Seeing the northern lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will stay with you forever. Also known as the aurora borealis, this natural phenomenon occurs when electrically charged particles collide in the atmosphere – creating astonishing waves of colourful light.
Experiencing this otherworldly wonder in person requires careful planning when it comes to location and timing. Luckily, our travel designers know exactly how to set up the perfect trip to optimise your chances. We also work with fantastic local partners and guides who are experts in pinpointing the best times, places and conditions to see the most stunning skies.
Leave the planning to us, and prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure in search of the northern lights.
1. Norwegian Lapland
Located above the Arctic Circle, Norwegian Lapland is undoubtedly the best place to see the northern lights in Norway. The best time to visit is from October to March, when nights are long and exceptionally dark. The lack of development here means light pollution is low, further increasing your chances of spotting the greenish glow.
This sweeping region is one of the most remote and beautiful destinations in Scandinavia, offering all kinds of activities to add to your trip. You can explore the stunning winter wilderness on foot, snowmobile or even dog sled.
Norway’s Lofoten Islands are also a great place to see the northern lights, with a unique coastal atmosphere that makes the experience all the more magical. And if you’re looking for a more urban feel, make the vibrant city of Tromsø your home base – it’s known as ‘the Arctic capital’.
Where to stay in Norwegian Lapland
Nyvagar Hotel$$$$$Sitting prettily in the Lofoten Sea is Nyvagar and its thirty fishing ‘huts’, surrounded by beautifully unique scenery. Fitted out with entirely modern interiors and facilities, the lodgings fuse quaint historic character with contemporary comforts. It’s easy to make yourself at home here with each cabin, or rorbus, offering a vast amount of space with two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and dining area spread over two floors. Fresh, local produce is prepared to create traditional, tasty dishes at the restaurant, while the Auavit Loft offers a cosy spot with superb sea, northern lights or midnight sun views.
Tromvik Lodge$$$$$Sitting among the spectacular landscapes of mountains, alpine forests, bright white beaches and turquoise ocean is Tromvik Lodge, a typically modern Scandinavian chalet with all the extra comforts. Based in the pretty, little fishing and farming village of Tromvik, this is an excellent base for keen anglers and mountain hikers. Large and airy, there’s plenty of room here for you and your clan with three bedrooms and top-notch amenities. Huge windows open out to gorgeous views – and the Northern Lights if you’re lucky – which you can enjoy from the bubbles of the outdoor jacuzzi, while the large porch is a picturesque summer BBQ spot.
Scandic Ishavshotel$$$$$Perfectly placed along the waterside, Scandic Ishavshotel enjoys a fantastic setting just two minutes from the city’s shops and restaurants and is surrounded by beautiful mountain and Straits of Tromso views. Soak up these vistas from your room – or balcony if you opt for a suite. Modern facilities are strewn throughout the property, from well appointed rooms to heated bathroom floors to excellent restaurants. Breakfast is an utter feast here, while traditional Norwegian specialties provide tasty meals during the rest of the day. If you’re after a glimpse of the Northern Lights, ask reception for an Aurora wake-up call to ensure you don’t miss a second of the magical sight.
2. Swedish Lapland
Swedish Lapland is gorgeous all year round, but the best time to visit for a glimpse of the aurora borealis is from November to February. The charming town of Abisko boasts unusually clear weather, making sightings even more likely.
This northern region of Sweden offers a unique variety of ways to see the northern lights, whether on a snowmobile safari or while snowshoeing through the frosty landscape. You can also take a photography tour, go in search of reindeer and meet the local Sámi people.
One of our favourite places to stay here is Treehotel, composed of seven exquisitely modern treehouses with privileged views of the surroundings. It offers all kinds of unique experiences, from relaxing at a spa in the middle of the forest to enjoying dinner atop a frozen lake.
