Best Time of Year to Visit Ireland (Weather, Temperature, & Events)

Ireland is a fascinating place but it’s also a destination where the weather may not always cooperate with your visit. Still, you might be surprised to find out that the weather isn’t that bad in Ireland and temperatures can be quite mild year round. 

In this article, I will talk about the best time of year to visit Ireland, and I’ll cover a lot of topics like the weather/rain, temperature, and also give you some insight into special events that take place around the year.

When is the best time of year to visit Ireland?

The best time to visit Ireland will depend on your personal travel goals, but I would recommend the month of May for the mild weather and the amount of daylight or perhaps shoulder season during the spring or fall to avoid the throngs of tourists and higher prices.  

You’ll want to do some research into all times of the year, and so below I have included a lot of helpful information about what you can expect during the different months when visiting Ireland.

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Cliffs by ocean
Photo by Luca Sartoni.

Ireland geography (map)

In case you are not aware, Ireland is an island located on the western fringe of Europe in the North Atlantic Ocean that consists of two countries: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This gets a little confusing for some people because Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom (UK). But the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland/UK are two distinct countries. 

The rest of the UK is next-door and consists of Scotland, Wales, and of course England. And if you really want to dig in deep, Great Britain comprises Scotland, Wales, and England but NOT the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

And finally, together Great Britain (Scotland, Wales, and England) and Ireland (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) make up the “British Isles.” 

In this article, I am just going to focus on the island of Ireland, with a large focus on Dublin. 

Map of Ireland
Map of Ireland.

Ireland climate/weather

Ireland does not have the best reputation when it comes to weather. When you think of Ireland, you probably imagine a cold, cloudy, and damp destination at most times of year. But that’s not always true. 


Ireland has a “maritime climate,” which means that it has cool summers, mild winters, and the temperatures don’t have dramatic swings. So the winters never get that bad and the summers are very cool. 

For example, the coldest month in Dublin is January with an average temperature at 41°F (5°C). That’s not bad at all considering how north Dublin is (it would be well into Canada).

Even though winter temperatures are pretty mild, harsh winds and rain can certainly make it feel colder. The good news is that the harsh Atlantic winds don’t hit Dublin as hard due to its location on the east coast of the island.    

I think Ireland really shines with its cool summers. The hottest month in Dublin is July with an average temperature of 60°F (16°C). June through August can be great times to visit Ireland to escape the hot and humid summers you will experience in the lower latitudes because you’ll be spending a lot of time in 60ºF weather. A “super-hot” day in Ireland would be a day that creeps towards the high 70s ºF. 

The lows during these months can often drop down into the mid-50s, so this is similar to what you might find in San Francisco during many parts of the year. So if you’re visiting Dublin, you should bring a sweater and layers, regardless of what time of year you’re visiting because it will likely be chilly in the morning and at night. 


Rain can be a buzzkill when planning a trip to Ireland but Dublin is located on the drier side of the island. In fact, Dublin averages about 30 inches of rain per year which really isn’t that bad.

The thing about Ireland is that the rain isn’t highly concentrated to one season like it might in the tropics — it’s distributed roughly evenly year round. This means that you should pretty much always expect to get hit with a little bit of rain when you visit Ireland. (This is why it’s smart to always carry a waterproof jacket with you.)

For Dublin, the spring has the least amount of rain (along with July). As you already saw, temperatures can be pretty mild in May, so May can be a great time to visit Ireland, especially if you visit during the latter half of the month.   

Rain will take place during the summer but it’s often short-lived. 

The rain will usually pick up in August and other months like October, November, and December, so be prepared for a wetter experience in those months.  

Other parts of Ireland can receive more rain, such as Malin Head, which gets 40 inches per year. Or if you head even more west to places like Valentia, annual rainfall picks up to 61 inches per year, twice of what Dublin gets.    

In Dublin, snow can happen in winter but it’s not very common and usually more of a “dusting” than huge snowstorms (hail is more common than snow).


May through July have an average of six hours of sunshine in Dublin so it’s not nearly as dreary as you might think. However, remember that there is a lot of daylight during the summer so you may still see a lot of cloud coverage on some days. 

If you’re visiting during winter, you may only get a couple of hours of sunshine when visiting in November through February because daylight is limited. This means that doing scenic drives during the winter time is not exactly ideal because you won’t get a lot of daylight to truly see a lot of sites (though it can be done). 

Sea temperatures

Ireland has some seriously stunning stretches of coastline. However, the sea temperatures are not very warm and so you probably won’t want to be taking a dip in the ocean.

August and September are the warmest months for the sea and the temperatures are 59ºF, which is pretty cold and not a comfy temperature for swimming (again not too different from Northern California). During the winter, the temps drop below 50ºF which obviously isn’t too fun. But surfing can still be a possibility in some places. 


As you can imagine, the summer is going to be peak-season with the most crowds and highest prices. Peak season will start to pick up during May and last through August, which is why the spring and fall are recommended to avoid crowds. 

Cliffs by ocean
Photo by Luca Sartoni.

Things to do in Ireland

Below, I will highlights a lot of the different things you can do throughout the year when visiting Ireland. 

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Pubs are a very popular destinations in the winter (and also year round in Ireland). While England is big on pub culture, I’m not sure it means the same that it does in Ireland. As Ray ComminsCo-Founder of Generation Tours states: 

“The pub is ingrained in our culture – a meeting place where friends are made, old tales told and new shared stories made, and the character of Ireland expressed through the very characters you encounter – so, whatever time of year you find yourself in a pub in Ireland, it’s the best time of year for it!” 

There are countless pubs to choose from in Ireland but consider heading to the Brazen Head, which is Dublin’s oldest pub that has been in existence since 1198.

If you are visiting during the winter and you don’t have a lot of daylight to work with there are still a lot of indoor activities you can look into doing like visiting museums. Think about visiting the following destinations:

Outside The Bankers
Pub in Dublin. Photo by Peter Miller.

March — St. Patricks’s Day 

One of the perks of visiting in the middle of March is experiencing St. Patricks’s Day in Ireland. Over the span of several days, you can enjoy a lot of activities, including the main parade that takes place in Dublin. The actual holiday is on March 17 and you can expect the cities around the country to pretty much shut down in celebration of the day.

April & May

Toward the end of March and into April/May you will be able to experience some of the beautiful spring wildflowers like daffodils, fuchsias, bluebells, and wild garlic. If you really want to see these wildflowers, you might want to head to Burren National Park.

June & July

July through August is when things really pick up for tourists. So while the weather maybe better during this time of year, you can expect higher prices for hotels and also to deal with more crowds.

Some festivals you might think about attending are:


Europeans love to travel during August though, so I generally try to avoid Europe during this month but you can still find a lot to do. Puck Fair is one of Ireland’s oldest fairs that takes place during August annually for three days on the 10th, 11th and 12th. You can also look into: 

  • Kilkenny Arts Festival
  • Rose of Tralee
  • Durrow Scarecrow Festival


September may be your last shot to do a lot of outdoor activities, especially those that require travel via the ocean. The rain will start to pick up at this time but fall foliage can also be spotted.

Fall might be one of the best times to visit Ireland in large part because there are also a lot of festivals which include: 

  • Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
  • The National Ploughing Championships
  • Galway International Oyster Festival
  • Kinsale Gourmet Festival
  • Armagh Food & Cider Festival

October — Halloween 

If you’re looking for a unique place to experience Halloween, then Ireland is the place to be. It’s known to be the birthplace of the holiday and it has some seriously unique Halloween experiences. Derry-Londonderry is definitely the spot for that. But you might also consider the following events:

  • Galway Aboo Halloween Festival
  • Cork’s Halloween Parade
  • Belfast’s Monster Mash

In Belfast you might also catch a celebration for the Mexican Day of the Dead. If you really want things to get interesting for Halloween consider checking out Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival in the Boyne Valley where visitors can reenact ancient Samhain rituals. Read more about fall activities here. 

Drummer in green
Halloween in Derby. Photo by Greg Clarke.


Some establishments including hotels may start to shut down in October and through November and the winter so certain venues may not be open.


Ireland can be a great December destination with the Christmas Market at Belfast’s City Hall and also in Dublin. 

You can also experience some unique events in December like the Winter Solstice Newgrange in County Meath’s Brú Na Bóinne. It takes a little luck with a lottery draw, but you can experience the unique passages and chambers during the solstice if you’re chosen. 

Another unique winter attraction would be watching Panto or Pantomime which is a form of theatre in Ireland which can be seen at The Gaiety Theatre around Christmas and New Year.

Northern lights

It is possible to see the northern lights in Ireland/Northern Ireland. However, this will be on occasions during strong solar activity. If you really want to see the aurora, I’d head to a place like Tromsø. If you want to get some great tips on experiencing the northern lights, I suggest you read my article here

Final word

As you can tell, there are pros and cons to visiting Ireland at each time of the year. Personally, I would shoot for May when visiting Ireland because of the nicer weather and the fact that it is on beginning of peak season. Visiting during shoulder seasons like April and September can also have benefits.

And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to visit during the colder and darker months, there are still worthwhile reasons for being there like checking out Halloween, the Christmas markets, and other unique seasonal events.

Europe is opening up to vaccinated Americans this summer

It looks like the European Union is committed to opening back up to Americans this summer — at least to fully vaccinated people.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she expects all 27 EU member states to open up to travelers who have received vaccines that the EMA (European Medicines Agency) has approved.

This would include: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer-BioNTech. (These are all of the vaccines available in the US.)

We don’t know exactly when these countries will open up because they did not provide a specific timeline.

Countries like Iceland and Greece have already opened up and we’ve heard from the UK that they will be opening up relatively soon.

This is pretty exciting news if you had plans to get to Europe this summer but there still are some questions that need to be answered.

