Discovering Nature's Spectacular Show: Unveiling the Best Locations to Witness the Northern Lights

2023-07-27 00:37:09 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

The ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights has captivated people around the world for centuries. Dancing across the night sky in vivid hues of green, purple, and pink, these magical phenomena hold a mystical allure that is simply irresistible. From the rugged landscapes of Greenland to the tranquil Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, there are countless breathtaking locations that offer unforgettable glimpses of this natural spectacle. Whether you seek adventure in the depths of Djupvik, Norway, or yearn to witness the majesty of the auroras in Fairbanks, Alaska, the best places to see the Northern Lights are scattered across the globe. In this article, we will delve into the most captivating destinations in Europe and North America where you can witness the awe-inspiring dance of the Northern Lights.




Where to go: Most of Greenland lies within the Arctic Circle, making it a prime location for spotting the Northern Lights. The small town of Kangerlussuaq hosts an international airport where most travelers arrive on the island and is also situated right in the middle of the area where the aurora borealis is best experienced.

How to go: Each year from November through March, Greenland Tours offers a five-day Northern Lights and Icebergs adventure around Ilulissat in Disko Bay that can include snowshoeing, dog sledding, and aurora viewing along the famous ice fjord. From about $1,050 per person.

Where to stay: Hotel Arctic

Found on the edge of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord (a UNESCO World Heritage site), with views of the bay, this hotel has 90 rooms ranging from singles to suites (some of which have private terraces for watching the solar show).

The Northern Lights are visible on about 200 nights a year in Finnish Lapland.


Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota


This 218,000-acre national park is one of the most remote northern spots in the lower 48. The International Dark-Sky Association designated it an official dark sky park in 2020, meaning there’s minimal light pollution way out here. Pitch a tent at one of the park’s more isolated campgrounds—there are 15 hike-in or boat-in backcountry campsites—for the best viewing spots in the park. If you’d rather have a bed to sleep in, stay at the 31-room Cantilever Hotel in the town of Ranier, ten minutes from the park’s entrance, which has a rooftop sauna and hot tub for night sky-gazing, free yoga, and whiskey tasting at the in-house distillery.

Djupvik, Norway

Backcountry skiers visit Norway’s Lyngen Alps in winter for the legendary ski touring. While there, they might be treated to a brilliant showing of the northern lights. Stay at the eight-room boutique Lyngen Lodge and you’ll have guided backcountry skiing by day and northern lights photography classes by night. To get here, you’ll fly into Tromsø, a popular northern lights destination, then drive 2.5 hours into the Lyngen Alps, where the lodge sits on the edge of a fjord.

Fairbanks, Alaska

From August to April, you can see the northern lights in Fairbanks on most clear nights. The city even has its own aurora tracker for the latest status from six prime viewing locations around the area. Sign up for an aurora tour if you want a guided perspective: Northern Alaska Tour Company offers tours by ground or air. Sleep in a geodesic igloo with a clear roof or a tiny cube with floor-to-ceiling windows at Borealis Basecamp, 25 miles outside of Fairbanks, where two-night packages (from 0) include dogsledding and snowmobiling.

Whitehorse, Canada

Twenty minutes outside the Yukon city of Whitehorse, Northern Lights Resort recently added three new glass chalets, with prime nighttime viewing of the northern lights and three-night packages (from $1,190). Or catch the lights from a hot tub: the new Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs in Whitehorse is slated to open this year with four outdoor soaking pools. Want even more of an adventure? Fly into Old Crow, the northernmost community in the Yukon, and take a tour with Josie’s Old Crow Adventures, an Indigenous-led guided operation that leads night tours and dogsled excursions.

Levi, Finland

If Santa Claus lives anywhere, it might be Levi, a charming village fit for elves 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Finnish Lapland. In winter, Levi is home to one of the biggest ski resorts in Finland, but many people also come here for the northern lights. Sleep in one of 24 glass-roofed igloos at Levin Iglut, where even the on-site restaurant has entirely glass walls and ceiling.


Where to Find the Northern Lights



Continental US


When to Visit: During periods of high solar activity.

