We at Skyscanner understand that the world is not open to travellers as of now but we are sure your heart is yearning to take a magical trip once the globe is open again. So, we have all the details you would need to plan a memorable trip to catch one of the nature’s best wonders – the Northern Lights.
What are the Northern Lights?
For the uninitiated, the Northern Lights – or the Aurora Borealis – are a natural phenomenon named after the Roman goddess of dawn. These colourful lights that transform the Arctic sky occur when highly charged electrons from solar winds combine with various atmospheric elements in the region of the North Pole.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
Like most natural phenomena, the Northern Lights don’t follow a time table – making it hard to pin point the best time to view them. To narrow it down, the Lights are ‘on’ through the year, but it is difficult to spot them from about April till August because of the summer sun. September to March is usually the ‘best time’ to see the Northern Lights. Autumn months, with bearable weather, are a good time to visit these Arctic lands. But if you can stand the cold, dark nights from January to March, then you will get what could easily be front row seats for this illuminated spectacle.
Where can you see the Northern Lights?
As is the case with its time table, the location for every light show is also difficult to predict. But there are some standard Northern Lights viewing spots, where your chances of spotting the Aurora are greater and arrangements for your comfort are in place. You can also follow the latest news on the Aurora forecast.
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1. Svalbard, Norway
The higher the latitude of a location, the better it serves as a Northern Lights view point – and Svalbard is as up north as one can get. Sitting pretty and frozen between the 74th and the 81st parallel, this island – deep into the Arctic Circle, is a favourite Norway location. Svalbard gets a lot of tourist traffic in the months between November and February. Another natural phenomenon – the Polar Night – is also a huge draw for visitors. Works well for sky gazers since Svalbard is without daylight from mid November till the end of January; increasing your chances of spotting the beautiful Aurora Borealis.
Photo credit: Martyn Smith
How to get to Svalbard: Fly into Oslo, proceed to Longyearbyen – which is Svalbard’s main settlement – so the perfect base for a visit. Another alternative is to get to Tromso instead.
2. Kakslauttanen, Finland
Gaze at the Northern Lights in style – from inside a glass roofed igloo, and then duck into a traditional log cabin jazzed up with a sauna and open fire. This and much more at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland. If the Lights stand you up, there is other stuff to keep you occupied – start with a reindeer safari or ski around the Urho National Park. You will also be about two hours by road from the Russian border so drive across or get all traditional on a dog sled and visit Santa at Koryatunturi.
Photo credit: Kelvin Lim
How to get to Kakslauttanen: Fly into Helsinki and make your way up north.
3. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
The remote village of Jukkasjärvi in Kiruna is famous as the location for Sweden’s first ice hotel. Staying at an ice hotel may be a little pricey for some, but worry not – the place is dotted with other reasonable accommodation. Taking Aurora viewing to new heights – literally – are the night flight tours that originate in Jukkasjärvi. In case the Northern Lights don’t show up, there is the Esrange Space Center that you can visit for a memorable view of Sweden’s star speckled skies. You could also hire a snow mobile for a tour of the area.
Photo credit: bjaglin
How to get to Jukkasjärvi: Fly into Stockholm from where you can get a flight to Kiruna.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
The capital of Iceland is possibly the most accessible and therefore extremely popular location for Aurora viewing. And it is not just the Northern Lights that are a tourist draw here; there is plenty more to explore in Iceland – it is, after all, a land dotted with geysers, volcanoes and blue ice. The famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is on the way to Reykjavik from the airport. There are also the many Game of Thrones locations that you can visit while in the country.
How to get to Reykjavik: Fly into Keflavik International Airport which is about 50 kilometres from Reykjavik.
5. Northern Canada
With the ‘Aurora Oval’ covering a large part of the country, Canada has a huge number of Aurora viewing options. The Oval covers the provinces of Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. With all these options, it would be a good idea to consult Canadian Geographic map of aurora locations online and Dark Sky Finder for viewing spots that suit your itinerary. Considering the long haul flight, once Aurora viewing is done, you can make the most of your Canada trip by visiting ski resorts, some of the country’s major cities or go waterfall spotting and whale watching!
How to get to Canada: Book a flight to one of the many international airports across the country on Skyscanner.
6. Scotland, United Kingdom
The joy of Aurora spotting in Scotland is that you don’t have to travel far to get an eyeful of the Aurora doing what it is best at – lighting up the sky. There are many places in the northerly latitudes of the country where finding a dark sky is commonplace and Aurora chasing is extremely fruitful. Take a look at the spectacular video below.
Scotland beyond the Northern Lights is quite a joy as well – Visit Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park or go up to Glenshee for snow cover. Activities that involve a good dose of nature range from mountain climbing to hiring a bicycle and riding around beautiful nature reserves.
How to get to Scotland: Fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow and proceed to Inverness for the northern locations.
If you are wondering which of these countries to visit for your Aurora Borealis adventure, here is a handy tool from Skyscanner that may help you decide. Our country search tool takes you through all the options and lets you search by country to find the very cheapest airports to fly into or fly out from. Please read how to use our Country Search tool.