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Chasing the Northern Lights by Bicycle: Why There’s Never Been A Better Time

By Megan Flottorp

In the dance of the cosmos, few spectacles rival the mesmerising allure of the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis. Cycling beneath the darkened sky, with wisps of colourful light weaving overhead, offers a unique and unforgettable experience. As the solar cycle peaks, the next few years promise an exceptional display, making it an opportune moment to embark on a journey by bicycle to witness the northern lights.

Have you ever dreamt of pedalling along as you witness this kind of singular magic? Read on to discover how to make your northern lights cycling dreams a reality!

Understanding the northern lights

Before delving into the intricacies of chasing the aurora on two wheels, it’s essential to grasp the essence of this natural wonder. The northern lights, scientifically termed aurora borealis, occur when charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, creating luminous ribbons of light. This phenomenon is most commonly observed near the Earth’s polar regions, where the magnetic fields funnel the charged particles towards the sky, painting it with vibrant hues. It can be witnessed in several European countries, and many have accessible mountain bike and cycling paths to ensure smooth access for those travelling by bike.

Why now is the perfect time to witness the aurora

As we find ourselves amidst the 2023/24 “aurora season,” the stage has been set for an incredible few years of celestial action. Solar activity determines the frequency and intensity of these displays. As the sun approaches its peak activity phase, known as solar maximum, there’s anticipation for remarkable auroras over the next few years.

Since the last solar minimum in December 2019, the sun has been gaining strength. Predictions about solar activity rely on analysing sunspot numbers, statistical models, and understanding the solar dynamo. While the exact timing of solar maximum remains uncertain, scientists agree it’s approaching, setting the stage for dazzling auroral displays in the near future.

Destinations in Europe to witness the northern lights by bike

Cycling travel
Aurora Borealis illuminates the sky in Tromsø, Norway. © Profimedia

Europe boasts enchanting locales where one can embark on a quest to behold the northern lights. From Norway’s Tromsø to Scotland’s Shetland Islands, each destination offers a unique vantage point for experiencing this awe-inspiring phenomenon on your beloved set of wheels.

Tromsø, Norway: Nestled above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø stands as a prime aurora viewing destination, thanks to its strategic location within the auroral oval. Embark on a northern lights tour with expert guides to maximise your chances of witnessing the spectacle.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland: Set against the backdrop of towering icebergs, Iceland’s Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon provides a surreal setting for capturing the northern lights’ brilliance. Join a guided tour for an immersive experience amidst Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes.

Ilulissat, Greenland: Venture to the shores of Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland for a chance to witness the northern lights illuminating the polar sky. Opt for a New Year’s Eve package for a truly unforgettable celebration beneath the aurora’s glow.

Shetland, Scotland: Explore the remote reaches of Scotland’s Shetland Islands, where the absence of light pollution enhances the aurora viewing experience. Consider booking a self-catered coastal accommodation for a tranquil retreat amidst nature’s splendour.

Faroe Islands, Denmark: Embrace the wintry charm of the Faroe Islands as you embark on a winter expedition in search of the elusive northern lights. With expertly curated itineraries, you’ll uncover the islands’ natural wonders while chasing the aurora across the Arctic sky.

Rovaniemi, Lapland: Immerse yourself in the enchanting landscapes of Lapland, Finland, where the northern lights grace the night sky approximately 150 nights a year. Whether you opt for a guided tour or venture to the Arctic Garden for a solo viewing, Rovaniemi promises an unforgettable aurora experience.

In the mystical realm of Rovaniemi, where Arctic winds whisper and the northern lights dance, an exhilarating quad biking adventure awaits. © Profimedia

Tips for self-supported northern lights expeditions

For the adventurous souls seeking to chase the northern lights by bicycle, adequate preparation is key to a successful journey. Here are five essential tips for planning a self-supported trip:

Remember that timing is everything: Plan your expedition during the autumn and winter months when the northern lights are most active. Our tip is to consider cycling amidst the vibrant foliage of October for a picturesque backdrop to your aurora adventure.

Monitor weather and aurora forecasts: Stay informed about weather conditions and aurora forecasts to maximise your chances of witnessing the northern lights. Clear skies and heightened solar activity are ideal conditions for aurora viewing.

Choose a suitable route: Select cycling routes that lead you away from city lights and towards optimal northern lights viewing spots, such as open lakes or hilltops—research mountain biking trails in your chosen destination for immersive aurora experiences.

Equip yourself properly: Dress warmly in layers to combat the cold temperatures, and ensure your bike is equipped with functioning lights and reflectors for safe nighttime cycling. A headlamp is essential for illuminating your path while leaving your hands free for steering.

Bring food and warm drinks: Pack ample provisions for your northern lights excursion, including snacks and warm beverages to sustain you during extended cycling sessions. Take breaks at scenic viewpoints to indulge in nourishment while marvelling at the display above.

Organised tours for northern lights chasers

Everywhere the northern lights appear regularly, you’ll find tour operators offering curated northern lights expeditions tailored to cyclists of all skill levels. Here are a few notable options to consider:

Aurora Fat Bike Adventure Finland: A guided excursion into the Arctic forests awaits, where you’ll ride electric fat-bikes in search of the enchanting northern lights. Pause along the way to capture this awe-inspiring spectacle with your camera. Indulge in warm juice and gingerbread cookies during a delightful pit stop.

Northern Norway E-Bike Northern Lights Chase: Departing from Bodø, Norway, this unique e-bike tour takes participants on a journey through local living areas before ascending to mountain peak Keiservarden for optimal aurora viewing. With expert guides and high-quality e-bikes, cyclists can enjoy a seamless northern lights experience amidst Norway’s breathtaking landscapes.

Rovaniemi: Northern Lights Quad Bike Tour: In the mystical realm of Rovaniemi, where Arctic winds whisper and the northern lights dance, an exhilarating quad biking adventure awaits.

As the stage is set for a spectacular display of the northern lights in the coming years, we encourage you to take the opportunity to plan your own odyssey to witness this awe-inspiring phenomenon. Whether embarking on a self-supported expedition or joining a guided tour, the allure of chasing the aurora by bicycle promises an adventure of a lifetime!