The quest for the Northern Lights

Tripoto
23rd Aug 2014
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena
Photo of The quest for the Northern Lights by Sonali Saxena

We planned this trip because we wanted to see the Northern Lights. We booked our tickets on an impulse, without having done much research. When we finally did get down to research, we realized that this was only the start of the aurora season and our odds of seeing the elusive lights were not too great. What followed was a trip that truly was more about the journey than the destination; more about the food than the museums and more about absorbing than sightseeing.

Countries visited: Norway, Sweden, Finland (and a brief race through Estonia)

Scandinavia is known to be expensive, but Norway truly is the benchmark for what it means to be expensive (to give you an idea, a pack of cigarettes costs twice as much in Norway as it does in Sweden. The Swedes find Norway expensive.) If you're planning a trip to Scandinavia, come with a good bank balance (and a credit card, just in case.) You can save money by keeping a few simple things in mind:

  • Buy food/groceries at supermarkets and cook yourself. Eating at restaurants is expensive. More importantly, most food in Scandinavia is cold, or lukewarm at best - if you are Asian, you will miss hot food (and I don't mean spicy, I mean food that is warmer than 26 degrees celsius.)
  • Carry bed linen - hostels charge you for it.
  • If you are two or more persons traveling together, its cheaper, more comfortable and more fun to use Airbnb for accommodation.
  • <cheap_tip> Smile - the conductors on trains and buses are softies at heart. A few krona saved on tickets are a few krona spent on food.

Norway is a nature lovers delight - from a beautiful coastline to hiking in the hills, Norway has it all. For city lovers, Sweden is a better option. Finland has its lakes and the Lapland in the north.

When you go to Scandinavia, go with an open wallet and an open mind, and you will have the trip of a lifetime.

Have a breakfast of shrimp sandwich and coffee at one of many outdoor cafes, walk down to the Nobel Museum at the seaside. During evenings at the seaside, and nights at the city center, look out for a young guy playing electronic music in the open - he plays very well (and his music is definitely better than the music they play in Hard Rock Oslo unfortunately)
Photo of Oslo, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Oslo, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Oslo, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Oslo, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Lillehammer is the perfect place to do nothing. Apart from a museum and the site of the 1994 winter Olympics, there's nothing to see and yet, so much to see. Walk around and you will find quaint cobbled streets, a church with a graveyard, a moose that has walked into a pub, and a bank with a cow painted on the outside. Sit in a garden and read a book, and its easy to lose track of how much time you spend in Lillehammer.
Photo of Lillehammer, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Lillehammer, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Lillehammer, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Lillehammer, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Lillehammer, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Stockholm is called the capital of Scandinavia and rightly so. It is the grandest of the Scandinavian capital cities, and has a feel about it that cannot be put into words. In Stockholm, you can do anything - you can just walk around absorbing the atmospheric Gamla Stan, you can visit museums and amusement parks, you can visit the many pretty islands and towns on the outskirts or you can sleep in the day and party at night.We chose the walking around and the outskirts, but if our hostel mates were to be believed, sleeping in the day wasn't that bad an option either.
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Stockholm, Sweden by Sonali Saxena
We took a cruise ship from Stockholm to Helsinki (for 42 euros a person, it was a steal.) After Stockholm, Helsinki can come across as a being a little bland. Use it as a rest day in your journey, and walk around looking for places to eat. Ravintola Kuu is a great place to try reindeer if that's on your wishlist. Cafe Ekberg is the oldest cafe in Helsinki, and a good place to have coffee and the local specialty of Napoleon pastry.
Photo of Helsinki, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Helsinki, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Rovaniemi is right at the Arctic circle in Finland, the capital of Lapland, and one of the world's top spots for watching the Northern Lights. A great place to just chill and absorb the beauty and serenity of Lapland is Muurola on the outskirts of Rovaniemi. Look for cottage accommodation by Ilkka on Airbnb - we booked for one night, and ended up staying for 3 nights in this pretty cottage by the river Kemisjarvi. And yes, we did see the Northern Lights. We weren't lucky enough to see the spectacular displays that we've all seen on Discovery Channel, but saw just enough to make sure that we make a few more trips up north in the quest for those displays.
Photo of Rovaniemi, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Rovaniemi, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Rovaniemi, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Rovaniemi, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Rovaniemi, Finland by Sonali Saxena
Bergen is possibly the most beautiful city in Norway. Walk by the seaside and have some fresh fish at the fish market, or take the funicular railway up Mt. Floyen for an aerial view of the city. The old buildings of Bryggen give a great feel of what Norway must have been like a century back. For Norwegian food, try the restaurant Pingvinen. Bergen is also a good place to explore the famous Norwegian fjords - Hardangerfjord is the closest fjord to Bergen, and a gateway to the smaller Eidfjord.
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Bergen, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Trolltunga is the spot for any lover of dramatic Facebook display pictures. Its also a great hike, though not for the faint hearted. But at the end of it, when your picture at Trolltunga gets more likes than any picture ever has, the hike just seems worth it.
Photo of Trolltunga, Odda, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Trolltunga, Odda, Norway by Sonali Saxena
Photo of Trolltunga, Odda, Norway by Sonali Saxena
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