Where to stay in Swedish Lapland
Icehotel$$$$$When it comes to finding rooms with that little something extra, the Icehotel is hard to beat. This hotel and art exhibition was first built in 1989 and has been redesigned and built from scratch every year since. Water from the River Torne provides ice for the hotel and a team of skilled and hardy workers chip, carve and chisel until the building is complete. There is a mix of warm and cold rooms in which to sleep, the latter lingering between -5 and -8°C on the thermometer. The highlight for most guests is the chance to bed down in one of the cold rooms, where a thick mattress covered in reindeer skins sits on top of a huge bed of ice. Snuggle up in your thermal sleeping bag then wake up in the morning to a steaming cup of lingonberry juice before jumping in the sauna before breakfast. New for 2016 is the Icehotel 365, a permanent structure that is kept cool in summer by solar panels. Inside are luxury suites, each with their own bathroom as well as art suites designed and hand carved by artists from around the world. Despite its frosty nature, there are plenty of cosy corners in which to warm your fingers and toes. Set up camp in front of the crackling fire in the Jukkasjärvi Homestead, a timbered building that dates back to 1768. Here you can enjoy beef and salmon steaks hot out the charcoal-fired oven, or head to the hotel restaurant to sample traditional Scandinavian fare with locally sourced fish, game and berries. Then there is the ice bar, where everything from the glasses to the tables, chairs and bar itself is made from ice. Enjoy the totally unique surroundings and sip on what is likely to be the crispest glass of champagne or cocktail you’ll ever drink.
Treehotel$$$$$More than simply cabins tucked away in a forest, the rooms at this contemporary treehouse hotel in Harads are marvels of engineering and works of art, designed with sustainability principles in mind. Whether you’re relaxing on the net patio of the Seventh Room, or gazing out over the forest from the Dragonfly, your stay will be exceptional, luxurious and truly memorable. The seven unique rooms are situated above ground in a pine forest, a celebration of design, taste and nature. The Seventh Room is located ten metres up in the trees, boasting panoramic windows, which offer views of the Lule River, and skylights in the bedrooms are ideal for admiring the Northern Lights. The patio level is a net, stretched around the trunk of a pine tree, allowing you to lie back and listen to the sounds of the forest. The room itself is luxuriously modern with Scandinavian wood and fine textures. The other vastly different rooms include The Cabin, The UFO, The Bird’s Nest, The Mirror Cube, The Blue Cone and the Dragonfly. Britta’s Pensionat, a short walk from the rooms, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a 1930s-50s setting. The menu changes daily according to what fresh produce is available. Guests can enjoy the bar, television area, sauna and relaxation area. There are a variety of activities for guests to participate in depending on the season, including hiking, mountain biking, moose safaris, fishing and photography.
Arctic Bath Hotel and Spa$$$$$Set under the northern lights in winter, and the midnight sun during the summer months, this unique hotel set in the wilderness of Swedish Lapland encompasses suites and cabins, positioned on both land and over the Lule River. Created from sustainable materials, blending wood, stone and leather, the varied types of accommodation are connected by wooden walkways, with outdoor decks, underfloor heating and expansive windows. The Spa and Wellness Centre, set across the water, is a particular highlight, with an array of treatments, a sauna and a hot tub. The Scandinavian-inspired restaurant serves up local dishes, with fresh produce, and guests can grab a drink at the bar, or relax in the lounge. The chefs have carefully planned set menus inspired by the natural surroundings and with Arctic Bath’s wellness focus in mind. A selection of outdoor activities includes husky tours, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
3. Northern Iceland
Known as the world capital of the aurora borealis, Iceland is definitely one of the best places on earth to see the northern lights. We suggest visiting from December to March and heading to Northern Iceland, where the nights are longer and the skies tend to be clearer.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a particularly great place to go, with a wonderfully varied landscape that you can even explore by boat.
Stay at Deplar Farm for a luxuriously remote experience, or Torfhús Retreat for a cosy escape in close proximity to the Golden Circle.
Although we love the capital city of Reykjavik, it’s not the best option for spotting the northern lights in Iceland due to its relatively high population density and light pollution. That said, there are still plenty of things to do here, whether you’re into art and culture or nightlife and cuisine.