It’s not clear to me exactly how the verification process will work but it looks like there may be an app that will allow passengers to share test results and vaccination cards with governments.

There still could be tests or restrictions that specific member states require even if you are vaccinated so I’m curious how that will work.

It’s possible that — logistically — traveling to Europe may still be quite the headache.

I’m wondering what will happen to minors who currently are too young to get the vaccine but could potentially still be transporting the virus. Will they have to/be able to take a covid test?

This could make things a lot more difficult for families to get around in Europe this summer.

In addition, I’m wondering when the US will end the mandatory coronavirus test for incoming passengers, especially for those who are already vaccinated.

And finally, what is going to happen with masks?

The risk of a vaccinated individual transferring the virus to others looks like it is extremely minimal and so masks probably are almost certainly not needed for these people.

If vaccinated travelers have proof of vaccination then mask requirements should be dropped for these individuals in my opinion.

It’s looking like this summer will give us the first glimpse at normalcy when it comes to air travel.

But based on how things are slowly opening up and how some countries are still struggling a bit with vaccine roll out I don’t think we will get back to normal until after the summer.

If you are planning to visit Europe in the next few months I would still expect to deal with things like masks, social distancing, and testing at some locations.

Some countries might end up being more lax than others.

Still, this is a encouraging sign and great news for Americans who have been wanting to get back out to tourist hotspots like Italy, Spain, France etc.


The Harry Potter London Tour Review at Warner Brothers Studio

If you like Harry Potter and you’re going to London you pretty much have no choice but to do the Harry Potter London Tour at Warner Brothers Studio.  From strolling through the cobblestoned Diagon Alley to checking out Weasley’s crooked dining room, everything in the tour is extremely well done and there are thousands of props to see along with the rebuilt scenes from the movie.

I’ll try to give you an idea of what to expect along with a sneak peak at some of the amazing sets without spoiling too much of the fun for you and who you how to get tickets for your studio tour.

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The Harry Potter London Tour Experience

Your Harry Potter London tour experience begins before you arrive at the studio.

Get sorted by the Sorting Hat

The first thing you have to do is get selected to your respective house. That’s right. Go to the official Harry Potter site,, sign-up, complete the questionnaire and let the Sorting Hat determine your fate. I’d like to just point that I did get chosen for Gryffindor (*ahem*) while Brad ended up with good ole Ravenclaw.

Some of the questions you’ll answer online are actually kind of thought provoking and will make you think about some odd scenarios but the test only takes a few of minutes. For the true Potter fans, finding out your house before you go is a must.

Related: Hocus Pocus Filming Sites in Salem, MA Guide 

Harry Potter
Not braggin’ – just sayin’

There’s also a whole gaming community on the site where you can earn points for your house by competing in wand duels and things like that but after getting it handed to me in my first few attempts I gave it a rest pretty quickly (some of the people on that site are pretty serious and on a different level).

Harry Potter London Tickets 

The second thing you need to do is book your tickets online you can do that here as far in advance as possible. This is especially true if you are wanting to visit any time close to the holidays.

In such a case, you need to book at least a month ahead if not longer to have a chance at getting your preferred time slot. If you’re visiting at any other time of the year, you should be okay waiting even only a few days before your visit but do try to still book early.

Tickets cost £47 ($63 USD) per adult (16+ years). Ages 5 to 15 are £38 ($51 USD) and must be accompanied by an adult. Children four and under are free.

They also have a family packages. With those, two adults & two children OR one adult & three children can get in for £150.

It seems pretty steep, but this is one of the pricey attractions in London (it’s actually located outside of London) where you’ll actually get your money’s worth. If for some reason you have to re-schedule you can do so but it’s £10 to reschedule your tour so try get your date right the first time.

Harry Potters Cupboard on Harry Potter London Tour
Harry Potter’s Cupboard

One thing we found out is that you can actually enter your tour before your designated time. Try to keep it within reason but we were about 45 minutes early for our designated slot and they just let us go right on in. When choosing your time slot one thing you might want to think about is doing a later tour. The reason? Field trips! 

I’m assuming UK schools are like the US in that they usually don’t do field trips later in the day so your chances of being hit with endless herds of school children may be less. Of course, this is Harry Potter, so you’ve got to expect for tons of kids to be running around but during our tour (which was around noon), there were endless droves of school children pouring in, which made it kind of hard impossible to get good photos of some of the sets. So just think about that when planning.

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall

During the tour, you are free to roam about the movie sets at your own pace with the one exception being the Great Hall. In there, you’re only given something like 15-20 minutes before the next group arrives so it’s a little quick (though you can always hop back in the room once the next group enters).

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studios London: The Great Hall.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall is pretty stunning and lining the walls are uniforms and costumes worn by the characters of the different houses, including some of the original attire worn by none other than Harry Potter himself.

The tables are set with all of their fancy silverware and decked out in the most delicious-looking fake food you’ve probably ever seen. Apparently, the producers used real food in the first Harry Potter but after old food started causing a nasty stench in the place they moved to decorative props instead.

Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall.
Harry Potter Studios London The Great Hall
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Great Hall.

Tons of extremely detailed sets and props to check out

From there it’s off to wherever you’d like to venture.  You’ll be amazed by the thousands of props on display. The attention to detail that went into making everything from the wand boxes to the potion bottles is utterly mind blowing.

Wands at Harry Potter Tour London
Cauldrons at Harry Potter Tour London

The studio has all of the major sets you’d probably expect it to have. You get to see the Gryffindor common room, the dorm rooms, Dumbledore’s “office,” the potion room, a room from the Weasley’s house, and a bunch more. At each exhibit there are little information panels with tons of interesting facts about the props that you’d likely never know. Also, while we didn’t do the headset tour, I was told that there’s plenty of interesting info to learn while doing those.

As of March 2015, they have Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express. And now they even have the Forbidden Forest.

Gryffindor Boys Dormitory Harry Potter London Tour
Gryffindor Boy’s Dormitory
The Entrance to Dumbledores Office Harry Potter London Tour
The Entrance to Dumbledore’s Office
Dumbledores Office on Harry Potter London Tour
Dumbledore’s Office
Weasleys Dining Room Harry Potter London Tour
Weasleys Dining Room
Snape in The Potion Room on Harry Potter London Tour
Snape in The Potion Room

Harry Potter Tour London green screen experience

Although we didn’t, you can opt for a green-screen experience where you can actually ride a broom in front of a green screen and get some kind of sweet video/photos made. I think they even dress you up a little with a scarf and cloak. I’m not sure what it costs to do that but it seemed like a lot of people weren’t passing up the opportunity to do a little broom flying.

Motorbike on Harry Potter London Tour

After you’re done exploring the first building you move into the cafe area. Here, they sell hotdogs and other food items  (even breakfast dishes before 11:30) so you can relax a little bit and get off your feet if you want. The one thing you have to try here is butterbeer!

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Harry Potter Studio Tour London Butterbeer!

First, butterbeer is not alcoholic so don’t get too excited. It tasted just like cream soda to me (which I liked but Brad didn’t care for). The foam on top of the “soda” is extremely sweet and tastes like butterscotch.

I saw where some recommended only getting one cup for two people but honestly the cups are so small I recommend going with one cup for each person. I’m not 100% sure, but I think each glass of butterbeer costed about £3.

Foamy butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studio Tour London
Foamy butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studio Tour London!

After you drink up on butterbeer you head outside into the parking lot for some more interesting set pieces. There’s the triple-decker purple bus that you won’t miss as soon as you step out, the Covered Bridge from Hogwarts, Harry’s house, and if you visit during the winter, you’ll be showered with a bit of snow as you walk outside.

Harry Potter London The Knight Bus
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Knight Bus
Harry Potter Studio Tour London
Harry Potter Studio Tour London bridge.

From there, you enter into the third portion of the tour. Once you enter the third building  you’ll come across a number of fascinating props and costumes used in the different movies.

One of my favorites was seeing Voldemort’s little (disgusting) veiny corpse from the Deathly Hallows II and some of the other moving props. It’s really something to see these props close up and it gives you more appreciation for the artists who likely spent hundreds of hours working to create these props.

Voldemort creature at Harry Potter Studio tour London
Harry Potter London

Harry Potter London Diagon Alley

After that, the next main attraction is Diagon Alley!

It’s really cool to see the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, and a few others. The lighting changes from dim to bright pretty quickly as you walk through so be ready to adjust your camera settings if you’re shooting manual with a DSLR. Overall, Diagon Alley was one of the coolest portions of the tour and really make you feel like you’ve entered into the world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter London Diagon Alley
Harry Potter London Diagon Alley.
Weasleys Wizard Wheezes shop
Ollivanders Wand Shop

Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts set up

The final attraction that awaits you is the magnificent Hogwarts model.

The model of the castle and the surrounding rocky mountain upon which it’s built, is simply phenomenal. It was much more massive and far more life-like than anything I’d imagined it would be. As the lights dim in the room, yellow lights twinkle throughout the castle, creating a life-like appearance where you’re left almost anticipating someone walking out of the castle.

Hogwarts model Harry Potter London
Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts.
Hogwarts model Harry Potter London
Harry Potter London Tour Hogwarts.

If you visit in the winter the castle is topped with “snow” and really is spectacular. It may surprise you how long you spend in this room as there’s plenty of different angles to admire this work of art from.

Harry Potter London Tour Gift Shop

Once you leave the last exhibit you end up in the gift shop.

It’s a pretty large gift shop with tons of different types of souvenirs, from wands to sweaters and scarves to candies from the movie and all kinds of different stationary items. As you might expect, it’s all pretty overpriced, especially the clothing items. We left with a magnet and a chocolate frog so we got out of there without splurging which was great but if you intend on getting any kind of clothing souvenir keep in mind that it’s going to cost you.

Warner Brothers Studio FAQ

How much are tickets for adults?

