make sure that you know the weather patterns of the region.” The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, goes through a brightness and dimness cycle dependent on the activity of the sun. It has been suggested the cycle is now moving into a “solar minimum”, where less activity means less Northern Light activity. But Stelma assures it will still be possible to find the lights – with the right direction. “I think it’s important that you speak to someone that really knows what they’re talking about,” he says. “If you know the weather patterns and know how to design a good trip by combining coastal climate and inland climate then you get a much better chance of maximising your chances to see the lights.” He recommends spending at least five or six nights in the region to have a “good chance”. The Northern Lights aren’t the only reason visitors are flocking to the far north, with the northern Norwegian Coast, Lofoten Island and of course, Iceland, particularly popular - sometimes to the point of saturation. “We’re trying to avoid people going in the peak season, JulyAugust, particularly during the European holidays and look, it’s still a beautiful destination but I’d recommend to try to stay away from European holidays,” he advises. Stelma predicts visitors will spread to some of the islands in the North Atlantic, aside from Iceland. “The Faroe Islands are fantastic, they are really undersold and again a beautiful destination, beautiful islands,” he says. “I also think that large parts of the Norwegian coast and countryside, Finland and Sweden is again very undersold, there’s so much wilderness and nature in those regions so it is easy to create really beautiful itineraries, but only if you know the region quite well,” Stelma adds.