The Northern Lights are nature’s seasonal light show visible in the north between late fall and spring. Caused by an interaction of charged particles with the earth’s magnetic field, these lights are best visible in the north latitudes between fall and spring. Here are some ideas for creating a Northern Lights vacation to remember.
The lights are most visible in the far north – specifically between latitudes 65 and 72. Some of the best destinations for viewing include Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Scotland, Russia, northern Canada and Alaska.
If you don’t want to leave the United States, Alaska may be your destination of choice. Experts say that Alaska’s location makes it almost guaranteed that you’ll see the lights. They recommend choosing a remote location far from city lights – the outskirts of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali and the Yukon Territory as good sites for stunning views.
Other English-oriented destinations include northern Canada – specifically the provinces of Ontario, Calgary, Yukon Territory and Manitoba. Some companies offer RV rentals to tour areas where the lights are visible. Scotland is another Northern Lights destination, but their weather often makes viewing prohibitive. January is considered the best month for viewing in Scotland, particularly in the Isle of Skye, Orkney Isles, Aberdeen, the Northern Highlands and Dunnet Head.
Scandinavia is another prime location for viewing Northern Lights. Travel options in Norway, Finland and Sweden include Northern Lights cruises, excursions that include dog sledding, snowmobile safaris, and reindeer and moose safaris. Sweden’s Abisko National Park is considered one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights and they offer an in-park hotel that has a chair lift up to the top of the mountain where views are spectacular.
Anywhere outside a city in Iceland or Greenland can be an excellent choice for dramatic panoramic views of the Northern Lights. Iceland also has numerous waterfalls and volcanoes to visit for further adventure. Russia is a bit more location-specific – the best locations are Murmansk, Siberia, and the Kola Peninsula. The same is true for Denmark – one must travel far north to the remote Faroe Islands, where it’s rainy 200 days out of the year. Experienced travellers recommend a two-week stay in the Faroe Islands for the best chances of seeing the lights.
There are also Northern Lights cruises – destinations include Alaska, Norway and the UK. The bonus of a cruise is that rather than having a base in town and making late-night treks into the dark and chilly wilderness, the cruise can take you to a remote location that also happens to be a few minutes walk from your cozy bed. Many cruise ships offer wake-up calls to alert you of the Northern Lights. Aboard a cruise you’ll also have plenty of alternate activities for those times when the conditions aren’t ripe for viewing the lights.
Whatever your destination, a trip to view the Northern Lights could be the trip of a lifetime. You may want to keep in mind that if you happen to arrive during a snowstorm or a cloudy streak, you may have to extend your stay in order to see the lights. Some suggest planning your trip to avoid a full moon as its light could interfere with viewing. In planning your trip, you might want to consider what other tourist activities there may be in the area just in case you find yourself in subprime viewing conditions. If you travel in season, bring warm clothes and a sense of adventure for stunning views of one of nature’s marvels.