While viewing the northern lights in the continental US is rare and difficult to predict, it is possible in states like New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, and occasionally in Midwest states such as Kansas and Colorado. Being prepared to go and finding suitable accommodations can be challenging, but your best bet may be International Dark Sky Parks and Sanctuaries, such as Glacier National Park in Montana and Maine's Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. For the best chance of seeing this celestial light show, you can subscribe to Night Sky Alerts for $5.99 monthly or regularly check the aurora forecast provided by the Space Weather Prediction Center.




Northern lights over Mount Kirkjufell in Iceland. SUTTIPONG SUTIRATANACHAI/GETTY IMAGES

When to Visit: September to mid-April.

In Iceland, getting away from light pollution is relatively easy. With only two major cities, Reykjavik and Akureyri, you are just a short drive away from the perfect viewing spot anywhere on the island. There are numerous tours available for northern lights enthusiasts, with several outstanding options like the Northern Lights by Boat experience offered by Special Tours and the photography-focused Jeep tour. If you are flying from the US, keep an eye out for the northern lights as you pass over Greenland and approach Iceland. Staying at the Ion Adventure Hotel, located on an old geothermal energy site, provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain range. You can even request a wake-up call from the hotel staff if the lights appear. Another popular option is Thingvellir National Park, about an hour's drive from Reykjavik, which offers a break from city lights. The Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre is a great place to stay in town. For accurate information about the aurora forecast and cloud coverage, the Icelandic Meteorological Office website is highly recommended.




When to Visit: Late August to mid-April.

In Alaska, the northern lights can be spotted anywhere in the state when they are particularly strong. However, for guaranteed sightings, consider visiting Fairbanks, Anchorage, or the Brooks Range. Fairbanks is renowned as the most reliable location for viewing the aurora borealis. The best times to see them are generally between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., which shifts to 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. later in the year. If you are interested in photography, The Aurora Chasers offer a northern lights photography workshop, while Last Frontier Mushing Co-Op organizes overnight Aurora Chaser tours that take you to your yurt accommodation via dog sled. Fairbanks is an excellent home base, and there are several points hotels worth considering. The University of Alaska Fairbanks provides an online forecast detailing the likelihood of seeing the northern lights and their strength.


Northern Norway


Northern lights visible over Lofoten, Norway. KHANH BUI/GETTY IMAGES

When to Visit: September to early April.

For a truly remarkable northern lights experience, travel to Northern Norway. Tromso, situated in the center of the aurora borealis zone, is one of the country's northernmost cities and an ideal location for viewing the lights. Staying at Green Gold of Norway, in traditional lavvos or temporary Sami dwellings, provides an escape from light pollution. Travelers are driven to the Lyngen Alps for dinner and a quick photography workshop before embarking on a northern lights hunt. The experts at Visit Norway have created the Norway Lights app, which offers forecast information and highlights the cities most likely to witness the auroras.


Northern Finland


When to Visit: Late August to April.

Visit Finnish Lapland, a region bordering Russia, Norway, and Sweden, for the best chances of seeing the northern lights. According to Visit Finland, the lights are visible approximately 200 nights a year. Rovaniemi, a small town in Lapland, is home to 37 treehouses designed for stargazing and admiring the surrounding nature. Each suite at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel features panoramic windows. If you prefer to sleep under the northern lights, accommodations such as the Aurora Bubble at Wilderness Hotel Nellim and the glass igloos at Levin Iglut offer stunning views of the night sky. The My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app provides real-time alerts and the top spots for viewing the aurora across the world.


Northern Sweden


When to Visit: September to March.

Similar to Finland, northern Sweden offers opportunities to witness the northern lights. The Swedish Lapland region, particularly the area around the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park, is a popular spot for aurora borealis enthusiasts. The station, located in an area free from light and sound pollution, offers Night Visit Tours and provides warm overalls for comfortable viewing. The 7th Room at Treehotel, an elevated treehouse with panoramic windows, offers a unique perspective. Adventurers can also "glamp" in a tent at Aurora Safari Camp. Soft Serve News provides reliable personal alerts for aurora sightings, including immediate updates and forecasts for future solar activity.


Northern Canada


When to Visit: November to April.

