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Best places to see the Northern Lights

Here are our top picks for places to see the northern lights. Get in touch with us to plan your aurora borealis break and donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for FREE!

But first, a brief description of what the northern lights are:

The auroras are caused by collisions between energetic particles from the sun, and atoms and molecules in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These charged particles, carried by solar winds, travel at high speeds and get channelled by the Earth’s magnetic field towards the north and south poles.

When the particles hit the atmosphere their energy gets transferred into oxygen and nitrogen atoms and releases the extra energy as light, creating the colourful effect in the night sky.  This natural phenomenon is best viewed in winter in the Arctic Circle, but sometimes an extra strong solar storm can make the auroras more powerful and more visible. 

Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Starting off at home in the UK, up in the Outer Hebrides, the islands of Lewis, Harris, Uist, and Barra, play host to the lights every year and can be seen as early as September and as late as April. 

The Outer Hebrides are home to some of the UK’s darkest skies, which, on a cloudless winter night means prime viewing of the northern lights, or Fir-Chlis in GaelicEvery February, the islands host an annual ‘Dark Skies Festival’ with stargazing, astronomy talks, live music, film theatre, and if you’re lucky, a dazzling natural light show!

Honourable mentions for Scotland include Cairngorms National Park, the Shetland Islands, the Orkneys, and the Isle of Skye.

Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø is a hugely popular destination for aurora seekers – and with good reason. The city is 69° N, right in the centre of the auroral zone, and is one of Norway’s northernmost cities. a breeze to get to by plane, you’ll not only be awed by the northern lights but you’ll be treated to views of icy fjords and rugged mountains that remain snow-capped for much of the year.

As always, winter is the best time of year to see the lights, and in Tromsø, your best bet is from late August to mid-April. Remember, the darker the sky, the better chance you have of seeing them.

Honourable mentions for Norway include Hammerfest (the most northern city in Norway with a stunning coastline), Alta, and Trondheim.

Rovaniemi, Finland

Rovaniemi, in the heart of Finnish Lapland, is known as the ‘official home of Santa Claus’, with festive-themed activities and attractions in town, along with unique accommodations and authentic and sophisticated dining experience, families and couples alike will love this city. Come sunset, head out of the city and away from the streetlights to enjoy a snowmobile excursion or husky safari to see the northern lights amongst the snow-topped trees.

Being in the Arctic Circle means Rovaniemi has long days in Summer, and long nights in Winter, so your best opportunity to see the lights is in Winter. Why not combine the magic of meeting Santa Claus with the fantastical northern lights for memories the whole family will cherish.

Honourable mentions for Finland include Kemi and Levi, two other towns in Finnish Lapland that have fewer visitors but by no means fewer charms or aurora opportunities. The lights can be seen further south in Finland as well, in areas such as Kuhmo in the Arctic Lakeland region and occasionally in the capital Helsinki (but only between 10 and 20 times a year). 

Yellowknife, Canada

Nestled on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife is the largest city in the Canadian Northwest Territories. This city enjoys low light pollution, long clear winter nights, and an international airport, making it a perfect place to visit to see the northern lights. 

Yukon, Canada is also a fantastic option for seeing the northern lights of North America and is home to many beautiful National Parks. If you’d prefer the US, try Fairbanks, Alaska where the lights season runs from late August to early April!

Ilulissat, Greenland

Ilulissat, in the Arctic Circle is a perfect spot in Greenland to watch the northern lights, which are sometimes visible as early as September. We’d actually recommend visiting at the end of December for a unique New Year’s Eve experience. 

The locals of Ilulissat celebrate midnight twice – once at 8 pm local time for Denmark’s midnight (Greenland is a territory of Denmark) and again at midnight local time! Two countdowns and two rounds of Auld Lang Syne as well as the northern lights? Sign us up! 

 

Ready to plan your northern lights adventure? Speak to our expert agents at [email protected]l or call us on 020 3092 1288 and plan your perfect trip today! Plus every time you book with us you can donate 5% of the price to the charity of your choice for FREE!

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