As the dark skies of winter start to pull in, the glorious spectacle of the Aurora Borealis draws closer. Indeed, for many, to witness the Northern Lights is a bucket list experience, and rightfully so, but before you start to plan a trip to get a glimpse of the display, we have some vital tips and a list of the best places to see the Northern Lights for you to look over.
What Are The Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released by the sun colliding with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. These lights can be seen in the northern and southern (southern lights) hemispheres around the magnetic poles.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights
The best time to see the Northern Lights is during a clear night sky on a dark night, away from light pollution. The Northern Lights can be seen between September and April, however, we recommend travelling to the below destinations between December and March to maximise your chances of seeing them.
Best Way to See the Northern Light
There are many ways to enhance your Northern Lights experience, either during and around your time watching them.
An Aurora Borealis Safari provides the perfect opportunity to get away from the light pollution in search of the Northern Lights. Or spend some time near Abisko National Park and witness the Northern Lights from the renowned Aurora Sky Station.
Travel in style on a catamaran from Tromso, known as the ‘Paris of the North’ and settle onto the nets to see the Northern Lights, far away from the light pollution of Tromso. We have a range of unique accommodation options that allow you to stay in a glass roof lodge so you can lay your head down while the Northern Lights dance above you.
See our best accommodation for viewing the Northern Lights >
Where to go to see the Northern Lights
Whilst you may travel to see the Northern Lights, they are only visible when the sky is dark, this is why other activities and the destination you choose are important to consider when planning a trip. The destinations below will give you fantastic opportunities to either go dog sledging, learn about the Sami way of life, whale watch or even walk with polar bears.
Norway is the perfect winter destination and due to its position right in the Aurora zone it therefore offers some of the most beautiful views of the Northern Lights in the world. In 2016 our founder, Jonny Bealby, started his year with a Northern Lights safari and described his travel experience as ‘one of the most amazing things I have ever done and worth every penny; a real bucket list experience, well and truly ticked off’.
Itineraries in Northern Norway can include a plethora of wonderful activities as well as the Northern Lights Safaris - from husky touring, whale watching and snowmobiling. A tour in this part of the world is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip and will possibly be your best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis…
Fly into Alta to do our Northern Explorer tour for an actioned packed diverse Northern Lights Safari.
Sweden is another great place to witness the Northern Lights and often forgotten about in comparison to its Scandi neighbours. Our Brandon Lodge & Sapmi Nature Camp itineraries offers travellers the chance to camp (yes, camp) under the Northern Lights with Lennart Pittja, a global ambassador to the Sami people.
How about extending your trip to explore more of the Swedish Arctic? Our Sweden: Arctic Explorer with The Icehotel does just that! You drive North from the Baltic Sea and head into the stunning forests of Sweden, stopping at an architect's dream - the Treehotel, sleeping in an ice room at the famous Icehotel and finishing under the Lapponian Gate in Bjorkliden, with every evening spent looking up to the sky in search of the illusive Northern Lights.
Our Arctic Travel Consultant Jamie went on the Arctic Explorer trip in March and absolutely loved it. He recommends this time to travel as your days will be longer and your chance to see the Northern Lights still high.
Finland is great location from which to see the Northern Lights, with the added bonus that it’s from the comfort of your bed! Finland is known for its igloo style accommodations with large overhead windows for the cosiest of northern lights viewing. Snuggle under blankets and feel the warming glow of log burners as you wait for northern spirits to perform their magical dance in the sky. The Aurora Domes are located next to the Muonio River, which freezes during the winter to create a gorgeous wild, winter wonderland.
See our Aurora Dome and Wilderness Activities itinerary for inspiration, which also includes a 2-day husky safari through the snow-covered slopes, the chance to cross-country ski and explore the nearby Finnish forests and stay in a secluded wilderness cabin located next to the frozen Muonio River.
View the full trip itinerary of Finland: Aurora Dome and Wilderness Activities.
It is possible to see the Aurora Borealis from September to March, with the best months being December to March when the days are shortest. What makes Canada such a special place to view the phenomenon? You’ll be sharing those views in the heart of polar bear country! On our Canadian Arctic Safari, you can spend the day hiking through the tundra in search of polar bears and then spend the evening watching the northern lights from the comfort of your lodge. Seal River Heritage Lodge is only accessible by propeller plane and is nestled between the Hudson Bay and Seal River estuary, ensuring minimal light pollution.
The lodge also boasts the opportunity for polar bear viewing from the comfort of the living area or bedrooms, as well as the chance to wild camp in the wilderness of the tundra, hopefully with the northern lights teasing you from above.
View the full trip itinerary of Canadian Arctic Safari.
No list of the best countries to see the northern lights would be complete without mentioning this beautiful and unique island nation. Iceland has a long season where the northern lights can be seen, starting in August and spanning all the way until April. As with all destinations for viewing the Aurora Borealis, the longer you have to spend in the area, the higher the chance you have to witness the beautiful phenomenon. Even though Iceland and the other destinations on this list are prime spots to view the northern lights, there's always an aspect of unpredictability of when they’ll pop up and how intensely.
As far as the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland are, you’re spoilt with a variety of fantastic locations. While there are some decent spots in the Reykjavik area to watch them, it's always best to steer clear of any and all light pollution. Some popular spots are Thingvellir, Vik, Eldborgahraun, Látrabjarg, and Djúpavík. If you find yourself in Iceland for the northern lights, it's best to ask locals where has been a good spot that year as well as pay attention to the moon calendar.
Wild Frontiers does not currently offer winter tours to Iceland. Please see our cruise to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland in the summer.