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.”
The apps can also help determine the best time to go outdoors to catch nature’s extraordinary light show, though it’s always best to avoid a full moon, which makes them appear paler. “Sometimes it can be early in the evening, sometimes late after midnight,” says Øyvind. “But my experience with the Northern Lights during my 10 years of doing this is that the best time is very often between 7pm and midnight.”
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.”