Where to see the Northern Lights on a Budget

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to see the Northern Lights. However, if you don’t then you’re probably reading the wrong post – go read about my trip to Toulouse or something. P.S. the photo above is courtesy of Visit Norway.

Anyway, the Northern Lights. They occur when particles from the sun strike atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere and cause them to move to a higher energy state. Then once they revert back to a lower energy state – voila, light is released! This is usually visible from September to April, but the best chances of seeing them occur between November to January.

Seeing them though, is another phenomenon in itself for most of us. The best places to see them are Northern Scandinavia, Northern Canada and Greenland. Basically head North kids. There’s no such thing as a £10 Ryanair flight to these countries I’m afraid and they also have high living costs – so much for a budget trip.

If you want a budget trip to see the Northern Lights and are based in the UK/Europe, rule out Canada and Greenland for starters. The cheapest return flight I found to Greenland in the next year was a whopping £700. Heading to Scandinavia is probably your best bet, you’ll waste less time to time differences and the flights are shorter and cheaper.

After several flight and accommodation searchers for locations in Northern Scandinavia, including Ivalo in Finland and Jukkasjärvi in Sweden, I settled on focusing this post on comparing Reykjavik, Iceland and Tromsø, Norway. I think most people in the UK know a little about Reykjavik, but most would say “where?” to Tromsø. Here’s a Google Map I prepared earlier…

Tromsø, Norway

And one for Reykjavik, just in case…

Reykjavik, Iceland

Now for the actual numbers. Which is cheaper to visit? Take a look….

Northern lights info3

Northern lights info56.jpg

I’ve used the weekend 3rd-6th Nov (Fri-Mon), well because that’s when we’re planning on going to see the Northern Lights.

Let’s start with the flights. I searched using airports in England, though London seemed to always come out on top in relation to price.

A direct return flight from Gatwick to Tromsø takes around 3hrs 30 each way and would set you back £115 for that weekend. Important to note that since I looked a week ago, these flights have now risen to £175!

In comparison, a direct return flight from Luton to Reykjavik takes a shorter time of 3hrs and only costs £80. These have also risen, to £95. Booking early seems to be key with flights to Tromsø and Reykjavik.

Now for where you’re going to sleep after long nights of searching for the Aurora Borealis. I compared Airbnb whole places, Airbnb private rooms and booking.com, gathering average costs for staying in and on the outskirts of the small cities. As you can see from above, Tromsø is cheapest for all three options. Do remember though, these are averages and of course you can spend less.

So in conclusion… you can get a cheaper flight to Reykjavik and cheaper accommodation in Tromsø. In total though, Tromsø comes up at an average price of £286 per person – compared with Reykjavik at £346 per person.

Reykjavik has a much more dense population of approx. 123,000, whereas Tromsø has a population of about 64,000. More people = more light pollution = venturing further to see the Lights = more money spent.

With this info, we decided to book a trip to Tromsø in search of the Northern Lights. We paid £115 each for flights and £146 between us for accommodation for three nights. This totalled £188 each. Bargain!!! Now let’s just hope we get to see the beauties!

Have you seen the Northern Lights or visited Tromsø? Let me know in the comments below!


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