Where to stay in Northern Iceland
Deplar Farm$$$$$In a remote valley in the middle of the Troll Peninsula, Deplar Farm is perhaps the most unique place to stay in Iceland. Once a working sheep farm, this sprawling property with its grass roof may look traditionally Icelandic on first glimpse, but its luxurious transformation into an opulent lodge soon becomes apparent. There are 13 en suite rooms that accommodate up to 28 guests, including cosy family options. The rest of the farm is home to a fabulous indoor-outdoor salt water pool and bar, a sauna, gym, dining area, spa, lounge area and more. How you experience this incredible landscape depends on the time of year you visit. During the winter, opt for the heli-ski package to fly up onto the surrounding peaks then slalom down virgin runs to the ocean accompanied by expert guides. You can also go cat skiing, hot spring hopping, snowmobiling, whale watching and even surfing (for the brave). End the day back at the lodge, under the glow of the Northern Lights with a little luck. Long summer days bring fabulous fly fishing on exclusive beats and the chance to join a local captain at sea, returning to Deplar to eat your catch. Hiking guides can lead you on trails along endless valleys and dramatic cliffs dotted with waterfalls or perhaps kayak down dramatic rivers and out at sea. Other activities include horse riding, mountain biking and day trips out to nearby islands.
Sigló Hótel$$$$$Right on the waterfront of Siglufjörður’s small harbour in a long fjord of the same name, the Sigló Hótel is a wonderful place from which to explore northern Iceland. All 65 rooms enjoy views over the water to the front or mountains to the rear, spacious, warm and modern, and decorated with pieces reminiscent of the fishing village’s history. There are also three spacious suites with private balconies overlooking the marina. Sigló Hótel offers three restaurants. Restaurant Sunna, one of the most ambitious restaurant in north Iceland, is located within the hotel along with the bar and is open all year round serving freshly caught fish. In two brightly coloured neighbouring buildings, the cosy Hannes Boy is open during the summer months. Kaffi Rauðka is also open all year round and offers a broad international menu. Get to know Siglufjörður on foot and learn about its history as the ‘Herring capital of the world’ at the award-winning museum. All guests also have access to the hotel’s outdoor spas and sauna.
Icelandair Hotel Akureyri$$$$$Located in the center of Iceland’s friendly second city, Icelandair Hotel Akureyri offers a smart base from which to explore the stark beauty of the rural north. Traditional photos and pictures adorn the walls and you’ll find intriguing sculptures by Icelandic artist Adalheidur S. Eysteinsdottir in the hotel’s lobby – a unique feature of Icelandair Hotels. Enjoy magnificent views over the fjord and Sulur and Hlidarfjall mountains from your bright and modern guest room or venture out into the fine hotel garden – bedecked with an open fireplace and seating with blankets – for a glimpse of the Northern Lights or to enjoy the midnight sun. Amble around the historic buildings, colorful houses, museums, cafes and parks of this harbor town before taking off on country roads to see nearby natural wonders such as the Myvatn lake area with its unique ecosystem and geothermal pool, Mount Hlidarfjall and the magnificent Godafoss waterfall.
4. Finnish Lapland
Finland is a truly unique destination with a wide variety of natural and cultural claims to fame. The best place in the country to see the northern lights is Finnish Lapland, a delightfully unspoiled wonderland where the skies are often illuminated during long winter nights.
Finnish Lapland offers some especially fun experiences for families. You can visit the Lainio Snow Village, meet Father Christmas and get acquainted with friendly reindeer. Spend your days living out a real-life fairytale and your nights gazing up at the glowing heavens.
We highly recommend a stay at Octola, a haven of secluded luxury designed according to local architectural traditions. Here you can explore the natural paradise around you, relax in the sauna and jacuzzi, or taste impeccable Nordic cuisine made with locally sourced products.
