Seeing the Northern Lights is a real bucket-list moment. Here are the best places to go in and around Trondheim, Norway, to (hopefully) get the best views of this natural phenomenon.
Surrounded by unspoilt forests and hills, Trondheim is a popular destination for Northern Lights spotters. Officially known as the Aurora Borealis, there is never a guarantee of seeing these vividly coloured magnetic fields dancing across the sky. However, Norway’s northerly position and cold, dark winters make it one of the best places in the world to stand a good chance.
“You never know when the Aurora will appear though, as you need a clear sky,” says Trondheim Northern Lights guide and photographer Øyvind Blomstereng. “I have seen them from mid-August to early in April. However, the best time is between September and March when there is total darkness. My best experiences have been between September and November, as it’s not too cold. I prefer the night sky then with all the stars twinkling.”
It is now possible to predict when there might be a chance of seeing the lights by using apps, which measure the geomagnetic activity on a scale of 0 to 9, which is called the Kp-index. “In Trondheim, we can see Aurora from Kp 2,” says Øyvind. “When it is Kp 4, 5 or 6, it is very good. The index gives us an opportunity to understand how much Aurora we will get. Kp 1 is touching north Norway; Kp 2 is about north of Trondheim. If we got a reading of Kp 9, the lights would be visible in parts of the UK, Denmark and Germany as well.”
After that, all you can do is wait. “When I’m going on an Aurora hunting trip, I am always prepared with warm clothes, hot tea in a thermos and a lot of patience,” says Øyvind. “Normally, I am outdoors for three or four hours. It can require some waiting, but it’s worth it when the Aurora appears in the sky!” These are the best places to (hopefully) experience this natural wonder from Trondheim.
At 552m (1,811ft), Gråkallen is Trondheim’s second-highest mountain and is located inside Bymarka, the city’s forested reserve crisscrossed by hiking trails. From the top on a clear day, it’s possible to see Sweden to the east and Trollheimen to the south. There is also a ski station near the summit where there is an abandoned fenced military base. It’s a great place to escape the lights of the city and takes around two hours to hike here from Trondheim. On the hike, you’ll pass pine forests and small lakes, but it’s also quick and easy to reach by car. “It takes about 20 minutes to drive from central Trondheim,” says Øyvind. “Then it gives you a good view of the whole fjord and the city.”
Only 10 minutes by car from the centre of Trondheim or about a two-hour hike, Væresholmen is a picture-perfect peninsula overlooking the calm waters of the fjord. Follow the Nidaros pilgrimage route from the city if walking, and keep to the marked trail that runs along the coast past woods and small beaches. “This is a good place to see the Aurora, and it gives you a good sight in a northerly direction, which is close to the sea level,” says Øyvind.
“This is a place you can go to within walking distance from the centre of Trondheim close to the harbour,” says Øyvind. From the city, head to the Pirbadet water park, and then continue walking past the Pirsenteret business park and ferry ports to the tip of the harbour. “It’s not the best place to see the Aurora, but it’s worth a try if the Kp is high. You can still watch it, but it’s not recommended for photography. Although it’s an easy place to get to if you are with children.”
“If you want an adventure outside of Trondheim, this lake is a great place to go,” says Øyvind. Trondheim’s biggest lake, Jonsvatnet supplies the city with drinking water and is a popular place for cycling and hiking during summer. It takes around three hours to hike from the city or less than half an hour by car. “When the Kp reading is high – around 5 to 6 – this can be a good place to be,” he says. “It’s particularly good if the lake is calm, as you can see great reflections of the Aurora in the water.”
Just outside the city, Korsvika beach is an excellent place to go for a hike on the Ladestien Trail, taking less than an hour from the city centre. It is also possible to get the number 26 bus from Trondheim to Lilleby station and walk 20 minutes from there. If hiking the full route, the trail follows the Lade peninsula for over 16km (10mi) past bays and over hilltops with views towards Fosen and Frosta. The beach is also a popular spot for swimming and picnics when the sun is out. During winter, it’s well worth a trip here to escape the city and maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, too. “To stand the best chance of seeing the Aurora, it’s recommended to have light pollution from city lights behind you and ‘free sight’ in a northerly direction in a wide-open place,” says Øyvind. “So, this is a good place to be, as visitors can look over the fjord with no obstructions.”
Located on Østmarkneset, the Ladekaia restaurant is a further 15-minute hike along the Ladestien Trail from Korsvika beach. Alternatively, you can drive 15 minutes from the centre of Trondheim. Perched overlooking the fjord, the restaurant has a pretty terrace facing the Fosen Alps and large floor-to-ceiling windows if you prefer to stay cosy inside while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear. “The restaurant has a very good view over the fjord – although the light from the restaurant does damage the view of the Aurora a little bit,” says Øyvind. “But when the Kp reading is really high (as we call an Aurora outburst), it is still very easy to see the lights here or even above the city. It’s also a good spot for children if they get restless waiting.”
Less than a five-minute walk from each other, these tranquil bays are a little further along the Ladestien Trail. To get here, either set off on an hour-long hike from Trondheim or take a short 15-minute drive from the city centre. Both are close to the Ringve Music Museum, Norway’s national museum of music and musical instruments, and the picturesque Ringve Botanical Garden. “These two are my favourite places to see the Aurora,” says Øyvind. “Both are splendid! They can have total darkness, good views in a northerly, westerly and easterly direction and are absolutely stunning places to be when Aurora is dancing.”
A charming area in the Trondheim Region, Malvik offers plenty of places away from city lights and is an idyllic spot for Northern Lights viewing if the conditions are right. “It takes about 30 minutes to get there by car from Trondheim,” says Øyvind. “There are lots of lovely small lakes and forests in this region, and I think the surroundings make it a more mystical place to go.”
This 590m (1,936ft) mountain is north of Trondheim Airport in Trøndelag county and a popular spot for paragliding in summer, with views of Nedre Stjørdalen towards Trondheim. “It takes about 45 to 50 minutes to drive from Trondheim, but at the peak, you have great views in all directions,” says Øyvind. “I prefer to go there whenever the Kp reading is high.”
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.