The eight best places to see the northern lights

The eight best places to see the northern lights

The eight best places to see the northern lights

Unique and unforgettable

The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, is a magical natural phenomenon in shades of green, blue and sometimes red that normally only occurs at the top of the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes, on rare occasions, it is so strong that it can even be seen in the Netherlands, as it was in February this year.

In April 2023, however, I was fortunate enough to admire this unique phenomenon twice during my study trip through Swedish Lapland. Above the frozen Lule River in Luleå I enjoyed dancing green streaks that finally broke up like a curtain in the night sky.

The northern lights were high on my wish list. Does this also apply to you? We’d like to list the eight best places in the world for you so you can start planning ahead.

How is the northern lights actually created?

Many studies have been devoted to it, but simply put, what you see is the reaction of electricity-charged particles from the sun sent to earth by the solar wind, which collide with parts of the outer atmosphere, with oxygen and nitrogen. The amount of charged particles ejected into space along with the speed of the solar wind determine the likelihood of seeing this natural phenomenon and in what strength. The sparkling light experience in green, blue and sometimes even red, then streaks across the dark night sky.

Collisions with oxygen at more than about 300 kilometers altitude produces beautiful red auras, nitrogen at lower altitudes makes you see blue light, and when particles collide with this gas at even higher altitudes, brilliant purple and violet hues are created. When these colors are mixed in the sky, there is also a chance of seeing the colors pink and white.

Powerful solar cycle to 2027

We have entered a new solar cycle that American researchers predict will become one of the most powerful ever with spectacular auroras that we can enjoy until about 2027. So the chances of seeing this unique phenomenon are high in the coming years, but so is the interest so book your trip on time and have this unforgettable experience!

1 Alaska

Rugged Alaska is sparsely populated and therefore has little light pollution, making the far north, the Arctic, a perfect location to witness the Aurora Borealis. Fairbanks, located about 240 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle and the pristine Denali National Park offer the best chance of seeing the northern lights.

What else can you experience: Visit the cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, relax in hot springs, go cross-country skiing or explore the scenery of the fjords.

Best travel time: from mid-August to the end of April.

The eight best places in the world to see the northern lights,Alaska,Sheldon Chalet
2 Yukon

In much of Northern Canada the aurora borealis is regularly spotted, but the best spots for this can be found in the very remote Yukon and Northwest Territories.

My colleague Merijn went on a study trip to Yukon where in addition to imposing mountains, glaciers in an old mining village he saw the sky lit up in every color imaginable, it was the most spectacular aurora in years and he witnessed it.

What else can you experience: Visit capital city Whitehorse, traverse mysterious gold mining towns, hike in Kluane National Park, Miles Canyon nature preserve, visit Takhini Hot Springs and marvel at the striking Sign Post Forest with road signs from around the world.

Best travel time: from late August to mid-April.

The eight best places in the world to see the northern lights,Yukon,northern lights Merijn 1
3 Finnish Lapland

Due to minimal light pollution, the northern lights in Finnish Lapland, the area bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia, is visible as many as about 200 nights a year.

What else can you experience: Experience the northern lights from your luxury tent in Aurora Glamping or in a glass Aurora Cabin from Northern Lights Village Saariselka or Levi, visit Santa Claus with your children in Rovaniemieor take a husky safari or tour by snowmobile.

Best travel time: from early September to late March.

The eight best places in the world to see the northern lights,Finnish Lapland, Northern Lights Village Levi

4 Iceland

Journey from Reykjavik through the diverse landscapes of Iceland. Good places to admire the northern lights are the Snæfelsness Peninsula, Thingvellir National Park, the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara.

What else can you experience: Go snowkiting, ice fishing, hike through the lava-covered Landmannalaugar valley on the edge of the Hekla volcano and drive the panoramic route the ‘Golden Circle‘.

Best travel time: from early September to late April.

The eight best places in the world to see the northern lights,Iceland

5 Greenland

Greenland is located largely within the Arctic Circle, hence it is a prime location to witness Aurora Borealis. The best place for this is in the small town of Kangerlussuaq.

What else can you experience: Visit the Inuit, the original inhabitants and in Kangerlussuaq the Russel Glacier.

Best travel time: from September to early April.

6 Swedish Lapland

I saw the northern lights in Luleå, the place where the Luler River meets the Bothnia Sea. Other famous places to spot this light spectacle include Kiruna and Abisko National Park where the Aurora Sky Station is based, but Jokkmokk, Jukkasjärvi and Porjus are also great places to see the northern lights.

What else can you experience: Ice skating and ice stepping on the frozen Bothnia Sea in Luleå, ice fishing or take an ice bath, book an Aurora Hideaway dinner at Brändön Lodge, take a tour by snowmobile or husky or learn about the customs and reindeer of the local Sami.

Best travel time: from early December to early April.

The eight best places in the world to see the northern lights,Lulea Sonja northern lights

7 Norway

With a location right under the Northern Lights oval and a stable continental climate with clear skies, the northern lights are visible in Alta most nights. TIP: Watch the magical northern lights from your bed in an “aurora dome” or during a night in an igloo hotel. Tromsø, located above the Arctic Circle in the center of the aurora zone and the remote Svalbard archipelago off the coast of Norway are also great places to see the northern lights.

What else can you experience: Spot polar bears, arctic foxes and reindeer in the Svalbard archipelago, conquer the snow by fatbike; a mountain bike with extra-large tires, visit the Sami and catch your own meal while ice fishing or take part in the unique twelve-day ‘Huritgruten’ cruise along the characteristic Norwegian fjord coast

Best travel time: from mid-August to the end of April.

8 Scotland

There are nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites on Skye, making it one of the best places in Scotland for stargazing and seeing the Northern Lights. Further north, you can also see the northern lights in Shetland, Orkney and Caithness.

What else can you experience: admire the mystical stone circle of Stone of Stennes and the ancient settlement of Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands, monumental rock formations and unique cultural heritage in the Shetland Islands.

Best travel time: from early October to late March.

Sonja Rademakers

Years ago I was infected by the 'Africa virus' during a group trip to Kenya. Witnessing the overwhelming migration in the Masai Mara, the beautiful wildlife in Samburu Game Reserve and the flamingos at Lake Nakuru I promised myself that this would not be the last time I visited Africa. After travelling through Kenya, Tanzania and various countries in southern Africa, I ended up years later in Uganda where I lived for six months in Jinja. Since 2009 I have been working at Untamed Travelling. I support the marketing department. Working for Untamed Travelling is a way for me to keep my passion for Africa and travel alive.

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