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. You also need to travel to the northern latitudes to encounter these beautiful lights in the sky unless there’s a rare sun storm or solar flare that excites the atmosphere.
If you’re thinking about traveling to see the Northern Lights in person, here are some of the most unusual ways you can enjoy the experience first-hand.
Table of Contents
- Best Places to See Northern Lights Around 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 Around the World
1. The Ice Hotel of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a hotel that’s been carved out of the ice of a local river? This Ice Hotel is recreated every year because once the Spring season comes along, it melts and turns back into a flowing river.
It is, however, in the winter that 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 just be the intimate encounter you’ve been wanting.
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 as well. For a fun adventure, you may join a day trip with the Snow Castle tour.
3. Tuktoyaktuk, Canada
If you really 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’s difficult to reach, so plan on flying in some teeny 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 really isn’t a guarantee that it is going to 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 thanks to an exclusive micro-climate due to a 43 mile long lake, clear skies are had almost every day of the year.
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 is more likely going to provide you with 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 even 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
Tromso is definitely the most beautiful and spectacular spot in Europe for viewing the Northern Lights. Then you will find an excellent choice of affordable flight tickets, trips, and hotels throughout the area.
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.
In Tromso, there are many centrally located hotels from budget to luxury with large windows that face north where you can enjoy the show in comfort 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 the best places to see the Northern Lights in North America. The city is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada and is an excellent viewing spot due to its location near the Arctic Circle.
What makes Yellowknife extra special is that you can see the Lights from September all the way 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 it alone.
If you want to venture out on your own, 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 Northern Light in Finland have dramatically changed between the south and the north. The farther north you go, you will have the better chances 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 northern region of the state, which is 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 an unpredictable phenomenon. Sometimes, during strong displays, they may appear south of Anchorage or even in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
When viewing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, you may see them as faint pink, green, or yellow glows 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 you are in Fairbanks, make sure you stop by the town of North Pole to say hello to Santa Claus and his friendly elves.
See Related: Best Breweries in Fairbanks Alaska
10. Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is a small village located in Swedish Lapland and is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. The village is situated just below the Arctic Circle and has very little 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 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 do your research and plan accordingly to have 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. During August and early April, the northern lights may be seen over the Yukon Territories.
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 and sleigh riding, and snowmobiling to glacier excursions and freshwater fishing. Given the hotel is in the natural beauty of Iceland 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.
14. Cook County, Minnesota
By far, the best place to see the Northern Lights in the lower 48 states is in Cook County, Minnesota. This region of Minnesota offers incredible state parks, tourist attractions, wilderness, and epic lodging options.
Not to mention, this aurora zone offers a high probability and predictability of northern lights viewing during 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 the protection of its dark skies.
The area was designated as 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 the protection of 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 also home to glaciers, mountains, forests, and pristine lakes.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as 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 by far the best hotel options for viewing the Northern Lights anywhere in the world. Depending on where you are going, your finances, and your personal preferences, the possibilities differ.
The Eliassen Rorbuer cabin is my favorite lodging option in Lofoten Islands. You can never tire of seeing our Aurora at home. For more ideas, see my post on the best places to stay in Lofoten.
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. Some of the best places to see the lights are Tindholmur, Vestmanna Bird Cliffs, and Sørvágsvatn Lake.
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 the winter months when the nights are long and dark.
Nuuk is located in Southern Greenland, which means that it is far enough north to experience this phenomenon.
In addition, Nuuk is pretty isolated, which means that 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 that occurs 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 different colors, including green, red, yellow, and blue.
Be sure to do your research and plan accordingly to have 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 useful, but as in long-term weather forecasts, they can change.
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, and Michigan as well as 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 during these months, the nights are longer and there is less daylight. This means that 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?
There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to see the Northern Lights. First, you need to be in an area where there is little light pollution.
This means that you should be away from cities and towns. Second, you need to dress warmly, as it can be very cold in the nighttime. Third, you should have your camera ready and charged so that you can take pictures of the lights.
Finally, it is important to be patient; sometimes the lights can be elusive and may not show up for hours.
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