Every year from the period of October to March, travelers flock to Northern regions of the world to see the “Aurora Borealis” or Northern lights. These formations are a natural occurrence caused when gaseous particles collide with the sun. The displays created can be a range of colours from pink to pale green. At it’s very best it is said to be a breathtaking and unforgettable light show, however many can be disappointed by getting either the location or timing wrong when it comes to planning their trip. Here’s our definitive Northern Lights travel guide to help you maximize your chances of seeing the phenomenon in all it’s glory.
Tromsø, in the very north of Norway is a very popular spot to witness the lights. Here, they begin to appear around September and then slowly fade out during the month of March. Due to it’s coastal location, Tromsø is also one of the mildest climates in which you can enjoy the lights. From the end of November, the city experiences a “Polar Night” and is in a surreal darkness 24 hours a day. The period between 17:00 and 02:00 are when the lights can dance for anywhere between 2 minutes and one hour each night. Tourists can choose from a number of guided tours that will allow you to view the lights from either blankets on land or from a catamaran in one of the many inlets that surround the city.
Iceland has been experiencing a tourism boom in recent years. It’s incredible climate, natural beauty and spas make it a unique destination for visitors even without the Aurora as a draw. It does however, also boast one of the best experiences when it comes to witnessing this phenomenon. The season in which you have your best chance to see the lights lasts a little bit longer than others with sightings from August right through to April. As the formations can appear in cycles (very active for 2-3 nights, then low for 4-5 nights), it is recommended that visitors spend up to 7 days on the island to ensure they can be at the right place at the right time.
Lapland is not just famous as a spot to see Father Christmas, it’s also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights which are active here for roughly 200 nights a year. You can also take a more traditional approach to Aurora hunting by taking a dog sled to tour the best viewing spots. Many people will also opt to spend their nights in a luxury glass igloo, dome or wilderness teepee to ensure that their whole trip is like something from a winter fairy tale.
From November to March, the best place in Sweden to witness the beauty of the Aurora is from the Aurora Sky Station, located in Abisko National Park. The station sits 900 metres above sea level and offers many presentations and guided tours explaining the Aurora once you get there. Although while here there is are no guarantee you will see the lights (50-60% chance), if you do get lucky you’re in for a treat as Lonely Planet has listed it as the best place in the world to witness the show.
It’s a common misconception that you need to head strictly to Northern Europe to see the Northern Lights. In the barren Yukon region of northern Canada however, you can see the entire sky become illuminated by the strokes of green, red purple and blue colours. The formations are said to be so bright that it can light the way for snowmobiles and skiers through an otherwise pitch black night. You can also take the Rustic Wilderness Luxury Experience which offers guests a number of winter activities, local meal options (including Bison and Pike) and the “Aurorawatch”, where you’ll be woken from your down filled duvet in the middle of night if the Aurora burst into life again.
We’re seriously undecided as to which one of these destinations we would choose for our own Northern Lights adventure. What we do know however, is that it’s definitely on our bucket list! If you’re planning your trip, don’t forget your travel insurance. Visit our site where we can offer you a great value 1 or 2 year Multitrip policy. While you’re here, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more news, offers and travel content.