Nature’s very own light show, the Northern Lights, are one of Earth’s most mystical sights. Scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis, this phenomenon is a chemical reaction between electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. The collision makes for a shimmering show of multicolored lights arching through the night’s sky.
If seeing this beautiful event in-person is on your bucket list then there are plenty of places you can see it. Every year, the lights are most visible between September and March in the Northern Hemisphere. The goal is to be close to or within the ‘Northern Lights belt’ which sits at around latitudes 65 to 72 degrees, close to the Arctic Circle. The farther north you travel, the more vibrant they become. To make sure you’ve got the best view, consider traveling to the following destinations.
October through March is the best time to plan a trip to Reykjavik to see the Aurora Borealis. Not only is Iceland a breathtaking destination, but its stunning parks are the perfect place to see the lights and enjoy plenty of other natural wonders like waterfalls, glaciers, ice caves, geothermal rivers and more. Though Reykjavik is not technically within the Arctic Circle, the northernmost part of the country hovers into it, so you may also have a better view if you travel north in Iceland.
There are plenty of spots at the top of Norway where the lights shine their brightest, but the best are worth traveling the distance. Some of the most highly recommended cities for the lights are Tromsø and Kirkenes which have cozy small town vibes with amazing views of the surrounding regions. However, The Lofoten Islands offer something magical for your stay if you book your trip for the winter months. Islands surrounded by snow capped mountains make this a heavenly destination. Here, not only will you see the Northern Lights, but you will fall in love with the beautiful sights surrounding you.
Canada & Alaska
In Canada and Alaska, both of which have portions in the Arctic Circle, there are great viewing spots for the Northern Lights. In Alaska, your best bet is Fairbanks, a small city with a river running through it, but to get the best view of the lights you’ll need to drive a ways out of the city to areas with less light pollution. Here the views of the Aurora Borealis are considered some of the world’s best. In Canada, make your way to Yellowknife, a gold rush town that sits on a lake and offers dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and plenty of wintertime activities.
Once you’ve arrived in Sweden you’ll want to head straight for Abisko, a small village at the tippy top of the country that sits on the Torneträsk lake. When you arrive, you may be surprised at how remote the village appears, with not many buildings, industry, or commercialism. But that’s good because it’s just you and sky. You can also visit Kiruna, a slightly bigger city—the northernmost in the country (even further than Abisko). Here there will certainly be more buildings and people if that’s more your pace. Fun fact: Swedish indigenous populations believed the Northern Lights were the flickering souls of the dead.
If you opt for Greenland, the place to go is Kangerlussuaq on the southwestern coast of the island. It sits at the end of a fjord and offers some of the country’s best views of the Aurora Borealis, which are pretty much guaranteed to be seen on a winter visit. Old Inuit myths say the Northern Lights appearance occurs when the souls of the dead play ball with a walrus’ cranium. Also in Greenland you can see gorgeous glaciers, take a cruise and explore the island’s settlements, and go whale watching.
Featured Image: The Northern Lights in Iceland (Photo by Krivosheev Vitaly)