The best thing about chasing the Northern Lights by boat is that if you’re lucky enough to find them, the view is completely uninterrupted. No bus window or roof in your way, no stopping and scrambling to get off the bus then getting back on, just a continuous sail while looking up at the night sky lit with green flares of light.
There were a lot of incredible experiences we had in Tromsø but the Northern Lights were the bucket list item I came to tick off and I did that resoundingly on Pukka Travel’s Northern Lights Sailing tour.
This time, we were lucky – the lights were already visible even in the well-lit city centre of Tromsø when we headed down to the dock at 9:30pm. Just as we stepped on board, it was like the sky suddenly twisted to welcome us with a flash of green, to the delighted laughter and amazed swearing from everyone. The comforting thing is though, that you get a 80% discount on the same tour if you don’t see the lights — this is why I’d recommend reserving a couple more days in Tromsø if you can, just to maximise your chances.
So really, we just scrambled into special thermal suits (which made us into Michelin Tire men but kept us satisfyingly warm) and then we were off, already ooh-ing, aah-ing and just generally ‘oh my GOD’-ing. I really appreciated being able to see the lights in relation to the shoreline – you can really get a sense of the scale.
The Golden Eagle is not a big catamaran but it is spacious, clean and full of places where you can sit and take in the view. My favourite had to be lying down on the net of the catamaran on the warmth of a reindeer skin, looking up at the sky. I wouldn’t call it a spiritual moment, but it was completely unforgettable.
Only after the initial awe had settled into something more manageable and my nose was starting to freeze did I really get acquainted with the clean, wooden lacquered interior of the Golden Eagle, already smelling good with fresh produce used to prepare an evening meal for all the guests. Our skipper and his mother and sister were on board to answer questions and cook for us, but you were largely left to your own devices.
Snacks, interesting teas and coffee were all freely available, and the toasty interior was the perfect place to retreat for a cup when the winds got a little too strong. There were a total of 10 guests on the boat but it never felt too crowded or overwhelming. And honestly, the fish soup I ate on board was the best fish soup I’ve ever tasted: fresh, creamy, onion-y, with a tiny bite of spice and dill to complement the carrots and potatoes and just simple, hearty warmth. Even better when you take your bowl outside to eat it under the stars.
Small warning to photographers: while tripods are provided for you for free on board, shooting long exposures on a boat (which is constantly moving) is a tricky task for beginners. I ended up Honestly, the fireworks mode on the Samsung phone of one of the other guests held up startlingly well.
And, just like fireworks, it was as we were pulling back into the dock at 12:30am, sated, warm and happy, that the sky directly above us seemed to open up, light beams of green and purple dancing all around, the brightest flare yet, like a finale to a beautiful show. My camera was inside. I reached in my pocket for my phone, already frantically thinking about how I could adjust the settings, then let it go and just looked up to soak it all in.
Unfortunately the biggest, most annoying travel cliche of the lot is actually true in this case: you really have to see this one in person. And honestly, it’s better by boat.
For more information, go to Pukka Travels
I Ate My Way Through travelled as guests of Pukka Travels.