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Seeing Aurora Borealis in person takes a high position on nearly anyone’s bucket list. This unique natural phenomenon can be seen in the northern hemisphere, in the area of the Arctic Circle.
The best places to see the Northern Lights include Canada, North America, Iceland, and Scandinavia. The best chances for seeing the northern lights will be during the winter months with longer nights, although they can be seen from September to April.
You can’t buy a ticket for this spectacular show because the performance is only available to those with sufficient patience and persistence to wait. When perfect conditions are created, you will be rewarded with a fantastic light spectacle in the dark sky.
See What Causes the Northern Lights
When the solar wind brings electrically charged particles to the Earth’s atmosphere, and they collide with oxygen and nitrogen particles, chemical reactions result in colorful dancing lights. These beautiful sightings can take only a few seconds, but sometimes it lasts all night.
This surreal experience, featuring vibrant green, blue, and violet hues dancing across the sky, is usually the most intense around midnight. Clear dark skies with no or little light pollution are crucial for good visibility of the northern lights.
Where is the Best Place to See the Northern Lights?
1. Tromso, Norway
Tromso in northern Norway may be the best place to see the northern lights. The city of Tromso, 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, is located on an island that is connected to the mainland with tunnels and bridges. The ideal period for watching the northern lights in the Tromso region is from September to April.
If you are lucky enough with weather conditions and solar activity, you can see the northern lights even from the city itself. Still, it would be better if you went outside of the city, where there is no light pollution.
If you have a car, you can do this on your own. But don’t forget to check the aurora forecast. In search of spectacular performance in the sky, you can also book some of the many northern lights tours with local guides.
You can also use your winter trip to Tromso for other exciting experiences, such as reindeer and dog sledding.
Check out this popular Northern Lights Tour in Tromso on an all-inclusive mini bus tour. Book your dates in advance here.
2. Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife is the capital of Northwest Territories in Canada. The city is located on the coast of Great Slave Lake. It is one of the Canadian cities nearest to the North Pole, located directly below the Auroral Oval, an area with the greatest auroral activity.
Thanks to the dry winter nights and the clear skies, you can watch Aurora Borealis here for more than 200 days a year. The best period of the year for Aurora viewing is from November to April.
Surroundings of the Great Slave Lake provide excellent fun facilities such as snowshoeing and snowmobiling. You can also visit The Snowking Winter Festival, with a snow castle in which exhibitions, concerts, and other events are held.
3. Fairbanks, Alaska
Did you know that if you stay here for at least three nights, your chances of seeing northern lights grow to more than 90 percent?
Fairbanks is a town in the heart of Alaska, with Aurora Season from late August to April. The Fairbanks’ great location allows you to go on a day trip to Chena Hot Springs or explore the natural beauties of Denali National Park.
You can also witness the World Art Competition every March where you will be fascinated with captivating icy sculptures.
While waiting for the light show to appear, have fun doing ice fishing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. Be sure to dress in layers because the winter months in Alaska are freezing.
Get the ultimate Fairbanks experience on the Moonlight Dog Sled, Dinner, & Northern Lights Tour. Find more information and book your dates here.
4. Murmansk, Russia
The city of Murmansk is located on the Kola Peninsula, in the northwest of Russia, near the border with Finland and Norway. Although it is in a polar circle, winter is not extremely cold, and the average temperature is around minus 10 degrees Celsius.
You can reach Murmansk after a 2-hours flight from Moscow or St. Petersburg. Northern lights viewing season in Murmansk is from mid-September to mid-April.
While hunting for the northern lights in Murmansk Region, you can explore Lenin nuclear icebreaker or go snowboarding and snow tubing in the nearby Khibiny mountains.
You can also visit the wondrous Snow Village or go to the Sami Village Tour. Additionally, in Teriberka Village, you can see waterfalls that flow into the Arctic Ocean and glass igloos, a glamping option for Aurora viewing.
