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Seeing the Northern Lights in person is a magnificent experience, especially if you’ve never encountered the ribbons of green, red, and blue light that streak across the sky.
You’ve got to be willing to stay up late and find some dark places to see the aurora borealis. It would be best to travel to the northern latitudes to encounter these beautiful lights in the sky unless a rare sun storm or solar flare excites the atmosphere.
If you’re considering traveling to see the Northern Lights in person, here are some of the most unusual ways to enjoy the experience first-hand.
- Best Places to See Northern Lights in the World
- 1. The Ice Hotel of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
- 2. The Ice Igloos of Kemi, Finland
- 3. Tuktoyaktuk, Canada
- 4. Abisko National Park, Swedish Lapland
- 5. Denali National Park, Alaska
- 6. Interior Ice, Greenland
- 7. Tromso, Norway
- 8. Yellowknife, Canada
- 8. Rovaniemi, Finland
- 9. Fairbanks, Alaska
- 10. Abisko, Sweden
- 10. Churchill, Canada
- 11. Yukon, Canada
- 12. Isle of Skye, Scotland
- 13. Iceland
- 14. Cook County, Minnesota
- 15. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
- 16. Svalbard, Norway
- 17. Lofoten Islands
- 18. Faroe Islands
- 19. Nuuk, Greenland
- The science behind the aurora borealis
- Auroral activity and forecasts
- Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?
- When is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights?
- What do I need to do to prepare for seeing the Northern Lights?
Best Places to See Northern Lights in the World
1. The Ice Hotel of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a hotel carved out of the ice of a local river? This Ice Hotel is recreated yearly because it melts and turns back into a flowing river once the spring season comes along.
However, in the winter, it becomes a vast art installation with magnificent works of art. Sleep under an ice bed and enjoy the heat from a reindeer fur blanket. Like what you are hearing? Read our full Ice Hotel Sweden review.
2. The Ice Igloos of Kemi, Finland
Maybe staying in an Ice Hotel is too posh for you. If you’re ready to “slum” it and see the Northern Lights, then the ice igloos available in Kemi might be the intimate encounter you’ve wanted.
There are also restaurants made from ice to enjoy, and if you need to get in touch with your spiritual side for some reason, there’s a snow church to enjoy. You may join a day trip with the Snow Castle tour for a fun adventure.
3. Tuktoyaktuk, Canada
If you want to get out into the dark, cold yonder to experience the Northern Lights, then this Inuit village that sits on the shores of the Arctic Ocean is the place to be. It isn’t easy to reach, so plan on flying in some tiny little airplanes to get there.
You aren’t going to have any nightlife to enjoy, and there’s the smell of salt and fish hanging in the air, but your reward is an uninterrupted view of the lights in the sky that is second to none.
4. Abisko National Park, Swedish Lapland
The one difficult component of seeing the Northern Lights is that there isn’t a guarantee that it will happen. There might be clouds in the sky that interfere with the viewing. The moon might even be shining too brightly to enjoy the colors!
At Abisko National Park, however, there is one place where clear skies are had almost every day of the year thanks to an exclusive micro-climate due to a 43-mile-long lake. Plan on a February-March trip for the strongest colors.
5. Denali National Park, Alaska
If you want some of the comforts of home nearby, then a journey to Alaska to see the Northern Lights is in order. You could stay in Fairbanks if you wanted, but a trip to Denali National Park will likely give you a better result.
See Related: Best Denali Hiking Tours
6. Interior Ice, Greenland
A few of the most common places to see Greenlandic lights are in regions with little light pollution and a clear view. The best chances to observe them are during the winter aurora season (September to March), when you may stay for 3 to 4 weeks.
Relax at the Igloos Hotel Arctic near Ilulissat Icefjord, or get closer to the action with an excursion out of Kangerlussuaq Airport. One of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights is on the interior ice of Greenland. It’s also one of the most difficult, rugged experiences the average traveler can face.
You’ll need to pack some extensive gear to help you stay warm during the best viewing months because you’ll be roughing it to the extreme, but a pristine sky without any artificial interruptions will be your reward.
7. Tromso, Norway
The city of Tromso, located in Northern Norway, is quite accessible and in an excellent location for viewing the Green Lady every clear night at night.
The most amazing spectacle I’ve ever witnessed occurred under the Norwegian sky, making it one of my favorite countries to view the Northern Lights.