The price per adult (ages 16 years and above) is £47.

Do I need to buy my tickets in advance?

Yes, you need to purchase your tickets in advance. If you are planning to visit during a holiday, make sure to purchase them far in advance.

How long does the tour last?

On average, you will spend about 3.5 hours at the tour.

Where can I get butterbeer?

You can purchase butterbeer at the Backlot Café. It can come in a frothy drink or you can get it in ice cream form.

Is butterbeer alcoholic?

No, the butterbeer is not alcoholic.

According to the website, “Butterbeer is suitable for those with gluten, wheat and nut allergies. It does, however, contain trace amounts of dairy so it is unsuitable for vegans or anyone with lactose intolerance.

Can I get sorted by the sorting hat?

You can get sorted before your visit by going to the official Harry Potter site,

Are there special exhibits?

Yes, you can enjoy a special seasonal exhibits at different times in the year. These include: Hogwarts in the Snow and A Celebration of Slytherin.

Are there places to eat?

Yes, you can enjoy facilities like the Chocolate Frog Café, Hub Café, the Food Hall, Backlot Café.

What are the main attractions?

Main attractions that you should check out include:

– Great Hall
– Forbidden Forest
– Diagon Alley
– Platform 9 3/4 /Hogwarts Express
– Knight Bus
– Privet Drive
– Hogwarts Bridge

In addition, there are tons of costumes and special effects that you can check out.

How can I enhance my visit?

You can enhance your visit by picking up an activity passport which includes things like a Golden Snitch hunt, puzzles and trivia. You can also get souvenir stamps at key points throughout the tour.

You can also download the free Wizarding World app – the official Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts companion. This is a great way to find out more details about the area of the studio tour you are in.

You can also rent a digital guide for £4.95. Digital Guides are available in the following subtitled languages; English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin), Brazilian and Portuguese.

Is parking free?

Parking is free of charge and is a short walk away from the main entrance.

However, you can also purchase priority parking which is located next to the entrance. This will cost you an additional £10. Priority Parking is only available to pre-book online ahead of your visit and cannot be purchased on the day.

Can I take photos of the tour?

According to the website, “taking of photographs and capturing video footage with handheld cameras and mobile devices is allowed in all areas of the Studio Tour, apart from the pre-show cinema and green screen areas.”

Final word

Overall, the Harry Potter London tour is a must-see attraction in London for any Harry Potter (of any age). I didn’t hop on the Harry Potter bandwagon until about a year ago and I thought this place was pretty amazing so I could only imagine how other must feel who’ve read all the books and seen all the movies over the years.  It’s a little pricey but the way that this place captivates your imagination is priceless and completely worth the visit.

Best Time of the Year to Visit Greece (Weather, Temperature, & Events)

Greece is not only known for its spectacularly beautiful islands but also for the culture and traditions of yestercentury. Even outside of the islands you can find some of the most beautiful landscapes in the northern part of Greece. Plus, it’s also one of my favorite countries for food where savory and sweets are all enjoyable.

In this comprehensive article, I will cover the best time of the year to visit Greece factoring in things the climate, weather, temperatures, beaches, and special events that take place throughout the year.

When is the best time of the year to visit Greece?

If you wish to experience Greece to the fullest, where all the islands are accessible, the best time of the year to visit Greece is April to mid-June and September to mid-October. During those months the weather is mild with long days and islands shouldn’t be too crowded.

For the best weather, you will find May to October having the sunniest days. July and August will be the hottest months, along with being the most crowded months. I personally don’t like crowded places and would avoid July and August since it is the summer holiday for many countries.

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Best time to visit Greece on a budget

For the money-conscious travelers, you will find that months like March, April, May, October, and November offer decent weather with cheaper flights and accommodation. 

In fact, I went late-February and was amazed by how cheap accommodation was in Athens. Coco-Mat Hotel, Herodion Hotel, Andronis Athens (which I stayed in before), Plaka Hotel, and Athens Mansion Luxury Suites all were offering around $100 nightly rates. 

When I stayed in Andronis Athens in February, I found it a great location for an awesome price of $105 a night.

Ruins in Athens Greece

Greece geography (map)

Located in south-eastern Europe, Greece is part of the Balkan Peninsula and numerous islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Greece borders Turkey, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Albania. As you can see below, here is a map of Greece via Google maps.

Map of Mediterranean sea

Greece is, in fact, part of the European Union, where travel between other Schengen states will feel like a domestic flight within a country. 

Driving in and out of Greece is possible with a car or a bus. So, you could rent a car in France and drive to and within Greece with that same car, just make sure you have the proper permit and insurance for driving.

Greece has 13 administrative regions and those administrative regions are known as Peripheries of Greece. Nine of the peripheries are on the mainland and four are island groups. Attica, South Aegean, Crete, Central Macedonia, and Corfu are all the most touristy peripheries.

Map of Aegean sea
Map of Greece

Greece climate/weather

Greece has a Mediterranean climate, best defined as warm and dry in the summers and mild and rainy in the winters. Expect sunshine throughout most of the year in most areas. Even when I was there in February for a few days it was sunny every day. 

There are some climate subtypes, like Attiki (Athens’ greater area) and East Greece that are more of a dry climate,  while Northern and Western Greece have generally a wet climate. 


The temperature in Greece varies between the north and south. For example, the southernmost island of Crete (Iraklion) in January has an average daily temperature of 54.5F (12.5C). Thessaloniki has an average temperature in January of 42F (5.5C). While Athens, being in-between Crete and Thessaloniki, has an average temperature in January of 49F (9.5C). 

Down below I go into details about air and sea temperatures for specific cities and islands.


Santorini is by far the most iconic destination in all of Greece for its picturesque views throughout the island. The hottest month, on average, is during July with an average temperature of 79F (26C). The coldest month would be January with an average temperature of 54F (12C).

Traveling in Santorini is still doable during the shoulder months like November. In November you can expect the weather to be more pleasant than Ireland with an average temperature of 62.5F (17C). In fact, if you wish to see a fewer number of tourists, October or April would be doable months. It might be chilly sometimes, but still pleasant enough to enjoy the sun and beauty of the island. 

The best time to swim in Santorini would be August with an average sea temperature of 77F (25C).


Beautiful Mykonos, the island that rivals Santorini but is so different that it also needs to be visited. Mykonos’ hottest month is July with an average temperature of 79F (26C). During the winter, expect an average temperature of January to be 48F (9C) in it’s coldest month.

The average sea temperature in Mykonos during July is 75F (24C), making it the best time for beach life. It’s still not as warm as Santorini, being more north of Santorini, but it’s still known to have wonderful beaches during the summer months of June to September.


Athens is the hottest capital in Europe with the average daily temperature in July and August of 79F (26C). Some inner districts get as hot as 82F (28C). It’s also common during July and August for the temperature to reach 97-100F (36-38C). However, during the winter, the average temperature in January is 49F (9.5C).


In the beautiful north, Thessaloniki has an average high temperature in July and August of 88-90F (31-32C) with peaks of 95-97F (35-36C). With an average temperature of 42F (5.5C) during January, It can get chilly, in fact very chilly sometimes. 


Corfu’s hottest months are July and August with an average temperature of 77F (25C). The coldest month is January with an average temperature of 49F (10C). During the night, Corfu does get chilly with an average low temperature of 66F (19C). 

You can expect the weather between June and September to be warm enough for the beach, but the best month for the beach would be July and August as the average sea temperature is 77F (25C).



Days are filled with the sun in Santorini. During July there are 14 hours of sun with minimal rainfall during the summer months. The wettest month would be December with almost 74.5mm of rain. During the winter, expect the weather to be cloudy and wetter.

The best time to visit Santorini with sunny weather and minimal precipitation would be between late-May to mid-September.


Mykonos summers are warm, arid, and clear while the winters are long, cold, and partly cloudy. You can expect Mykonos to be windy all year-round with the sunniest days in July and August. Similar to Santorini, the best time to visit Mykonos for the best weather would be late-May to mid-September. 


During the summer, expect Athens to be very sunny, but with chances of smog. That’s right, Athens is more polluted during the summer with smog wrapping the city up during peak summer months. It’s also not really windy making it a hot, stagnant city.

However, Athens during the winter is sunny, partly cloudy, and with less smog. I found the air fresh during the winter months, good for long cool walks to my destinations.


Being situated in the valleys of the north, Thessaloniki is sunny and hot during the summer. It’s not very windy during the summer making the high temperatures unpleasant. It doesn’t rain too much in either summer or winter, but during the winter you can expect it to be cloudier and windier. 


Corfu has 12 hours of sunshine throughout the month of July but is very cloudy during the winter months of December, January, and February. Expect an average of three hours of sunshine during December.

Out of all the months, expect very little rainfall between May to September, but once it’s October, rainfall is more common, while November has an average of 20 days of rain. Compared to other islands, Corfu is the least sunny and the wettest island outside of the summer months.

If you had to visit Corfu during the winter months, a rain poncho is well recommended.

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Things to do in Greece

Below, I highlighted a lot of the different things you can do throughout the year when visiting Greece. 


Greeks know how to celebrate, and I mean cel-e-brate.

Expect to keep celebrating the holidays in Greece in the month of January. You have celebrations like the Feast of Saint Basil’s on New Year’s Day. Think of it like Greece’s Christmas-like celebration. It’s a day of gift-giving, feasting, card games, and Greek customs for bringing good luck for the year. You can also find Athens and many other cities having midnight fireworks.

Then halfway through the month of January, you will find Patras Carnival, Greece’s largest festival starting on January 17th, 2020. For several weeks there will be parade floats, boules (transvestite masquerades), pantomimes, and many many many parties. 


February is known to be the time of culture vulture, meaning you aren’t partying on the islands, but witnessing the beauty of culture hot-spots and archeological findings. Greece is filled with many.

