Aurora Borealis, commonly known as Northern Lights, is the most exciting light display on Earth that occurs naturally. This dancing light show can be viewed only at higher latitude regions. Chasing the Northern Lights is easier with upfront information about them. We have curated the best places to see Northern Lights with essential tips.
Witnessing the colourful spectacle on a dark night is an experience like no other. In this guide for the best places to see Northern Lights, you’ll find answers to all the questions you have about the magnificent aurora borealis.
What are the mysterious Northern Lights?
Aurora Borealis is a natural display of light due to the collision of charged particles from the Sun with the Earth’s atmosphere. A surge of electrically charged particles released by the Sun is picked up by Earth’s Magnetic field. These particles collide with gaseous particles in Earth’s atmosphere. The different colours of the Northern lights are due to collision with different gas particles. This phenomenon can take place for a small-time or for days together, but it can be observed during clear dark nights only. So, you can see a beautiful light display in green, red, yellow, blue and violet on dark nights in the north pole regions due to this phenomenon. With various legends and stories from the past, Auroras have been a fascination for humankind. The eerie glow in different shapes on dark, cold nights is nothing less than a spectacle.
What’s the best time to witness the Northern Lights?
There is a major misconception that winter is the only time the Northern Lights occur. The Auroras occur all year round. But as the northern region experiences daylight all 24 hours from April to August, it is not visible to us. There is a great chance of spotting the dancing lights from August to April, as there are dark nights. The best time is during September and March, as the temperature is pleasant at the polar latitudes and Earth’s magnetic field lets more solar particles in. Thus, during September and March, the chances of spotting the Northern Lights are high. Make sure you find out the darkest hours between 9 am to 1 pm in your location to witness the magical light show.
Tips to spot Northern Lights
Auroras are visible in the dark and clear sky from August to April in North Polar latitudes. Some arctic cities have 24 hours of Polar night in winters and the Northern Lights dance any time of the day. But they are completely unpredictable. As when or how long will the lights glow cannot be predicted.
- Dark nights are the key, it doesn’t have to be winter. So, know your location and understand when the darkest hours prevail.
- Go far away from Light pollution, as the city lights disturb Aurora sightings. Travel to the countryside of the arctic circle, to watch the Northern lights dance above a beautiful landscape.
- Northern light is a spectrum of colours and not just green light. So, purple, violet or even white-grey lights are also the Auroras.
- Altitude and different kinds of gaseous atoms at which solar particles collide decide the colour of Northern Lights. The lights also dance with time and can last from a few minutes t8o long hours.
- Realtime Aurora alerts are very famous and help you to spot the Auroras in the sky. So, subscribe to the ones active in your location, and you won’t miss the Northern Lights.
- Hotels in the Aurora Zone have Aurora Hunters who send signals of the Northern Lights appearance. Ask the hotel to wake you up, if the Auroras dance in the sky.
- There are active Auroras that dance in the sky or silent Auroras that form an arc and stay still. The Northern Lights appear in beautiful arcs, swirls or is shot down from the sky. They curl, twist or move like a wave above 60 miles to 200 miles from the Earth’s surface.
Key things to remember before planning a trip to see Northern Lights:
Equinox months of September and March, intensifies the Aurora occurrences, as the Earth tilts towards the Sun at this time of the year. Around midnight is the best time to see the Northern Lights, but an hour before and after also has high chances. September nights during the spring season in the Polar region are a great time to photograph the Auroras. The reasons are: the temperature is pleasant to shoot at night, the mountain vistas are clearly visible, the water bodies are not frozen making it possible to get reflection shots.
The Northern Lights become more visible as the activity of the Sun is more. It is said that Sun has a Solar Life cycle of 11 years and the solar winds go from maximum to minimum in this cycle. So, the Auroras are brighter once in every 11 years in accordance with the Solar Life Cycle. The next year of peak Solar activity is 2024.
Where can we see the Northern Lights?
This atmospheric phenomenon is common in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Arctic circle. This oval region around the North Pole is called an Aurora Zone, and sightings outside the zone are very rare. The region is around 66 to 70 degrees latitude in the North. Famous Aurora spotting places are Northern regions of North America, Canada, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Norway and Finland.
With all the exciting information, dive onto the next part on the best places to see Northern Lights.
