Northern lights

Myths and legends speak for themselves: the northern lights are not for the faint of heart.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights over the Sermitsiaq mountain close to Nuuk. Photo: Mads Pihl, Visit Greenland

Lights on the world’s biggest stage


Arsarnerit means ball games, and the sagas recount how the northern lights appear in the night sky when the souls of the dead play ball with walrus skulls. The phenomenon, however, does have a scientific explanation, which you tend to forget when studying the magnificent scene from the best seat in the house. Cascades of light illuminate the night sky in shades of green, and it’s a spectacle with the greatest possible X-factor.

The scientific explanation is that the sun’s electrically-charged particles hit molecules and atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of around 100 kilometres. This results in a spectacular show of light, which can best be described as flickering curtains of yellow, green and sometimes red.


Dark evenings


The characteristic and mystical sight can be seen on dark, clear evenings and nights throughout Greenland. You may think that you have to travel a long way north to experience this spectacular phenomenon, but this is actually not the case. In Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq climatic conditions mean that there’s rarely any cloud cover. WOGAC offers excursions during the winter months to places where the northern lights provide a particularly celestial experience.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The sagas also tell us that the northern lights come closer if you whistle. But be careful, the northern lights will take the whistler with them. If you act like a dog, however, this may push the light back. 
  • After a trip to see the northern lights, a cup of Greenlandic coffee tastes particularly good. Recipe for one cup of Greenlandic coffee:
    2 cl whisky, 2 cl Kahlua, 2 cl Grand Marnier, 1 dl hot coffee. Top off with whipped cream. Ignite the Grand Marnier as it is poured over the top, and you’ll have the image of the flickering northern lights.