BEST PLACES TO CATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The Northern Lights are a unique and wondrous sight. There (almost) isn’t anything else quite like them in the whole world.
Also known as the Aurora Borealis or the polar lights, there is actually another Aurora in the South known as the Aurora Australis (or the Southern Lights). Of course, the southern light show can be equally as impressive as its northern counterpart, yet has also been known to be harder to predict.
Because of this, the Northern Lights have come to be more well-known and the options most travelers invest in. Also, there aren’t any Polar bears in the south Pole.
Unfortunately, just heading to the north doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to see the lights. In order to help maximize your chance of seeing the northern light show, Cez and Agness have put together a list of the best and most reliable places to see the Northern Lights from. Be warned, they can get cold, so you’ll need to make sure to wrap up warm.
Greenland is a fantastic place to check out the Northern lights. The country is located in a place which makes the Aurora Borealis as clear as possible, between the months of August and April. Moreover, Greenland itself is an incredible country packed with tons to see and places to explore. In Greenland, the light show is called ‘Arsarnerit’, which translates roughly to ‘those playing ball’.
Where’s the best place to see the polar lights in Greenland?
Arguably the best location in Greenland for catching the Northern lights is Kangerlussuaq. Tucked inland off of the Western coast, this locale offers around 300 days of clear skies, with perfect viewing angles of the lights above.
Of course, to catch the Aurora Borealis properly, you need to make sure that you’re as far away as possible from any artificial light in the area. One of the best ways of ensuring this might just be to head out on one of many Greenland cruises.
These almost always aim to pass through the best locations for catching the Northern lights at their best. Be careful to wrap up warm, because Greenland can get awfully cold, especially when out to sea!
2 | Iceland
Icelanders regard themselves as a fortunate bunch. Why? Well, they’re lucky enough to be able to catch the Northern Lights for more than 8 months a year. This is the same as Greenland, but of course, Icelanders believe the view is even better from their country. That being said, if you want to get in on the show, you have between late August and towards the end of April to make to the party.
Whilst between August and April makes seeing the Aurora Borealis possible, the most popular months are actually November and December. This is because December is the (surprise) darkest month of the year, meaning the lights are as bright as they’re ever going to be.
If you want to avoid crowds (they’re really not that bad), then January is probably a better time to go (even with the added chance of rain).
Where’s the best place to see the polar lights in Iceland?
Whilst some might think that heading to the northernmost area of Iceland is a good idea, you don’t actually have to venture that far up to catch the lights. The important thing is how cloudy the sky is, not how long the night is.
Obviously, staying in Reykjavik or another city is going to be useless even on a clear night, because of the artificial light pollution is too much. However, head a little out of the city and there’s a good chance you’ll see something.
If you’re still insistent on heading north (and it’s definitely recommended anyway), Landmannalaugar is a great destination for light hunting. Be careful though, it’s not open all year and you’ll need a good vehicle to get you there. Even so, driving into what seems like nothingness at night, with no lights or people around you, can make seeing this natural wonder all the more amazing.
3 | Svalbard
Svalbard isn’t the most well-known destination for viewing the Northern Lights, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. The reason for its relative lack of fame might be because it is sparsely populated, or that it can be harder to reach. However, the area offers more than just the Norther Lights, as there’s also the chance of seeing polar bears wander through the town you’re staying in.
Where’s the best place to see the polar lights in Svalbard?
Heading to Spitsbergen, the largest of the Svalbard islands. You’ll find that there’s something special about this place during the winter: if you head to Svalbard, you’ll be able to experience the Aurora Borealis during the daytime. That’s right, whilst the sun’s out shining, so too will a green band be hovering where clouds should be (sometimes).
4 | Alaska
Alaska is a great place to visit if you want to catch the Northern Lights. Being located so close to the North pole, yet also with fairly well-established transport in the south, Alaska can be the easiest option – depending on where you’re coming from. Don’t let its Northerly position scare you, Alaska is a great place for anyone looking to catch a glimpse of the nighttime wonder.
Where’s the best place to see the polar lights in Alaska?
There are primarily three places in Alaska which are great for catching the heavenly green glow of the Aurora Borealis: Fairbanks, Anchorage, and the Brooks Range. The easiest and most accessible of these is probably Anchorage, which is easily accessible by flying into the country.
Slightly more difficult, but a more reliable location from which to see the Northern Lights, is Fairbanks. Fairbanks is under the “Aurora oval”, meaning that as long as it’s a clear night, you’re fairly lucky, and there isn’t too much light pollution, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see it.
The final place is the Brooks Range. This ‘out of the way’ location is over 200 miles north of Fairbanks, which means that you’re going to be far away from artificial lights, and anything which can ruin your view of the night sky.
Staying this far north, you’ll have to survive in the wilderness (usually as part of a tour group) and can move from place to place by dog-sledding. A great experience.
5 | Scotland
Scotland is a brilliant place to visit and should be seen by everyone regardless of what your interests are, or what your budget is. oh, and the country is one of the best destinations for budget travelers to see the Norther Lights.
You may not know it, but Scotland actually reaches the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska. This means that you’re able to get a great view of this natural wonder, whilst still being close to (relatively simple) transport options.
Where’s the best place to see the polar lights in Scotland?
Similar to the other destinations above, winter is the best time to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis in Scotland. There are, of course, a number of dazzling locations in the highlands to stay at. or camp overnight, for a great view.
One of the best of these is Shetland. This area is composed of more than 100 islands and is closer to the North pole than anywhere else in Scotland.
If you would rather stay somewhere a little more populated, you can see the northern lights from Edinburgh. Head to the Nation’s capital and climb Blackford Hill when conditions are right. You’ll be able to see the lights of the city, with a backdrop of the polar lights.