Best Places to see Northern Lights
- Northern Canada
- Alaska, USA
1. Northern Canada
Northern Canada is one of the best places to see Aurora Borealis, as it has special tourist setups and low light pollution. Canada has some places where the Northern Lights occur 300 nights a year amidst the wilderness. With clearer skies, flat landscape and stable climate, Yellowknife is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Canada.
Best time: Late August to Mid April
Best places to observe Aurora Borealis in Northern Canada
The Northwest Territories and Yukon are the best places to see Northern Lights in Canada.
Yellowknife has its own Aurora Village on the shores of Great Slave Lake, with convenient amenities and great activities. Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital, has regular tours for Aurora spotting. It has resorts and cabins in its outskirts for unobstructed views. Churchill, the Polar bear habitat, has the most Northern Light occurrences in Canada. It has Aurora Pods which offer 360-degree views of the Light show through the glass ceiling in a heated lounge. Northern Saskatchewan, Jasper National Park, Nunavik, Battle Harbour and Torngat Mountains National Park are some other exciting places to see the Northern Lights.
- Getting there: Whitehorse and Yellowknife are well-connected cities, with regular flights. There are Aurora tours from major cities that fly you out or take you in tour buses to the famous hotspots.
- Stay: Canada has the most diverse options to stay and watch the greatest light show in the sky. You can stay in heated Aurora pods, cosy Airbnb cabins, resorts, camps and lakeside log cabins. You can even watch it from a boat or igloos and capture reflections of the lights in the numerous lakes.
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2. Alaska, USA
Alaska tops the list of best places to see Northern Lights, with optimal conditions. The longer nights, clear skies and great amenities, make it an ideal spot to go Aurora chasing. Alaska is a great tourist destination teeming with wildlife, magnificent mountains and cold weather, so it’s a complete natural retreat in the US.
Best time: Mid September to Late April, while March is the peak season
Best places to see Aurora Borealis in Alaska
Fairbanks in Alaska has over 250 nights a year Northern Lights occurrences. Fairbanks is said to be in Arctic vantage point, making it one of the best places to see Aurora Borealis. Denali National Park is just a few hours from Fairbanks, is an impressive landscape with great chances of Northern Lights spotting.
- Getting there: Fairbanks, Juneau and Anchorage, have good airport facilities and regular flights to fly into the Aurora zone. You can then take tour buses or vans to your destination. You can also drive to hilltops or ski resorts for unobstructed viewings.
- Stay: There are many hotels with wake up call and tour van facilities for convenient Aurora spotting. Resorts and Airbnb cabins are present in the Alaskan wilderness for staying in the outskirts away from light pollution. There are even hot springs resorts that let you watch the light show from inside the spring waters. Fancy seeing the Northern lights from the sky, Alaska has flight services that fly you near the spectacle.
Greenland is a beautiful icy country with abundant nature and low industrial footprint. With icebergs, glaciers, dog sleds, snowmobiles, hiking trails, vintage buildings and great landscapes, Greenland is a paradise in the Arctic region. The small villages and towns of Greenland create low light pollution and have rustic stays for the tourists in the wilderness. Thus, your answer to where to see Aurora Borealis is Greenland.
Best time: Mid August to late April
Best places to observe the northern lights in Greenland
Kangerlussuaq is one of the best answers to where to see the Northern Lights in Greenland. The Greenland Icecap is accessible from Kangerlussuaq, and you can camp on the icy mountain to catch the best viewing of the Northern Lights. Ilulissat is famous for its Icefjord and is a great place to witness the Northern Lights amidst the stunning fjord. Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, has a lot of touristy things to do. The capital offers great views of the Northern Lights from inside the city and in its outskirts. Sisimiut, Kulusuk and Tasiilaq are also great Northern Lights locations with heady Greenland experience.
- Getting there: Kangerlussuaq has a major airport, while Nuuk and Kulusuk are also well accessible. But when in Greenland, there is limited connectivity, and to transfer from one place to another you will have to take boats or planes.
- Stay: With resorts, homestays and Airbnb, Greenland offers limited but exciting options for tourists. You can camp or take snowmobile, dog sledges or snowshoes to get to the best Northern Lights viewing spots from your room. Some small towns let you watch the spectacle from the warmth of your room.
