Northern Lights Guide: Aurora Hunting in Murmansk

May 28, 2021

Arctic cruises take you to some of the most incredible destinations that offer experiences which will undoubtedly stay with you forever. One of the most fascinating cities you can visit on an Arctic voyage is Murmansk, a port city in northwestern Russia near the border with Finland. It’s located 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and approximately 30 miles from the Barents Sea.

Historically, Murmansk has served an important function in Russia’s history. It was founded during World War I, and it was used as a port for Allied soldiers to battle the Bolsheviks prior to the rise of the Soviet Union. During World War II, Murmansk was used by Allied forces to deliver crucial supplies during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.

Murmansk, Russia, the largest city in the world north of the Arctic Circle, has a long naval history.

Murmansk, Russia, the largest city in the world north of the Arctic Circle, has a long naval history. Photo: Quark Expeditions

The monument to Alyosha in Murmansk, Russia, honors soldiers of the Second World War.

The monument to Alyosha in Murmansk, Russia, honors soldiers of the Second World War. Photo: Quark Expeditions

The Monument to Alyosha in MurmanskToday, Murmansk is a fishing town and tourist destination renowned for its naval history and as a stop for travelers en route to the polar regions. Because of its location north of the Arctic Circle, Murmansk offers opportunities for visitors to witness the Murmansk Northern Lights.

Aurora Borealis in Russia

Russia is one of only eight countries in the entire world where you can have an unobstructed view of the Northern Lights. Every year, millions of people look forward to moments when the elements cause enough of a shift in solar winds and charged particles in the atmosphere to produce the intoxicating and breathtaking colors in the sky that make up the Northern Lights, also known by its scientific name, the Aurora borealis.

Of course, there are more opportunities in the Arctic to witness the Aurora Borealis other than Russia. One of the most majestic voyages to witness the northern lights is on one of the Greenland Cruises and Expeditions voyages, whose itineraries include the beautiful fjords of Greenland, the rugged landscapes of the interior, the rarely-seen wildlife roaming the Arctic landscape and, of course, the explosion of green, purple, and red lights in the sky that make up Aurora borealis.

Remote regions in the Arctic, away from human-made light, are ideal locations to witness the Northern Lights

Remote regions in the Arctic, away from human-made light, are ideal locations to witness the Northern Lights . Photo: Acacia Johnson

Aurora hunting in Murmansk

Visiting Murmanks is, for many, a highlight of Quark Expeditions’ Russian High Arctic Cruises & Expeditions voyages. The destination is a beacon of maritime culture and history. Most impressively, Murmansk is distinguished as the largest city above the Arctic Circle, making it a one-of-a-kind destination in the Polar Regions.

For travelers who are fascinated with global history, the esteemed Northern Navy Museum and Shipping History Museum in Murmansk include some of the most distinguished relics, equipment, and memorabilia that date back a century or more, as well as from Inuit tribes that thrived on the land thousands of years before Murmansk became a major embarkation point for expeditions into the Arctic. You can also draw inspiration from a guide of things to do while in Murmansk to plan your itinerary.

Murmansk Russian Northern Lights

Operators in Murmansk offer ground adventures for locals and tourists alike to venture out into the remote landscape surrounding the port city to witness the multicolored Northern Lights..

Since an absence of light pollution is key to viewing the Aurora borealis, it’s not surprising that many explorers prefer to enjoy the northern lights on a Northern Lights cruise. In addition to Greenland, you can witness the incredible night-sky phenomena of the Northern Lights while sailing through Iceland and the northern islands of the Canadian High Arctic close to the Arctic Circle.

Russia Aurora tour

Timing is also a factor when choosing a polar expedition that will enable you to see the Northern Lights, whether your intended destination is Russia, Greenland or other destinations in the Polar Region. For instance, you wouldn’t want to visit anytime close to the Summer Solstice when there are 24 hours of light per day. Cloudless, dark skies—as minimal light as possible—are crucial to get a good viewing of the Northern Lights.  It pays to spend a little time planning in order to see the Northern Lights in all their glory.

One of the most popular adventures for such an excursion is the Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland voyage. Visitors can explore two of the last unspoiled wilderness areas on the planet, and experience the types of adventures that once inspired some of the most fabled explorers of the Arctic lands. You’ll be blown away by not only the Aurora borealis, but you’ll also explore unforgettable fjords, incredible wildlife, glacial formations and some of the most beautiful destinations that the world has to offer.

Greenland, Iceland and Murmansk polar nights

A Quark Expeditions guests witnesses the Aurora borealis from the deck of a polar ship

A Quark Expeditions guests witnesses the Aurora borealis from the deck of a polar ship. Photo: Acacia Johnson

While the Murmansk Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) are an incredible experience in their own right, the wonders of exploring the Arctic destinations of Russia, Greenland, Canada, and other remote northern areas will surpass anything your imagination can conjure up. The Northern Lights, along with the majestic polar bears, ice-laden fjords, expansive glaciers, towering cliffs and snow-covered mountain peaks are the greatest rewards for adventuresome travelers.

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