Chasing the Northern Lights is a dream of many. Picture yourself, bags packed, jetting off to a cold climate somewhere in Europe or North America to bear witness to this magical phenomenon. The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, arises when electrically charged solar particles collide with atmospheric gases to produce a mind-blowing neon light show that brightens up the night sky with spectacular green, red and yellow hues. The best places to see the Northern Lights is located in the “Aurora zone” in the Northern Hemisphere. The aurora is most frequently visible in Northern Scandinavia. The Auroral band stretches across destinations in Canada, Alaska and the United Kingdom too. This otherworldly phenomenon is worth trekking to the cold temperatures for. Seeing the Northern Lights in person will prove to be life changing!
Discovering the best places to see the Northern Lights is an exciting venture with all these incredible destinations to consider. Take a look at our extensive guide on the best time and places to see the Northern Lights!
The Best Time to See the Northern Lights
When you’re searching for the best places to see the Northern Lights, the ideal conditions to look out for are crisp, cold, dark nights with clear skies and minimum light. The prime months for seeing this phenomenon range from late-August to mid-April with the peak season occurring in the equinox months, September and March. Some regions have Aurora Borealis sightings year-round but to increase the odds of seeing it, book your flights for winter when the nights are colder, longer and clearer. If your main mission is to see the Northern Lights, then avoid travelling to these destinations during the summer months (June to August) when there are more daylight hours. Remember, darkness is essential to see the Northern Lights!
The Best Places to See the Northern Lights
Pingvellir National Park, most of the country
Iceland is the ideal place to see the Northern Lights because it is the only destination where it is possible to spot this phenomenon from almost anywhere on the island. The northern part of Iceland is an ‘Aurora chaser’s’ favourite region due to its dramatic landscapes, geothermal hot springs and larger-than-life waterfalls. The town of Akureyri’s low light pollution makes it an ideal spot to see the Northern Lights. Other spots to consider in Iceland include the Snæfelsness Peninsula, Reynisfjara black sand beach and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.
When to go: Early-September to mid-April
How to get there: Fly to Reykjavik. Once in the city, you can choose from various cruises and jeep tours which incorporate Northern Lights hunting with glacier and ice cave walks.
Where to stay: If you’re willing to brave the cold consider camping or staying in a caravan at the prime Northern Lights spotting locations. There are also magnificent hotels to choose from:
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: You can track the chances of how likely it is to catch the Northern lights on any given day on Iceland’s Met Office meteorology website.
Tromsø, Alta, Svalbard and Finnmark
Norway’s expansive landscapes make it a destination worth visiting for Northern Lights spotting. It is really easy to get around, and there are diverse ways to see this incredible phenomenon. Travel to Northern Norway to see the aurora extravaganza. Tromsø is a local and tourist favourite. The city is in the centre of the Aurora Borealis zone. You can also head to the remote Svalbard archipelago where you can see polar bears, reindeers and Arctic foxes, in addition to the Northern Lights. In Norway, you can do the highly recommended Hurtigruten classic roundtrip voyage!
When to go: October to March
How to get there: If you’re doing the Hurtigruten classic roundtrip voyage, you will board in Bergen and sail along on your exciting cruise. There are other exciting Northern Lights tours to choose from, and you can stay in Oslo and Tromsø.
Where to stay: Norway has the ideal accommodation for Northern Lights chasers. There are even igloo hotels!
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: Download the Norway Lights app on your phone. This super easy app will provide you with the forecast, and the cities where you are most likely to see the Northern Lights.
Finnish Lapland: Saariselkä and Rovaniemi
In Finland, the Northern Lights are on display approximately 200 nights a year. You can view this spectacle from various purpose-built spaces ranging from glass igloos to luxury suites. If you’d prefer to go the more traditional way, in snowshoes while cross-country skiing, or a dog sled tour, then there are tour companies to help you make it happen! Above the Arctic Circle, in the Finnish Lapland, will provide you with the best chance of spotting the Aurora. It is ideal due to the underpopulated area where cities and villages are small. All that you need to do is ensure that you’re in an open space where there are no artificial lights. The further north you go, the better your chances of catching this neon light spectacle.
