Imagine the sky to be a big, dark canvas, upon which an invisible hand paints in flourescent colours of green and blue! And then this water-colour painting keeps changing shapes! Such is the magical feeling of seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) for the first time. Although Norway and Sweden are the most popular destinations to witness the spectacular display of Northern Lights, you should know that the Auroral band also stretches across Finland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. If you're a die-hard aurora-chaser, these are the top 10 places in the northern-most part of earth to witness this dazzling dance of lights!The Northern Lights activity is most powerful in the months of spring and autumn equinoxes i.e. in the months of February-March and September-October.
Best places & best time to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
1. Lapland, FinlandThe capital of the Lapland region of Finland, Rovaniemi is famous for two things - the stunning display of Northern Lights one can witness here and for being the official hometown of Santa Claus! The Finnish Lapland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, because you get to experience this gorgeous silent movie by nature in so many fun ways! You can take a reindeer or husky ride on a sled, through snowy forests and be rewarded with a mind-blowing Aurora Borealis display! Or you could cozy up in a glass igloo and stare up at the pretty lights. There are many options for a glass igloo stay in Finland's Lapland:
- Arctic Glass Igloos that are located by lake Lehtojärvi, half an hour from Rovaniemi city centre
- Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle, in Santa Claus Village
- Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, just a 3 hour bus ride away from Rovaniemi
Best months to see the Northern Lights in Lapland, Finland:The magical aurora borealis appear across the Lapland skies as early as mid-August, as the nights in northern Finland start to be sufficiently long for them to fill the sky. It's safe to say that August - April is Northern Lights time in Lapland, Finland.
2. Tromso, Norway
Only 300 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, is the culturally vibrant city of Tromso, the capital of northern Norway, also know as the Gateway to the Arctic. Despite its northern location, Tromso is warmer than places at similar latitudes due to the relative warming effect of the Gulf Stream. Its unique location makes it the perfect place to take in the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights. There are many group tours from Tromso, that take small and big groups from Tromso city centre, away from the city's "light pollution", taking you through the Fjordlands, or the outer islands of Troms in search of the Northern Lights. It's slightly difficult to spot the lights when you are within the town of Tromso, unless you go chasing them up the mountain by taking the Fjellheisen cable car - if the lights are extremely bright, you will see them. Your safest bet is to join a tour or rent a car and drive out of the town to areas with no "light pollution" to increase your chances of witnessing this spectacle.
Best months to see the Northern Lights in Tromso, NorwayMid-September to mid-April
There are enough Northern Lights tours in Tromsø that can be booked between 15th of September till 15th of April, so these months are a good time to go. You need to have clear skies, no clouds and an open space with visibility on all sides to easily witness the northern lights.
3. Reykjavik, IcelandThe capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik is also popularly known as the Northern Lights Capital of the World! In fact, if the night skies are clear and the Aurora is pretty active, then you can easily spot them beautiful, mystical lights even inside the city, despite the light pollution! Within Reykjavik, you can best spot the Northern Lights along the coast or from the Grotta lighthouse, just a 10 minutes drive from the city.
Best time to see Northern Lights in IcelandWinter months
Northern lights are best seen across Iceland in the winter months that last from September till April. These elusive lights can be experienced best in Reykjavik during the winter time, especially on a clear, crisp nights, where they appear in myriads hue and intensity, either twirling gently in shades of turquoise, or seldom blazing in a wild and vibrant dance across the night sky.
4. Lofoten Islands, Norway
The archipelago of Lofoten Islands, in northern Norway, with its dramatic landscapes and pristine, natural beauty, is one of the best places to witness the Aurora Borealis. It helps that the islands sit just beneath the "auroral oval", a belt of light that encircles the geomagnetic poles and provides some of the best chances of seeing the northern lights.
Within the Lofoten islands, the island of Gimsøya is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights.
Other places perfect for experiencing the Northern Lights in Lofoten include Hamnøy, a small, stunning fishing village. In such villages, you can stay in those classic red-coloured Norwegian fisherman’s cottages, called rorbuer.
Then there are some of the beaches along the north-western coast that make for the perfect setting to photograph these magical lights, like the Uttakleiv beach and the Haukland beach.
Best time to see Northern Lights in Lofoten Islands, Norway
The months of October, February and the first half of March see maximum KP index (the index that measures the intensity of the Aurora Borealis) in Lofoten Islands. Avoid the months of November and December as Lofoten islands experience continuous rains and storms.
5. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Yet another Scandinavian country where you can chase the Northern Lights is Sweden, a significant portion of which lies within the "auroral oval" zone. You must head straight to the northwestern part of the country, to the Swedish Lapland to see skies that come alive with dancing streaks of pinks, purples and greens!
Best time to see Northern Lights in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
6. Fairbanks, USA
Fairbanks( Alaska) is America’s most northerly outpost. Home of ice and remote wilderness, it is one of the most rare location to witness the world-famous northern lights, an all-natural light show that really needs to be seen to be believed.
7. Iqaluit, Canada
Amidst the mesmerizing land and seascapes, Iqaluit on Baffin Island,is one of the most remote places in Canada, accessible only by air or boat. As the dusk deepens into the night, Iqaluit sky light up with the breathtaking colors of the aurora borealis. For nature lovers, this place is paradise.
8. Tok, USA
Truly magical, the Northern Lights are a gift to those who live in Tok, Alaska, USA. This heavenly resplendent light show shoots green lights this way and red swirls that way as a curtain of radiant milky green, glittering light dances before your eyes. And, when the conditions are just right, you can even hear them crackle.
9. Yellowknife, Canada
As the nights grow longer in Yellowknife - the Northwest Territories of Canada, the red, green and mauve lights of aurora borealis, brilliantly dance across the sky, this is because the city and neighboring area are situated directly beneath the aurora oval, which is a halo-like ring that encircles both the magnetic poles of the earth. Although there are other places just below the aurora oval, Yellowknife is deemed the best because there is 95% chance of seeing the aurora at least once.
10. Isle of Skye, Scotland
The best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights is undeniably Isle of skye in Scotland.You can treat your eyes to an incredibly spectacular shifting columns of green,violet or red light blanketing the night sky. If the aurora intensifies, you can witness rays as well as arcs or curtains of different hue which dart around the midnight sky.
11. Edmonton, Canada
Glowing in the unpolluted Edmonton sky, the playful streaks of multi-coloured light, waving, regrouping and melting away across the night sky may last for minutes or merely seconds. Catching these heavenly wisp uncurl slowly can be an unforgettable experience.
12. Cantwell, USA
Northern lights that tints the sky with blues, purples, greens and oranges are quite common but here at Cantwell in Alaska you will behold one of the most surreal natural phenomena on earth- the aurora borealis with rare shades of pinks and reds.