Chasing the Northern Lights and the Toddler above the arctic circle!
Never did we imagine that we would take our 3 year old on an adventure above the arctic-circle, in all honesty we wouldn’t have it any other way. This trip was especially close to our heart as family bonding was way overdue, the kind that happens when it’s just mommy, daddy and the threenager travelling together.
The Aurora Borealis also known as the northern lights has always been on our bucket list. We originally planned the trip for our Anniversary in March as the chances of seeing the lights were pretty high. Unfortunately K’s health at the time was not conducive to traveling especially to harsh weather. The only thing we had booked by then was the place of stay in Norway – Aurora Borealis Observatory, which was chosen after much research on the best chances of catching the lights as well as comforts needed when traveling with a child. Anders, my point of contact (also the owner of the resort and father to 3 little’s himself) was very understanding and allowed us to push the booking to the following season.
Come end of September, vacation time from school and my birthday made it seem like a good time for us to make the trip happen. The only concern was that it was barely the beginning of Aurora season, however it’s always a touch of luck that’s needed to catch the lights even with all the planning in the world. Hence we did not discuss the concept of the lights with K so as not to have expectations like finding a tiger on safari. We had pre-existing Schengen visas so that was out of the way and bookings were made right away. We also carried USD and cards thereby didn’t have to exchange currency. Keeping K in mind we decided to add France (which will be my next blog post) to the itinerary on our return assuming she would enjoy the likes of Disney more than Norway. Boy were we proved wrong…
In short, 3 flights, 2 buses and 31 hours later we arrived! Probably the longest journey we’ve ever had. We flew Emirates from Hyderabad to Oslo with an overnight layover in Dubai. This helped all of us get some sleep in the airport hotel. The pre-booked kid’s meal on Emirates deserves a special mention. It was the first thing K began asking for on every flight we took. Very tasty and perfectly curated for little ones to eat by themselves. After arriving in Oslo around noon, we got into our winter gear and checked in our bags for the next flight. Then picked up some fast food and got on the Flytoget – the fast train that gets you to Oslo city centre in 20 minutes. We spent the day walking around town, the pier and Akershus Fortress (the inspiration behind the Arendelle Castle in Disney’s Frozen). For snack time K wanted fruits at the train station, who wouldn’t they were colourful and gorgeous. Here we were asked -where in India are you from? When I said Hyderabad, the reaction I would not have expected …”oh! Allu Arjun, Prabhas!” Lol.
Back at the airport waiting for our flight, Norwegian Air, to board K was getting sleepy but refused to sleep. Once on board, just as she was falling asleep the air host comes around to buckle her in her seat and all hell breaks loose. A crying jet lagged toddler and now three air hosts standing around us to get her off my lap. This was the moment where I questioned our whole plan. After asking them to move away we managed to calm her down and into her seat for take-off, few minutes after which she was fast asleep. We arrived in Bardufoss at 11:30pm to 4 degrees C. Then into the shuttle bus that takes all passengers to various drop off locations. Ours was the last stop. After a pretty comfortable hour long bus ride with a sleeping baby we reached our stop. Waiting for us was the lovely Darren (brother in law of the resort owner) with a mini – Mercedes van equipped with a booster seat. Within minutes we arrived at our cosy cabin and were tucked in for the night.
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
Waking up to a gorgeous fall morning in Silsand made all the travel lag disappear. At the breakfast cabin we met Adrian (instagram handle- nightlightsfilms) the resident photographer, who told us to expect the lights that night. We could hardly contain our excitement. He then drove us and another group of South Africans staying at the resort to the nearest town Finnsnes where we had lunch and picked up some groceries. Our cabin was equipped with a beautiful kitchenette where we spent a lot of family time cooking dinners as lunch was mostly at restaurants. Some of our favourites were the
fresh local salmon and scampi. We did carry a small packet of rice from home. There was a dishwasher but not laundry. We carried more of middle layer clothing and repeated thermals and jackets.
Located just outside our cabin was a simple play structure where K was most delighted to be especially after making some friends of her own. Our neighbours were the owner’s family and turned out their two little boys were around her age. It was turning out to be a great holiday.
Around 8pm, just after K’s dinner we got an alert on the resort Whatsapp group that the lights were about to begin. Quickly got into our winter gear (the resort does provide snow suits if required) and stepped out of our cabin and there she was!
Started out faint at a distance and then got very bright and colourful, clearly visible to the naked eye. We were even able to get some pretty good shots on my Samsung S9 in the night mode. Adrian caught some even better ones including some with the three of us under the Aurora. We were outside for about one hour in -1 degree C, pretty comfortable for Aurora hunting standards. Since we had not prepared K for the lights she had a whole bunch of questions while enjoying the show.
Some of which were – What is it? How does it come? Will it rain colour? Can we touch it? Her definition of Aurora – pretty colours zigzagging in the sky. At the end of the night we were all very happy campers. For our first attempt safe to say we didn’t have to chase the lights they chased us!
Now since the main purpose of the trip was achieved we were keen on the other things to do. The resort offered a day tour of the entire island in their beautifully customized mini Mercedes van that had glass on almost every side. Which is pretty much necessary to take in the magnificence of the fjords, tunnels, beaches, salmon fisheries and some Viking settlements too!
Our guide for the day was Darren whom K really took a liking to and thus made it all the more fun with their constant banter.
After a day full of activity K was tucked in for the night quite early. Now I was ready for some much needed me-time. The resort had an outdoor Jacuzzi and if that wasn’t fun enough, the temperature was 1 degree C. Call me crazy but under water at 39 degrees C, it was pure bliss.
We decided to spend a day just relaxing. A day of doing nothing is just what every holiday needs especially when travelling with a little one. Our cabin had 1 bedroom which was small, but the living room was spacious and had an entire wall of glass which gave the feeling of an indoor picnic spot. We took a ride to Finnsnes for lunch at a small Italian cum Turkish eatery – Lille Milano, where the buffet was delicious and didn’t even charge for K. They had a small play area inside as well with very friendly staff. We then walked along a small lake and spent time at a local children’s’ park, with ample climbing structures to keep K busy, while we took in the beauty of fall. By the end we knew the town like the back of our hands.
The closest point we got to Santa’s home aka the North Pole. It was a ferry ride from Finnsnes to Tromso. We left late morning for another day trip. The ferry had comfortable seating and amazing views of the snow peaked mountains on either side of the Norwegian sea. Once we arrived the weather was a bit colder due to wind chill. The layers of clothing were adequate but K refused to wear gloves. We started off with lunch at a kid friendly Italian restaurant – Pastafabrikken. Once warmed up and well fed we visited Polaria – the worlds north most aquarium. Watched a short movie about arctic sea life, fed the seals, played in an arctic play house and most importantly learned about micro plastics polluting the oceans. Everything on agenda was located within walking distance from the ferry.
Once back home, we packed up to leave to Paris the next day.
Memories – the best thing money can buy
If you are looking for the most economical vacation this definitely isn’t it. Norway is one of the more expensive European countries. But was worth it? Definitely yes! For K the freedom of being nature and the adventures in Norway were hard to beat. For the times it was too cold or tiring our stroller came in very handy, although a rain cover wasn’t necessary except for Tromso. Our favourite keepsake was a book that describes a little girl’s journey to save the northern lights from disappearing due to environmental damage caused by people. Helps keep the memories whilst creating awareness.
After spending five days in Norway we are looking forward to going back again when K is older, this time around things to experience would be the midnight sun, a drive on Atlantic ocean road, Svalbard and the polar bear cruise!