Watching the Northern Lights dance across the night sky is on everyone’s bucket list. While we can’t guarantee you’ll see this elusive natural phenomenon, we can point you in the right direction. Here are 8 amazing places to head to this winter to watch the Northern Lights plus one extra special recommendation for the crazy adventurers among you. But first…
BONUS: Experience the Northern Lights from your living room
While the aurora borealis can be experienced from many places around the world (and not just the Nordics, as is commonly believed), we know that venturing close to the Arctic circle might not be feasible for everyone out there. Luckily for us, you can watch the Northern Lights live from your living room on explore.org’s livestream. Set your alarm to Canadian night time and snuggle in to watch nature’s best light show from the couch.
1. Explore Norway’s Arctic capital
Despite being located some 300 km north of the Arctic Circle, the Gulf Stream makes Tromsø a relatively warm setting to watch the Northern Lights. That doesn’t mean you can swap your insulated jacket for a bikini, however! You’ll still need to layer up as you explore this stunning part of the world. Go on a polar fjord cruise during the day and catch your own lunch. By night, venture out of the city, take a sled ride, and cuddle with huskies while waiting for the Northern Lights to show.
2. Set sail in Iceland
It’s almost unfair how beautiful Iceland is! I mean, how’s your home country supposed to compete with glaciers, waterfalls, and the Northern Lights? While you wait for darkness to fall, relax in one of Iceland’s many thermal pools or go on an adventure around the Golden Circle. One of the best ways to watch the Aurora is to hop on a boat and set sail from Reykjavik harbor. If you’d rather stay on dry land, head to the black sand beach of Vík and watch the night sky light up.
3. Take an icy dip in Finland
Ever thought about swimming in an icy lake while watching the Northern Lights? Yeah, me neither, but the crazier among you can do just that in an insulated suit in Lapland. That’s just one awesomely mad way the Finns watch the lights. If you want to try and catch them while riding a snowmobile, that’s also no problem. It’s actually one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of nature’s best show.
4. Discover Canada’s wild west
It can be hard to decide where to go and see the Northern Lights in Canada. There are seemingly millions of options (if the Aurora decides to show up, of course), stretching from Yukon in the west to Newfoundland in the east. One of the most popular locations for light hunters is Whitehorse in Yukon. If the Northern Lights don’t appear in Whitehorse, you can enjoy the area’s range of winter activities, including snowshoeing and wildlife watching.
5. Marvel at the lights in Alaska
Alaska is one giant playground for nature lovers, and Fairbanks, the American state’s second largest city, is the place to go for the Northern Lights. Located in the Aurora oval, which is where the lights are most frequently seen, Fairbanks has long been established as a popular albeit cold spot to see the light show. If you’re unlucky enough to miss the lights, you can explore the city’s love of all things arctic at the Aurora Ice Museum. Here, ice sculptures light up in the colors of the Aurora.
6. Head to the top of Sweden
Just like Alaska, Sweden is ready-made for those who love snowy adventures. Go north to Abisko National Park and watch the lights among wild reindeer. When you’re not chasing the lights, head south and take part in traditional winter activities near Stockholm, including skating on frozen rivers, nordic skiing, and snowshoeing.
7. Enjoy a city break like no other in Russia
Russia is home to Murmansk, the biggest city in the Arctic Circle, and one of the best destinations to watch the Northern Lights in Europe. Home to around 300,000 people, Murmansk’s mild (again, put the shorts down!), ultra snowy, and Aurora-filled skies provide the setting for a city break like no other. Plus, the city is close to the Finnish border, so the flight is relatively short for European-based travelers.
8. Go off the grid in Greenland
There’s hardly anywhere as remote as Greenland, and the lack of light pollution means the Aurora really dances across the sky here. Head to Ilulissat, home to a UNESCO World Heritage ice fjord and catch the Northern Lights in a truly spectacular setting. Even in Nuuk, Greenland’s tiny capital, you can watch the Aurora in the ‘city’ center. The street lamps won’t drown out the magic here.
And a bonus destination for Aurora chasers…
Here’s one for the more adventurous reader. If the Northern Lights are a bit too mainstream for you, journey to the bottom of the world and watch the sky get illuminated by the Southern Lights. In comparison to the green and blue colors of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Australis also comes in shades of pink, purple, yellow, and gold. Head to Antarctica’s South Georgia Island or the very southern tip of New Zealand and Argentina for the best chance at seeing them.