Tromso has many centrally located hotels, from budget to luxury, with large windows facing north where you can enjoy the show comfortably while staying warm indoors. The Radisson Blu is a good choice and even has a wake-up call service, so you don’t miss a minute of the action.
8. Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife is one of North America’s best places to see the Northern Lights. The city is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada and is an excellent viewing spot due to its location near the Arctic Circle.
Yellowknife is special because you can see the Lights from September until April. This makes it one of the longest viewing seasons in the world. There are many ways to see the Lights in Yellowknife. You can go on an aurora tour, which is always a good option, or you can go alone.
If you want to venture out alone, one of the best places to view the Lights is from atop one of the city’s many frozen lakes. Just make sure you dress warmly and have some form of transportation, like a snowmobile, to get out there.
8. Rovaniemi, Finland
The Northern Lights of Norway have long been known as Finland’s Northern Lights. Lappland, especially Rovaniemi, is a great location to see them. The city has several spots where the Northern Lights can be seen, as well as lots of winter activities for visitors from all over the world.
The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Finland have dramatically changed between the south and the north. The farther north you go, you will have the better chance of spotting green lighting.
The best time to see the lights is from September to March, when the nights are long and dark. However, they can be seen year-round if conditions are right. Husky mushing is among the activities to enjoy when you visit.
See Related: Best Finland Igloo Hotels You Can’t Miss
9. Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the best places in the United States to view the Northern Lights. The city is located in the state’s northern region, ideal for viewing the aurora borealis. March is a great time to plan a trip to Fairbanks, as the weather is typically clear and dry during this month.
However, it’s important to be flexible with your dates, as the Northern Lights are unpredictable. During strong displays, they may sometimes appear south of Anchorage or even in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
When viewing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, you may see them as a faint pink, green, or yellow glow on a clear night. However, during peak displays, the aurora can be so bright that it’s possible to read a newspaper by its light. While in Fairbanks, please stop by the North Pole town to greet Santa Claus and his friendly elves.
See Related: Best Breweries in Fairbanks
10. Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is a small village in Swedish Lapland and one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights. The village is situated just below the Arctic Circle and has minimal light pollution, making it an ideal spot for aurora watching.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Abisko is between late September and early April, when the nights are the longest. However, you may be able to see them as early as August or as late as May if conditions are right.
One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights in Abisko is on a husky safari and Northern Lights tour. These safaris typically last around 3-4 hours and take you through the stunning Swedish landscape while allowing you to experience the thrill of dog sledding.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska
10. Churchill, Canada
Churchill in Northern Canada on the Hudson Bay is known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and is one of the best places to see polar bears in their natural habitat.
However, it is also an excellent location to experience the Northern Lights. The town has a small population with limited artificial lights, making it easier to see the aurora borealis.
Churchill is located above the Arctic Circle, so the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are good year-round. The town also offers many Northern Lights tours and packages for visitors.
These are just a few of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Be sure to research and plan accordingly for the best chance of experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon.
11. Yukon, Canada
The Yukon Territories are home to some of the best places in Canada to watch the northern lights. The northern lights may be seen over the Yukon Territories during August and early April. In light conditions and at night, you may observe the green or yellow neon hues as the sky changes color.
Discover more about colors at the Northern Lights Center at Watson Lake. And then spend another night in the cold by enjoying an evening pampering (including drybrush massages) at Northern Lights Resort and Spa in Whitehorse.
12. Isle of Skye, Scotland
While the best location in Scotland to see the northern lights is often in the Highlands, they have also been spotted as low as Glasgow. The Isle of Skye and Cairngorms National Park are both excellent bets, and there are several tour companies that offer northern lights and highlands tours.
The aurora borealis is often at its brightest over the north and west of Scotland, where the skies are darkest. Scotland sees the lights around 200 nights per year.
Iceland is a great place to see the Northern Lights. There are a number of hotels and bars that offer great viewing conditions. Hotel Rangá, located in south Iceland, is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. It offers a variety of cold-weather activities and is located in a natural landscape.
In addition, the hotel offers varying cold-weather activities, from whale-watching, sleigh riding, and snowmobiling to glacier excursions and freshwater fishing. Given that the hotel is in Iceland’s natural beauty, it makes for ideal viewing conditions during a busy period (August through May).