But, if you still want to party, Athens and Thessaloniki are still great places for nightlife where it’s year-round. 

During the month of February, you will find many carnivals called Apokries. Apokries are hosted throughout Greece in various cities where it’s flamboyant with lots of dancing and feasting. Think of this as the crescendo from Greece’s largest festival, Patras, that started back in January.


March is the month that tourists start to come in droves from all around the world, as the weather is much better. So, the parties are settling down.

However, with the weather getting better, marathons are becoming more prominent. If you are a marathon lover, you shouldn’t be disappointed with these two marathons:


In April, expect even warmer weather where summer activities like fireworks become more frequent. Rocket War, Chios is a once a year celebration on the night between Saturday and Sunday of Easter. This is a battle between the people of Saint Mark Church and the people of Virgin Erethianis Church. 

It’s located in Chios and starts around 8pm where thousands of fireworks between the churches light up the sky in an all-out battle. 


The islands become the life of the party starting in June with Hippocratia Festival for a summer-long series of events on Kos.

Its music festivals, theater, and art exhibitions throughout Kos where the culture comes alive. Think of it as the time of connecting with other like-minded people that value the arts. 


While it might be the hottest month out of the year, festivals are still very much alive in the month of July.

You will find festivals like the Hydra Puppet Festival, where it’s a tradition of local and Greek puppeteers presenting new and old performances on the island of Hydra. Then on other islands, like Kavala, you will find the second oldest festival in Greece called Philippi Festival performing ancient theater. These two festival performances highlight the Greek arts like no other.

If performances aren’t your thing, Halkidiki holds an art festival called Sani Festival. It’s meant to connect locals with foreign artists showing off their latest creations. You will find professionals to unknown artists all in one place sharing their works.


August is yet another hot month, but musical festivals like the Aegina International Music Festival still go on performing classical music on the island of Aegina. You will find Greek and international artists performing classical music on the beach and with cultural backdrops emphasizing the music being played. 


The arts just keep on coming with the Athens International Film Festival showcasing Sundance like films for 12 days. You will find many foreign films from all around the world, some premiering at the film festival.

Santorini joins the music scene with three weeks of the Santorini International Music Festival. Find solo recitals, orchestras, piano duets, operatic music, tango, classical, almost every genre you can think of during those three weeks. 

However, if film or music isn’t your thing, the Armata Festival is where local boatbuilders all come together to build a Turkish Boat that is from the battle of the strait between Spetses Islan and Kosta during the revolution of 1821. Once the boat is done, the festival has local dances and theater. Then there is a grand finale of fireworks. You will also find local boats making their way out to the middle of the sea all candlelit. It’s truly special. 


Every October during the last week there will be a Chestnut Festival marking the new harvest in the Macedonian forests. For three days you can join locals in mountainous villages savoring winter fruit with a glass of tsipouro (local spirit) or wine.

At the beginning of October, Santorini has one of the biggest sporting events called the Santorini Experience. Trekking, swimming, climbing marathon throughout all of Santorini, it’s a marathon for the best of the best. I am for sure not one of the best, so I won’t even attempt it. 


While it might be getting cold, the holidays don’t stop Greece. You can find many Christmas markets throughout Greece, but once Christmas hits, it’s a time to celebrate with family. After Christmas passes New Year’s Eve comes around where the festivities all start up again with huge New Year’s celebrations all throughout the night and the following day.

Final word

As you can tell, there are pros and cons to visiting Greece each time of the year. Personally, I would shoot for September as the sea temperatures should still be warm enough for some beach life, but also less crowded than June to August. 

However, visiting during other times of the year, like October, could hold for some interesting events in the Macedonian forests.

This article was originally published by Steve Smith.

The London Eye (Tickets, Fast Track, and is it Worth it)?

The London Eye is one of the most iconic landmarks in London. Tons of people flock to the London Eye for the unique experience and fantastic views of landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster Palace.

In this article I’ll talk about what you can expect on your London Eye visit and give you my recommendations for the best London eye tickets.

London Eye History

The London Eye, Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel, was built in the year 2000 to celebrate the millennium. It’s a massive structure (by London standards) that stands 443 feet tall and is made up of 32 pods which each represent one of the bureaus in London.

The London Eye was originally meant to be temporary; however, it was such an attraction that they ended up keeping it around. While the London Eye has proven to be quite a touristic draw, many still wonder whether a trip to the London Eye is worth the cost.

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Is the London Eye worth it?

The London Eye
The London Eye seen from below.

London Eye Tickets

The first thing to know about the London Eye is that there are a ton of different types of packages for London Eye tickets. The standard adult admission ticket — which requires you to select a certain time slot starts at £24 per adult.

London Eye fast pass tickets

The prices go up depending on whether you’d like a fast track and/or flexi ticket.

The fast track ticket will have you waiting in no more than a 15-20 minute line (we only waited about 3 minutes) and considering how long the line can get during peak hours, I’d recommend the fast track for you if you’re at all on a time crunch.

Keep in mind that the standard entry queue time can be around 45 minutes.

You can get your fast pass tickets here.

London Eye flexi tickets

The flexi option can allow you to show up at any time during a designated day or if you pay a little more, you can show up at any time on any day during the week of your choice. If you’re interested in getting the flexi + fast pass tickets to avoid the line, you can buy fast pass flexi tickets here


The London Eye offers a ton of specialty packages that you can look into if you’re in the mood of splurging (these range from £28-50 per person). Some of these include glasses of champagne, chocolate and wine tasting, and even whiskey tours.

You can also book your own private capsule tour so you can experience the view all to your lonesome with romantic additions of champagne and truffles but that’s a pretty pricey option at £360.

Personally, I don’t think it would be worth spending that much money for a mere 30 minutes of privacy but if you could afford to do so, you probably wouldn’t be questioning whether such an experience would be worth the money to begin with.

At the top of the The London Eye.

London Eye Hours

The Coca-Cola London Eye opening times vary throughout the year, typically the attraction opens at 10:00 and closes between 18:00-20:30.

You can check here for the latest hours.

Where is the London Eye?

The London Eye is located directly across from Westminster, where you’ll find Big Ben.

You can take the Tube to Westminster Station and walk the bridge to the London Eye for a more scenic route. Or if you can take the Tube to the Waterloo Station, which is right next to the London Eye.

London Eye map
Map of the London Eye.

The London Eye Experience

The London Eye takes thirty minutes for one rotation, thus you’ll have thirty minutes to take in the views, which is plenty of time. In fact, after about 20 minutes into it, you’ll likely feel like you’ve “seen it all.”

Tip: to help keep yourself occupied considering downloading the London Eye App.

  • Get the London Eye App for Android
  • Get the London Eye App for Apple
The London Eye View
An iconic view of Big Ben from the London Eye.

I think they stick about 28 people in each capsule which may sound like a lot but the capsules are pretty spacious and I think there’s enough room for you to comfortably enjoy your experience.

I didn’t realize it but this eye of London never stops rotating even when they load and unload the occupants. It moves so slowly and smoothly, however, that it’s not an issue. (Note: if you are disabled they will stop it momentarily so that there’s no issues loading you on and off.)

The London Eye View

The entire ride up and down is pretty smooth as well. From the time you step into the clear capsules, it’s only a matter of minutes before you ascend over the River Thames and have the birds eye view of London.

A few more minutes and you’re approximately 440 feet in the air and can see the skyscrapers upstream on the River Thames, including The Shard. If you look really closely with a zoom lenses or binoculars you can see the Tower of London and even, Tower Bridge. On a clear day, you can see as far as Wembley Stadium.

The Shard from The London Eye

There’s a couple of tablets in each capsule that will help you point out the buildings that you’re looking at which makes it a bit more interesting of a ride. I’d done a lot of research so I knew what most of the buildings were that we were looking at but it was still pretty helpful to give it a glance here and there.

Tablet in capsule of The London Eye

From time to time as the London Eye gains elevation, you can feel an occasional shift in the capsule as the rotating mechanisms change but nothing that should startle you too bad. In fact, you may not even feel anything at all. The capsules are all outfitted with air conditioning but if the sun is hitting your windows directly, it can get a little warm as ours did so you may need to ditch the jacket or sweater once you get in.

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One of the best views in London

The view from the London Eye is, in my opinion, one of the best in London.

Sure, the Shard is higher and offers a more far-reaching view. However, the Shard is much further upstream along the River Thames so you’re not offered that “money shot” with Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster right in front of you. To me that’s the quintessential London shot and one of the reasons I feel like it was worth the cost.

The London Eye View
View from the London Eye.
London Eye view Big Ben
View from the London Eye.
Bridge view from London Eye
View from the London Eye.

I do kind of wish we would have timed our visit about an hour later when the sun was setting. We got in the London Eye around 7:15 pm and the Sun was still sitting pretty high considering it is late May. However, I think capturing the sunset from the Eye would’ve added a lot of drama to the photographs and it also would’ve been nice to see London lit up at twilight.

The glares in the windows aren’t too bad but you’ll likely have to work around them depending on the lighting conditions. Also, unless something has changed, no tripods are allowed on the London Eye, so keep that mind if you’re thinking about getting some night shots.

London Eye FAQ

Can you bring food into the London Eye?

Food is not allowed on the London Eye but you can bring bottled water.

If you need to bring a food or drink related item for medical reasons, contact them and they should be able to work something out.

Can I take my luggage on the London Eye?

Large bags or suitcases are not permitted onto the London Eye. There is also not a cloakroom facility at the London Eye. Instead, you’ll have to go to London Waterloo station for the nearest luggage facility.

Are there seats on the London Eye?

Yes. There is actually a bench in the center of the capsule, which is available on a first come first serve basis.

How tall is the London Eye?

The London Eye stands 443 feet tall.

