Planning to see the Northern Lights? Then don’t miss this article. The dancing auroras in the night skies are nothing short of spectacular, and definitely must be experienced once in a lifetime at the least. It has to be in your bucket list.
Let’s take a look at some of the best places to see the Northern lights in the world.
About the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights occur as a result of electrically charged particles from the sun entering the earth’s atmosphere resulting in the magical display on night skies.
Auroras appear above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.
The lights on the northern hemisphere are called Aurora Borealis whereas on the south they are called Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights.
The color of the lights depends on the type of particles that collide, the most common color being green, amidst other colors such as yellow, blue, purple, purple-red, pink, etc.
Best places to see the Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the most popular sites for viewing the Aurora Borealis. Read our posts for Iceland.
The Northern Lights just make Iceland more spectacular than it already is, with its glaciers, stunning waterfalls, hot springs and volcanoes.
There are many ways in which you can hunt for the Northern Lights in Iceland. You could take guided tours or take a self-drive tour to track them yourself.
If you are short on budget, you can try your luck from the Reykjavík countryside, ensured the display is sharp because light pollution is generally an issue.
Another exciting option is viewing from the sea on a boat.
Though mobility to move around to get better views of the Aurora can be an issue here, the serenity of watching it from the seas is incredible.
Whichever way, Iceland is an icy country so you might want to keep yourself warm with appropriate clothing while hunting for the Northern Lights.
Some of the most popular places to see the Northern Lights are Thingvellir National Park or the Grotta Lighthouse near Reykjavík.
More are Kirkjufell mountain, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in Höfn, Hella, and Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar.
Best time to visit: September to Early April
A trip to Alaska is incomplete without seeing the Northern Lights as it is one of the top destinations. Along with dog sledding are one of the best things to do in Alaska.
Fairbanks in Alaska is situated just below the aurora oval and very close to the Arctic Circle, is the most popular destination to get views of the Northern Lights in the USA.
In addition to this, Fairbanks is also very easily accessible by flights as it is very close to the international airport.
Some of the famous viewpoints near Fairbanks include the Cleary Summit, Murphy Domes, Haystack Mountain, and Wickersham.
Some of the other places in Alaska to view the Northern lights are Denali National Park, Coldfoot, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Barrow, and Anchorage.
When is it best to visit? September to Mid April
Northern Norway is a pleasant and preferable location for the Northern Lights because of its mild temperatures, the breathtaking landscapes, and the Alps.
Tromso is the most popular & commercialized place in Norway to spot the Northern Lights, through guided tours.
Situated well above the Arctic Circle makes it perfect to view the Northern Lights, added with the advantage of its proximity to the Gulf Stream that makes the temperatures milder and warm.
Lyngenfjord is yet another destination where you get to see bright and sparkling Northern Lights above the mountains, which is quite a sight to watch.
One can quickly get to Lyngenfjord from Tromso by car.
Some of the other places are Senja in which you get to see the Lights reflecting on the:
- Norwegian fjords
- Lofoten Islands for witnessing them with the fantastic landscapes of Norway
- Alden for its resorts
- North Cape for seclusion, and
- Hammerfest, Svalbard, Nordkapp, Senja, Alta, Kirkenes among the others
When to visit? Mid-September to March
One of the best places to view the Northern Lights at Sweden is the Abisko National Park.
The national park is situated far away from the city lights, so the lights can be viewed from anywhere in the National park.
However, the observatory tower at the Aurora Sky Station is also another popular option among visitors.
If you are looking at guided tours, Kiruna might be the perfect choice for you.
Jokkmokk is another town north of Sweden. In that town, the annual Winter Market is a quite happening event. In that market, you get to see the beauty of local Sami culture and food.
That event happens in late February every year. At winter vacation at this time is perfect for viewing the Northern lights in addition to the festivities.
For ice hotels along with guided tours, Jukkasjärvi is where you should be going. The world’s first ice hotel was built here, and it is rebuilt every year with fresh ice.
Porjus and Tärendö are two other small towns in Sweden where you can most likely see the Northern Lights.
Both of these are small towns, and hence, it is an excellent way to detox yourself from the cities and reconnect with nature.
The towns have mountain hotels and forest lodges to accommodate visitors.
Visit them from Mid-September to late March
Greenland, also home to one of these spectacular light shows in the sky, has a higher success rate of the appearance of Northern Lights.
Kangerlussuaq at Greenland is the best place to view the Northern Lights between October and April.
From the top of the Greenland Ice Cap glacier at Kangerlussuaq, the views are even better.
If you would like to get a view from the comfort of your home, Sisimiut has the most substantial chances.
You could hop on to one of the snowmobile buses and take a mountain safari that takes you back in the backcountry.
Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and yet another stunning spot for viewing and photographing the Northern Lights in northern Greenland.
If you spot the Greenlandic Sled Dogs in the Ilulissat Icefjord, it is a bonus!
Some of the other popular places are Nuuk, Kulusuk, and Tasiilaq.
Best to go: September to early April
Canada has low light pollution, and the northern latitude and longitude at which it is present make it a dream for aurora viewing.
The most popular place in Canada for the Northern Lights is Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. There are high chances of viewing the auroras besides the shores of Great Slave Lake.
Whitehorse at Yukon is also another top-notch destination with a special mention to the excellent accommodation options available here – tents, lakeside lodges, cabins, and cottages.
For a mixture of cultural arts, artic activities such as ice fishing, polar bear viewing, and aurora viewing, Iqaluit at Nunavut provides a remote and unique experience.
The Athabasca University’s Geophysical Observatory at Alberta, Wood Buffalo and Jasper National Park are other popular viewing spots.
When to go: Late August to Late April
The Murmansk Region, on the Kola Peninsula, is the most popular destination in Russia for viewing the Northern lights, in addition to winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
It is situated north of the Arctic circle that makes it ideal for aurora viewing.
Kirovsk, a small town close to the Khibiny Mountains, clear and bright auroras can be viewed. Arkhangelsk is a modern town famous for its wooden architecture, winter tourism, and auroras.
Other popular places in Russia are Vorkuta, Naryan-Mar, and Petrozavodsk, Karelia’s capital.
Some of the Karelian small towns such as Belomorsk, Kem, and Nilmoguba are also some places from where the Northern lights can be witnessed in addition to Petrozavodsk.
Be there from September to mid-April
General tips for viewing the Northern Lights
- The darker the sky, the better, the longer the night, the better.
- No clouds provide the best views.
- Full moon days can cause light pollution. Five days to the new moon would be the perfect time to visit.
- Move away from any artificial lighting to get the best views.
- Wear proper woolen/warm clothing to make sure cold weathers aren’t a hindrance.
- The winter solstice is the best time to spot the auroras. September and March are deemed to be the best months to view the auroras in its full glory. Generally, it can be seen from September to March depending on the location.
- September and March, in which the fall equinox and the spring equinox occur. While the spring equinox on March 20 has passed by for 2019, you could look forward to the fall equinox on September 23 for stronger displays of the aurora borealis.
So that’s it, guys!
This magical phenomenon is something that should be witnessed at least once in a lifetime. I hope this article justified listing some of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the world.
Have you experienced the Northern Lights before?
Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear your stories 🙂
Author’s BIO: Mark Bennett is an American writer and traveler, whose major inspiration has been camping with his father ever since his childhood. He aims to visit 75 countries before he’s 30. You can also follow his adventures on his site Outdoorily.