There are a lot of wonders in nature, but none of them are as awe-inspiring as the Northern Lights. Also called the Aurora Borealis, this natural phenomenon most often leaves you staring at the sky in awe, feeling so hopeful while insignificant. Seeing the Northern Lights in Murmansk may require some hunting, and knowing where to hunt is a good start.
The Kola Peninsula is a place in Russia that gives you a fair chance of experiencing the Northern Lights in action.
What are Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis?
So before we go any further you might be interested to know, what exactly are Northern Lights and how are they formed? They are formed when rays from the sun interact with the earth’s atmosphere and are amplified by the magnetic poles. This is why you are likely to find Northern Lights dancing in areas close to Earth’s poles, Russia, geographically happens to have a very strong hold of much of the north pole.
The aurora that appears close to the North Pole is called Aurora borealis, while the other that appears in the South Pole is called Aurora Australis.
The winter months are an ideal time to get a fair glimpse of the Northern Lights in Murmansk. Though we talk about seasons for Northern Lights viewing being best from September to March, they’re actually happening all the time—you just can’t see them during the day, or during the height of summer when twilight never really ends and it doesn’t get dark enough in the north pole.
The color of the Northern Lights depends on the particular atmospheric gas that combines with the rays emanating from the Sun. If the reacting atmospheric gas is oxygen, the output color is pale yellowish-green. If the reacting gas is Nitrogen, the Northern Lights would be blue or purplish-red. More rarely, the bright red Northern Lights appears when the reacting gas is high altitude oxygen, usually 200 miles above the earth’s surface.
The Kola Peninsula is a Russian Region in the North of the Arctic Circle. It is close to the border between Finland and Norway. In addition to giving you a fair chance of glimpsing Russia’s Northern Lights, this area offers travellers the option of experiencing the rich culture of its indigenous Saami people.
The Kola Peninsula is a large mass of land, explored by the local reindeer herders (Saami) who are dependent on the Reindeer for most of their livelihood.
Hunting Northern Lights in Murmansk
Hunting Northern Lights in Murmansk is very much similar to real hunting; there are elements of preparation and probabilities but there is also a huge element of luck. While you can’t be sure of sighting the Northern Lights during your stay in the Kola Peninsula, you still will enjoy exploring the terrain and interacting with the locals.
Predicting the appearance of the Northern Lights has always been something of a dark art, but there are some general rules of thumb to follow. Being on the look-out between 8pm and 2am from mid-September to mid-March is critical, preferably from within the Arctic Circle (latitudes between 64 degrees to 70 degrees north should do it) to maximise your chances.
To prevent the hunt for Russia’s Northern Lights from becoming a complete guess work, we partner with the Polar Geophysical Institute (PGI) in the Kola Peninsula. The PGI uses satellite technology to check for the possibility of Northern Lights appearing. Upon getting a positive confirmation, they search for a place with clear skies and inform us accordingly.
Moscow and St Petersburg are your best bet connection points to Murmansk, with direct flights available. So head for the snow-white serenity of the Kola Peninsula, where the Saami have herded reindeer for generations and the Northern Lights dance in the clear Arctic sky.
Take a closer look at the 56th Parallel itineraries and departures:
For those who are used to total luxury, the northern lights can be discovered by an epic train journey to the Arctic regions of Russia.
If the hunt for Russia’s Northern Lights is successful, then kudos to you, you will come home with genuine bragging rights, amazing photography and be one of the few who witnessed this natural wonder. If you don’t happen to experience it during your visit, you would still enjoy a rich cultural experience, exploring the people and the environment of the Kola Peninsula.