Final word

Overall, it’s a bit pricey of an experience but when you factor in the great views that the London Eye offers I think that it’s worth the money for the majority of people who will go to experience it, especially if you double dip with the day and night experience.

My Northern Lights Experience in Trosmø, Norway

This past Christmas, Brad and I ventured above the Arctic Circle to explore Tromsø, Norway, and the beautiful fjords in search of the northern lights. The light shows we experienced far exceeded even our best expectations, so I felt the urge to share what it was like to go northern lights hunting in Norway for four nights.

See also:

Getting to Tromsø, Norway

We flew in to Norway on an SAS A330 in business class which I booked with Star Alliance partner, Aeroplan for only $12. Although the seats in business class were comfortable, I struggled to get any sleep which would make things very interesting for the next 24 hours.

SAS business class seats
SAS business class.

By the time we made our way through the airport in Tromsø, picked up our rental car, found parking, and walked back to the Raddison Blu amid a heavy down pour of sleet, we only had about 2 hours before our first northern lights tour started!

When I arrive in a new place, I struggle to subdue the excitement and am usually not able to just jump on a bed and take a nap. So despite my best attempt, I stayed wide awake for the next two hours until it was time for our tour.

Our tour was set for 7pm, which meant that I’d been up at that point for about 30 hours straightI was really worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the northern lights tour and considered putting it off until the next day, but I knew I’d never be able to let it go if the lights came out that night and I missed them. So I sucked it up and decided to go.

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Night one: An intro to the northern lights

We boarded up the tour van and took off through the snowy highways. It was drizzling with a mix of snow and sleet and all I could catch were quick glimpses of thick forests on the side of the road. Luckily, this van came equipped with quality wifi (that was even better than some hotels) and so it was easy to pass the time.

After about an hour and a half of riding, I noticed a very faint whitish streak in the sky through the dark-tinted windows. It was so faint, that I had to squint to make out the object. In any other setting I would’ve dismissed it for a cloud but the sight reminded me of exactly what I saw when I witnessed the northern lights from a plane.

Our van stopped on the side of the road and we all got out. To my amazement, it was the northern lights!

The only problem is that the lights were very weak and almost entirely shrouded by clouds. To be honest, it wasn’t the most impressive sight but at least we could say we saw them if nothing else appeared. Lucky for us, we were in store for a great show.

Northern lights Norway
The first glimpse of the northern lights!

After about five minutes of watching these lights, the clouds moved back in and covered the sky, so we moved on to try to find clearer skies. Our guides used their partners strategically roaming the Norwegian countryside in different regions to locate the clearest skies and they directed us.

After about 30 minutes, we saw more northern lights activity in the clouds and decided to set up a new spot on the side of the road. This new spot opened up to a large mountainous fjord.

It was at this point that the lights came out much more vividly and I saw my first truly impressive sight of the lights. While the camera picks up their green color better than what you’d see in real life, when the lights are strong, they look unmistakably green to the naked eye.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights outside of Tromsø, Norway.

After setting up my tripod and spending some time adjusting the settings on my camera, I started to snap away at the sky, capturing thousands of stars along with the lights reflecting on the water.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights outside of Tromsø, Norway.

After each minute, we noticed more and more stars dusting the sky as the clouds opened up. Green streaks stretched from overhead all the way down to the horizon beyond the mountains. This was a true northern lights experience and what I had been hoping for ever since my nightmare of a trip to Iceland in 2014.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights outside of Tromsø, Norway.

After a couple of minutes for the lights to begin to intensify. They grew thicker and brighter and appeared all over the sky in different places.  One thing about the northern lights is you never know what they’re going to do.

Suddenly, these streaks started moving fast, whipping and whirling through the night sky. The green intensified into white and even purple and pink colors came out. It was electric.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights dancing.

There were ooohs and ahhhs from everyone in our group. I was beyond thrilled and just trying to capture some of the moment on my camera. I’d already been mystified by the lights earlier but this was just unreal. I had no idea the lights truly danced.

Northern lights Norway
Stunning northern lights.

This went on for about 5 minutes and even when the dancing died down, the northern lights continued to appear and reappear in the sky for hours. Our group built a fire and some lay down on reindeer skin hides to watch the light show. Servings of hot chocolate and hot soup warmed us up as we finished up the night.

We didn’t make it back to our hotel until late close to 2am that night but it was completely worth it, because I could not have asked for a more memorable encounter with the northern lights.

Night two: A battle with the elements

I questioned whether we should go out a second night in a row. The first night had been such an overwhelmingly amazing experience that I could’ve happily ended my northern lights experience there. My feeling was that if the lights didn’t show the second night we would be ending our northern lights experience on a low note, not to mention that it would just suck to spend hours roaming aimlessly in a van all night.

But, we decided we didn’t travel all that way to Norway to settle for one good night of the lights so we decided to go out a second night.

This night was a battle. We settled on a point along the rocky coast to watch the lights but the the winds whipped up from the Norwegian Sea creating a brutally cold experience at times. Unlike the night before, I had to completely bundle up and keep my gloves, beanies, and face mask on at all times and I still found myself shivering. The winds penetrated my jeans and thermals and after a couple of hours I could feel my toes getting icy.

Despite the cold, however, we caught some of the most amazing views of the northern lights. It started out with a pretty mild showing like the night before.

Northern lights and shooting star Norway
The northern lights with a shooting star.

And then as the evening progressed, a more intense display showed up.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights in Norway.

Eventually massive streaks of green covered the sky and moved fluidly behind the low-lying clouds.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights in Norway.

At one point, things had gotten quiet for a while and a few people in our group went back inside the van to defrost. I’d just set up my tripod outside the van and the folks warming up inside the van asked me to tell them if anything happened.

Well, within about two minutes, I noticed thick green streaks appearing more intense in the sky and I knew something special was happening. I ran into the van and told them to come out and that’s when we witnessed an even bolder display of the northern lights. This time we saw bright pink streaks rippling all over the sky and even through the clouds.

Northern lights Norway
Pink northern lights display.

A tour bus, with immaculate timing,  pulled up right as this show was starting and as the lights show picked up, tourists poured out of the bus, immediately gawking up to the sky as they caught this magnificent show.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights directly overhead.

It’s worth noting that northern light experiences can sometimes become something of an endurance event. By the end of this night, I could barely feel my toes and my face and I was utterly exhausted from so little sleep but the hours spent under the lights had been 100% worth it.

Night 3: The test drive

On night 3, clouds blanketed the sky and sleet poured down all over Tromsø. Even though we’d enjoyed our tours the two nights before, we decided it was time to do some exploring on our own in our rental car.

I’d still been running on fumes from the lack of sleep from the past three days, so we decided to only do a “test drive” about an hour into the fjords just to see how difficult it would be to drive on those icy Arctic roads. Having virtually no experience in driving in cold conditions, I wasn’t sure if we’d be sliding up and down the roads and to be honest was a bit nervous about it.

Luckily, we didn’t have any issues that night so we decided that the next night we’d venture a few hours all the way into Finland while chasing the northern lights.

Night 4: Christmas night with the northern lights

Night 4 would be one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life. It was also Christmas.

We started very early around 5pm, as it was already very dark. This night was special because it was the first clear night of our trip. Even though the city of Tromsø was still covered in snowing clouds, the fjords found inland were completely devoid of any clouds.

About 25 minutes into our drive, we were riding along the coast of a fjord and I took a peak out the side of the car window. That’s when I noticed a massive streak running across the sky, over the tops of some mountains overlooking the fjord.

We stopped and got out to catch some photographs. This green streak soon doubled and then tripled as the color intensified. Soon the entire sky was filled with these green ribbons of light, folding and stretching above us.

Northern lights over north Norway
Northern lights over north Norway.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were witnessing an unexpected solar storm hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.

A solar storm over Norway.

It was an absolutely brilliant display of light.

Northern lights
The Northern lights over Norway.

The lights continued to morph into several odd shapes and at one time even formed a giant “X” in the sky.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights forming a giant X.

Other odd shapes continued to come to life as we watched.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights.

Eventually we made our way a bit further into the fjords until we started to witness another spectacular showing forming in the sky.

Northern lights Norway
Th northern lights over a fjord.

This showing started to transform into something resembling a northern light cyclone at one point.

Northern lights Norway
A northern lights cyclone?

After a few minutes, more and more lights appeared and we witnessed the strongest display of northern lights that we saw during our entire trip.

Northern lights Norway
A solar storm on display in Norway.
Northern lights Norway
The northern lights.

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At one point, the lights almost covered the entire sky.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights in northern Norway.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, the sight of the lights never got old. Sure you’d get neck cramps from looking up at the sky for hours and you’d begin to freeze, but those were small prices to pay considering the reward of catching the northern lights.

Northern lights Norway
The northern lights in northern Norway.

After the intense display, we made our way into Finland. We climbed through a winding road across the border where we had no cell phone service and didn’t see but maybe one or two cars — this was Christmas night after all.

Northern lights Finland
The northern lights over Finland.

We stopped for a while and I got out of the car. As soon as I stepped out into the -2ºF air, it was eerily quiet. Absolutely no noise coming from anything. All I saw was a brilliantly clear sky with lights slowly waving through it.

Northern lights Finland
The northern lights over Finland.
Northern lights Finland
The northern lights over Finland.

After trekking into Finland, we returned back on our way to Tromsø. Before arriving back into the city, we made a few stops to admire the dancing lights that continued to appear throughout the night.

Northern Lights
Dancing northern lights.

We were blessed with one more strong showing of the lights — this one came with bright showings of purple that rippled through the sky.

Northern lights
Purple northern lights over Norway.

We made our way back to the hotel some time around 1am. My experience with the northern lights had been well beyond even my most optimistic hopes. After having such a disaster of a trip in Iceland in 2014 while trying to catch the lights, this was all the redemption I could’ve asked for. I really hope to see the lights again (soon) one day but until then, these memories will suffice for me.

