Northern Lights and Orcas

Is Nyksund the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights?

People were living in this tiny Norwegian fishing port above the Arctic Circle before history began to be recorded. That is, until the 1960s when the village was suddenly abandoned.

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The lights went out in Nyksund which is a distinct advantage when you’re pursuing the Northern Lights.

Just north of the fabled Lofoten Islands, the archipelago of remote Vesterålen juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. At the north-westerly extremity of Vesterålen you will find Nyksund. It was only the second place in Norway to have electric street lights installed; Hammerfest got there first. But the doughty fishing community moved out en masse when newer, larger fishing boats came into use, too big for their tiny harbour. They relocated 13km south to Myre with its modern harbour. Nyksund became a ghost town.

After lying empty for some years, people drifted back, the village a haven for those wanting to get away from it all. Now, around twenty people live here during the winter months, with more in summer when hikers and pleasure boat owners arrive in numbers.

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The new residents have decided that they rather like the dark and have elected not to turn the street lights back on. So, apart from a few lit windows, it is pitch dark in Nyksund on a winter evening.

Dress up warmly in a snow suit, take a good torch and find the path up to the viewpoint on the north west of the island, overlooking the sea. Here the only sources of lights are the moon and the stars until, of course, the Northern Lights appear.

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In January, orcas come to Vesterålen. Pods of these legendary creatures move slowly down the coast chasing herring, their staple food. These days herring are back in abundance in Norwegian fjords, thanks to a fishing ban by the government after stocks were seriously depleted in the late 20th century. And  you can see humpback whales, alerted to the noisy hunting methods of the orcas, who call to each other as they circle the shoals of herring and drive them to the surface. This “carousel feeding” is described brilliantly in David Attenborough’s TV series and companion book Blue Planet II.

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The Blue Planet team was on location here for 82 days and the footage they captured is truly spectacular.

Vesterålen is a year-round whale watching location. Orcas and humpbacks in winter and giant sperm whales in the summer months drawn by the rich nutrition arising from the proximity of the continental shelf. Keep a watch on the seabirds and you’ll track where the whales are!

In the warmer months, you could walk the 15km long Dronningruta trail which will take you along beautiful beaches and over jagged mountains from Nyksund. It is a land of contrasts, with surprisingly fertile valleys, cloudberry moors on the island of Andøya and ranges of majestic mountains rising to 1,200 metres right out of the sea.

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Apart from the northern lights and whale watching, is there anything else to do? Well, for starters, how about hiking, dog sledding, bird watching, fishing, kayaking and wild camping?

For more information on how to get here, accommodation and inspiration on things to do, go to the North Norway Tourist Board website: https://nordnorge.com/en

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