Where to See the Northern Lights
Created from a collision between electrically charged particles in the atmosphere, the Northern Lights have been known to paint many a sky in the Northern hemisphere.
You’ll need a clear sky and a prime viewing spot, but if you do manage to catch a glimpse of this incredible phenomenon, it is an experience that will stay with you forever.
To increase your chances of seeing this other-worldly event, here is our experts’ top picks of where to see the Northern Lights.
Finland is so much more than the land of Santa and saunas. It is an incredibly diverse place, with pristine scenery and a distinct culture. For the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights here, head to Lapland – you’ll have the best chance of catching them between autumn and spring. In the remote region of Muotka, Muotka Wilderness Lodge is a cosy and romantic getaway. Far from any light pollution, it has a choice of twenty Aurora cabins from which you might be able to see the Northern Light.
This lodge is also perfectly placed for a spot of Aurora hunting in its surroundings. One of the best ways to do so is by peacefully heading out into the wintery forest on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. The atmosphere will be completely quiet, save for the faint ringing of reindeer bells. If the sky is clear enough, you’ll be riding under a show of iridescent purple and green, punctuated with glimmering stars.
The private log cabin Villa Naavanneito, nestled among the peaceful hills of Utsulevi, is another excellent base for Northern Lights excursions. On the tour, your driver will take you far away from light pollution and in search of clear skies. Although sightings of these magical lights are not guaranteed, the star studded Arctic sky is still exceptionally beautiful.
Iceland is known world over for being the go-to destination for viewing the Northern Lights. Depending on the weather conditions and solar activity, the best time to spot the lights in Iceland is from early September to the end of April. December is typically the best time to view the lights due to its long night time hours, but January to March are also hugely popular.
To maximise your chances of catching the lights, spend as long as possible in this Polar wonderland. Nights tend to be longer in the Westfjords or the north of Iceland, so it is worth journeying to these destinations if you have the time. Air pollution is also a major obstacle to viewing the lights, so choose national parks such as Thingvellir National Park in preference of bright cities such as Reykjavik.
If you’re looking for a remote Aurora experience, make yourself at home in the middle of the Troll Peninsula at Deplar Farm. This unique property houses up to 28 guests and has a glass roof, so if weather conditions permit, you’re never be too far away from the mystical lights. For a real sense of isolation, though, venture deep into the Icelandic highlands to arrive at the comfortable Midgard Hut. Located quite literally in the middle of nowhere and only reachable by super jeep, Midgard is an incredible place for witnessing the intensity of the Northern lights and shooting stars – it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Norway is an Arctic wonderland and arguably one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. As with Iceland, winter is the best time to see the lights in Norway. The darkest and coldest time of year runs from around October to April. For the best viewing opportunities, visit between October and March when the night is at its darkest. The hours between 6pm and 1am tend to give you the best chance of spotting the lights, but midnight is the optimal hour.
Even if you do manage to pick a cloudless night, it’s worth choosing a spot away from cities and busy roads. Norwegian Lapland is Norway’s prime lights viewing territory. Venture in a husky sled to enjoy the colour washed night sky in true Norwegian style. Norway’s Arctic islands are also favoured viewing spots. The craggy Lofoten Islands are a magical and remote archipelago – the further into the unspoilt wilderness you venture, the more impressive the backdrops for your photographs might be. Dramatic mountains, deep fjords and sweeping seascapes all add to the ethereal Aurora experience here.
Although cities are generally discounted for Northern Lights viewing, there is one that stands out. Also known as the Arctic capital, Tromsø is a fantastic place to base yourself if you’re travelling to Norway to chase the Aurora Borealis. One of the most important observatories in the Arctic is located here, specialising in studies of cosmic radiation, meteorology, the Northern Lights and the earth’s magnetic field. As the last outpost of civilisation before the wild icy sweeps of the Arctic Ocean, Tromsø is a very popular base from which to plan your excursions to see the lights.
The best time to visit Swedish Lapland to view the Northern Lights is from November to February, when the area becomes a true winter wonderland blanketed in snow. The sleepy town of Abisko, close to the Norwegian border, is one of the best places to view the Aurora Borealis. With one of the lowest rainfalls in Scandinavia, this region has many clear nights, making it perfect for aurora spotting.
Swedish Lapland’s lodges offer a number of Northern Lights based excursions. From Arctic Retreat’s Northern Lights Walk to the photographic experience at Logger’s Lodge, there is no shortage of Northern Lights based tours in Swedish Lapland. Nearly every accommodation here offers an activity based around the Northern Lights and Icehotel is no different. Here, you can take a snowmobile safari out into the wilderness of Jukkasjärvi. The Northern Lights can be viewed from September to March in this region, so travellers have plenty of time to play with.