Things to Know About Visiting Tromsø, Norway During Winter

Tromsø, Norway is a fantastic winter destination. It’s one of those festive European cities that are big on Christmas and one of the top destinations for prime northern lights viewing. But it’s a bit tricky visiting Tromsø during Christmas because much of the city shuts down and you aren’t left with a ton of options. With that said, you can still find things to do and places to eat, you just need to manage your expectations. So here are several things to know about visiting Tromsø, Norway during winter.

Snow covered street Tromso Norway
Tromsø, Norway during Christmas.

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Getting there

You’ll likely have to connect from a Scandinavian city like Oslo to get to Tromsø, Norway. Flights on budget airlines can be pretty cheap. For example, you can book a roundtrip economy from JFK to OSL on Norwegian for as low as $400. And then you can get roundtrip flights from Olso to Tromsø for as little as $180, so your total out of pocket can be under $600.

I booked our flight to Tromsø as part of an award itinerary with Aeroplan where we flew business class on SAS for 55,000 miles one way and only $12 in fees and it was a great flight!

Seat on SAS business class on the A330
SAS business class on the A330.

On our way back we flew British Airways first class on the 747 using award miles and it was also a terrific flight.

British Airways First Class
British Airways First Class.

Note: Google Flights shows no direct flights operating from Tromsø to Oslo on Christmas, so be aware that flights on Christmas Day could be limited.

Tromsø is gorgeous

Trosmø is actually located on an island called “Tromsøya” and surrounded by spectacular mountainous fjords. It’s easily one of the most breathtaking Arctic cities in the world and it’s a real photographer’s paradise.

City view Tromso Norway
The view from Tromsø, Norway
Boats and bridge Tromso Norway

In addition to the stunning natural landscape surrounding the city, the entire town is decorated in the Christmas spirit! Even Ebenezer Scrooge himself would struggle not to get into Christmas when walking down these streets lined with wreaths and Christmas lights. And when it’s snowing, it’s almost like being in a real-life fairy tale.

Store fronts Tromso Norway
Tromsø, Norway.
Store front Tromso Norway
Tromsø, Norway.
Winter Christmas decorations Tromso Norway
Tromsø, Norway.
Winter Christmas decorations Tromso Norway
Tromsø, Norway Christmas decorations.
Tree with lights Tromso Norway
Tromsø Norway during a snowy Christmas.

You’ll have a little bit of daylight

Contrary to what many think, you’ll have some daylight even visiting in the middle of the winter. Your daylight window will be limited to “Civil Twilight,” which is the brightest stage of twilight defined as having “enough natural light to carry out most outdoor activities.” This will typically last from around 9:30 to 2pm around Christmas time, so if you want to do any kind of outdoor activity where you’ll want light, try to schedule it within that window.

The photo below shows the amount of light you might get around 12pm, but keep in mind that cloud coverage can significantly alter this.

Civil twilight Tromso Norway
Civil twilight in Tromsø.

It’s not at cold as you might think

Despite being located above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø doesn’t have a true Arctic climate but instead has a “humid subarctic continental climate.” Temperatures in December will likely be around 32ºF and only dropping below 19°F only one day in ten. Tromsø gets a lot of precipitation so you can expect to be hit with some rain, sleet, and probably a lot of snow during your visit.

In addition to bringing layers for the cold temperatures, waterproof winter wear and boots for getting around in snow really help out, too.

Up your planning game 

If you’re going to visit Tromsø during Christmas then you need to do some serious planning because so many attractions, shops, and restaurants will be closed on certain days or limited during specific hours. Thus, it’s often necessary to plan out each visit to each place by the day in advance so you don’t miss out on doing anything you’d like to experience. This is not a time or a place when you just want to play it by ear. 

The shutdowns begin

The shutdowns begin on December 23rd.

On this day, many shops and restaurants will close their doors early and won’t re-open them for several days. Thus, if you want to experience Christmas shopping and try out the different restaurants that Tromsø has to offer, you need to visit at least a couple of days before the 23rd.

Christmas time Tromsø Norway
Tromsø, Norway.

Where should I stay in Tromsø? 

I highly recommend staying in a hotel in the city center. Tromsø is not a big city by any means, but I think it’s worth being centrally located so you can easily walk to the shops, restaurants, etc., especially if the weather is bad.

We stayed at the Raddison Blu and for Scandinavian standards, it was fine for us and the breakfast each morning was’t bad at all. Other people said good things about the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (which has an outdoor hot tub) and if you’re more on a budget check out the Smarthotel Tromsø. 

Radisson Blu Hotel Tromso Norway
Radisson Blu Hotel, Tromso.

What restaurants are open during Christmas in Tromsø?

After the 23rd, there’s not going to be a lot of eating options in Tromsø but don’t worry, you’re not going to have to starve. Take a look at the screen shot below. It shows the opening hours for restaurants in Tromsø during Christmas of 2016. Note: this could be different for 2017 and beyond but it will give you a general idea of what to expect.

List of restaurants open Christmas Tromso Norway

As you can see, the vast majority  of the restaurants are closed for the holidays.

You should still be able to find an open restaurant at any of the big hotels in the city like the Raddison Blu, Clarion, etc. Outside of those hotels, your options will be extremely limited. We ended up eating at Yona’s Pizzeria a couple of times, and I highly recommend them because they were open even on Christmas and it was some good pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza at Yonas Tromso Norway
Pizza at Yona’s.

If your hotel room has a refrigerator you can stop at one of the grocery stores and store away some food. They should be open up until the afternoon on Christmas Eve. Picking up some groceries might be able to help you get by, but ultimately, I’d just count on eating out at the hotels or one of the few places open, since I doubt many hotels would even have mini-fridges with enough room for you to store your groceries.

List of grocery stores open Christmas Tromso Norway

If you’re just looking for snack food the 7-11 should be open most of the time. They’ve got hot food items like hot dogs and even pizzas (which to be honest didn’t look that bad).

Pizza in case
Pizza at the 7/11.

Just be warned to stay away from the candy “Salt Skum” if you find it in the 7/11 or anywhere else in Norway or it will ruin you!

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What shopping is open during Christmas in Tromsø?

As stated, you should try to fit in your shopping before the 24th. While some shops will likely be open on the 23rd and 24th, they’ll be shutting it down early, so I recommend you try to arrive a few days before the 23rd to maximize shopping opportunities.

When I visited, I noticed that some shops, such as the Tromsø Gift and Souvenir Shop closed even earlier than their stated closing time. So it’s a good idea to get your shopping done as early as possible.

Tromsø Norway
Tromsø Gift and Souvenir Shop.

What attractions are open during Christmas in Tromsø?

Many of the attractions will close after the 23rd. Only a couple of the staple attractions stay open on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day and these include Polaria and the Polar Museum. Note that the popular cable car attraction closes on the 24th and 25th, so if you want to catch those great views of the city (that I unfortunately missed) you need to do that earlier.

List of attractions open Christmas Tromso Norway

We checked out Polaria on Christmas and it’s an interesting museum with an Arctic aquarium, knowledge-based exhibits, and a panoramic theater, which is one of the highlights where you can see stunning visuals of Norway and how the northern lights actually come about.

Pool at Polaria Tromso Norway

Do they offer northern lights and dog-sledding tours on Christmas?

Some of the tour operators still offer activities like northern lights tours, dog-sledding tours, and other activities during Christmas Eve and Christmas, so you can still find things to do on those days. In fact, I recommend planning tours for those activities on those days, since you probably won’t have much else to do.

Northern lights Christmas Tromso Norway
The northern lights on Christmas.

We had three superb nights of watching the northern lights in Tromsø during our visit. If you’re looking for a northern lights tour, I suggest going with Chasing Lights. Also, I suggest reading my tips on viewing the northern lights for some background information that will help you be prepared for your visit.

Northern lights Christmas Norway
The northern lights just outside of Tromsø.

Tromsø church services on Christmas

If you’re in the mood for attending a church service for Christmas, there’s a number of them to choose from in Tromsø, including one at the famous Arctic Cathedral. We didn’t attend any of these, so I’m not sure how they are or what the crowds or like but you can probably do some research and find that out.

Church in Tromso Norway
Church in Tromsø, Norway.

Should I rent a car during the winter?

You do not need to rent a car to explore Tromsø. Even in snow and sleet, we walked around the city and to places like Polaria without an issue.

We did choose to rent a car to explore the surrounding area of Tromsø in search of the northern lights. If you want to explore the fjords or do your own search of the northern lights (I can’t recommend enough), then I highly suggest renting a car. The rental cars have nails in the tread that seemed to work wonders when driving on some of the streets that were frozen over. Brad and I have pretty much zero experience in driving in frozen conditions but got around just fine. So I think it’s all about your comfort level with venturing out on your own.

BMW Northern Lights Norway
Our rental car in Tromsø.

Parking is a struggle in Tromsø, however, and many of the hotels will not have valet parking or even parking lots to accommodate your car. Luckily, there is an underground parking garage (that looks like the Bat Cave) in the center of the city that often has plenty of spots. It will cost around $22 USD per day to leave your car there. 

Underground parking cave
Underground parking cave.

One last thing to know, when you leave the airport on your way to the city center, you’ll likely be driving through long tunnels. I didn’t know this and when we entered the tunnels the GPS cut off. This was a problem because there are round-a-bouts and such in the tunnels and you could potentially get turned around. So I recommend trying to plot out or memorize the route to get where you need to go. It will likely only involve one or two turns through the tunnels but it’s something to be aware of.

Do I recommend visiting Tromsø during Christmas?

Even though there are some limitations to visiting Tromsø during Christmas, it’s still a magical place to experience the northern lights, get introduced to the Arctic, and soak in the Christmas spirit.