5. Orkney, Scotland
Orkney is an archipelago of 70 islands, about ten kilometers northeast of Scotland’s coast. You can reach these islands by ferry from Aberdeen or by plane from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The best time to see the northern lights is from September to March, during the fall and winter. For the ultimate experience, the night sky must be without clouds.
Did you know that Orkney was still populated in ancient times? Take advantage of staying on these islands to visit the settlements from the Neolithic, such as Skara Brae, which were declared the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
You can also go to Orkney Craft Trail and learn more about local handmade artists and the culture of making crafts or go to one of many restaurants with seafood specialties.
6. Abisko, Swedish Lapland
In the far north of Sweden lies the small village of Abisko. From there, using a chairlift, you can come to the top of Mount Njella where an Aurora Sky Station is located. According to Lonely Planet magazine, this is the most incredible spot in the world to see the northern lights.
Abisko National Park is located within the Arctic Circle, practically in the center of the Aurora Zone. From November to April, you can enjoy the light performance in the sky, except in the case of cloudy nights.
You can find accommodation in Aurora Mountain Station, the only hotel in the entire National Park. Also, you can visit a very interesting Ice Hotel, near Kiruna Airport, which is the primary connection of the National Park with larger cities such as Stockholm.
Interestingly, this area also features a period with no nights during the summer season, so you can experience the Midnight Sun.
7. Kakslauttanen, Finnish Lapland
In the middle of the northern Finland wilderness, you can enjoy the unique experience of observing the northern lights from the comfort of the bed.
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, located 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, has 60 Glass Igloos. Because there are no high trees in the vicinity obscuring your view and no light pollution, this is an ideal place to see the northern lights.
The town of Ivalo, a 30-minute drive away, is well connected with Helsinki by air year-round, so that is the best way to come to Finish Lapland. During the day, you can relax in the sauna, enjoy winter sports such as snowmobiling and snowboarding or go to Reindeer Safaris.
Kakslauttanen and its beautiful environment are best to visit from December to March.
8. Cook County, Minnesota, USA
You don’t have to go to Alaska or Scandinavia to enjoy the Aurora Borealis. Cook County in Minnesota is also a great place for viewing. The best places to see the northern lights are Beaver Bay, Grand Marais, and Lutsen.
From September to May, if you are lucky to have a clear sky without moonlight, you can see a fantastic dance of lights in the sky above Minnesota.
Check Aurora and Weather Forecast, dress layered, turn off all the lights and look patiently towards the northern sky. Between 10 pm and 4 am, you may be rewarded with amazing scenes.
When you are in Cook County, take some time to explore Lake Superior, hike the Eagle Mountain, and see a waterfall in Grand Portage State Park.
9. Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Kangerlussuaq is a town in the western part of Greenland, located at the end of a long fjord. It served as an American base during World War II, so the airport used then is now the primary connection between Greenland and the rest of the world. The easiest way to come is by plane from Copenhagen.
Local guides can tell you exciting stories and legends about polar lights during guided tours. Kangerlussuaq has about 300 clear nights per year, so you will surely enjoy the stunning light show.
You can also examine the fascinating icy landscape by dog sledding. The ideal time to visit Greenland and watch the northern lights is from September to April.
10. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is famous for its incredible natural beauty. In addition to numerous volcanoes and geysers, you can enjoy watching the fantastic Aurora Borealis.
The nights in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, last up to 20 hours during the winter months. That provides plenty of opportunities to see green, red and purple lights in the dark sky.
Grotta Lighthouse and Kvika Foot Bath are great places in the vicinity of Reykjavik to see the northern lights. If you don’t want to go out of town, city parks can also serve as suitable places for observation. By the way, aurora season in Iceland lasts from September to April.
In addition to seeing this dazzling light phenomenon, you can do other exciting outdoor activities such as glacier hiking and whale watching.
Explore more on the top-rated Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik. Book your dates in advance here.
Author Bio: Based in Serbia in Europe, Marija Stojanovic Petkovski worked as a journalist but realized writing about the most beautiful places in the world is something that inspires her. She is sure that a pint of good craft beer perfectly accompanies a tasty home-made lasagne. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her children and spending time outdoors with her family.