Near Reykjavik, the Northern Lights Bar at Ion Hotel is also a great place to see the Northern Lights. It offers dim lighting and glass windows for viewing. Check out these other best hotels in Iceland for the Northern Lights.
14. Cook County, Minnesota
Cook County, Minnesota, is the best place to see the Northern Lights in the lower 48 states. This region of Minnesota offers incredible state parks, tourist attractions, wilderness, and epic lodging options.
This aurora zone offers a high probability and predictability of northern lights viewing during the aurora season. Some of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Cook County include:
- Grand Portage State Park
- Lutsen Mountains
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
- Tettegouche State Park
- Superior National Forest
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in Duluth, Minnesota
15. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
Cherry Springs State Park is isolated from other major cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and is dedicated to protecting its dark skies.
The area was designated an “International Dark Sky Park Gold Level.” Lights with no glare or obstruction are used at the park, as well as strict headlights and flashlight regulations.
The best place to see the northern lights in Pennsylvania is at Cherry Springs State Park. The park is dedicated to protecting its dark skies and has strict regulations on the use of lights. This makes it the perfect place to see the lights dance in the night sky.
16. Svalbard, Norway
Norway is a lovely country with breathtaking vistas. The Svalbard Islands are the first thing that comes to mind, as they are a collection of Arctic islands located halfway between the Arctic Ocean and the Northern Pole.
They offer an unparalleled opportunity to view the aurora beams in their natural setting. In addition to the Svalbard Islands, Norway is home to glaciers, mountains, forests, and pristine lakes.
Visitors can enjoy various activities like hiking, skiing, fishing, and kayaking. With its stunning landscapes and diverse range of activities, Norway is an ideal destination for travelers seeking an adventure near the arctic circle.
See Related: How Much is a Trip to Norway?
17. Lofoten Islands
Norway offers the best hotel options for viewing the Northern Lights anywhere in the world. The possibilities differ depending on where you are going, your finances, and your personal preferences.
18. Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are known for their spectacular Northern Lights displays. The archipelago is dark for almost four months each year, from November to February, which means you get twice the chance to see the lights.
The Faroe Islands are a great place to see the Northern Lights. The archipelago is dark for almost four months each year, from November to February, which means you get twice the chance to see the lights.
The Northern Lights are most active in the winter, so November through February is the best time to visit. There are also many dark-sky sites on the islands, which makes for ideal stargazing conditions.
If you want to see the Northern Lights in the Faroe Islands, your best bet is to head to one of the many dark-sky sites on the islands. Tindholmur, Vestmanna Bird Cliffs, and Sørvágsvatn Lake are some of the best places to see the lights.
19. Nuuk, Greenland
Nuuk is the perfect place to view and chase the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis. This natural light display is created when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s atmosphere.
The best time to see the northern lights is during winter when the nights are long and dark. Nuuk is located in Southern Greenland, far enough north to experience this phenomenon.
In addition, Nuuk is pretty isolated, meaning there is little light pollution from artificial sources. This makes it one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. If you are planning a trip to Greenland, be sure to add Nuuk to your itinerary.
See Related: Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska
The science behind the aurora borealis
The aurora borealis is a natural light display in the sky, often in the polar regions. The aurora is caused by the interaction of particles from the sun with the Earth’s magnetic field.
The best time to see the aurora is during the winter when there is less light pollution. The aurora can be seen in many colors, including green, red, yellow, and blue. Don’t forget to research and plan for the best chance of experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon.
Auroral activity and forecasts
Aurora forecasts are given over three days and can be checked regularly. Long-term predictions for solar cycles based on 27 days are often helpful, but they can change as in long-term weather forecasts.
Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?
The best place to see the Northern Lights is in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically in countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Canada. You can also see them in Alaska, Minnesota, Michigan, and several other locations with a lower probability of aurora activity in the United States.
When is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights?
The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is typically from September to April. This is because the nights are longer during these months, and there is less daylight. This means there are more hours of darkness, which is ideal for seeing the lights.
What do I need to do to prepare for seeing the Northern Lights?
You should remember a few things to see the Northern Lights. First, you need to be in an area with little light pollution. This means that you should be away from cities and towns. Second, you must dress warmly, as it can be freezing at night. Third, you should have your camera ready and charged to take pictures of the lights. Finally, patience is important; sometimes, the lights can be elusive and may not show up for hours.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.