The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world. They are caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with the earth’s magnetic field, creating colorful curtains of light that dance across the sky.
But where can you see them? And when is the best time to go? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and give you some tips on how to plan your trip to witness this amazing spectacle.
Where to see the Northern Lights?
The northern lights can be seen in a band around the Arctic Circle, where the earth’s magnetic field is strongest. This includes parts of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. However, not all places are equally good for viewing the aurora. Some factors that affect your chances of seeing the northern lights are:
- Latitude: The closer you are to the pole, the more likely you are to see the aurora. However, you don’t have to go all the way to the North Pole. The optimal latitude range is between 65 and 72 degrees north.
- Season: The northern lights are visible all year round, but they are more frequent and intense during the winter months, from September to March. This is because the nights are longer and darker, and the solar activity is higher.
- Weather: The northern lights are only visible when the sky is clear and dark. Clouds, fog, rain, snow, and moonlight can obscure or wash out the aurora. Therefore, you should check the weather forecast before you go and be prepared for changing conditions.
- Solar activity: The northern lights are driven by the sun’s activity, which varies in cycles of about 11 years. During solar maximums, when the sun is more active and produces more flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the aurora is more frequent and intense. During solar minimums, when the sun is less active and produces fewer flares and CMEs, the aurora is less frequent and intense. You can check the current level of solar activity and geomagnetic storms on websites like SpaceWeather.com or AuroraService.net.
Some of the best places to see the Northern Lights are:
The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world. They occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and create colorful displays of light in the night sky. The best places to see the Northern Lights are those that have clear, dark skies, low light pollution, and high latitude. Here are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights in 2023:
- Svalbard, Norway: This remote archipelago in the Arctic Ocean is one of the northernmost inhabited places on Earth, and offers a unique opportunity to see the Northern Lights in a pristine wilderness setting. You can also spot polar bears, walruses, and reindeer on this island.
- Kakslauttanen, Finland: This resort in Lapland is famous for its glass igloos, which allow you to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. You can also enjoy other winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and husky sledding.
- Jukkasjärvi, Sweden: This village in northern Sweden is home to the original Icehotel, a stunning structure made entirely of ice and snow that is rebuilt every year. You can sleep in an ice room, admire ice sculptures, and watch the Northern Lights from a heated outdoor jacuzzi.
- Reykjavik, Iceland: The capital of Iceland is a convenient base for exploring the country’s natural wonders, such as geysers, waterfalls, volcanoes, and glaciers. You can also join a Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik, or drive to nearby locations such as Skógafoss waterfall, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, or Stokksnes black sand beach .
- Fairbanks, Alaska: Fairbanks is located under the auroral oval, a ring-shaped zone where aurora activity is concentrated. You can see the Northern Lights on an average of four out of five clear nights during aurora season, which lasts from August 21 to April 21. You can also stay in a private igloo at Borealis Basecamp, or visit the Santa Claus House in North Pole.
- Yellowknife, Canada: Yellowknife is the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, and one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in North America. You can join a guided tour to see the aurora from a heated tent or cabin, or from a boat on Great Slave Lake. You can also experience the culture and history of the indigenous people at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
- Orkney, Scotland: Orkney is an archipelago off the north coast of Scotland, known for its ancient monuments and rich wildlife. The northern lights are often visible from Orkney during winter nights, especially from locations such as Birsay Bay or Yesnaby cliffs. You can also visit Skara Brae, a Neolithic village that dates back to 3200 BC .
- Ilulissat, Greenland: Ilulissat is a town in western Greenland, famous for its UNESCO-listed icefjord, where massive icebergs calve from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. You can see the Northern Lights over the icefjord from September to March, or take a boat tour to get closer to the icebergs. You can also visit the Ilulissat Museum, which showcases the life and work of polar explorer Knud Rasmussen.
- Dunedin, New Zealand: Dunedin is a city on the south island of New Zealand, known for its Scottish heritage and wildlife attractions. It is also one of the best places to see the southern lights (aurora australis), which are visible from March to September. You can watch the southern lights from locations such as Tunnel Beach or Otago Peninsula.
- Tasmania, Australia: Tasmania is an island state off the south coast of Australia, known for its rugged wilderness and diverse wildlife. It is also one of the few places in Australia where you can see the southern lights (aurora australis), which are visible from April to September. You can watch the southern lights from locations such as Cradle Mountain or Bruny Island.
These are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights (or southern lights)