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Anyone who has seen pictures of the northern lights will definitely want to go on a northern lights holiday themselves. And anyone who has been on one will tell you that careful planning is involved in making sure that you get the best northern lights experience – after all, it’s important to know which is the best time to see the northern lights, and the best places to see it.
The aurora borealis, also known as the ‘northern lights’, is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sun’s particles hit the magnetic field at the north pole, causing a dramatic display of light to spread out across the sky, almost like a magical, whimsical dream. It is mostly found, as the name implies, in the northern areas of the colder parts of the world. That said, there are some places that are especially wonderful if you would like to go on a northern lights trip.
Listed in this guide are some of the major contenders in making the decision of which one is the best place to see northern lights. Some of the places mentioned here are in the USA or Canada, although there are some places in Europe as well, giving you more options for your holidays to see the northern lights. Hopefully, this will be of help!
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Top Destinations to Spot Aurora Borealis (Go On a Northern Lights Holiday)
Photo by Claudia Regina | CC 2.0
Iceland is one of the most popular choices for people who want the full northern lights experience. It is actually one of the biggest reasons for tourism in the country. You can go here and just tell the locals that you want to see the northern lights, and they can arrange everything for you.
You can even go on guided shared tours wherein you can stay in a jeep with other people to go northern lights viewing, which is good if you don’t want to self-drive out into the country.
The best time to see northern lights here is during the colder months, namely November to December. Make sure to dress warmly, as you won’t get to enjoy your northern lights experience as much if you’re freezing cold!
Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström | imagebank.sweden.se
Another good choice is Sweden. For those who’d like to have the northern lights experience but prefers somewhere with proper winter weather, top-notch accommodation, and easier accessibility by air, then this is the way to go.
Plus, since a large part of Sweden is already located up north, aurora borealis spotting happens here fairly regularly, especially from September to April. Still, it doesn’t mean that if you leave your hotel room, you’ll automatically see the northern lights, however.
Timing and patience are still important – remember, the lights only appear if it’s completely dark, the timing is correct, and the weather persists.
That said, if you don’t see the lights immediately on your first night, don’t fret; there are plenty of other good places to visit in Sweden too!
The best places to visit in Canada range from man-made attractions to natural formations – not a surprise considering just how big the country is. That’s why it’s also not a surprise to know that the Canadian wilderness is a good choice for those who want to go on northern lights holiday.
Those who have visited Canada and experienced the northern lights for themselves say that the view here is one of the most spectacular displays of light they’ve ever seen. Definitely not something you want to miss out on, so better book a trip to Canada as soon as you can!
According to the website of the official travel guide to Norway, “Few places on earth offer more ways to witness the aurora borealis than Norway.” And this is probably true, as Norway has more than just a few options for its tourists to be able to get the full northern lights experience.
There are at least nine different towns where you can view the aurora borealis from, starting from late September to late March, where afternoons and early mornings are at their darkest throughout the whole year.
The best spots to go on northern lights viewing are in the areas surrounding the beach near the Norwegian Sea.
Photo from Kakslauttanen | www.kakslauttanen.fi/
Finland, home of our jolly man in red – Santa Claus. Top attractions include Lake Saimaa, Lemmenjoki National Park, and of course, the aurora borealis. In fact, the northern lights are one of the biggest reasons why tourists come to this beautiful country.
From September to March, tourists flock to Finland to see the aurora borealis. And if the sky is clear, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll actually see it.
Aside from going on a northern lights tour, there are also plenty of other places to visit in Finland, such as Tampere, Finland’s third largest town well-known for its beauty, Helsinki, the capital of Finland and home to Finland’s culture, and Jyväskylä, a small city located near Finland’s deepest and second largest lake.
Theoretically, one can see the northern lights from practically anywhere in the northern parts of USA. However, if you want to go on a trip to the USA for a northern lights holiday, it’s still better to be informed to get the most of the experience. Imagine, a colorful array of beautiful lights spread out across the sky!
Anyone would want to experience it for themselves. And Alaska is one of the best places to visit in the USA if you want something like that. From 10 PM to 2 AM in September to April months, you get a good chance of seeing the aurora, if the weather’s clear and it’s dark enough.
The only downside to viewing the northern lights from Alaska is that Alaskan winter can get pretty harsh, so be sure to bundle up well.
The official website of the tourism department of Greenland offers four packages to tourists who want to go on a northern lights trip. That just goes to show how large the demand for the northern lights is in the Greenland’s tourism.
And that’s no surprise, considering that one can see the aurora borealis from anywhere in the country, from September to early April.
No wonder it’s one of the best places in the world to have your very own, unique northern lights experience.
Although there are plenty of other The Most Colorful and Vibrant Travel Destinations in Europe, if you want to go on a northern lights holiday, then Scotland should high up your list. This northern country in the UK may be small, but it does offer a lot in terms of natural attractions.
Go here during autumn and winter and you might see something amazing; in other words, the northern light is a nature’s work of art in itself. There’s no need to go search for the Loch Ness monster if you want to have a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime experience because the exhilaration from viewing the northern lights here is bound to give you that feeling, for sure.
Another option is Denmark, though this is admittedly one of the weaker options because the northern lights here can be pretty elusive, and the times when they can be seen are erratic at best.
Then again, it is still possible to go on a northern lights tour in this country. After all, as long as the basic conditions are met – must be in the winter months, must be dark enough with minimal light pollution, must have clear and crisp weather – there’s a good chance that the northern lights will be visible enough for the tourists to enjoy and cherish, anyway.
Surprised at the last option? Russia is actually a good choice if you want to view the northern lights, but it’s one of the less known options. Why? Simply put, Russia’s tourism doesn’t really market the aurora borealis that much, or at the very least, not as much as the other countries in this list.
Despite this, it’s important to remember that Russia is also above the Arctic Circle, which makes it eligible for northern lights viewing.
Same as with Alaska though, Russian winter, when it’s easier to see the Aurora, is harsh, so if you want to survive after seeing the most magical night sky, you would definitely want to bring a lot of warm clothes.
So, there you have it. We hoped that this article, this guide, has helped you in choosing which is the best place to go if you want to go on a northern lights holiday. As you can see, most of these countries are located in the upper half of the map, where it’s a lot colder and where the nights are usually longer and darker.
It’s surprising to see that there are so many options, huh? But no matter which place you choose, the important thing is that you enjoyed your northern lights trip.
Excited now to go on your own? Then what else are you still waiting for? Go out there and see for yourself!
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Founder of Pretty Wild World and one of the leading experts in Europe travel, the Nordics, and Scandinavia Destinations.
Evan Kristine has been mentioned in big publications such as The Huffington Post and the Thought Catalog has been sharing her useful travel tips and hacks to the world for more than five years now.
Nowadays, she is a full-time traveler exploring and documenting her journey around the world providing you the next best travel idea for your great next adventure.