Painting the skies with dancing light that dazzles the eye and astounds the mind, the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, have been instilling wonder into the hearts of humans for as long as can be remembered. Tales have been told, art has been created, photos have been taken but nothing could ever do justice to the experience of actually viewing this phenomenon first-hand.
Often glimpsed as startling greens or soft pinks, the range of color possible within the Northern Lights is unimaginably incredible. Forming a myriad of different shapes and creating endless methods of motion, the streaks of light make up quite simply one of the best shows on Earth. Before planning your adventure, consider adding one or more of the following 10 locations to your bucket list.
10 Yukon, Canada
What could possibly make the incredible Northern Lights display any better? The magical sight of gently falling snow of course! The Yukon is a rugged area that requires a hardy soul and determined attitude but that serves to make the experience all the more wondrous as those first slivers of green light begin to transform the sky.
While the winter is indeed a great season to visit, autumn provides something truly special as well. Nowhere else on Earth will you be able to see the vivid golds and reds of the descending foliage during the day before the night flicks a switch and colors take to the heavens.
9 Tromsø, Norway
One of the potentially warmer locations to soak up the Northern Lights, Tromso is also one of the places most likely to grant a view of the luminous performance. The best time to take your seat in preparation for the show is between September and April as this is when the dark skies dominate, creating the perfect canvas for a natural work of art.
Get out of the city centre to find the best conditions; the less light pollution the better. Simply find yourself a comfortable patch amidst the black evenings and wait for an array of activity above that will reside warmly within you for the rest of your days.
8 Fairbanks, USA
Placed perfectly beneath the Auroral Oval, Fairbanks is a simply splendid place to take in the incredible Aurora Borealis light show. The Auroral Oval is a section of overhead space that provides the conditions required for the dancing rays of coloured light that have captured the imagination and wonder of travellers for centuries.
The temperatures here are sub-arctic so be sure to bring along plenty of warm clothing, Alaska tends to be quite a shock to the system. It could not be more worth it however, especially given the low population here that renders light pollution a non-issue. This means your view of the Northern Lights will be unobstructed and presented in all its glory.
7 Lapland, Finland
Nestled 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, it would be an understatement to say that Lapland can get a little chilly. While it is possible to venture out into the elements (with a well prepared local guide of course) there is also a much more relaxing and opulent method of enjoying the Northern Lights here.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is one of the most unique and magical accommodation options worldwide. This incredible igloo resort allows visitors to marvel at the majesty of the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of their bed thanks to rooms with stunning glass roofs. Truly an experience unlike any other.
6 Reykjavik, Iceland
There are many reasons to visit the vibrantly unique Iceland, with the Aurora Borealis sitting somewhere near the top of most adventurers lists. This is for no other reason than it is without doubt one of the best places to see the ever changing threads of luminous light looping amongst the stars.
To give yourself the best chance of soaking up the remarkable phenomenon, book in with a local tour guide and allow them to use their unparalleled knowledge to bring your dreams to life. Weather plays a large factor in visibility here so don’t despair if the first attempt is unsuccessful, just saddle up again and head back out there!
5 Donegal, Ireland
Granted the geographical distinction of Ireland’s most northerly point, Donegal is a remote landscape that has resisted the ravages of time and appears completely unspoiled no matter where you look. For the best chance of gazing upon the Northern Lights, pay a visit to Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula and get ready to be rendered speechless.
The northern skies are generally clear here and a lack of light pollution stacks the odds in travellers favour, but don’t be disheartened if it takes a few tries to see the colourful displays. Instead, be thankful that you get to spend more time in this slice of paradise.
4 Murmansk, Russia
While it is true that a jaunt to discover the Northern Lights is rarely achievable on a small budget, there are options that provide the full experience without emptying the vault. Murmansk, carved beautifully into the Russian Kola Peninsula, is one of these options.
Home to a mind-altering stretch of over 40 days devoid of daylight and an extremely small population, the darkness in Murmansk provides the perfect setting for the dazzling lights. Budget accommodation and tours are available and the final price will please those wanting to save money without compromising on quality.
3 Moray Coast, Scotland
Perhaps not the first location to come to mind when hunting the Aurora Borealis, Scotland’s Moray Coast does in fact provide a front row seat. Resting on the same latitude as Norway and Alaska, the rugged terrain is a truly magical place to watch the impossibly stunning ribbons of colour as they snake between the stars.
Nestled between Aberdeen and Inverness, the best way to enjoy the experience is to take the edge off the cold temperatures with a warming whisky, loving crafted locally. The Scots call the lights ‘Mirrie Dancers’ so be sure to drop that into conversation with the locals to earn your stripes as a true highlander.
2 Scoresbysund, Greenland
The summer months in Greenland hold firmly onto the sun, often allowing it to shine well past midnight. While this is an experience in itself, it does mean that the warmer periods are not conducive to Northern Lights sightings. Instead, journey here in winter to give yourself the best chance of that ‘wow’ moment.
Here it is highly likely that you will not only see the wondrous colours decorating the skies but you will witness it against the backdrop of the gently rocking icebergs that fill the area. On top of this, there is a good chance of spotting a polar bear in search of food in the evening hours. Prepare yourself for Scoresbysund, it is an overwhelmingly joyous destination.
1 Abisko, Sweden
Sweden is home to many locations that open up to reveal the full majesty of the Northern Lights, but Abisko is a favorite of those with experience in the field. Take it in from the National Park or the surrounding Kiruna Mountains and you will understand why this is one of the most visited spots on the planet to take in the famed light show.
Located perfectly for the phenomenon, it is possible to witness the spectacle from the comfort of a hotel bar but to truly appreciate it, jump on a local tour and adventure into the wilderness lit only by the dancing greens and reds above.