Where to stay in Finnish Lapland
Octola$$$$$The team at Octola pride themselves on welcoming you into a luxurious home-from-home, where you have the space to unwind and feel truly in touch with nature. This secluded haven is far removed from the crowds, but still affords you the best in comfort and personalised service. Octola’s has been inspired by the style of Lapp and Sámi tradition. Even the lodge’s shape has been derived from the traditional Lapp ‘laavu’ buildings, that in the past used to provide shelter for the people living the nomadic lifestyle. Settling into a wooden chalet is truly the essence of Lapland, offers you an authentic Arctic experience. Enjoy total privacy surrounded by the wilderness and spend your days enjoying some of the various outdoor Arctic activities on offer in the area. Octola’s team of wilderness guides, chef and butler will all ensure you have a memorable stay. Take a seat in the dining room and enjoy a sumptuous menu of Nordic cuisine featuring the freshest regional produce. With 10 bedrooms available, the retreat can either be booked out for exclusive use, or you can book a wing.
Jávri Lodge$$$$$Once the private lodge of Finnish president Urho Kekkonen, today Jávri Lodge is a beautiful hideaway located 250km north of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by the lakes and forests of the Urho Kekkonen National Park. The lodge is built in a traditional Lappish style and decor is simple and elegant but with the warmth and cosiness you would expect from a Scandinavian property. Windows in the bedrooms and the common areas look out over the forest and there is nothing more relaxing than curling up with a cup of coffee and gazing out across this magical landscape – keeping your eyes peeled for the northern lights that often make an appearance in the clear Arctic sky. Local, seasonal ingredients including fish from nearby Lake Inari and fruit from the forest are used in the kitchen to create beautiful and unique dishes. Enjoy with a glass of wine from the lodge’s extensive collection. There is an indoor pool and sauna and when you want to get out and explore, there is the option to go snowmobiling, snowshoeing or ice fishing.
Chalet Kaarnikka$$$$$This delightful exclusive-use log chalet is nestled in the fell of Kaunispää and boasts views over to Saariselkä. With five bedrooms and two lofts, the comfortable wooden cottage can accommodate up to 12 guests, and larger groups can also make use of the nearby Chalet Revontuli. It’s the ideal place for a family to use as a home-away-from-home when exploring Finnish Lapland. Go exploring in the surrounding forest or take part in a variety of outdoor activities before coming back to a crackling fire. Chalet Kaarnikka is spacious, with inviting and cosy living areas, and an entertainment area with a billiard table. Meals are prepared by a private chef.
5. Ilulissat, Greenland
Greenland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the northern lights, and in fact it’s a relatively undiscovered destination. If you ask us, that only makes it more tempting. Visit in the depths of winter to maximise your chances of seeing the dreamy midnight landscape lit up from above, aim for the end of September to the middle of April.
This is a place for brave explorers in search of dramatic landscapes and life-changing experiences. Greenland abounds with outdoor adventures, from fishing and kayaking to mountain biking and hiking through its deserts, pastures and glacial coastlines.
The city of Ilulissat sits on the shore of an iceberg-filled bay, making it a particularly scenic place to see the aurora borealis. It’s also the ideal point of departure for nature excursions and trips to ancient Inuit cultural sites. At the Hotel Arctic, you can even live out the fantasy of sleeping in an actual igloo – with some luxurious upgrades, of course.
Where to stay in Ilulissat
Hotel Arctic$$$$$Experience the wilds of the Arctic nature with a stay at the eco-friendly Hotel Arctic. Sitting on the edge of the Ilulissat ice fjord, sublime front row views of drifting icebergs await you from the guestrooms, restaurant and barbecue terrace. Besides modern furnishings and local artwork, the rooms and suites enjoy town, harbour or sea vistas, while the property’s five igloos offer an extremely unique experience. Inspired by the classic eskimo igloo and providing absolute comfort with contemporary facilities, the igloos offer a truly special stay. Superb dining is also on offer here. From expert chefs serving the finest Greenlandic and international dishes at Restaurant Ulo, to scenic summer buffets and barbecues on the terrace, look forward to feasting on delicious meals alongside those bewitching bay views.
Our Top Example Trips
Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to give you advice on where to see the northern lights.