Tromso Norway

I would recommend arriving on the 22nd at the absolute latest, so you can at least explore the full array of restaurants and shops that the city has to offer for a day and half. It will still be a cozy town to enjoy after that when things shut down and you’ll be able to stay occupied with things like northern lights tours and dog sledding tours, so Trosmø can definitely still work out to be an ideal Christmas destination.

The Best Way to Use Avios for Business Class to Europe (And a Secret Sweet Spot)

Avios offers several ways to get around the globe for cheap when utilizing distance-based award charts. There are different types of Avios: British Airways Avios, Iberia Avios, Aer Lingus Avios, and you can transfer Avios between the programs. When it comes to business class redemptions, these three programs are definitely not created equally. By knowing how to utilize the right program, you can end up saving yourself thousands of Avios and hundreds of dollars in fees avoided. Here’s a look at how to use Avios to book business class to Europe and even a secret sweet spot you might be able to take advantage of! 

The award charts

Each Avios program has its own award chart. They are simple to use. Simply use a tool like the Great Circle Mapper to find how long your trip distance will be one way and then find the “Zone” that the distance falls into. For your convenience, I’ve input the mileage zones and redemption requirements for economy and business class for each program below. 

British Airways 

Aer Lingus 


Aside from some small differences with the Aer Lingus chart, the zone requirements are all the same between the charts. British Airways does have zones beyond the other award charts, however, presumably because they offer flights much longer than both Aer Lingus and Iberia.

In terms of the mileage requirements, you’ll notice that Aer Lingus and British Airways have the same exact Avios requirements. However, Iberia has different requirements. Interestingly, Iberia’s requirements for the first three zones in business class are worse than than British Airways and Aer Lingus, but after that they actually offer better redemptions. (I’ll flesh out those sweet spots later.) 

Note: if you want to book a an itinerary purely with OneWorld partners, you’ll be charged the off-peak rate.

Off-peak calendars 

In addition, each award chart has its own calendar for off-peak dates. The off-peak dates are somewhat similar for each program but there are many slight differences between the calendars so you’ll always need to check closely to make sure that you’re looking at the calendar for the right airlines. 

You can find the calendars here: 

You can also see an overview of the calendar for British Airways and Iberia here

So where are the sweet spots? And what’s the secret?

One of the most well-known sweet spots was using Avios to fly Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin to get to Europe. However, with the recent addition to Aer Lingus to the Avios family, this sweet spot was removed and effectively “re-distanced” so that it fell in the zone above. In fact, the award chart on Aer Lingus specifically states: (Please note the exceptions of Shannon/Dublin to Boston which are based on Zone 5).

But that was just one sweet spot that fell. There are still plenty of ways to get great value from Avios in business class by utilizing Iberia Airways. Take a second look at their award chart below. This time, I’ve marked the sweet spot range in business class. Note that both the off-peak and peak rates are much better than the rates from British Airways or Aer Lingus. 

Not only are the redemption rates much cheaper, but the fees are way less than what British Airways would force you to pay when flying through Europe. 

Note: You can also avoid higher fees by using British Airways to book flights on partners like Air Berlin (the cheapest), Finnair, and American Airlines. However, availability on American in business class to Europe is very hard to come by and the partner rates (which are all off-peak rates) are still not as cheap as what Iberia offers in business class, so I’m focusing on Iberia here.  

2,001 to 3,000 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 31,250
    • Peak: 37,500
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 21,250
    • Peak: 31,250

No routes from Europe to North America fall within this distance (that can be utilized, at least) but the rates aren’t bad so for trips with distances close to 3,000 miles it might be worth exploring using Iberia Avios. 

3,001 to 4,000 miles 

This is a tremendous sweet spot for using Iberia Avios to book business class, especially if your trip falls within the off-peak calendar. 68,000 Avios for a roundtrip in business class to Europe beats some of the best redemption rates like Korean Air and ANA and the fees are reasonable so don’t overlook this option!  

The 100,000 (round trip) redemption rate from British Airways and Aer Lingus during off-peak times isn’t bad either, so long as you can avoid or minimize fees. 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 50,000
    • Peak: 60,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 34,000
    • Peak: 50,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Boston to Madrid 
  • New York to Madrid 

Unfortunately, the Ibera website is glitching very badly right now so I couldn’t search for fees for these routes but they should all be very reasonable and likely close to $200 roundtrip. 

Secret sweet spot? 

Interestingly, when I searched Chicago to Madrid on Great Circle Mapper I found that the route is 4,202 miles. However, when I searched for that route in Iberia’s website, it showed me that the roundtrip cost in Avios would be 68,000 which is what a round trip in zone 5 would cost. I’m not sure why it came up like that but it’s definitely a steal with only 68,000 Avios needed and $220 in fees!

  • Chicago to Madrid

Secret sweetspot from Chicago to Europe

Now compare what you would pay with Avios and fees if you flew to Europe with British Airways in business class. It would take 100,000 Avios and over $1,100 in fees! And that’s off-peak. No thanks. So if you’re considering British Airways Avios to get to Europe, I strongly recommend looking into booking with partners like Air Berlin. 

For a route like Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus in business class, you’d also be shelling out 100,000 Avios for an off-peak award but the fees would be a lot more reasonable at around $260. Not quite as cheap as Iberia but still not nearly as insane as the British Airways fees. 

Keep in mind that when booking partner American Airlines with Iberia you are limited to roundtrips only. However, unlike British Airways, Iberia does not factor in connecting flights into the total distance traveled for your trips, so there are both advantages and disadvantages for using Iberia to book American flights. 

4,001 to 5,500 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 62,500
    • Peak: 75,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 42,500
    • Peak: 62,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Miami to Madrid 

Unfortunately, the above “glitch” or exception does not also work for Miami as the rates are where they should be at 85,000 Avios. Still, that’s not a bad redemption at all and the fees are again pretty reasonable. 


5,501 to 6,500 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 75,000
    • Peak: 90,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 51,000
    • Peak: 75,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Los Angeles to Madrid 

Flying to Europe for only 102,000 Avios from the West Coast isn’t bad either. 

Transfer to Iberia

The biggest issue with using Iberia Avios is that you must have an account opened for at least 90 days in order to transfer points from your British Airways account which is how a lot of people accumulate Iberia miles. Your account also needs to be active. I suggest reading up on this post from the Frequent Miler to find out different ways to get your Avios into your Iberia account

Final Word

When it comes to getting to Europe in business class with Avios, Iberia is a great option. Depending on where you are flying from and where exactly in Europe you’re trying to go, Iberia can end up being one of the best sweet spots out of any airline in the world to get there in business class. 

Cover photo by Clément Alloing via Flickr

Chasing Lights: The Best Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø, Norway

This Christmas I fulfilled a bucket-list item of witnessing the northern lights (from the ground). I’d seen the northern lights from a plane before, but that experience could not hold a candle to the encounter I had in Norway of witnessing this amazing light show. We decided to join a tour with Chasing Lights out of Tromsø, Norway, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Here’s a review of my experience with Chasing Lights and some photographs from our experience.

See also:

Different tour packages

Chasing Lights offers an array of different tour packages. Some of these packages (which can cover as many as four days) offer lodging and northern light chases along with other activities like dog sledding. However, if you’re just looking to book tours for individual nights, you might consider the following packages:

  • Aurora Safari Bus Tours: 950 NOK
  • Signature Northern Lights Chase: 1,800 NOK for the first night (roughly $200 USD)

We decided to go with the Signature Northern Lights Chase since it seemed to offer us a few things we really wanted.

For one, we liked the idea of having a maximum amount of guests capped at 13. This made it a much more personal experience and also made it easier to have questions answered and get photos taken. On the Signature Tour, Chasing Lights also provides you with thermal suits, a tripod, a campfire experience, and homemade (and delicious) soup and hot chocolate and cookies. (These things are all included in the cost.)

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The tour

The tour begins with getting picked up from your hotel around 6 pm. You’re greeted by name by a cheerful guide and brought into the mini-bus/van. Inside the van, it’s a bit of a tight fit if it’s full of 13 guests. You’ll still be able to get comfortable but you’ll likely have to keep your bag on your lap or if it’s a smaller bag maybe under your seat.

Inside mini-bus Norway
Inside the “mini-bus.”

If you don’t want to keep your baggage on you, then there should be room in the back of the van or up front so you can free up some space on your seat. Also, as you enter the van, you probably want to take off your thick coats and outerwear because they’ll keep you nice and warm inside the van. If at any time you’re hot or cold, just let them know and they’ll just the temperature to help you get comfortable.  

After riding around and scooping up all of the passengers, we buckled up our seat belts and then were ready to take off on our tour right at 6 pm. The guides begin by explaining the basics of a northern lights chase. Things like what you should expect, what they’re looking for, and how long the chase might last, are all covered in detail. 

The Chasing Lights guides are extremely enthusiastic, passionate, and also very personable, so all around it’s a great vibe in the van. They keep you informed on everything that’s going on around you and are great about including everyone. For example, at one point a couple of guests left the group to warm up in the van and our guide, Meda, dropped everything she was doing to get their attention because she saw that a brilliant light display was coming (and she was right).  

The route on the chase

You never know what route the tour might end up taking. Sometimes you’ll head west toward the coast and other times you might head inland, sometimes even going as far as Finland or maybe even Sweden. You can see maps of the two vastly different routes we took on our two tours below:

Route of chasing lights tour Norway
Route on the first night.
Route of chasing lights tour
Route on the second night.

The guides make clear that you’re not actually “chasing” the northern lights themselves since they will appear regardless of where you are in the region.

Instead, you’re chasing two things.

The first thing is you’re trying to get away from the light pollution that can interfere with your ability to see the lights. While you can see the northern lights from Tromsø on a clear night, there’s still a fair amount of light pollution that will hinder your ability to see them and will make it difficult to photograph them.

