The northern lights are definitely one of the most beautifulincredibleamazing miracles this planet has to offer. There is no way to describe them by words, pictures, or movies! Luckily you neither need a lot of time nor a lot of money if you stick to my advice.
1. Don´t travel with Finnair.
2. Get a rental car with unlimited kilometers – book early to get a better price.
3. Get a simcard with a lot of GB – you will spend a lot of time far away from wifi.
4. You will need two websites. The more important one is www.yr.no – here you will find a cloud forecast with a high accuracy for the next 72 hours. Hunting northern lights means hunting blue sky – be ready to drive a lot. If the map shows white it does not necessarily mean there will be a thick cloud cover, sometimes its just a tiny little layer of damp in the air which does not reduce the visibility a lot. The second website is aurora-service.eu which gives you a forecast about sun activity with little accuracy for the next hour to come and no accuracy at all for the next three days. But still I recommend to get familiar with all graphs and numbers on their forecast site as it can give you some feeling what to expect. However if you found clear sky and no Aurora north of 67,5°N be patient! The Aurora will come, no matter what aurora-service says.
5. Take pictures, use a tripod, small f number, iso 1000-2000 (carefull with the noise) and exposure between one second and up to 1 minute. On the pictures you will see more colors and if the Aurora is weak and you haven’t seen it before the picture might show you where it is and what to look for. Its much better visible on a photography (when weak)!
6. Dusk and dawn take more than 3 hours each – this is the time to sleep! Don’t miss the amazing light of low sun during the daytime and keep hunting the aurora as soon as the nautical twilight ends!
7. Avoid light pollution – stay away from cities.
8. In my experience the best chances to get good weather are around Tromso, if you roam here for at least 5 days between October and early march you will definitely get a good chance.
9. Sleep in the car and take a room only when the weather is bad – this will be the case often enough and rooms are expensive! Look for cabins which are often the better deal.
10. Norway is up to 20°C warmer than Finland and Sweden due to the gulfstream. This is the difference between -5°C or -25°C at night.
10.5 (edit) Because of so many people asking – best time to see the Aurora is from september to march – summertime means 24 hours daylight, no northern lights!
11. Don’t travel with finnair!!
Good luck – enjoy the magic!