Canada has numerous locations for aurora viewing, including the Yukon, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, Nunavut, Newfoundland, and the Northwest Territories. Aurora Village, a community focused on the northern lights, offers heated outdoor seats designed for optimal viewing. The village features 21 teepees, each with a wood stove. The Northern Lighthouse Project raises awareness of local weather, the northern lights, and other space-related phenomena in Canada. Their lighthouses use a color system to inform viewers about solar activity and the likelihood of aurora displays.




Callanish Stones in Outer Hebrides, Scotland. LUCA QUADRIO/500PX/GETTY IMAGES

When to Visit: September to March.

Northern Scotland, particularly locations such as Orkney, Caithness, the Moray Firth coast, Aberdeenshire, Lewis, Harris, Skye, Applecross, Lochinver, Cairngorms National Park, Galloway Forest Park, Rannoch Moor, Perthshire, Angus, and Calton Hill, offers a chance to witness the aurora borealis. The Isle of Skye is a dark-sky enthusiast's dream, with nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites providing excellent stargazing opportunities. Shulista Croft Wigwams offer incredible views of the Trotternish Peninsula. AuroraWatch UK alerts provide real-time updates via Twitter, Facebook, or the messaging app Telegram, helping visitors stay informed about aurora activity.


Where to See Auroras in Europe


If you live in Europe, the easiest option is to head to the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. These regions have a high likelihood of seeing the northern lights, and English is spoken by many locals. Additionally, there are numerous tours available for those interested in experiencing the auroras. Iceland is also a good choice, but be prepared for possible cloudy skies. Russia has northern regions within the auroral zone, but they can be challenging to access and lack the necessary tourism infrastructure. Nevertheless, it is still possible to spot auroras in cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg by staying away from light pollution. Numerous providers in Europe offer aurora-watching trips, and Visit Tromso, Lights over Lapland, Guide to Iceland, and Viatour are among the recommended options.


Where to witness the mesmerizing beauty of auroras in North America


The northern lights gracefully illuminating the radar facility atop Murphy Dome mountain on April 12, 2012.

A captivating spectacle unfolded on April 12, 2012, as the northern lights adorned the radar facility situated atop Murphy Dome mountain. (Image credit: Luke Kilpatrick)North America offers numerous locations for an unforgettable aurora viewing experience. Although cloudiness is often encountered in far-eastern Canada, you can rely on the coastal regions of the Hudson Bay, the northern Canadian towns of Yellowknife or Whitehorse, or even the west coast of Alaska to be favorable spots. (Alternatively, the city of Fairbanks itself proves to be an excellent choice, offering northern lights sightings without venturing too deep into the wilderness.)

Alaska Tours presents a range of captivating packages, from expeditions lasting just a day to week-long tours that take you beyond the Arctic Circle, immersing you in the heart of Alaska's pristine wilderness. Here, the likelihood of beholding the shimmering auroras ranks among the highest in the world.

Aurora Borealis Yukon organizes enchanting aurora-watching trips ranging from one to five days. These trips take place in the snow-clad Yukon territory, nestled in the northwestern reaches of Canada. Sharing its borders with Alaska, the Yukon provides a similar aurora-observing experience during the winter months.

Northern Lights Tours specializes in delivering comparable services within the Northwestern Territory, with a focus on areas surrounding the territory's capital, Yellowknife.

For those venturing towards the east, Churchill Arctic Adventures offers exhilarating excursions to Churchill, Manitoba, along the western shores of the Hudson Bay. By setting up dedicated "aurora domes," heated cabins, and other outposts in the captivating boreal forest, the company ensures that visitors can witness the magnificent lights in optimal comfort. And, if the aurora happens to be shy, the polar bears inhabiting this region might just make an appearance to add to the enchantment.

In conclusion, the breathtaking phenomenon of the Northern Lights is a sight that should not be missed in one's lifetime. Whether it is the enchanting landscapes of Greenland or the tranquil beauty of Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, each location offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience. From the rugged fjords of Djupvik, Norway to the icy plains of Fairbanks, Alaska, and the charming town of Whitehorse in Canada, nature's celestial light show never fails to captivate. And for those seeking a touch of European charm, the picturesque village of Levi in Finland is an ideal destination. With such incredible options available, it's never been easier to chase the elusive dance of the auroras than it is today. So pack your bags, prepare your cameras, and embark on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure to witness the magical Northern Lights for yourself.

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