The second thing you are chasing is a clear sky. You don’t actually need a 100% clear sky to see the lights. For one, you can often see the lights through clouds that are very high in the sky. And second, the clouds move so often and so quickly that all you need is for them to open up for a while to see and capture the lights. So don’t fret if the forecast is showing cloudy skies in the area because you never know when the sky might open up. 

Once you’re in an area where you can see the night sky, then it’s just up to the northern lights to show up.

Long nights

Because you’re dealing with nature, it’s possible that your tour could last all they way into the the early morning… I’m talking 4 to 5am! Our tours only lasted until about 1 to 2am, but just be prepared for a potentially long night. The good news is that the vans come equipped with wifi and it actually works pretty well! Still, you might want to bring some snacks and maybe even a small pillow to keep you comfortable in the event that you’re out on the road for a while and you get tired or hungry. 


The areas surrounding Tromsø are made up of many different “micro-climates” due to the topography created by the mountains, fjords, and islands. If you’re not familiar, micro-climates are geographical pockets where vastly different weather conditions can exist right next to each other. For example, it might be completely cloudy and snowing in Tromsø but completely clear in another region only about 30 minutes to an hour away. (This is why you shouldn’t obsess over the weather forecast for Tromsø.)

Inside mini-bus
Driving through the Arctic chasing the northern lights at 1:38am.

The varying weather conditions are one reason why it’s a great decision to go with a tour company like Chasing Lights. The guides are familiar with the areas that are drier and that can be clearer, so they know where to search for clear skies  Also, they often have multiple vehicles out all surveying different routes to scout out the clear skies. They communicate with each other in real-time, so it’s a lot easier to find open skies than if you were just searching for them by yourself with no knowledge of the local climate and weather patterns.

Another reason to go with a tour is that you may not be comfortable driving through the Arctic in the dark when roads can be covered in ice and visibility can be limited due to heavy snow and sleet. By going on a tour with Chasing Lights, you effectively have a team of locals working on your behalf to help you find clear skies, all while making sure you’re safe. To me, that makes the price tag worth it for many. 

The “chasing” routes

So your tour route will definitely depend on the weather conditions. On our first tour we drove out until we got past the snow and sleet coming down and arrived at an area where there were some breaks in the clouds. And that’s when we caught our first official glimpse of the northern lights!

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
Our first view of the northern lights!

It was just a single, faint green streak,  but we stopped for some photos just in case the sky didn’t open up more and that was going to be as good as it would get — thankfully, it got much better than that!

The guides really do a great job of stopping the van (in a safe and viewable spot) as soon as possible when the lights are spotted. And you can help them out with spotting the lights by peeking through the windows. You’ll probably only be able to see a faint whitish-grey streak through the dark tinted windows, but when the lights strong you’ll be able to see them clearly with the naked eye.

After a few minutes, we ventured to another area where the clouds seemed to be breaking. Once there, we caught a better view of the lights but the clouds were still somewhat heavy.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
The lights coming out a bit more.

This is when it really pays to be patient. There are plenty of times when the cloud coverage can change dramatically in a matter of minutes. At one point, we had about 95% cloud coverage and within 10 minutes the sky opened up big time, with thousands of stars coming into view with the northern lights following. It took a few minutes of waiting, but we soon caught these amazing displays of the lights.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

Although clear skies are ideal, having clouds in your photos adds drama to the composition.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

Once we got a sense of the cloud patterns and saw that openings were becoming more common, our guide decided to set up our little camp right there. The guide and driver put together a small fire and spread out reindeer fur hides for us to sit or rest on while warming up right next to the fire. They also came around with some hot chocolate and cookies to hold us over until dinner. And after dinner, we got to roast some marshmallows. 

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
Making a fire under the northern lights. Photo via Chasing Lights.

One great thing about this area is that you’re allowed to set up fires on the side of the road pretty much anywhere. Also, there are tons of areas with spectacular views looking out to a fjord with snow-capped mountains, meaning that your chances are very high of having stunning compositions to work with when shooting your photos.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

After camp was set up and we admired the ever-changing light show, we were served our soup, which was a meaty soup similar to a beef stew. It was delicious and hit the spot. If you have special dietary needs, just let them know and they should be able to accommodate you.

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Dancing lights

Just after dinner, the northern lights started to intensify. The green became brighter and the long stretches of lights filled up more of the sky. And then, the dancing started. The lights started moving fast with bright flashes of white and even pink and purple. It was the most stunning natural display of anything I’ve ever witnessed and it was happening right above our heads.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

Luckily, our guide, Noora, was able to catch the action on the video below.

On our second tour the next night, we saw a similar display of brilliance but with even more pink glowing in the clouds.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

Intense green bands also lit up the night sky. Even with the clouds moving in and out the second night, it was a spectacular display.

Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
Northern lights tour Tromso Norway

Photos and video

I’ll write more tips later on photographing the northern lights but one great thing about this tour is that the guides are experts at photographing the northern lights so even if you don’t have the best camera for photographing the lights, you can rest assured that memories will be captured by your tour guide (and sent to you the next day).

And if you do have a good camera, the guides know the best settings for capturing the lights so they can provide you with some solid advice. And finally, they are great at taking snapshots of you under the northern lights so you can go home with plenty photos of yourself with the northern lights shining behind you.

Man with Northern lights
Photo by Chasing Lights.
Northern lights tour Tromso Norway
Photo by Chasing Lights.

What to wear on a northern lights tour?

Tromsø and the surrounding area doesn’t seem to get as cold as some other true Arctic locations, so that’s another reason I recommend for people to venture to Norway to see the northern lights — it likely won’t be as cold as places like Alaska!

With that said, when the wind picks up and it’s in the 20s (Fº), the wind chill can bring down the temperature significantly. And when you’re outside for hours at a time, it can be difficult to stay warm.

So what do I recommend?

I recommend wearing a good pair of wool socks along with a layer of thermals under your clothes and then layer a couple of items of clothing under your coat. Gloves and a beanie are obviously an essential as well. One thing that we really benefited from were these thin ski-masks we bought off Amazon. They’re very thin but did a great job of keeping our face and neck warm without the hassle of dealing with a scarf. Also, bring along “hot hands” to insert into your pockets and possibly even your shoes since it’s common for your toes to get really cold. 

The good thing is that if you go with the Signature Tour, you’ll have the thermal suits and boots to help protect you from the elements (along with heat packs). I actually never changed into one of those thermal suits but we had several people on our tour who did use them and they remarked that the suits worked wonders to keep them warm. If the wind proves to be even a little bit strong, I suggest you opt for the thermal suits to keep yourself warm.

Final word

My two northern lights tours with Chasing Lights were two of the most amazing and inspiring tours I’ve ever signed up for when traveling. Having a whole team working together to find the best places to watch for the northern lights helps your odds immensely when chasing the northern lights, especially when the weather is showing unclear skies (which is most of the time near Tromsø). Also, not having to deal with driving through the elements yourself and having access to thermal gear, warm meals and drinks, and a nice little fire makes the entire experience for more enjoyable. Chasing Lights is definitely worth the expense if you’re looking for a northern lights tour company in Norway!

New Flying Blue Promo Awards to Europe for Summer 2016

Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM (and others), offers promo awards at the beginning of each month for special redemptions that usually range from 20% to 50% off certain flights. Most of these flights are typically for economy or economy plus but sometimes Flying Blue will even offer business class fares.

flying blue LOGO

Starting next month, on May 1st, 2016, Flying Blue members will have the chance to get from Boston to Europe in business class for 93,750 miles roundtrip or 46,875 miles one way. This is a great rate for business class to Europe and it even approaches the insane business class redemptions of ANA that go for 88,000 miles to Europe.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 7.08.37 AM

You’ll have to book from May 1st to May 31st and travel between July 1st and August 31st to take advantage of the offer.

Don’t forget that for Flying Blue, several countries in northern Africa and even Israel fall into the “Europe” category. These countries are:

  • Algeria, Israel, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Getting to the Middle East (to Israel) in business class for 93,750 miles is an absolute bargain when compared to the mileage requirements of other airlines:

  • Aeroplan: 165,000
  • American Airlines: 140,000
  • ANA Partner: 104,000 (high surcharges likely)
  • Delta: 170,000
  • United: 160,000

There are a few drawbacks to using these promo awards.

First, you’re not allowed to modify or cancel your bookings.

Second, because you’d be flying with Air France or KLM, you’d be paying somewhat hefty fuel surcharges. If you’re heading to Israel, I think the savings are still pretty outstanding considering your other options and if you’re headed to the continent of Europe, they are still good, just not as outstanding as they would be with lower fuel surcharges.

The final drawback is a little unclear. I can’t recall where I came across the information, but I recall reading that stopovers are not allowed on Flying Blue promo awards. A little bit of research shows that some have been able to call in and add stopovers to these bookings, but I’m pretty sure I read that they are not allowed.

The official Flying Blue website only provides the following with respect to the booking conditions of promo awards:

General conditions on Promo Awards

  • Reservations must be made exclusively on or (except for bookings for children, infants and minors, who are not authorised to book an award on the website).
  • In the event that a technical problem occurs when reserving the promotional fare or if the reservation cannot be finalised, the Flying Blue member must log on to the site and repeat the procedure.
  • This award ticket may be used on connecting flights within Europe and on connecting flights from Europe to long-haul flights.
  • These promotional Promo Awards may not be modified, cancelled or refunded.
  • Promo Awards are available for one-way tickets and round trips.
  • Flex Awards are not included in the Promo Awards offer.
  • Promo Awards are subject to availability

Since stopovers for Flying Blue need to be called in to be booked, there might be some issues in booking a stopover for the promo award. In any event, there’s no harm in giving it a try.

Cover photo by BriYYZ via Flickr.

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