An island country with around 4 lakh population and dramatic geographic features, Iceland is blessed with hot springs, geothermal lagoons, layered waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and rare wildlife species all spread over its stunning landscape. The country experiences midnight Sun and has a good number of Northern Light occurrences in the remaining months. Iceland is one of the best places to see Aurora Borealis, as it has a great landscape, warmer climates and clear skies.
Best time: September to April
Best places to see Northern Lights in Iceland
Reykjavík, the capital, is a great place to spot Northern Lights. You can drive a few miles away to nearby Thingvellir National Park or to the Blue Lagoon, and experience the Auroras in the dramatic setting.
Hella is famous for its hot water tub resorts and observatory, so you can experience luxury and delve into astronomy.Höfn, Skógar and Snaefellsnes are other famous spots to witness the Northern Lights.
- Getting there: You can get to Iceland by flights. You can either take a guided tour or drive on your own on rented cars. You can also take cruises and stay on board. Activities like glacier walk, fishing and hiking, as usually combined with Northern Lights sightings.
- Stay: There are hot water tubs outside warmed cabins in the outskirts, that let you see the Northern Lights from the comfort of the tub. You can choose cruise stays, campervan stays or Airbnb cabins for a rustic experience.
Norway is a great tourist destination with glaciers, mountains, fjords and enormous nature. One of the best places to see Northern Lights, here it is convenient to get around with comfortable stays. You can spot the Auroras from diverse landscapes, with a wide range of hotels, tours, activities and cruises. To have the best Arctic wilderness experience, head to Northern Norway.
Best time: October to March
Best places to observe northern lights in Norway
Tromsø is one of the best places to see Northern Lights, as it is a big town with abundant nature. Here, you can enjoy the dancing Auroras amidst great fjords, alps and stunning landscape. Lofoten islands, Alta, Senja, Svalbard, Hammerfest, Nordkapp, and Kirkenes are famous towns to see the spectacular Light show.
- Stay: From log cabins to luxurious cruises, Norway has a lot of options to stay under the Auroras. Try Reindeer sledging, camping and campervans for adventurous experiences.
Northern Finland is one of the best places to see Northern Lights, as the sky lights up for two-thirds of the year. Finland is an offbeat Northern Light viewing destination but has great delights like glass igloos, luxury cottages, sauna parties, dog sledging, skiing, hiking and, frozen trees and landscape to look forward to. Lapland is the part of Finland that experiences Midnight Sun and Polar Nights, and spectacular Northern Lights.
Best time: September to March
Best places to see Aurora Borealis in Finland
Where to see the Aurora Borealis in Finland, is anywhere in the country. Famous hotspots are Rovaniemi, Kakslauttanen, Utsjoki and Pyhä-Luosto National Park.
- Getting there: Finland has great connectivity with flights and trains. Take train journeys for a scenic experience through Europe.
- Stay: Finland has a creative set of hotels to host your vacation. Purpose-built structures like glass igloos, treehouses, glass villas, ranches, aurora huts and domes, luxury glass suites and teepees, all offer a great view of the snowy landscape. From its glass walls and ceilings, you can view the Northern Lights from the comfort of your warm room.
With a large amount of its land area above the Arctic circle, Russia has dark nights and freezing climate. Russia is not a great tourist destination in winter as the cold is unbearable for those unaccustomed to it. But if you are chasing the Northern Lights, the skies host a lot of dancing Northern Light shows leaving you in awe. This country is not an easy Northern Lights location, it is for the adventurous souls out there.
Best time: Late August to March, December and January experiences no Sun and just dark nights in northernmost Russia
Best places to see Northern Lights in Russia
Murmansk (Kola Peninsula) is one of the best places to see Northern Lights, as it has straight 40 days of Polar nights. The city has over 3 lakh population with all modern amenities and is 2 hours in flight from Moscow.
Naryan-Mar, Severodvinsk, Novaya Zemlya, Salekhard are famous answers to where to see Aurora Borealis in Russia.
- Getting there: You can access the famous places by flights from Moscow.
- Stay: Camping in the outskirts gives great views of the Northern Lights. You can also drive in a car or join tours to stay heated in the vehicle and hunt the spectacle. Major cities like Murmansk have well-facilitated hotel stays.
So, what are you waiting for, Add chasing the Northern Lights to your bucket list, and plan your trips based on our comprehensive guide.