When to go: Late-August to April
How to get there: Travel from Helsinki to Lapland by train – it’s the most convenient way. There are a few railway stations where you can hop off, including Rovaniemi, Kolari, and Kemijärvi. Your end destination will depend on your Lapland accommodation and where you’re planning to see the Northern Lights.
Where to stay: The Lapland region has exciting glass-roofed accommodation made for Northern Lights viewing, ranging from glass igloos to cabins.
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: Download the My Aurora Forecast and Alerts App. Add your location to the app, and you’ll receive real-time alerts about your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
Aberdeen, Isle of Skye, Northern Highlands and Dunnet Island
Did you know Northern Scotland shares the same latitude with some Scandinavian regions? That means it is possible to see the Northern Lights here if the weather conditions are right. The Isle of Skye is abundant with magical scenery. If the stars align, the Northern Lights are seen between October and March, specifically in wide open areas and Munros (high mountains). With beautiful landscapes in Aberdeen, Dunnet Island and the Northern Highlands, Scotland is the best place to see the Northern Lights in the United Kingdom, thanks to its clear, unpolluted skies and its proximity to the North Pole.
When to go: September to March
How to get there: For the best scenery, hire a car and take in the surreal views as you drive through towns, remote areas and across highways in Scotland. There are also trains that are relatively cheap and reliable!
Where to stay: Scotland has some incredible places to stay when you’re seeking some warmth and relaxation while hunting the Northern Lights. These hotels will provide strategic vantage points!
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: Visit AuroraWatch UK Alerts to find out when it is most likely to see the Aurora Borealis in the United Kingdom.
Murmansk, Siberia and the Kola Peninsula
Believe it or not, there are many places in Russia for phenomenal observation of the Northern Lights, due to the Arctic Circle crossing a large part of the country. Head to Northern Russia to increase your chances of catching this dancing spectacle of neon lights in the night sky. The Kola Peninsula region borders Finland and Norway, and it is the ideal Russian location for the Aurora. If you’re ready to brave the cold weather, then Murmansk, a small port city in this region, is a great location for accommodation and the Northern Lights. There are other small towns near Murmansk where you can also see the Aurora. Enquire about a guided tour to get the best advice on the best places to go to! You can also do a snowmobile adventure and visit the indigenous Saami people – local reindeer herders.
When to go: September to March
How to get there: Book your cheap flights to Moscow or St. Petersburg. From Moscow, you can take a direct flight (approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes) or a train (approximately 35 hours). If you’re looking for luxury travel, you can do a scenic train journey through the Arctic regions of Russia. From St. Petersburg, you can take a direct flight (under two hours) or a direct train (around 22 hours).
Where to stay: There are great hotels and apartments in the Kola Peninsula region that offer Aurora sightings.
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: Use the Aurora Forecast website to check the Northern Lights activity in the region.
Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali and Yukon
Many people might think you can only catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis phenomenon in Europe. Well, that’s not true! In the United States, Northern Alaska is the best place to see the Northern Lights. Fairbanks is a magical place best described as a canvas for the Aurora Borealis. With breathtaking mountain ranges, pristine rivers and lakes, Fairbanks is where you’d want to find yourself for the perfect chance of catching a glimpse of this celestial dance in the night sky. Anchorage is another prime location for epic Northern Lights sightings with the help of a guide. Other places in Alaska worth visiting for spotting the Northern Lights include Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the northernmost city of the United States, Utqiagvik.
When to go: August to April
How to get there: You’ll land in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Once in Anchorage, you can travel by car, bus, train or plane to destinations such as Fairbanks. If you’re travelling on land, you’re guaranteed surreal views of river valleys, mountain vistas and the boreal forest.
Where to stay:
Where to check the Northern Lights forecast: Check the Aurora forecast at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute website.
Are you ready to head north? These sublime places where you can see the Northern Lights will excite you with all they have to offer! Now, all you need to do is pack your bags and do not forget your thermal clothes!
Have you been to any of these destinations for the Northern Lights? Let us know about your experience and shed light on this dazzling spectacle in the comments below.